How to Succeed as a Woman in Ad Tech


According to a study released last month by Harvard Business School and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the ad-supported Internet contributed to 5.1 million jobs in the U.S. and $530 billion to the US economy in 2011. The release of this information was timely, as the topic of job creation has been on the minds of many this year, especially in the midst of this year’s election.

The study cited which states benefited most from this job growth (New York, California, and Washington ranked high, unsurprisingly), and also noted how sole proprietorships and very small businesses were big job contributors. But to what extent have women benefited from this job growth? And overall, how are women faring in the ad tech space? Three top executives weigh in here.

Overcoming the Pressure to Be ‘One of the Guys’

Maureen Little (pictured left), senior vice president of business development at Turn, grew up with in a household where the sky was the limit.

“I was raised in a house where my father reminded me on a regular basis that I could do anything and I could be anyone,” says Little. “He expected me to be the best in sports, dedicated to school, and be as successful in my career as possible.”

This confidence has no doubt played a role in Little’s success at Turn, where she leads global distribution strategy and exchange partnerships across display, video, mobile and social. But has having this support ingrained since her childhood been enough to overcome the challenges presented to her during her ad tech career?

“For a long time, I worried about being ‘one of the guys,’ continues Little. “Finally, I realized, though, that no one asked me to be one of them, and in the end, that is not what made me successful. What is important is how I chose to let those perceptions affect how I lead my team, handle myself in a business relationship, or relate to my colleagues.”

Environment is Everything

For many career women, let alone those in the ad tech industry, being successful in the workplace comes down to how supportive an environment the corporate culture is when it comes to balancing work and family.

“There are a number of industry influences that can often push men ahead of women,” says Denise Colella (pictured left), chief revenue officer at Maxifier. “For example, take a look at the culture of an average start-up, the birthplace of many of today’s ad tech companies: long days, lots of work, and few people to make it all happen.”

But for Colella, this shouldn’t dissuade qualified women from seeking a career in the industry, if they’re ready for the challenge.

“As a hiring manager and boss, I strongly believe that if someone is right for the job, that’s all that matters,” she said. “I’ve been in a position multiple times where I’ve hired women despite my male counterparts questioning whether she could ‘go on maternity leave soon.’ I don’t find this shocking, but in my mind, I have never seen this as a relevant factor.”

Women Can Be Successful in Ad Tech: Acknowledge It, Then Foster It

Being a woman in ad tech is not easy. Executives like Little believe that an underrepresentation of women in the engineering and computer sciences field has played a significant role in the absence of women in ad tech.

“We’ve all read the startling statistics about a girl’s probability to graduate college in sciences and engineering – even though test scores and grades show that women are strong in mathematics and science throughout grade school and high school,” said Little.

But for those who have “made it” in the industry, in many instances, what’s needed in the ad tech business — or any other business for that matter — is not just the acknowledgement that women executives can be exceptional contributors, but also that they’re continuously supported in their endeavors. For example, leadership development programs for women can do much to improve how well women can succeed in this competitive industry.

“Having women in leadership roles shouldn’t be thought of as a novel concept, and shouldn’t be ‘big news,’” says Nicolle Pangis (pictured left), President, Real Media Group. “Woman are 50 percent of the population, we are going to college, to grad school. I can easily argue that women should lead 50 percent of all organizations because, frankly, if they are capable (and they certainly are), why shouldn’t they?”


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