According to the 2012 SEO Survey from Moz, just 23% of internet marketers are female.
It’s a shocking statistic when you consider the attributes of good internet marketers – creativity, communication, organisation – are also traits that are often associated more with women than men.
I was lucky enough to interview Tara West, an internet marketing executive at Koozai and one of the organisers of the Digital Industry Females event. I asked her why there is such as male dominance in the industry and what needs to be done to redress the balance.
Q) Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background, how did you get into internet marketing?
A) I studied advertising at University, and worked as an intern in a digital creative agency, where I was first introduced to SEO and digital marketing. From that point it was always something which I had an interest in and I went on to specialise in UX at Uni, which lead me nicely to working in digital once I completed my degree. It shocked me that there was nothing in my degree about digital media buying, and I think if it wasn’t for my internship I might not have found myself working in digital.
Q) Why do you think there is such an imbalance in the male/female ratio in digital at the moment?
A) Although statistics have proven that there is an imbalance of the male/female ratio in digital at the moment, I think it is something which is definitely changing. Perhaps gender stereotypes and traditions have played a part in the past which meant that woman naturally chose to work in industries other than digital, but these stereotypes are becoming less prominent and more and more women are choosing careers in digital industries.
Q) Tell us about the Digital Industry Females event, what are you hoping to achieve?
A) The event was originally set up as after attending a lot of UK conferences it was apparent that the male/female split was very low with on average around 20% of attendees being female. This surprised us so we set about trying to uncover more females in the digital industry and Digital Females was created.
Initially, we wanted to get as many females from the industry together as possible for a glass of wine and a chat one evening. As the group was so niche, we weren’t sure how well it would take off but we are now approaching the 8th event and have got a new format with great presentations from industry experts.
One of the goals of creating the group was to get females together so they could network in a smaller group and get to know one and other before going along to one of the larger digital conferences. It has been great to see so many Digital Females attending the large events over the past year and we are hoping for that to continue.
The event has never been ‘anti-male’, and is simply a nice way to have a get together with other females in the industry and share our knowledge and network.
Q) I note that your event is female only, what’s the thinking behind this? Would inviting men along, if only to listen to the speakers, not help to promote females in the industry even more?
A) If we invited males there would not be a differentiating factor between Digital Females and other digital events. `Even though our audience would increase, and it would give the presentations and knowledge we are sharing a wider reach, it would make the point of the group redundant.
One of the reasons some women like the Digital Females events, is because they can sometimes feel intimidated at larger events when they don’t know anyone else there. If we invited men along to the events the group would grow but it would remove the benefit of having a smaller event which some of the ladies say is important to them.
Q) Your next event is focused on content marketing – do you think that as internet marketing inevitably shifts towards a more content-led approach more women will get involved?
A) Content creation is certainly one of the most creative aspects of internet marketing, and perhaps woman have been stereotyped as being the more creative of the two genders, so it may result in more women finding internet marketing as a more appealing career choice. Having said that, I know plenty of ladies in digital marketing who aren’t very creative at all (and don’t aspire to be), and some of the most renowned creative artists of our lifetime have been men, so I think it really is down to an individual’s personality rather than their gender.
Q) Do you think that perceptions of internet marketing as being a technical discipline are what is perhaps preventing some women from choosing it as a career? Or indeed preventing companies from hiring women?
A) I don’t think the technical aspects of the industry put women off. If a person’s skill sets match those required of a job role in digital then there is no reason the technical aspects of the job would put them off, regardless of their gender. There are lots of other aspects of digital which do not require an advanced technical skill set, so if the technical aspect is something which a woman is put off by, then there are lots of other areas in the industry which they can excel at. Using myself as an example; I have basic coding skills, but I have great skills for other aspects of SEO, PPC, Display Advertising etc. Having limited skills in the very technical aspects of SEO has never held me back in my career, so I don’t see how the perception of it being a technical industry would deter a woman from choosing a career in digital if it is something she wants to pursue.
Q) Many universities now offer internet marketing related degree courses, is it fair to say that more needs to be done at school and college level to engage women in digital?
A) My personal experience has led me to believe that more education about digital needs to take place in school, college and Universities in general, let alone to engage women.
Q) Some of the most pioneering people in digital – Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg, Martha Lane Fox to name a few, are female. Who are your most influential women in digital and why?
A) There are so many!
Irish Wonder (Julia Logan) is awesome because she is very matter-of-fact about SEO tactics, which is refreshing.
I also find our very own Samantha Noble influential as her knowledge and passion for the industry combined with always having a positive outlook means she is great to learn from.
Q) A couple of more general questions now – I’ve always admired Koozai’s approach of sharing great content in the form of blogs and videos. Could you give us some insight into the planning and production process of this, and any tips you could perhaps share with us?
A) Although the whole team are involved in the creation of posts and videos, the mastermind who pulls our strategy together is Mike Essex, so I asked him for his top tips in terms of the planning and production process and he said:
“We pride ourselves on consistency so we always produce a blog post every weekday, a video every week and a whitepaper every month. This allows us to always have something lined up. We schedule content for an entire month in advance and aim to have it completed at least three days before the go live date, so we always know that we have content ready.
We also divide the work-load across every employee so pretty much everyone writes or creates something, which is great because everyone gets to put their own voice on something and we are never short on things to say!”
Q) What are your favourite internet marketing tools?
A) I’m all for tools because they save us time and make us more productive in most cases, but I do worry that as an industry we are becoming too dependent on tools for certain things and we are losing the autonomy which we need to turn the information tools give us into something valuable and actionable. Because of this I have quite a small portfolio of tools that I use very often, which are:
Screaming Frog can be used for just about anything (http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/)
Majestic SEO is the best place for raw backlink data (http://www.majesticseo.com/)
Ubersuggest keyword research tool (http://ubersuggest.org/)
Wayback Machine is awesome for seeing old versions of websites (http://archive.org/web/web.php)
Copyscape is fab for checking a site for duplicate content (http://www.copyscape.com/)