Success in the marketing industry looks different today from what it did ten, or even five years ago. With new channels to test and more avenues for creativity balanced with a need to be data-driven, success in marketing today requires thinking strategically about long-term brand-building while balancing shorter-term tactical initiatives.

For women in marketing leadership roles, the trajectory to success looks different, with only 25% of executive management roles held by women for most industry subsectors (a subset that includes media and creative agencies, advertising, ad tech, and more). Women who advocate for themselves professionally are disproportionately perceived as “demanding” compared to their quieter counterparts. These observations, coupled with conversations Percolate has had with senior female marketers at global brands, brought to the forefront four ways of thinking and doing that made them so successful.

Thinking in systems

In a recent article on CEO tenures and the various paths people take on their journey to the C-Suite, The New York Times interviewed systems-savvy Marla Malcolm Beck, founder of Blue Mercury, the makeup chain that was acquired by Macy’s for $210 million in 2015. Beck said:

“What I really learned […] was how to break down even the most complicated processes into their most minuscule components […] It’s an approach that you can use to tackle any process in any organization.”

We heard this system-based thinking echoed at Transition when listening to Nancy Ryerson, Marketing Officer at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research. Maintaining a scientifically accurate online presence is a top priority for the Foundation to ensure brand authority. Using Percolate, Nancy divided the content on their Facebook channels into four categories. This allowed the company to categorize their content, which gave their team more visibility and expedited their ability to respond to, flag, and promote posts. This system helps Nancy’s team engage with their audience by debunking common misconceptions of Parkinsons.

Systems thinking isn’t intuitive for marketers as it is for engineers, but it’s fast becoming an asset in a world where campaigns move at the speed of social.

Going beyond the job description

To these successful female leaders, doing more means taking risks: whether it is to start a new initiative or going beyond their call of duty to get involved in a project.

For Nikki Rappaport, Director of Brand and Marketing at fast-casual Mediterranean chain CavaGrill, doing more means immersing herself in the brand experience, both digitally and in reality. She spearheaded an initiative to get to know CavaGrill’s customers better — by going through Instagram geotags and searching for people eating at CavaGrill or living in the neighborhood. In Los Angeles, Cava took a SoulCycle class with one of their social media influencers, bringing a digital connection into real life. By going the extra mile, Nikki pushes the limits of influencer marketing to preserve quality relationships with their customers.

Being unafraid to try something new

GE, a brand that has been around since 1892, may have evolved over the years but it has consistently told a story of innovation. Sydney Williams, Global Digital & Social Media Marketing Manager at GE, is bringing this story to life on new channels like Snapchat. For such a storied brand, getting stakeholders to align on the strategy behind testing new channels is a process that requires you to be able to articulate exactly why your idea is worth it — often to senior management. When Sydney’s team looks to engage a largely millennial audience, they focus their efforts “where people spend their time” and then develop a strategy to engage this audience in a new way. GE isn’t trying to sell jet engines on Snapchat, but by owning their narrative and staying relevant they’re doing something more thoughtful and forward-thinking — inspiring the next generation of innovators that might join their workforce in the coming years.

Making bold choices

When Melissa Proctor was appointed CMO of the Atlanta Hawks back in March — a career that began with her being the team’s ball girl — she implemented what she called the “Five B’s Doctrine”: to be bold, be focused, build bridges, believe in brand, and build culture. Unlike most NBA teams, the Hawks used emojis to announce their 2016-17 schedule. This bold marketing play got the Hawks featured in Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100 and ranked #1 on the Bleacher’s Report of sports teams to follow. When we sat down with her at Transition, Melissa’s advice to young women starting their careers was to “be open” to learning new things and letting your career move in unexpected directions. “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” she said.

Throughout Transition we heard from several accomplished women who didn’t take no for an answer on their professional journeys to the top. But it was equally refreshing to hear from men who signaled that gender equality is a top priority for them, both within the workplace and through the work they do. Paul Speaker, CEO of the World Surf League,  shared how the sport has progressed over the years: in the 1970s, the winner of the first all-women’s surfing competition was awarded $3,000 but today, men and women are competing on the same-sized waves and female contest winners are earning $262,500. “There are not enough brands supporting young women who redefine beauty. Shame on us all,” was Paul’s bold statement for other brands to take notice.

More than signal that men in the C-Suite are thinking about the ways their brands project gender and encourage open discourse around it, Paul’s comment is a nod to the fact that creating change will be a collective effort. Women in our industry are experiencing an important moment, and we hope everyone is taking notice.