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Gender’s Role in Being a Top B2C Marketer at a Successful VC-backed U.S. Company

17 December 2021

And the implications for finding and hiring your next marketing leader.

This is the fifth article in our six-part series analyzing over 100 Elite B2C Marketing Executives at high-growth, consumer-focused U.S. tech companies to better understand the skills, experience, attributes, and backgrounds that separate them from the rest. We dispel myths, share interesting findings, discuss key takeaways, and explore if predictive indicators exist to identify who will be the most successful marketers. (Our methodology can be found at the end of this article.)

Our first four articles can be found here.

It may not be a surprise that when it comes to leadership roles, women index highest in Human Resource making up 55% of Chief Human Resource Officers, and men index highest as general executive leaders, making up 94% of CEOs¹.  But what is the gender split when it comes to elite B2C marketing executives at high-growth, consumer-focused U.S. tech companies?  And, does gender set them apart, imply a unique set of skills, or make little difference at all?  

As part of our six-part series analyzing over 100 Elite B2C Marketing Executives at high-growth, consumer-focused U.S. tech companies in an effort to uncover what defines the most elite marketing executives, we turn our focus to gender.  We dig into the gender makeup of the country’s most elite B2C marketers, trends over time, marketing skillsets differences, and uncover a particularly impactful finding when it comes to titles.  We have compiled our most insightful findings and provided them in detail below.  

1. Top marketers are slightly more likely to be women, mirroring the gender split of US college graduates 

Women account for 56% of the top marketers in our study, which is the same representation of women among US college graduates – 56% as well².  It’s encouraging that there is no dropoff from the percent of women as college graduates to a few decades later the percent of women as the top marketer in top tech startups. The data reflects the reality that women are more than capable of leading marketing for top B2C US tech companies and that hiring managers and business leaders recognize this as well.  

Interestingly, there are some variations to these findings when looking at where in the US these women are more or less represented.  In New York, women make up a significantly higher 67% of the top marketers in that market, and in San Francisco, they roughly keep pace with the overall average at 58% of all top marketers.  However, it is the rest of the country where women are underrepresented, making up only 42% of top marketers.  New York and San Francisco house the majority of the country’s fast-growing, top B2C, VC-backed companies, and perhaps this is due to a strong tendency towards innovation and change, their companies’ executive-level female diversity is ahead of the rest of the country. Perhaps the trend also simply feeds on itself in these markets, a higher presence of female executives to serve as role models and supporters encourages and supports the development of even more future female executives.  Plus, the prevalence of supportive communities in these markets, like Chief in NYC, further encourages women in leadership positions.  Regardless of the reason, it is clear women are qualified, have the experience, and are being tapped to lead Marketing at top B2C tech companies.  

While studies still show a major underrepresentation of women in general executive leadership, Finance, and Technology leadership positions¹, Marketing holds an abundance of talented, qualified, and accomplished women, and would be a smart place for companies to look when wanting to improve their overall executive gender diversity. 

2. Women top marketers are far less likely to have a C-Level Title (i.e., Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Growth Officer) than men top marketers

Only 34% of the women top marketers in our study have a C-level title (vs VP or Head of), compared to 63% of their male counterparts who have a C-level title. While we just celebrated that women are well represented as top marketing leaders in top B2C tech companies, they often don’t have the C-level title – and presumably status and pay.  In our first article, we found the same gender-title difference among both our younger and older marketers, so this is not simply a reflection of years of experience. 

For the unicorn companies in our study, women make up a substantial 60% of the top marketers leading those organizations.  Clearly illustrating they are not only qualified to be elite marketers but actually over-index when it comes to leading marketing for the most successful B2C companies in the country.  

So ‘why’ the difference in title?  We noted in our first article, that on average women executives make 89% of what their male counterparts bring home³. An interesting article from HR Dive notes that before the pandemic 82% of men were comfortable asking for a promotion compared to 70% of women, and post-pandemic there’s been a 4.5% decrease for men and an 8.5% decrease for women⁴. While the reasons and solutions for gender disparity among top marketer titles continue to be debated, we encourage hiring managers, founders and CEOs to proactively evaluate the contributions and titles of their leaders.  After all, to retain top talent, or to attract it, offering a fair title – upfront – that reflects a marketer’s influence and impact on a business can be what makes the difference.

3. Women make up a higher percentage of our newer generations of top marketers, while men over-index in our older cohort

Of all the women top marketers in our study, 71% have 20 years’ experience or less, leaving only 29% in our cohort with over 20 years’ experience.  On the other hand, only 45% of men top marketers have under 20 years of experience, while the majority of them (55%) fall into our cohort with over 20 years experience.

Looking at the data another way, we see that of all of the top marketers with over 20 years experience, women make up 40%, but of all of the top marketers with under 20 years’ experience, they make up a much higher 66%.  Could we be seeing a shift in gender representation with the younger generation of elite marketing leaders?

The data also shows women are most representative in the cohort with 11-20 years of experience, where they make up 69% of our top marketers.  Among the top marketers with 6-10 years experience, the youngest generation, they make up 55%, a very proportionate representation to the percentage of women in the general US college graduate population.  Was there a correction in the market from a highly underrepresented female leadership presence in the over 20 years’ experience cohort, to our highly overrepresented 11-20 cohort?  In the newest generation of top marketers, however, the market seems to have leveled out.  Time will tell if these trends will continue or further evolve.  As marketing specialized executive recruiters, we have seen and support our client’s intentional efforts for diversity, and the data suggests a shift for elite marketing leaders. While hiring managers and business leaders should always choose their next marketing leader based on relevant experience and skill set, it is more likely than ever that their leader will be a woman.

