Quantifiable Sexism in the Marketing Industry

They say the customer is always right, but here’s where I’d say something is wrong. In the Internet marketing industry, women are paid less than men by 20% and undervalued by 21% among clients. And much of the undervaluation is from clients (who are women) rating women’s performance down despite objective evidence to the contrary. Men rate women down, too, but not to the same extent women do. At the same time, women clients rate men reps more highly than men do. This according to a recent study by WordStream (salary data via Moz), which also came to some other striking conclusions:

  • Clients rated all male service reps above every female, with the lowest score for males outdoing the highest score for female service reps.
  • Women reps outperformed men on average by 9 points based on a neutral third-party score.
  • Female clients showed the more pronounced gender bias, scoring female reps 0.82 points lower on average than male reps (compared to 0.43 lower by male clients).
  • The biggest impact was seen in the middle quintile of average-performing accounts, where women were judged nearly 1 point lower than men (on a scale of 1-4).

If you’re like me, you might be shocked to learn that these statistics came not from a 1974 survey of traditional marketing agencies, but this year (as in 2014). At the very least, we can now all be more aware of the subtle biases we may hold toward our peers, subordinates, bosses, clients or outside contacts. I think, if anything, this data shows us that when evaluating performance, we should take care to evaluate actual performance, and not allow any negative feelings or preconceived notions about about the individuals behind the performance cloud our judgment of it.

Ask yourself, how do you view your own account manager, peer, boss, intern, etc.? Does your notion of their fitness for the job correspond to your own gender views? Do you overrate or underrate based on stereotypical gender characteristics? What blinders are you wearing? Do you carry assumptions about women in the workplace that you never previously questioned? If so, what are they? By honestly asking (and answering) probing questions, we can at least begin to have a authentic dialog about Mad Men mores in today’s marketing world.

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