Ad tech is a highly competitive and increasingly commoditized industry, one where innovation and creative problem-solving are essential to success. A great way to cultivate those capabilities is by developing and retaining a diverse workforce—but too few ad-tech companies do that right now. Here’s what we can do more to promote a gender-inclusive industry.
A great place to start is with the basics, like equality of pay and opportunities for advancement. But that’s just table stakes; as an industry, we have to do more. Inclusion begins with the recruitment process, before an employee is even interviewed. We need to create structured interview processes designed to neutralize unconscious bias. Existing approaches to candidate evaluation often focus on hard skills, prior industry experience and perceived cultural fit. Employers should shift their approach to focus more on a candidate’s potential to add value to the company. Applicants who have demonstrated that ability, even in a different industry, are often good candidates to do it again.
Look for people who are smart, understand what you need and are willing and able to learn the role. With this approach, clear expectations must be established about how long the onboarding process will take for these hires to get ramped up. Both the specific teams where they will work and the organization as a whole must sign on to those expectations. Ad tech is a rapidly changing industry. With so many players across the ecosystem, what works one day may not work the next. Having team members with different backgrounds and life experience enables a broader-based approach to problem-solving, which is more likely to encourage innovation, a competitive edge that’s hard to beat.
Ad tech needs to make diversity a priority in all candidate sets, especially for board-level, C-suite, management and engineering positions. Focus on intra-organizational advancement within those groups. Identify ways to empower female employees, expand their skill sets, expose them to additional roles and prepare them for more leadership positions. Implement internship programs targeting female STEM students, and forge strong relationships with colleges and universities that have a high percentage of female STEM enrollment.
As women, we must also take steps to improve our own career prospects and help foster a culture of inclusion where we work. This works to our personal benefit and fosters an environment that will retain the diverse hires you worked so hard to obtain. We must be more open to taking on leadership roles, even when not fully convinced we are up to the challenge. Become willing to “fake it until you make it,” as so many of your male counterparts do.
We need to find role models and mentors to champion our careers. It’s great if that champion is another woman, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t discount the fact that a growing number of men grasp the importance of this issue and are willing to stand up and act. For those who are more seasoned in their careers, be willing to be a mentor and provide insights to the next generation. This will benefit your company and industry as a whole.
Finally, women must learn to become stronger negotiators. A good way to start is by advocating and negotiating for others, such as members of your team. Not only is it good practice, but it could also pay off when the time comes for you to negotiate for yourself. The more you do it, the more it bleeds into authenticity.
This is by no means a new issue in ad tech, but the time for talking about it has passed—now it’s time to do something. A few organizations are already taking some of the steps outlined above, and that’s great, but all ad-tech companies need to recognize that gender diversity must be made a priority. It’s important not only to our businesses and our employees, but also to our customers, who increasingly factor it into their buying decisions