4. Men are more likely to be performance marketers, while women are more likely to be brand/comms specialist leaders

While men make up 44% of all of our elite marketing leaders, they account for 67% of our top marketers who specialize in performance marketing.  That is a significant difference.  Men also make up only 32% of our marketers who specialize in Brand/Communications and make up 38% of our top marketers who do not have a specialization but instead have focused on more all-encompassing general marketing roles.  This means that a high 68% of Brand/Communication specialists are women, and 62% of our generalists are women. (Interestingly, roughly two-thirds of all of our top marketers fall into the generalist category.)

We’ve noted in previous articles a shift towards more top marketers earning quantitative degrees, more coming from banking and consulting backgrounds, and more having specialized backgrounds in performance marketing than ever before.  There is a clear shift towards more quantitative marketing leaders.  

Interestingly, we find that the same amount of women as men started their careers in banking or consulting.  We also see that in our top marketers with under 20 years’ experience, women make up 50% of our top marketers who specialize in performance marketing, men, of course, the other 50%.  It is the older generation of marketers with over 20 years of experience where men tilt the scales overall, where 100% of performance marketers are men.

For companies in need of a marketing leader who is a generalist or a brand/comms specialist, they can expect their candidate pipeline to skew female.  However, for those looking for a marketing leader with a performance background, they can likely expect predominantly male candidates among the most seasoned marketing leaders, but an equal representation of genders for candidates with under 20 years experience. 

5. Women Top Marketers are more likely to have a higher level of education and more prestigious degree than their male counterparts

Exactly 49% of all of our top marketers earned their degree at one of the top 28 universities in the country – 55% of women and 41% of men.  Interestingly, only 38% of our top marketers have earned an MBA – 43% of women and 30% of men.

The data suggests that a degree at a top university, or an MBA is not required to be an elite marketing leader.  After all, over half of our top marketers did not come from a top university and the majority don’t have an MBA.  So why in both instances, are women more highly represented?

A study by Georgetown University shows that when it comes to wages, women become on par with men’s wages when they earn one degree more than those same male counterparts.  While types of degrees and fields in the study play a role, perhaps this indicates a still underlying reality or belief by men, women (or both), that to get ahead, women need to try harder or do more.  Or, perhaps this trend reflects a difference in the value placed on education in general among the genders.  

For fast-growing tech companies looking for their next marketing leader, an elite education should not be the deciding factor.  While women may be more likely to come from these educational backgrounds, a marketing leader should have enough real-world marketing experience to evaluate if they are the right match to your company’s needs, have succeeded in the past where you need them to succeed again, and ultimately help you achieve your goals.

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Gender and diversity remain complex and hot topics.  In this article, we focused on gender differences and similarities across the top marketing leaders at B2C VC-backed companies, and their implications for hiring your next marketing leader.  While this only scratches the surface, we hope our quantitative analysis on gender when evaluating the Top B2C Marketers at Successful VC-backed U.S. Companies proved insightful and thought-provoking.  

In our effort to dispel myths and better understand what sets elite marketing leaders apart from the rest, our six-part series analyzing over 100 Elite B2C Marketing Executives at high-growth, consumer-focused U.S. tech companies explores various aspects of the most successful marketers including high-level findings, educational insights, the expertise and specializations of top marketers, their early career backgrounds, and their gender.  We hope these findings will help fellow marketing executive recruiters and hiring managers alike to better identify and even predict the most successful marketing leaders.  For more insights, our full list of articles can be found below.  

  1. Key High Level Findings
  2. The Formal Education of Top Marketers
  3. The Marketing Expertise and Specializations of Top B2C Marketers
  4. Career Experiences of Top Marketers
  5. Women vs. Men as Top Marketers

If you are interested in our final wrap-up article highlighting the most interesting findings of our series, please follow RevelOne on LinkedIn.

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Methodology

We identified the most senior marketing leaders at over 100 of the highest growth tech companies in the US.

How we determined the companies: The fastest-growing tech startups included in our study had to meet several key requirements.  Companies had to be funded by a top tier VC (see list below), be a consumer-focused business, have an employee count between 100 and 5000, and have been identified as a “unicorn” ($1 billion or greater valuation) or be a “successful, high growth company” in one of the following publications: CB Insights and Fast Company 50 Future Unicorns, CNBC Disruptor 50 Companies, Forbes 25: Next Billion Dollar Startups, Forbes Midas List, or raised $50 million or more in funding within the last 3 years per Crunchbase.

How we identified the marketing leader: The most senior marketing leader within each company was identified based on title. They had to be in a marketing role, must be located in the US, and must have a CMO, VP, SVP, EVP, Head of, Sr Director, or Director title.

How we conducted the analysis: Crunchbase was utilized for public company status, funding VCs and funding amounts.  Company and marketers’ LinkedIn profiles were analyzed to determine company employee count, consumer focus, most senior marketers in an organization, location, titles, education, gender, work experience, years of experience, current role details, and career focus.  

List of Top Tier VCs: Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Bessemer V Partners, Founders Fund, GGV Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, Greylock Partners, Battery Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Norwest Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners.

List of Top 28 Universities: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, University of Chicago, MIT, Duke, UPenn, Wharton, Brown, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Cornell, Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, UVA, Dartmouth, NYU, Amherst, Williams, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Vanderbilt, Wash University, Michigan.  

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References.

    1. Percentage of women in C-suite roles inching up
    2. National Center for Education Statistics 2018 report
    3. Business Insider
    4. HR Dive
    5. Georgetown University Study

 

About RevelOne

RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm.  We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech.  For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.

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