My first conversation with Mary Firme was funny and erratic. Just like the two of us – full of energy and jumping around topic to topic. We had met at one of many B2B marketing trade shows on our calendars as we worked in marketing for competing organizations. By all standard expectations, it should have been a tense and curt meeting - she, the “enemy” by conventional perspective. But I couldn’t help but instantly like Mary. A kindred spirit, smart, and fearless – a trait I have found is increasingly necessary in our profession.

Mary and I continued to run into each other at events – and staying true to this first impression, we had a memorable interaction at each one.

(Case in point: during my very last trade show for the company, I threw a massive boat party. Mary approached the attendees I had invited and made sure they were equipped with motion-sickness pills, and an invitation to her own rooftop party that evening. Much to my coworkers' chagrin, I just loved it. Audacious and hilarious. Fearless.)


Years later Mary and I are on to different adventures in our careers. And this week, true to style, Mary boldly put her POV into the world.

She analyzed salary data within the marketing industry, and uncovered some infuriating trends. Here are five that stuck with me, but please read her original post or Slideshare, for the full data set.

1. Women have more marketing skills than men.

Women in the study dominate with skill advantage, owning the majority of 9 of the 13 skills studied including corporate communications (73% of women vs. 27% of men), branding (61% of women vs. 39% of men), and others.

TakeawayThis post is NOT here to suggest that women are inherently better at marketing than men. This issue is about equality, not comparison. The profession simply attracts more female-identified individuals. Read on.

2. Men are paid more for the same marketing skills.

*Facepalm.* Every. Single. One. of the 13 skills examined earned men more salary than women. Men paid more to do the same job. Same story, different data.

Takeaway: Ladies, we must be willing and able to negotiate salary commensurate to what we deserve. It’s a skill that is learned. And this also means we must pass it on to those we mentor.

3. Women lack the perceived skills required to meet this gap.

Perhaps it’s a matter of how the data was aggregated and reported but look at the precise skills that men “have” more of in this study (chart above.) Leadership. Business strategy. 

My non-statistically-relevant sample size of women leaders I know and have the pleasure of working with do not lack any of these skills. My gut tells me we are falling short when it comes to talking about these skills on resumes and in interviews.

Conferences and events are the biggest culprits here. Take, for example, the recent Dreamforce debacle summarized beautifully here.

"The conversation — which was titled the “Women’s Innovation Panel” — had little to do with tech or innovation. Instead, it focused extensively on parental leave policies and included such comments as, “Susan, you know something about babies,” a question about whether Wojcicki had all five of her children with the same husband(!), and a compliment on how great Alba looks in a bikini."  

Takeaway: We need to get better about talking about women in business. That is, there is nothing different about a woman in business than a man in business. We do the same job, and we should be discussed the same way.

Also, ladies, this is a reminder to toot your own horn. Get used to positioning your skills as men do. Think of Sheryl Sandberg’s consistent refrain - you’re not a bitch, you’re not bossy, you’re a leader. You’re decisive. I loved this recent article“Famous quotes, the way a woman would have to say them during a meeting.”

4. Women fall short in upward mobility.

Mary found that although 80% of entry level marketing workers are women, men obtain 64% of future leadership positions. As Mary writes, “by the end of the career climb, it’s shifted down to 37% female.”

Takeaway: Why does this happen? Of course part of it is in gender bias in the hiring process. But it takes two to tango. Studies show women wait to apply for jobs until they are 100% qualified. We must stop asking for permission to be the boss.

5. Marketing is doing better than other professions.

With our 36% share of top marketing positions, female marketers do fare better than the overall corporate average of 18% according to a recent Payscale McKinsey study.

Takeaway: We have work to do. I have a brilliant twin sister who is a PhD candidate in the field of biochemistry, and in her world of science, women are paid less, less likely to be funded, and faced with myriad gender bias in peer reviews and work culture.


Just this week I presented Cintell’s vision at Mass Innovation Night. Bobbie Carlton does an excellent job aggregating the latest and greatest in Boston’s startup community for a monthly event that has earned a massive following with a months-long waiting list to present.

This time it was 100% female founders and supported by what seemed like an endless array of organizations and initiatives to support women in business. Read my post here promoting some of these groups like Innovation Women and SheStarts. Events like that encourage me that there is fantastic energy being applied by smart people in the advancement of women's equality in the world of business.

But there's lots of work to do. Just recently a male colleague offered that he was growing sick of all the women-focused articles and studies. Where were the male-focused studies? Where was his movement? With every ounce of restraint I held myself back from bitch-slapping him and proclaiming "every DAY is your damn movement, every time you walk into an investor pitch or business meeting you are marching in a privilege parade!" 

Sick of hearing about it? Look, change happens when we talk about it. When we refuse to be invisible. I'll stop blogging when these numbers make sense. And honestly, I'll probably keep blogging then.

Thank you to Mary for putting your analysis into the world. And thank you for being fearless.

Stats about Gender Inequality in Marketing
Stats about Gender Inequality in Marketing