March 06, 2020

Adform is proud to have many incredible women in our teams across the organization! In honor of International Women's Day, we’ve asked a few of them to tell us about their experiences getting started in the tech industry, what advice they would give to others about being a woman in a male dominated field, and what they hope the industry can change to make gender equality a reality. Here's what they had to say:

What is one piece of advice you would give to women starting a career in Ad Tech or Tech in general?

I would encourage every woman starting a career in (Ad) Tech to be proactive in sharing your own ideas, asking questions, bringing solutions to the table and challenging the status quo. Also, I believe diversity helps businesses succeed and I would like to encourage women to advocate for yourself more often and find a mentor who will be there to support you.

What can be done to encourage more women to join the industry?

There are different initiatives (courses, mentorship programs, events, articles, etc.) encouraging women to join the industry and I believe we should embrace that even more by welcoming diversity focused initiatives in companies and have more men vouching for women.

What can be done to encourage more women to join the industry?

Women could empower each other more at workplaces by having more mentorship and networking opportunities.  Having someone to help, listen, and give advice is an important aspect to create a great support system for a growing professional. It’s reassuring to know that the person guiding you may have had the same challenges, questions, or doubts during their start, and that everything can be managed.

Happy International Women’s Day! A great day to reflect, that I’m very proud of the openness in our meritocratic industry.

It comes with 15 years of experience in the Digital Industry and a natural curiosity that I have had the chance to observe and work with various industry leaders. It strengthened my belief that we are working in an environment where we have the opportunity of free choice. If you want to make a career in AdTech as a Woman, you will rarely experience “gender bias”. I never did.

Having hired and coached international teams, people sometimes ask me how do I ensure team diversity? Then I ask, what do you mean with diversity? In 95% they equate “diverse” with external features such as gender and ethnicity. I think we should start to change the narrative. For me “diverse” means to build and coach inclusive teams that have different traits and competencies. They should be compatible with the business goal. The Big Five personality trait model for instance is easy to remember and a great first basic guideline.

One of the most important things we can all do is mentor, be visible, and look out for each other. It's most important to believe in yourself and not be afraid to ask for what you want. That is something that evolves over your career, but I feel more women should be encouraged to be bold. The more honest we are with ourselves, and how we take ownership of our journey the further we go.

I was drawn to the Ad Tech field because I've always been interested in technology and the fast pace. I've spent my career working with technology and am drawn to the fast pace and innovative nature of it. The constant flow of new innovations means there's always new opportunities to push myself, step into new challenges and to help create opportunities for other women. I love working with driven females that take ownership of a situation and bring their unique perspective. I find the best teams are blended teams where all those involved balance each other.

We work in a male dominated industry, and this is even more true when you look at top management of the companies in our industry (Brian O’Kelly, Jeff Green, Jeff Bezos, Michael Barett, …), but I do believe more and more women are making their way up, and we have great examples (Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, Ginni Rometty, …). I have had amazing female mentors in my career, my first manager was a women, and the values she was driving with were caring for each other, being the best at what we do, and always work on having a good balance as this can be tricky for women, but if you handle it well, you will perform in both aspect of your life, and this will drive you towards success.

I think it has been impressive to see the way that the tech industry has been changing, the number of females under 30 within authoritative positions in technology – for example Programmatic Director – is greater than the amount of men. However, it is crucial to continue improving and take the next step which will be to have more women represented in C-Level positions. I do think women believe that if they work hard, they will be offered a new opportunity, whereas men position themselves to ask. Women need to be bold enough to ask for what they want, it’s important to play to your strengths and push back when necessary while remaining professional. I’m a great advocate for women pushing themselves forward and viewing their career as a marathon, not a sprint. If more women can develop this confidence of asking for what they want, we should see greater creative talent in senior positions that can have a real impact on the next stage of technology’s evolution.

Emma Clooney was a strong mentor for me as my manager during my time at Microsoft, I never saw that she had a single issue with being a female in this industry. She taught me to ask for things, drive action, and keep learning – I really enjoyed working for her. She showed me what I could be and taught me that what you don’t see, you cannot become, which is why it is so important to have women being represented at the C-level of organizations as well. I believe women need these types of role models – it really inspires you to achieve. I've also worked for a lot of very intelligent men, including Didier Ongena and Gustav Mellentin who each taught me how to grow and challenge myself to become the best version of myself. I believe you need to learn from both men and women – that balance is important.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give women it is: don’t apologize for being a female. I never apologized and I never portrayed masculinity to advance in the workplace. I can bring to the table as much as my male counterparts, I never felt the need to change.

What can be done to encourage more women to join the industry?

