8 Women in Marketing Discuss Career Challenges, Inspirations, and Role Models

Forty years ago, Congress formally recognized the important role women played in the United States with the creation of National Women’s History Week. Six years later it became a month-long commemoration of the ongoing fight for women’s rights in the workplace, at home, and in society. Women have since increased their earnings, education, and field of occupation. Despite the growth, women still only earn 81.6% of what men make at work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Pure Visibility is proudly one of 13 million women-owned businesses in the United States. In most cases, success comes with support, including a network of fellow female leaders to inspire, foster, and accelerate business growth. We are honored to be a part of this network and to be WBENC certified. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) works to bridge the revenue gap between women-owned businesses and their male counterparts.

As we mark Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight the female marketing leaders we work alongside throughout the year. We asked them all the same three questions, and while they come from different industries and backgrounds, their answers offer insight and inspiration for overcoming challenges and finding success in business.

Meet Our Leaders in Marketing

Linda Girard, CEO at Pure Visibility: Linda’s main responsibilities are to inspire, motivate, and grow the team to see beyond their potential. Daily Pure Visibility implements an agile short-term and long-term strategy that is inclusive of our analysts’ amazing jaw-dropping ideas. Linda says, “Every day brings new opportunities and challenges and it’s my responsibility to work with the team members to keep our vision and core values in focus. I am a visionary by nature fueled by positive energy. I believe you get what you think about, therefore strategy is key.”Amanda Aikman, General and Marketing Manager at Paragon Sight & Sound: As both the General Manager of the retail store and Marketing manager, Amanda wears a lot of hats at Paragon. She is responsible for both day-to-day operations as well as e-commerce. As Marketing Manager, she oversees a small team to run social media, the website, and works with firms like Pure Visibility for advertising. Amanda says, “I like feeling like my work has a direct and discernible impact.”
Christine Golus, Senior Managing Director and Co-Owner of Q LTD: Christine wanted to move out of Michigan but found success in Ann Arbor with a community of designers who believed in the work and excelled. She now directs company strategy, develops and maintains client relationships, manages larger project engagements, works with the creative and technical teams, and collaborates with the management team on day-to-day operations. Christine says, “Good work can happen in your own backyard. Work locally, think globally really is true.”

Courtney Williams, Director of Marketing at Foulger-Pratt: As a primary B2C marketer, Courtney must manage the voice, colors, fonts and messaging of the corporate brand, as well as 14 property brands. Her daily role also includes drafting messaging, curating content, driving social media strategies and working with wonderful partners to assist in paid advertising performance. Courtney says, “It is a job that is rewarding for a lifelong learner in that you always have to stay on top of the newest trends. This has been especially challenging during COVID as consumer’s needs and expectations have most likely permanently changed.” 

Donna Dickerson, Chief Marketing Officer at GreenPath Financial Wellness: When Donna started at GreenPath Financial Wellness three years ago her focus was external branding with a national messaging platform to destigmatize debt. Starting with a nascent department, this effort included launching a new website, building an integrated marketing plan and recruiting a new team of marketing professionals. Today, she collaborates with internal and external stakeholders within marketing, operations and technology departments. Donna says, “I’m constantly paying attention to what people need, understanding how we can bring solutions to pain points people have and working to create brand experiences that meet those needs.”

Lori Stoia, Director of Marketing at an American software company supporting IT departments of large corporations: Although developing strategy and marketing plans are normal aspects of Lori’s director role, she is often executing and analyzing the programs as well. Her daily responsibilities encompass web management, SEO, SEM, campaign management, translations, product review site management, and marketing metrics and analysis. Lori says, “Being a director on a small marketing team means that no job is too big or too small.”

Maryellen Lewandowski, President at The Stampmaker: As president, Maryellen’s role evolves as the company grows. While she used to be more operational and hands-on, she is now focused on product development, web development, and managing our digital marketing. Maryellen says, “My background is in finance, so marketing is a very different animal! You cannot always pinpoint what is working, which as a number person makes me crazy. That being said, there is a lot of data available that can help make business decisions especially with digital marketing.” .

Nancy Kelley, Marketing Professional for small businesses: With daily work dependent on the needs of her unique clients, Nancy’s role is varied. For some clients, it’s 1:1 and small team meetings to clarify important issues like target markets, client demographics, budgets, resources and project plans/timelines. For other clients, it’s more tactical, including the actual building and writing of newsletters, social media content, and ad campaigns. Nancy says, “Often my primary job is demystifying [marketing] terms and providing a prioritized path forward.”

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome in your career, and what lessons have you learned from them?

Maryellen: I have learned that nothing stays the same, and have known that to grow both personally, and as a business owner you have to always assess where you are at, and continually look for and evaluate new opportunities. Without changing and evolving you will be left behind. The risks with business are not just the one-time risk of getting into business, but every time you take something on you are taking a new leap. It is scary, and exciting at the same time!

Courtney:  Imposter Syndrome.  It is real and I believe it is for all women – especially mothers.  It may sound corny but you can truly overcome anything if you believe in yourself.

Nancy: The first big challenge, early in my career, was overcoming my fear of expressing my ideas and opinions in a group setting. I remember it clearly. I’m lucky that I had mentors in my career that believed in my ideas and encouraged me to speak up and let my voice be heard – even if it was NOT always the right or best idea. Sometimes my thoughts and ideas led others to even better versions of my own ideas. It’s an important skill.

