Hidden Figures: Celebrating the unsung heroines of marketing
by Musaba Kangulu (@ThatTypeOfMoose) Recently here on MarkLives, I spoke of wanting to build a network that supports women. Do I get better at playing the game, despite the disadvantages, or do I attempt to change a system that’s been readily accepted for what it is? I choose the latter.
Why is this?
It’s Monday morning; let’s look at the day ahead, shall we? Eight two-hour meetings to get through, of which I hope for most to be somewhat productive. Next, let’s look at who’s been invited. Ah yes, I’m familiar with gentleman no. 1; I met gentleman no. 2 at a marketing conference; I see gentleman no. 3, head of paid media; gentlemen no. 4, the data-scientist guru; gentlemen no. 5, head of operations — and so the male attendee list goes on. Oh, wait, I see at least three women will be present as well, so perhaps it won’t be a boys-club meeting after all.
When I sit in a boardroom with fellow women, I’d like to think we know we’re up against the world, where in business the default is male. We’re aware we carry a heavier burden than men when it comes to the managing of our career while caring for our offspring. We know there’s a lack of flexibility from our employers regarding a consistent work-and-life balance. We have to put on the ‘strong woman’ façade to adamantly block anything that resembles “being girly”. Any small action that might make us look needy and dependent is immediately suppressed, as we’ve been taught to control our emotions and ill feelings, should they arise.
But what am I saying that you don’t already know of or, better yet, have had the misfortune of experiencing?
Role of women in marketing and advertising
Following decades of being marginalised, the role of women in the marketing and advertising industry today has never been so high on the agenda when it comes to portrayals within several corporates and agencies. I happened across a quote from Veronica Roth, who said: “It must require bravery to be honest all the time.”
So, here I am, posing the following question: Has the South African marketing and advertising industry done enough of a good job in improving conditions for women? Have both manufacturers raised enough awareness resulting in actionable items eg programme initiatives that advance and upskill the careers of female professionals?
Gender bias, while often unspoken or acknowledged, continues to affect how women are treated at work, whom they interact with and what positions they hold today. These conversations take place among ourselves as a safe space to vent to fellow women going through the same motions; however, what good does that do in the bigger scheme of things? Are we not effectively sending a message to women coming into the industry that this kind of treatment is acceptable? Yes, we’re doing just that.
I need your help
Here’s the thing: I’m on a mission to switch things up but I need your help. Instead of using this platform to celebrate awards and credentials, I’d like to start celebrating the unsung heroines — the women who work behind the scenes, the women who are so incredibly good at making quick decisions and thinking on their feet, the women who’ve not been given the opportunity to share their pearls of wisdom, the women who excel at soft skills that effectively contribute to a diverse and healthy workforce, and the women who don’t fit the mould but actively form part of the marketing and advertising world in some way or another.
We may continue to share our woes in corridors or display a certain level of determination that supports and empower women today for the ability to embrace change is crucial.
Do you have someone in mind who you would like to celebrate, and have others learn a thing or two from? If so, drop me a line at @ThatTypeOfMoose on Twitter, so I may poke and prod away. Maybe this will work and maybe it won’t. The bottom line? We will have tried.
Musaba Kangulu (@ThatTypeOfMoose) is a digital brand manager who is not afraid to speak her mind and believes in using her digital expertise to empower and nurture young black talent to challenge the status quo. She currently manages the digital footprint of one of Africa’s largest retailers. She will contribute the new “Hidden Figures” column, which will celebrate the unsung heroines of the South African marketing and advertising world.