Adweek Women Trailblazers 2021 Key Learnings

Though the fight for women’s equality continues to evolve and improve, there’s still much to be done, especially in the workplace. The number of women on executive boards or in c-suite positions hasn’t changed since 2019, and the number of women in management positions has declined from 2020 to 2021.


In line with those stats and no secret to those in the industry, the marketing and advertising space continues to be predominantly male-led. However, leading industry platforms and players are continuing to celebrate the women challenging the status quo and breaking barriers year after year.


Last week, Adweek hosted its annual Women Trailblazers virtual summit. Speakers with expertise in media, technology, and marketing, shared their perspectives on how to break into senior management, support other women, and so much more.


Here are our top takeaways:


On breaking through to senior positions…

+ Take risks that you know can pay off — accept a new role even if it doesn’t 100% make sense or if you’re not qualified for it. Men do this all the time, but women aren’t taught to do the same.

+ Listen first. You can enter a meeting more than prepared, but if you don’t deliver the information in the right moment, you won’t be heard.

+ Get yourself in front of senior leadership — in the elevator, at the salad bar, in a one-pager, or on Slack — and make those 60 seconds count.


On women supporting women…

+ Be kind to one another — be considerate, fair, and thoughtful.

+ Remember that you’ll achieve more as a company if the women around you do better than you do sometimes. Make other companies the competition, not each other.

+ Think of equity like the sun — it doesn’t belong to anyone, but there is plenty for everyone so if you happen to have some, open your arms.


On mentorship and connection…

+ Be aware that what worked for you might not work for the women you’re mentoring. Each woman has her own path to the top. How can you help her get there?

+ Find a small group of people that you trust and go to them when you need to reason through whether the barriers you’re hitting are historical, part of the current situation, or something else.


On trailblazing DE&I…

+ Have the courage to keep asking tough questions and taking small steps to get to big change.

+ Make it tangible and actionable — assess your current state, make a grand vision, set priorities, and break it up into measurable chunks that you can tackle.

+ Move away from viewing DE&I as one-off initiatives. It needs to be woven into the fabric of your business.

+ Data is key — make sure you’re being inclusive in how you collect and apply data.

+ Be active in your pursuit of DE&I everywhere you spend your money, including vendors.


On failure and the unknown…

+ Often you know better, and you still don’t do better. Give yourself 10,000 breaks and then 10,000 more — you’re only human. Apologize and move on.

+ It’s okay not to know everything. Be open to learning and go out and get the info you need; from there you’ll feel more confident and empowered.


On elevating women…

+ If you’re a leader, look at the data and see if your pay, promotions, bonuses, etc. reflect the diversity of your organization. Don’t just assume. Set targets if you need to.

+ Create a culture of inclusive leadership — invite upcoming talent to senior leadership meetings, pair your employees with mentors to develop new skills.

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