Coming back from many years out of the industry after having children was my biggest challenge. In the time I was gone, the industry completely transformed from a paper-based advertising/channel marketing and distribution world to a digital world of advertising and a direct-to-consumer distribution model. It was incredibly intimidating and required vulnerability to learn all the new tools and terminology that went with it. What I did learn is that although the tools and terminology changed, the concepts and best practices I had learned in my years of tech industry sales and marketing had not. I put in the hours, learned all I could about this ‘new digital world’ and went to work. 

Lori: The biggest challenge of my career was balancing work and home life. What I learned is that while my children meant the world to me and I’d do anything to protect them and raise them right, I too was also important and needed my career to keep me sane. I lived with unnecessary guilt for so many years. However, without even realizing it, I was setting an example for my children, and they grew up understanding the meaning of hard work, discipline and sacrifice.

Linda: Finding my seat at the table, per Sheryl Sandberg. I started out as a young inexperienced entrepreneur. I did not have a masters degree, only a burning desire to take an idea to the next level. I had a newborn and an idea. Being able to take that scary leap was incredibly difficult, but my husband and family supported me to go for it so how could I not. What I didn’t know was that in my first year of business my husband would have stage 3 cancer. Then my mission became even stronger. I was a mother, a wife, an aunt, a caregiver, an entrepreneur. In the face of fear, entrepreneurs find the strength to overcome anything. My husband beat cancer, my daughter is an amazing teenager, my company has grown, and I have grown with it. Because of this journey, I am a louder voice than ever at the table and proud to support other women in their journey.

Amanda: The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that it’s incredibly important to be passionate about the work, or it’s difficult to feel fulfilled. To that end, it’s also important (for me) to know that what I’m doing is part of a career – not just a “job.” I know that it’s not possible at every point in one’s working life to have these qualities, but for me, these are critical to being happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Who are your inspirations and role models?

Nancy: My clients, the small business owners, many of whom are women and immigrants that are brave enough to start their own businesses, work incredibly long hard hours and put themselves out there to succeed or fail in the public eye — all to follow a dream or take over a family business. It’s their passion, work ethic and commitment that helps drive me to find them new clients and increase revenues/profits  — all while using the limited resources they have in building their dreams. 

Amanda: My mother is a huge inspiration to me. She is fearless, or at least, she doesn’t let fear get in the way of accomplishing her goals. I also learned a lot from one of my first bosses, who was one of the owners of a small local retail store I worked at for years. She is a mom, like me, and when we first met was finding her way back into a career with young children. Jenna, my old boss, has the most poise under pressure that I’ve ever seen. I’m sure that on the inside, she didn’t always feel so composed, but outwardly, she always projected confidence, which was a huge leadership asset. Finally, I am constantly learning from the owner of Paragon. Every day, he helps me tear down the insecurities of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. His confidence in me has helped me develop confidence in myself.

Christine: My mom. She immigrated to the USA in 1951 from Europe after WWII and experienced all the horrors that the war inflicted on the citizens of Poland – hunger, violence, disease, homelessness, poverty. Through her example she taught me to keep moving forward and appreciate all the simple, sweet things in life.

Donna: My parents are my role models and my inspiration. I observed hard work and excellence in their professions — it set a strong foundation for me and has shaped my views and work ethic.

What advice would you give other women interested in getting into marketing?

Maryellen: My advice would be to stay current with the constantly changing trends in digital marketing while still understanding your market, your competition and all the traditional marketing concepts.

Christine: First, avoid superwoman syndrome. Watch the line between working very hard and workaholism. Accept all sides of yourself (and others) with less judgement and keep raising everyone up. Second, remember marketing is communicating – find meaning, speak truth, empower companies and organizations to be their best.

Courtney: Learn to take a seat at the table, always. The value of marketing is often misunderstood so learn early to speak to the importance of what you are accomplishing.  Also, find your niche, there are so many subcategories of marketing – digital, design, customer service, analytics, PR, etc – find the one where you will excel and market yourself in that space.

Donna: Jump in! It is a great field that has the ability to make a direct contribution to the growth and success of a company or organization. It is a place to show up and shine to use your creativity, data and insights to move the needle in innovative ways.

Lori: Make certain you believe in the product you are marketing. If you believe in the product, you’ll be amazed at how much more passionate you’ll be about getting up and going to work every day. It makes the job so much more fun and rewarding.

Linda: Lift others up. We hold immense power in marketing and can influence others to take action. This action impacts someone…a business owner, its employees, the employees’ families. It also can impact the environment and expand to the rest of the world. The power of words can change the world.

If we are intentional with our motivations and strategies and lift others up in the journey then we are creating positive energy that is contagious. It starts by lifting up your team, your customers, and most importantly yourself. If you believe you can do it, then you will do it. If you believe you can’t do it, then you will not do it. It’s your choice. Don’t let yourself become your own roadblock.

Knowledge is Power

Like all of our marketing leaders, we have to continue to learn and grow to keep up with the ever-changing industry. SEO and PPC are relatively young terms that take continuing education for marketers to adapt and apply successfully. If you want to hone your skills or learn something new, subscribe to the Pure Visibility newsletter. You’ll get our latest blog posts with SEO and PPC tips, tricks, and news right to your inbox.

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