Ad Tech companies could be better at outlining the different roles they have available in their organizations. There is a misinterpretation that every role requires very deep technical knowledge, although in many cases (commercial roles, account management etc) it is enough to have a natural interest towards technology as a starting point. The rest you can learn when you get going with your new job and get familiar with the company and its products and services. On the other hand, if you do love working with complex technical tasks, you can definitely fulfill your ambitions at the fast evolving Ad Tech companies. Based on my personal experience Tech companies are also often at the forefront of supporting family-friendly working policies like working remotely when needed or arranging your own daily schedule to accommodate the needs of both work and family. This could be promoted more when recruiting new people.

Ten years or so ago, attending an Adtech event meant being one of no more than a handful of women in the room, absolutely empty female bathrooms whilst there were quite long queues for the male ones. Nowadays, the picture has improved a bit, with many amazing ladies in key leadership positions across the industry. But still, I think there is a lot more that can be done to enable a better gender balance across the levels and into leadership roles of this quite traditionally male dominated industry. 

I personally don't think the answer is simply on hiring more women - yes, you need to have them in your org to beginning with, but if they are not developed and allowed to progress, they tend to leave. Therefore, focusing efforts on ensuring that the women who are already in your organization are given the opportunity grow and build lasting careers, will be crucial for an organization to reap the benefits of a gender balanced org. 

Leaders who genuinely want to strive for better gender balance should take a good look at the role unconscious bias plays in promotion and decision making, distributing opportunities for growth more fairly and ensuring they are not overlooking high potentials within their org! At Adform, I am very thrilled to see we have recently promoted a number of amazing ladies into key leadership roles - obviously I think there is always room for more, but it has been a great start of the year!

I’ve started my digital career working for a media agency. After two years a Dutch DSP reached out to me, and this is where my tech journey started. Working in an environment with developers on one side, and clients on the other side, was a mix that really spoke to me. I love the challenge of translating abstract technologies into a tool that will help achieve the marketing goals of my clients.

I’ve had a lot of different mentors that were important during my adventure in the Ad Tech industry. I can’t name one specific piece of advice they gave me that stood out, but each (business owners, managers, direct colleagues, clients, men and women) has taught me a different piece of the Ad Tech puzzle. Collecting different points of view provides a good framework for you to form your own ideas from, and will give you the strength and passion to succeed in your career in the Ad Tech industry.

Unfortunately, the Ad Tech industry is still dominated by men. Being a young woman working in tech can be challenging, especially because you are not what people expect. However, I use this to my benefit. It’s just like in advertising, the difficult part is getting the attention of people. Use the fact that you are not the typical tech employee, and when you have their attention, rely on your inner strength and knowledge. Also treat everyone the way you want to be treated - in the end everyone is a human being.

After almost 15 years in ad tech industry and 10 of them as a manager in a male-dominated industry I hope I can inspire next generation tech women, I think and hope its more natural for younger women to consider a career in the tech industry if they see there is female leaders out there. I'm very proud that in my Swedish team there are six out of thirteen that are women (both sales and tech consultants)! 

And - you don't need to be a developer to work in this industry, there is so many interesting areas and positions! To be honest, my main interest is not tech (!!) I started in this industry by a coincidence, a friend of mine worked at a media agency (I worked at a bank, and really wanted to do something else) and she sent me a tip about a job in ad tech, and that's how it started :) I'm still here and I really enjoy it! And the reasons are because its an industry that is moving very fast - you always learn new things, there are always new challenges to tackle and there are a lot of smart people around you! Who doesn't want to work in such a work environment?! ;)

Of course, I have encountered some challenges during the years, even more when I was a young female leader in this industry. It was reactions like,” what is she doing here? What, is she the leader of the team?” Yes, you get annoyed and a little bit sad and accursed. but my best tip is: don't take it personally, believe in yourself - you know you are good at what you are doing and think that 'I will show them how good I am'! 

I had a manager/mentor for five years that really showed me a leadership style that I believed in, that motivated and inspired me! He told me that he had a goal to make himself as unnecessary as possible, he wanted to surround himself with team members that were so good that, in many ways, they didn't ”need” him. He always gave lot of feedback, positive and constructive, always with the goal to make me better. He challenged me before I needed to tell him that I needed new challenges. And all of this with a very positive and humble personality. When I face challenges that I do not know how to deal with, I usually think "how would he have done?" Choosing a manager when changing job is a strong recommendation, there is so much that starts there.

I was drawn to ad tech for the innovation. Coming from the agency side and understanding the challenges in the industry, I’ve been truly passionate about the solutions I’ve been able to help introduce to market. When I started, I was actually the only woman in my office - but have since found that some of the brightest, most entrepreneurial kick-ass women are in ad tech (including here at Adform!). Generally speaking, it’s an industry that likes to exchange ideas and make connections so my recommendation for women new to ad tech is take advantage of that and meet new people - don’t be afraid to network!