March 5, 2019

5 Pieces of Career Advice From the Most Inspirational Women in Marketing

Christina Sirabella

March 8th is International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide. The past few decades have seen tremendous growth in women’s representation and achievements in all fields. However, even in 2019, women account for up to 85 percent of all consumer purchases, but represent less than 15 percent of corporate leadership positions. It’s clear that our marketing leaders need to better represent the people to whom we’re marketing.

As an agency with an entirely female leadership team, International Women’s Day is an especially meaningful day for us. Our CEO Carrie Kerpen’s Facebook Watch show, Work It, her bestselling book of the same title, and her podcast All the Social Ladies have featured hundreds of successful, bold female leaders. From actresses to talk show hosts to CMOs, these women have excelled not only in their professional lives, but in their personal lives as well. Here’s a roundup of our favorite pieces of advice from a few of these fabulous ladies.

1. Find a career coach.

Mentors, sponsors, coaches—there are so many words used to describe people who help us navigate our careers and the professional world. Emily Culp, President at Cover FX Skincare and former CMO of Keds, encourages everyone, from young professionals to senior leaders, to cultivate a diverse set of career advisers. But where do you start? Within your company! Think of colleagues, even those who are much more senior than you, with whom you have a good rapport. Express to them what you’re seeking to accomplish, why you believe they’d be a good person to help, and ask to bounce a few ideas off of them once a month or so. It’s helpful to have something in common—Culp found that it was necessary for her to have a coach who was a working parent like she was and understood the challenges of balancing her career goals with her personal life and family. No matter what you call them, these people will provide you with insights, information, and challenges to help you make important decisions in your career and will likely be crucial to your future success.


2. Ditch your five-year plan.

When you think of the CMO of a company like JPMorgan Chase, you probably assume that they’d had their eye on that position since they were a young professional. But Kristin Lemkau, who has been at the company for 20+ years, never had a specific plan. She believes in the importance of working hard and having career ambitions, but encourages people to stay open about the path they take to get there. Don’t limit your future options to what you can see (like your boss’s job, or your boss’s boss’s job). It’s fine to make plans, but things will always happen—both good and bad—that get in the way of them, and it’s crucial to be flexible and know how to pivot.


3. Forget the idea of “balance.”

Marisa Thalberg, Global Chief Brand Officer at Taco Bell, encourages people (especially working mothers) to consider that there is always some give and take between things like career, family, and all other priorities. There is no perfect equilibrium, she says—one day there could be a family event that takes priority, but the next might be an all-day business trip. Achieving “balance” every single day is impossible, but it’s the big picture view that matters.

Randi Zuckerberg’s “pick three” philosophy speaks to this same idea. She believes that each day, you should pick three of the following to focus on: maintaining friendships, building a great company, spending time with family, staying fit, and getting sleep. What matters is not the three that you choose on any one day, but making sure that in the larger scheme of things, you’re spending time on all five.


4. Take calculated risks.

According to Capital One’s Small Business Growth Index Survey, 63 percent of female small business owners report that current business conditions are good or excellent, whereas their male counterparts are only at 60 percent. Seventy-five percent of male business owners say they’re likely to hire within the next year, but only 63 percent of women say the same. So, why is it that women are more optimistic about the future of their businesses, yet don’t seem to be taking as many risks?

Margaret Donnell, CMO of Small Business Banking at Capital One, says that women don’t need to be swinging for the fences, but rather they should be taking calculated risks. She encourages female business leaders to ask themselves this question before making a risky decision: “What would a male counterpart in my exact position do?” It’s okay to still hold off on taking the risk, but the important part is asking the question and not allowing yourself to be held back by your gender.


5. Never stop learning.

Telisa Yancy, CMO at American Family Insurance, remembers watching an iconic Coca-Cola commercial when she was just a kid and saying, “I want to do that.” And thus began her love of business and marketing, which led her to a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and then an MBA in Marketing & Finance. Even after she finished her many years of formal schooling, Yancy continued to educate herself. She gained all kinds of business experience, from marketing to management to sales, at major brands like Ford, Burger King, and now American Family Insurance. One of her best pieces of advice is to never stop learning, and she believes the best way to do so is to always act like you’re brand new. She also encourages marketers not to forget that it’s the business that has to win—so even on the more creative side, it’s important to learn how the business makes money. Continuous learning helps keep your passion alive, and your passion is what allows you to truly make a lasting impact.


Tags: Best Practices, Leadership, Strategy

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