IAB’s Susan Borst On The Growing Power of Women in Mobile

In our last article with Susan Borst, we learned about the goals and objectives of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, (IAB) and the growing importance of storytelling for digital marketers. Today, we conclude our conversation with a discussion about the rapidly growing role of women in the mobile marketing industry.

 

What We Learned:

  • Female Leaders Are Taking A More Active Role – There are more organic opportunities for women in marketing than ever before, if they are willing to step forward and claim them.
  • Good Leaders Support Their Teams – No matter their gender, all leaders need to take an active role in pursuing big-picture results while encouraging their team members to step outside their comfort zone.
  • IAB Is Leading The Way For Women In Mobile – Events like Women’s Visionaries event, put on by IAB, are helping to empower the next generation of female leadership.

 

Highlighting your POV and industry insights for our Mobile Champions series was a no brainer. First and foremost, we recognize that your work and leadership is making an impact in the mobile marketing industry.

With the new wave of women rising to leadership roles, have you witnessed or experienced any challenges as a result of these shifting power dynamics? How can our industry further support and strengthen this new era of women leaders?

Great question. At IAB, the whole topic of equality is very important. I’m very proud that IAB has hosted a Women’s Visionaries event for the past two years. We convene top leaders in tech, media, and marketing to share workplace wisdom and industry insights. Presentations focus on important lessons in leadership and real-world advice to advance women’s trajectories and help empower the next generation of leaders. A truly impressive list of women (and some men!) have shared their insights. The energy in the room, and the corresponding conversations, is so inspiring!

The industry is making progress on the speaking front. I used to find myself as the only woman speaking on a panel, but I see that changing significantly.  As an organizer of speaking panels myself, I used to get mostly responses from men. But today, when I approach a company for speaking opportunities, they’re organically suggesting more women to speak, which is a step in the right direction. I do think women have a responsibility to put themselves out there — it can be a little bit of a chicken or egg scenario in some cases. But you need to take that step to be heard.

 

Do you find there are unique challenges women face in the mobile and gaming industries in comparison to others?

I work with a lot of women from leading companies in both the mobile-specific and the gaming space. For the IAB Game Committee that I’ve led for the past five years or so, the committee leadership has, in fact, been dominated by women in senior leadership positions including Kym Nelson from Twitch, Julie Shumaker/Agatha Hood from Unity Technologies and Gabrielle Heyman from Zynga. Working with Tapjoy, I see many women leaders there, too! Most of the women leaders I work with are in the marketing or sales positions, so I can’t speak to the game developer side of the equation where I understand there is a greater male/female discrepancy.

I think the biggest challenge for both men and women in the mobile/games space, or any digital marketing space for that matter, is staying relevant. Things are moving very quickly in this increasingly mobile-first world. New technologies are rapidly emerging. The current public policy landscape is evolving. And consumer expectations are changing. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared to adapt or even pivot as needed.

 

What advantages do you think women have in leadership?

Generally, I think women tend to have a different leadership style vs. men, but I wouldn’t necessarily call this an advantage or a disadvantage. I think great leaders – men or women – have the same qualities in that they are strategic and results-oriented. They see the big picture to be able to know what needs to be done, and how and when to execute. They also know how to build great teams of people with different strengths who, together, are working toward a common goal. From an interpersonal perspective, great leaders clearly communicate and strive to help their teams grow as individuals and have high expectations on team performance. Do women have an inherent advantage in any of these areas? I really hate to stereotype, so I’d say the answer to that question is no. Women can have the same advantages as men.

 

In your opinion, what are the most effective leadership strategies for women in 2019?

Taking into account the key factors that make good leaders that I described, women need to step up to the plate and be their confident selves. This means taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone, relying on your team to do the work you hired them to do and, importantly, taking credit where credit is due.

When I think back to the most effective women I’ve had the pleasure to work with, one perhaps surprising trait comes to mind which is that they are all real. By this, I mean, they lead the way while showing their true selves. They are not afraid to share. Or show their vulnerabilities. Or help a newbie. Or stand up for the team when needed. Being real inspires trust and with trust, comes results and respect. Two women in the digital industry who really stand out in my mind are Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP and Chief Operating Officer at The New York Times and Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising & Partnerships at NBCUniversal. They are both wildly successful, real and I admire them greatly.

 

What are the key skills and attributes needed to be among the top influencers in the industry?

“Influencer” is a loaded word, so I’ll focus on the notion of building, or even rebuilding, your personal brand. This comes into play both within your organization and outside of it. Dorie Clark, a top marketing strategy consultant, author, university teacher and professional speaker who I had the pleasure of meeting at SXSW a few years ago, is a leading voice on the topic of building/rebuilding a personal brand. In this Harvard Business Review article, Dorie outlines five ways to reinvent yourself by building your personal brand: Define Your Destination, Leverage Your Points of Difference, Develop a Narrative, Reintroduce Yourself, and Prove Your Worth. Some of these steps will be easier for some than others, but the point is that you have to be honest with yourself, understand how the world views you and you need to get out there and make your voice heard! As Dorie points out, “Taking control of your personal brand may mean the difference between an unfulfilling job and a rewarding career.”

 

How do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your female talent?

I think you spot, develop, grow and support your female talent the same way you’d do for your male talent. For spotting talent, I look for smarts, enthusiasm and curiosity. Smarts alone won’t do it. For development, I grew up with the advice that as a leader, your goal is to develop your staff to be able to take your job, so you can move up yourself. Supporting your team, trusting that they can do the job you hired them to do, and being by their side through the wins and losses, is the way to grow and support future leaders. If they look good, you’ll look good.

Tapjoy would like to thank Susan Borst for taking the time to join us. If you’d like to brush up on more mobile fundamentals, check out “What Is In-App Marketing?” for a deep dive into strategies and tips on developing your own unique in-app campaigns.

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