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Could demand for technical skills impact gender diversity in marketing?



Maintaining a balance of talent and growing digital skills from the ground up.

The marketing profession has typically been an attractive career choice for both men and women, but do technological innovations and the focus on technical skills threaten marketing with gender imbalances seen in the IT profession? We examine this issue and explore how marketing teams can effectively manage technical skills gaps and maintain a balanced workforce.

The Hays DNA of a Marketing Leader report shows that 48% of marketing leaders are female, making marketing arguably one of the most gender balanced professions particularly at a senior level.

By comparison, according to a survey by the British Computer Society, just 17% of IT specialists working in the UK are women, well below the proportion recorded for the workforce as a whole (47%). Despite well documented initiatives to get more women into tech, this figure hasn’t shown any signs of improvement in recent years.

The continuous evolution of technologies, platforms and digital channels in marketing is creating a demand for Marketers to deepen their technical knowledge. There is a growing need to perform enhanced analytics, understand Big Data to track customer activity and identify trends, utilise appropriate social media platforms for their customer engagement and much more. A fusion of IT and Marketing core skills is therefore paramount in today’s world of ‘customer centric’ marketing.

So how do we ensure that marketing doesn’t begin to suffer the same gender imbalance as IT and remains an attractive career choice for male and female professionals alike?

Many organisations are focusing on recruiting digital skills into their marketing teams within their organisation, hiring entry level professionals who are well-versed in the latest technological developments. However, there are other more sustainable ways to grow technical competencies within marketing, which will ensure that you maintain a diverse talent pool of well-rounded marketing professionals.

1. Consider wider potential when recruiting

In our ‘Elements of a Marketer’ report, 79% of employers agree that technical skills can be taught. Core skills, by comparison, are more difficult to teach and remain key to ensuring marketing teams are well run and work effectively with other areas of the business. Individuals with soft skills such as good commercial acumen, analytical abilities, copywriting and communication, creativity, stakeholder management and project management, make excellent hires and will be able to pick up the technical skills they need on the job.

2. Upward mentoring

In our ‘DNA of a Marketing Leader’ survey, 24% cited that keeping up to date with new technology was their greatest professional challenge. This also impacts the ability of senior leaders to build new digital channels into their marketing or even wider business strategy, with 44% telling us that maximising the potential of new technology presented the biggest challenge to marketing leaders. Initiatives such as upward mentoring, where junior staff with digital and technical skills share their skills and knowledge with others in the organisations, could be one way to broaden these technical skills. Our ‘Elements of a Marketer’ research also found that junior employees often lack core skills such as commercial awareness and sector experience, so contact with senior leaders and managers could also help them build these core transferable skills.

3. Learn from the experts

Recruiting a contractor or turning to an external agency may not seem like the most cost effective long-term solution, but will get the expertise you need into your organisation quickly. The key to making a contract hire or agency work for you in the long term is to make sure that part of their role involves sharing their skills and knowledge with your wider team. Your in-house team will then be well equipped with the expertise to progress and apply their newly learned skills to other projects, long after the contract with your temporary hire or agency has ended.

4. Focus on the innovations that matter

Customer focus should lie at the heart of the marketing profession, yet it can be easy to be distracted by new and exciting innovations regardless of whether your key audience is tuned into these channels. By staying in tune with your target market and using data to inform your decisions you can constantly assess what works; not forgetting tried and tested methods which may include non-digital channels. Keep an eye on the latest trends and be ready to move in that direction, but only invest in those channels and the skills required if they are relevant to the people you are looking to reach.

Maintaining balance

Technology will continue to evolve and the skills required change with them, but the key to maintaining balance in your marketing team is to remember that the core skills required haven’t changed, and remain crucial as ever.

As our own CMO, Sholto Douglas-Home, highlights, “To respond to the fast-evolving digital world, I believe marketing teams need to be skewed towards ‘adaptable generalists’ with core transferable skills, supported by technical specialists, either in-house or via external agencies.”

Encouraging diversity in skills and experience is essential to developing an effective and productive workforce. Maintaining focus on relevant trends and sharing expertise across the team will enable you to build a well-rounded set of professionals with core transferable skills and up-to-date technical ability. This will also ensure that marketing remains an attractive and accessible career for all professionals.

Share your views on diversity in the workplace by taking our Gender Diversity Survey.

To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.

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