Marketing has long been considered a fairly even playing field as far as the genders are concerned. In some cases, women make up nearly two thirds of the industry, especially in fields like Public Relations.
But look on stage at marketing conferences and those numbers don’t seem to follow. Until recently, keynotes and speaker panels at industry events were overwhelming male.
But email marketing expert and international keynote speaker, Kait Creamer, is one of many women shifting that balance in female favour.
Beginning her eclectic career in marketing back in 2011, Kait has quite the number of strings to her bow with experience in coding and development, as well as strategy and automation. She’s also spoken at over a dozen email and marketing events around the globe.
Ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day, I caught up with Kait to discuss gender diversity and her experience in the industry.
You have experience in coding, a field that is pretty male-dominated – have you faced any challenges breaking into this field as a woman?
I think my experience in marketing has been a lot different from other women’s experience in strictly technical or engineering roles, to be honest. Most people see marketing as a field with largely “soft” skills, so opening marketing doors has never been a challenge for me. That said, I’ve always chosen to work at smaller companies where my technical skill set is necessary to achieve big goals—advanced behavioural automation, front-end web development, and the sort—so I spend a lot of time working on more technical things by myself.
Email development is such a weird skill, too, in that most web developers look at good email code (with hacks and media queries and three different sets of style tags) and assume whoever wrote it had no idea what they were doing. The teams I’ve worked with have all been quick to let me dig in with those technical skills. But I’ve definitely had some hard conversations with people outside my work (especially vendors) who simply don’t believe that women can be good developers. Choose your peers wisely, folks!
What first inspired you to become an international keynote speaker? And what have you learned from presenting on stage?
When I finally started attending the right conferences, I left feeling inspired, energized, and excited about my job. I still find myself rewatching particularly impactful talks from years past. When I stay up too late on weekends, it’s usually because I’ve gone down another TED Talk rabbit hole; I absolutely love a good story. Doubly so when I learn something from it, and I wanted to inspire that same feeling in others. There’s nothing better than seeing the light go on when someone grasps a new concept. Or when they tell you how what they learned changed their life for the better.
Public speaking is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and it’s opened so many doors for me. But the thing I treasure most about it is this: when you get up on a stage and are vulnerable and share your successes and your failures and your big ideas, people connect with you. I’ve met so many incredible people just from standing around after a talk and chatting about their stories. Everyone has a story to share and I’m spoiled rotten being let in on so many!
In the marketing industry, women are generally under-represented in leadership roles and as keynote speakers at conferences – what do you think can be done to address this imbalance?
Normalize women everywhere—not just on a token women in tech panel. Conference organizers too often attribute an imbalance in representation to the people applying to speak. They shrug their shoulders and say things like, “we didn’t have that many women apply to speak,” while also telling new mothers attending their conference to breastfeed in a bathroom stall. When women don’t feel welcome, they won’t step into a space just for the sake of helping your diversity.
For conferences, share codes of conduct publicly and tell speaking applicants what topics you’re looking for to encourage women who are the subject matter experts to share their expertise.
In the workplace, airtime is key. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak in meetings and let women share their own ideas. Understand that society has told women to hush, to accommodate, to be emotionless in the workplace, and to shrink over and over again. We won’t look or act like the men we’ve seen as CEOs in generations past because we were raised differently. But we’re smart and we’re tough, we lift one another up, and we will change the way the world works for the better.
Gender diversity at these events does appear to be improving each year – what positive changes would you like to see in the industry in the future?
I’d love to see the gender question on registration forms changed to make the industry more welcoming for women and non-binary folks generally. Tatiana Mac gave a really great talk that raised the question, why do gender questions always say Male then Female? Beyond that, what room does that leave for non-binary folks? I’d love to see men interviewing more women and gender fluid people about their experiences. If we start an inclusive conversation and invite more diverse experiences and opinions to the mix, we all learn from it.
And finally, what advice would you give other women interested in speaking at conferences and events?
Don’t wait until you think you’re ready (you’re never ready but it’s always worthwhile!), and don’t give up. Getting into speaking can be really, really tough because a lot of events organizers are hesitant to bring on first-time speakers. Apply to things you think you have no shot at. Give a talk on something super technical that you love but you think the audience might find boring. Look for the things that get you excited—those are the things you should speak about.
And most importantly, ask for help! Don’t be afraid to reach out to your superheroes. We’re all better together, and you’ll be surprised by how willing even your industry “celebs” are to help out.