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The meritocracy myth vs. the real gender pay gap



The meritocracy myth vs. the real gender pay gap

One of the myths about the tech sector is that it’s a meritocracy, where people are primarily judged and rewarded on ability. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The gender pay gap is just one example. Women earn an average of 30% less than men in martech jobs at all levels, according to our Salary and Career Survey.

Unfortunately, this is in line with the IT sector overall, where women earn an average of 28.9% less than men, according to the U.S. Census. Of the 20 business sectors listed by the Census, IT has the eighth worst pay gap.

Pay is just one part of the issue. Another is the opportunity gap: Men are more likely to be promoted to the top levels of a company. Our survey found that while women hold 54% of all martech jobs, they are only 42% of the sector’s senior executives.

This is, of course, symptomatic of a much larger problem in our society — a problem we must address if we wish to remain economically competitive, says Dr. Lauren Tucker, CEO and founder of Do What Matters, an inclusion management consultancy.

Read next: Salary and Career: Julia Monahan gets the data to support the hunch

“There are a number of things that the tech industry needs to do to at least minimize this inequity,” said Dr. Tucker. “One of them is better hiring and advancement and promotion policies that follow the best practices. Those practices are out there and they’ve been out there for a long time. The challenge is we don’t follow best practices.”

The result is what Dr. Tucker calls “opportunity hoarding.” This is when one person or a very small group of people are able to control the opportunities for career advancement. These can include training, project assignments, getting credit for work, mentoring, and much more. Opportunity hoarding is frequently the product of cronyism and nepotism.

The “standards” smokescreen

This behavior is frequently hidden behind the rhetoric of “standards.”

“We tell ourselves mythologies that allow us to believe in the place that the world puts us,” said Dr. Tucker. “And the mythologies that a lot of tech bros tell themselves is that people like Elon Musk, like Zuckerberg, like Steve Jobs, that they’re geniuses, that they had standards that everybody needed. And if only people would hold to their standards.”

These myths argue that these “self-made men” accomplished all they did because of the high standards they held themselves and their subordinates to. This overlooks all the advantages and opportunities that Musk, Zuckerberg, Jobs and those like them had. For example, Musk comes from an incredibly wealthy family – who loaned him the money to start his own business and attended top-tier private schools. His wealth, much of which was earned through starting and selling his own companies, allowed him to purchase the right to be called “co-founder” of Tesla.

The missing champions

The “standards” myth perpetuates the demonstrably false idea that everyone has an equal start in life. It assumes we live in a world free of biases based on gender, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, income level, etc. 

Because of that, “what I see is a lot of men just hiring other men that they’ve worked with from the same organizations,” said Dr. Tucker. “There are plenty of women that do not get the championship that their male counterparts get, which then just amplifies the pay gap, especially in technology. Having somebody that’s willing to put in the social capital, the political capital, and the financial capital to back your play makes the biggest difference in the world. This is why we see this pay gap persist even if we do all the right things at the beginning in hiring.”

The impact of that goes far beyond differences in pay.

“We’re still held prisoner by this 20th century thinking that is keeping us from being competitive globally,” she said. “We are really not getting it here. If you look at Western Europe, what’s really interesting is Western Europe has evolved. It has evolved beyond this issue around women’s equality. It’s evolved, on this issue, around the kinds of freedoms that we are supposed to, as a country, have as our ideal.”

Equality equals economic growth

As Dr. Tucker points out, much of the nation’s economic growth in the last 50 years has been driven by women’s increased participation in the labor force. For that economic improvement to continue, the nation will need women to be equal participants.

“This is really about women’s empowerment,” Dr. Tucker said. “It’s about women’s freedom. We have to embrace this if this country’s economy is going to grow. And, quite frankly I believe as we think about how to grapple with inflation, we need the ideas and the creativity of all our citizens in order to overcome the challenges of the 21st century. We need that innovation and creativity that is grounded in the issues of this century, not the 20th century, not the 20th century where women in this country are still fighting for their quality.”

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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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Before Deciding Where Your Content Team Reports, Pay Attention to This



Before Deciding Where Your Content Team Reports, Pay Attention to This

When a brand creates a new content marketing or content strategy team, they often ask, “What function or department should the content team report to?”

My answer? “Yes!”

Now, I’m not trying to be a smart aleck. (Well, I am a little bit, do you even know me?) But seriously, my yes comes from years of helping implement content teams in dozens of businesses. My affirmative response indicates the most important thing isn’t to whom content reports; it’s that content teams report to the business.

When it reports into a function, such as brand, marketing, sales enablement, demand gen, PR/comms, or even (yes, really in one case) finance, the business acknowledges content marketing is a real thing with real responsibilities, power, and capabilities to affect business outcomes.

“What outcomes?” you might ask.

Well, that depends on where content marketing reports.

