May 23rd: How women in marketing shatter the glass ceiling

5 minutes

On Thursday, May 23rd 2024, Director Liz Hopkins held the third event in our serie...

On Thursday, May 23rd 2024, Director Liz Hopkins held the third event in our series exploring ‘How women in marketing are shattering the glass ceiling’. These events aim to support female marketers as they look to break barriers, progressing their careers beyond the Head of Marketing or Marketing Director level. 

This topic couldn’t be more important in today’s societyOur 2024 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report revealed how the number of women in senior leadership roles impacts the industry’s gender pay gap. 

At these events, attendees hear from female leaders who have smashed the glass ceiling themselves, including: 

  • Dawn Spencer, Ex-MD/CMO in consumer foods businesses. With over 20 years' experience in the Food and Beverage industry, Dwan's experience spans marketing, commercial and operational leadership roles.  She is known for building and transforming iconic brands, leading and restructuring large business units and factories. Dawn is passionate about coaching, mentoring and serving women’s networks and communities across the industry.     
  • Helen Normoyle, Non-Executive Director at Allied Irish Banks. Helen is an accomplished senior marketing leader, moving from Director of Marketing at Motorola through to CMO at Boots in 25 years. Now, she is a Non-Executive Director at Allied Irish Banks and the Co-Founder of My Menopause Centre 
  • Kate Pennell, Previously Global Marketing Director at IBM, now Group Head of Brand and Marketing at Howden. Passionate about diversity, inclusion and community initiatives, throughout her career Kate has been on a variety of different women’s leadership councils and led several diversity initiatives, is a mentor to many and is also trustee of the Royal Humane Society and SSAFA, the armed forces charity. 

Together they shared some of their personal experiences and some of the lessons they’ve learned along their career journeys. They discussed topics, such as: 

  • Managing your marketing career 
  • How to overcome imposter syndrome 
  • Supporting mothers in the workplace 

Keep reading to discover our key takeaways from the event. 


Managing your marketing career 


When entering the marketing industry, there are many different paths you can take. While some will choose a linear path in one sector they love, others will choose to create a more varied CV.  

First, Liz explored how our speakers reached the CMO job title and beyond. 


Exploring the breadth of marketing 

Dawn Spencer entered the working world with the ambition of reaching the Chief Marketing Officer role. To reach this level, she purposefully sought out opportunities across the marketing spectrum to expose herself to as many different skill sets as possible. This has given her a level of experience in all the roles that sit within a marketing team, and so a broader understanding of how marketing works. 

Dawn believes that this career path has truly helped her to effectively prepare for the CMO role. 


Do job titles matter? 

Kate Pennell also suggested thinking outside the box when it comes to career moves, encouraging attendees to “be curious” about all opportunities presented. Even if the job title doesn’t match what you believe to be the next step in your career. 

It can be easy to place too much value in a job titleIn reality, job titles mean something different in every business and candidates should base their decisions on the responsibilities on the role instead. Kate shared that you shouldn’t be afraid of taking a role that is “more junior” than your previous position, as long as the opportunity is right for you. 

Hear Kate's full advice below. 


Making the move to Non-Executive 

Helen Normoyle shared that the biggest step in her career was moving from an Executive to a Non-Executive Director position. In particular, finding your first Non-Executive role is very different from your usual recruitment processes and can be a learning process. Helen shared that not only do headhunters have different briefs, but you also need to write your CV differently to find a NED role. 

Kate is currently in the process of making the move to Non-Executive Director. She’s currently operating as a Trustee to continue her charitable work and make a step towards a portfolio career.  

For more advice about moving from CMO to NED, read our blog from Gareth Helm. 


How to overcome imposter syndrome 


With each step in your career, women will often find themselves experiencing imposter syndrome. Liz asked our speakers how they manage those feelings. 


Re-framing imposter syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is something that we all experience. No matter the role you’re in, no matter the industry – everyone experiences imposter syndrome. 

Kate shared how it’s difficult to overcome imposter syndrome, but re-framing your discomfort can help to manage it. Listen to Kate’s full advice below. 



Supporting mothers in the workspace 


Our audience were interested to hear about how women can balance parenthood and a career. In fact, we were even joined by our youngest event attendee, who was just four-months old.  

To manage being a mother and a leading marketer, our speakers shared the importance of choosing a business with a supportive company culture. 


Work-life balance 

There are lots of aspects to consider in any job search. However, a key point for parents is understanding what work-life balance they can obtain from a new business. In fact, according to our Annual Pay & Hiring Report, 73% of carers will seek a new role if they’re asked to work from the office more. 

Bar graph illustrating gender disparity in leadership roles based on the 3Search 2024 DE&I Report. The graph shows two bars: a green bar representing 41% of men holding a Head of title or higher positions, and a red bar showing 32% of women in similar roles, indicating a gap in leadership opportunities between genders.

To get a clear understanding of what life could look like in a new roleour panellists suggested speaking to an organisation’s employeesThis should give you an unfiltered view of a business’ expectations and views on flexibility. 


The importance of having a supportive manager 

An individual’s experience of a workplace can be largely attributed to their manager. As senior marketersit’s important to recognise the role you play in creating a positive experience for mothers re-entering the workplace after maternity leave. 

Women are particularly vulnerable after having children. Empathy and kindness is key. 

The first few days back can be incredibly emotional for a number of reasons. Being mindful of this and leading with empathy is key in those early days. 


Looking for more Women in Marketing content? 

A big thank you to Helen, Kate and Dawn for joining us at this incredibly important event 

Want to find out more about how to progress your career as a senior female marketer? We have created a WhatsApp group for senior women in marketing to network online, share and learn together. You can request to join hereAnd, to be informed about our next events, register your interest below.

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