International Women's Day: How women are pulling together
6 min read - by Kirsty Gilchrist - CEO
As CEO of Twogether – incumbent B2B Marketing Agency of the Year, and a business across which many hugely respected and inspirational women hold senior positions – Kirsty Gilchrist can offer what is surely a unique perspective on the United Nations theme of this year’s International Women’s Day “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
This theme plays right into Twogether’s wheelhouse, so to speak.
After all, being a tech marketing agency populated and fuelled by all kinds of inspirational women does perhaps provide us with a decent vantage point from which to comment on a subject like ”DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”.
At the very least, it’s given me a good reason to reflect on my own career and some of the great things that the industry has done for me.
Not that it was all plain sailing, especially at the beginning.
I remember being 18 or so when I first thought about getting into tech marketing, and a recruitment consultant telling me I'd probably never be anything more than a secretary.
Then later, when I was first running the business, I distinctly remember feeling looked down on by men in similar positions in other agencies. “She's just a young girl on her own. It’s never going to work.” “You're gonna do this on your own Kirsty? You're just a young girl. Good luck with that.”
There were lots of comments like that, many of them made straight to my face!
Not great, and I might have reacted differently, but actually it did nothing but spur me on and make it all the more satisfying when I succeeded and Twogether really started going great guns.
So yes, there have been derogatory comments over the years. Were they rooted in my being female? Probably. Do I think that’s a shame? Without doubt. Did it discourage or stop me? Absolutely not. Quite the opposite in fact.
It's also worked the other way around sometimes. Our original investors, for example, who never looked at me or treated me any differently because I was a woman. The same goes for the other great guys whom I trust and work with across the agency every day.
Then again, marketing agencies, or certain departments within them at least, tend by their nature to have a strong complement of women; a healthy gender balance. That’s certainly true of Twogether, where I hope and believe we have a culture in which talent outweighs all other considerations, especially those relating to gender.
Is that true? Talking to some of our ‘leading ladies’, things look pretty positive.
Our Head of Marketing Alex Webber, for example, has found B2B tech a pretty balanced environment. “Gender equality is of course a crucial issue and consideration, but building and encouraging a culture that places genuine value on respect for all, and that nurtures talent no matter what gender one happens to be, is the real imperative. I am, we are, lucky enough to work in that kind of environment.”
What about those in more ‘technical’, ‘techy’ roles? What’s their experience? And their advice to other women? Should more women aspire to such positions?
Absolutely, says Margo Perkins, Twogether’s Head of Projects, who believes that “this is the best time to be a working woman and the best possible sector to be working in.”
“Tech is about optimism, innovation, ideas, and collaboration. Shaping the future. And women can and should be at the forefront of that. Have a say. Empower others for the greater good. But I’m incredibly grateful to those women who came before. Who had to fight for recognition and to make themselves heard. They truly helped make it possible for me to be here today.”
Natasha Cherayath, Twogether’s Head of Analytics & Insights is similarly passionate.
Responsible for delivering accurate, real-time data analysis and reporting services both across the business and to its clients, she believes passion is critical.
“It’s all about loving what you do and doing what you love. While technical skills, great communication, networking, and keeping up with technological advancements are crucial, finding your areas of expertise and passion is key. Tech is so broad that no-one’s going to be an expert in everything. So be yourself, find your passion, and recognise and embrace your uniqueness.”
Ana Ranceva, one of our Senior Digital Designers, goes a step further, seeing tech as a great forum for women looking for “a seat at the big table.”.
"I began my career journey in the Higher Education sector and working with NGOs, before moving on to work as a freelancer in other industries. Males were in most of the ‘power’ roles in almost all of them. Only after I made a shift to B2B tech did I see a difference – my professional growth opportunities expanded significantly, and I was exposed to more exciting clients and challenging design projects."
This is all hugely satisfying and gratifying to hear of course, but a note of caution is nevertheless important. Because it would be fatal to think we’ve already somehow reached some kind of gender equality ‘goal’. We haven’t.
There’s still so much more to be achieved and we can’t afford the digital revolution to become something that perpetuates or even exacerbates existing patterns of gender inequality. And too many women are still being left on the wrong side of the gender divide when it comes to digital skills and access to technologies.
Is positive discrimination an answer? Broadly speaking, I’d say no. Doing anything but employing the right people for the right jobs probably isn’t a good idea. What we want is for more of those people to be women. Amazing women – we just need to do a better job of finding and attracting them.
What’s more, we should be doing so not just because it’s the right thing to do or the fair thing to do, but because it’s a commercially smart thing to do.
According to UN Women1 , for instance, excluding women from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion from the GDP of low- and middle-income countries over the last decade alone. It goes on to note that this will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 unless action is taken. Need I say more?
The question is, what’s to be done about it? How do we open the doors?
For one thing, we need to change the stubborn perception that B2B tech is complicated and dull. Because as I can personally testify, it’s nothing of the sort. It’s the fastest evolving industry in the world. It drives second-by-second global change. It enhances and revolutionises people’s lives. How could I find that anything but exciting?
For me, many people (not just women) coming into tech don’t give it long enough. They think that working elsewhere will be somehow sexier or more dynamic or something, and too many are opting out as a result. They must give it time; embrace it and get their heads around it before they’ll be able to see it for what it really is.
Once you do, take it from me, it's incredibly fulfilling.
We also plainly need to do more in practical terms, however, and I’m proud to say that we’re trying to do exactly that here at Twogether. With that in mind I’m going to close out with a soundbite or two from another of our countless fantastic women, Leanne Fisher, who heads up one of our key fledgling initiatives, the Twogether Academy.
“As a woman in the marketing industry, I know just how critical it is to create a workplace where everyone can thrive, regardless of gender or background”, she says.
“We’re only just getting started, but the aim is to inspire and support the next generation of marketers – young women included. To show them that there is a clear path to success and seniority in this dynamic field by introducing them to women who’ve been there and done it, and who are still doing it, at the highest level. And not just within our own agency, but client side too.
“The Academy’s goal is to nurture and promote diversity and inclusivity in every facet of our operations. To build a diverse pipeline of talented, ambitious, inquisitive young minds that see tech marketing as the exciting, innovative business it is. To demonstrate that there’s a tech role for everyone, with no restrictions, gender-based or otherwise.”
Hopefully, with the help of a concerted collaborative effort by all concerned, a time is coming when women really can have it DigitALL.
If you'd like to find out how you can play your part in helping supercharge an equitable digital future, check out this report from UN Women. Alternatively, if you’d like to know more about the Twogether Academy or any of our other inclusivity and diversity initiatives, we’d be delighted to hear from you.
 McKinsey & Co., (2021), https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/why-every-business-needs-a-full-funnel-marketing-strategy
 The B2B Effectiveness Code, B2B Institute (2021)