Now you have the real conundrum.

You can’t figure out where content marketing and content strategy should report without knowing the expected business outcomes, and you can’t know the business outcomes until you know where they’re reporting.

The most important thing isn’t to whom #content reports; it’s that content teams report to the business, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It’s tricky.

Content’s pervasiveness creates the challenge

Content as a strategic function in business affects almost everything. That pervasiveness means nearly any function in the business could “own” content as a strategy.

For example, we recently worked with a company about a year into its enterprise-wide digital transformation strategy. They have a content team, and we were to help them assemble a governance and operational approach for their website content.

When we determined the right operational processes, we got into trouble. A content team leader asked, “What if someone proposed a new AI chatbot as part of this digital transformation for the website? Is it a content project with a technology component or a technology project with a content component?”

The question isn’t semantics. Instead, the answer determines the process for development, the team owning implementation, and the measurement by which it’s deemed successful.

Knowing where a #content project is assigned determines its development process, implementation owner, and success metric, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

It’s not just a technology challenge, either. The company also wanted to create new brand content guidelines for the website. Is that a content team project informed by the brand team or a brand project in consultation with the content team?

Given content’s pervasiveness, you can argue it is part of any meaningful communications initiative the business takes on. But sales’ needs are different from marketing’s, and HR’s requirements are different from the demand-gen team’s. However, to achieve consistency in content and communication, it doesn’t make sense to let each function determine its content strategy.

To achieve the balance between an enterprise-wide content strategy and the unique needs of every function in the business, the leaders and practitioners must decide to whom content reports. Again, the agreement is important, not the where or what of the agreement.

3 key attributes to identify in the decision-making process

As you and the leadership ponder how to balance the enterprise content strategy and where it should sit, consider these three key attributes that play an essential role in success.

1. Develop a content operations backbone

I don’t care if you have two people and one blog and a website or a team of 50 who operate on 35 content platforms across multiple channels. A content operations infrastructure creates consistent success across your digital content experiences. Content operations is an enterprise-recognized set of integrated and shared systems (meaning technologies), standards, guidelines, playbooks, and processes to ensure reliable, consistent, scalable, and measurable content across the business.

Content operations acts as the backbone – the foundation – to ensure the content is created, managed, activated, and measured the same way across whatever audience and whichever channel the brand presents to.

2. Connect with the audience across platforms

You can no longer expect to create one optimal experience that makes up for a bunch of sub-optimal ones.No matter your size, it’s not good enough to have your blog subscribers separate from your marketing automation database and all that separated from your CRM system. This goes for all of your audiences – from new employees to external parties such as analysts, journalists, partners, vendors, etc.

In this approach, the goal is to engage, build, and develop relationships with audiences. Thus, connecting audience behavior with insights on how to communicate better is not a siloed functional need; it is an enterprise need.

3. Build an accountability framework

This attribute in one word? Standards (and a team to keep them.) In a truly fascinating way, one of the earliest activities in building a content strategy makes the biggest impact on larger businesses: Come to terms with what words around content strategy and marketing mean. What is a campaign? What is the difference between a campaign and an initiative? What is an e-book? What is an article vs. a blog post? How long should a white paper take to write? Most businesses assume these things or create meanings based on contextual needs.

At a recent client, one group expected the content team to produce white papers within a week of the request. Another group expected them to be delivered in six weeks at double the length that the other group thought.

An accountability framework – and its ongoing evolution – presents clear ownership and coordination of content standards (roles, responsibilities, processes, types) across the enterprise. This model should not detail the definitions and standards but identify how they will enforce them.

Start your content decisions by deciding together

Where should you begin?

Well, just like in the beginning, my answer is yes. Independent of where you start, the critical point happens in the deciding of the elements. To be clear, these are institutional decisions, not simply “what you think.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what you believe the definitions, roles, or processes should be if the other parts of the organization don’t know, believe, or care.

A great first step is to create that accountability framework and make people care about its existence. At first, it might create a language of content that everybody in your business understands. When someone says, “I’d like to do a campaign,” or, “I think we should write a white paper,” everyone understands what that means and what it takes to do it. Then, the benefits of an accountability framework will start to become clear.

It makes the case for a team assigned to lead this consistency easier. And that enables the team to connect those experiences and audiences in a way that makes sense for everyone.

In the end, you have found determining the where, how, and what of a content strategy implementation isn’t the most important. The act of deciding is.

It’s a strange combination. In isolation, the reason for deciding seems straightforward. So why wouldn’t anybody want a clear definition of what a campaign is or a single source of the truth when it comes to the tone of your content?

But stacked together, those decisions feel like they are bigger than the content team and really should involve the entire enterprise. (Spoiler alert: They do.)

If you want any desired consequence, you had better decide on all the things that would help create it.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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