As published in COMMPRO
COMMPRO Editor’s Note: The current US elections have placed the issue of gender roles front and center. But one doesn’t have to look at US politics to find gender imbalances inleadership positions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of ad tech. Sources estimate that less than 3% of ad tech CEOs are women, compared with 4.8 percent of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. Brightcom CEO, Gali Arnon, is an example of a rare female executive in ad tech with a unique perspective. Arnon joined Brightcom last year, having previously held senior management positions for the last 15 years in global companies serving various industries. Here, Arnon’s discusses common issues about women in today’s ad tech industry:
Women in Leadership Roles: A Rarity
When asked why women in leadership roles so rare in ad tech, Arnon says that in the field of ad tech, there are a few things that keep woman behind. “First, is the perception that women and tech don’t go together – that women don’t have the same tech capabilities as men. But this is changing. There are more girls and women enrolled in computer science and engineering classes in schools and universities today.”
Continues Arnon, “I believe that once you know the language of human/business needs and understand the needs themselves, technology is an enabler to solve problems and deliver solutions. It’s not necessarily about the bits and bytes or the terminology. Women just need to have the courage to stop and say, “I don’t understand. Explain it in a language so I will.” Women need to have the confidence to ask questions.”
Another challenge that women typically face in ad tech, according to Arnon, is juggling the demands of work and family. “Women find themselves torn between the fast pace, long hours and global travel required in ad tech and being available for their family,” says Arnon. “It’s an ongoing battle that I have with myself. We can’t do both. I don’t mean we have to choose between being a mother and career woman, but where to spend more of our time. While men get to continue to climb the corporate ladder, women often get left behind due to family priorities. And in today’s ever-changing, fast-paced digital world, you can’t afford to be left behind,” states the CEO.
I hate to say it, but a third challenge for women in ad tech is the environment itself. The business is not supportive enough. But instead of playing the victim, we need to work harder and invest more than the average man in the same position.
Advancement for Women
Regarding the sensitive issue of whether it is harder for women to achieve executive positions in ad tech, Arnon says: “I wouldn’t judge it in the terms of harder or easier. I think being a woman in an environment that is 99% dominated by men most of the time puts you in a position where you need to bring certain capabilities to the table. First and foremost, you must think of yourself as an equal and able to have the same conversations as men – whether financial or technological. You need to think you can challenge the men around you – and make them realize that that they aren’t smarter or more capable than you are,” she asserts.
Bringing Different Qualities to the Table
Arnon says that while she can’t speak on behalf of all women, she, herself, brings different qualities to the job because she is a woman. “I think I bring less ego to the table. It’s true that everyone cares about how they are perceived by others, but I personally don’t have a problem with appearing weaker or that I know less than others. I don’t engage in arguments that are useless and driven by the need to be perceived as strong or better.”
Continues Arnon: “I personally invest a lot of my time in how to make people feel engaged. People skills are important to me, and I pay attention to whether people are motivated. I give a lot of weight to whether people smile in the morning and like to come to work.”
Gender Balance in Management
Addressing the topic of how more gender-balanced management could strengthen ad tech companies, Arnon says that any organization would benefit from a combination of needed traits that both male and female employees possess. “A discussion or project that includes both men and women is more balanced. There are more voices being heard. On the one hand, there will be people with ego, which is important because it drives fire and strength. On the other hand, there will also be people who are more holistic in their way of listening and thinking. The more diverse and versatile the team, the more capabilities, personalities and skills it has, which all contribute to overall success,” says Arnon.
“On that note, I’d like to acknowledge that at Brightcom, we have a lot of talented women increasingly filling management positions. However, that being said, our company doesn’t consider gender as a hiring criteria – we hire and promote solely based on employee job performance and skills,” states Arnon.
Diversity in Ad Tech
According to Arnon, the field of ad tech has gotten more diverse over the years. “In addition to Brightcom, I see other ad tech companies, such as AppNexus, hiring more women in management positions. There are also ad tech companies that have been founded by women, such as Improve Digital. Let’s not forget Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Startups still have a long way to go regarding hiring women in management positions. The trend is there, though building very slowly, especially in the fields of ad tech and the Internet,” she says.
Advice and Tips
When asked whether Arnon would advise other woman to go into ad tech, she says, “I would advise women to pursue whatever field interests them and makes them happy. If they have ambition and hunger, they should go after it. However, I think they need to understand that it’s not really true that they can do everything and have it all. There are prices that need to be taken into account. They should go after their dreams but try not to be frustrated after the fact by their decisions.”
‘Ask Questions, Feel Equal, Challenge Others…’
Given her vast experience in management, especially in ad tech, Arnon has tips for other women entering the field. Advises Arnon: “When entering a conference room, I’ve noticed on many occasions that men will sit at the front of the table and women will sit farther away from it. When I go into a room, if I’m not placed at the head of the table, I will choose a seat very close to it. It’s a statement.”
Adds Arnon: “I’d encourage women to ask questions, feel equal and challenge others. Chances are, the others don’t understand either but aren’t brave enough to ask. Challenge yourself by going outside of your comfort zone, especially when you feel when you’re doing the same thing every day and no longer learning. Don’t settle for routine.
“Additionally, always take responsibility. Don’t blame the environment and others for your failures. Take control of your environment. You need to ask yourself what you can do in order to change your reality. I don’t spend time looking at what others can do better. I spend time looking at what I can do better,” concludes Arnon.