Business

Tech’s next most powerful role will be dominated by women

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No, this is not another pessimistic rant about the lack of women in the tech industry, especially in leadership roles.

I am an optimist, and, as a partner to several marketing technology and SaaS companies, I would like to draw attention to an observation staring us all in the face. There are thousands of women in marketing roles at both technology and non-technology companies.

The most interesting element is that this role has become a technology-driven one with a crucial objective of driving revenue and customer intimacy. Many of these women are poised to excel in a new role that will be a major stakeholder in the C-suite of every company — the chief marketing technology officer, or CMTO.

While female CTOs are still a rarity, women CMOs are not. On one analyst’s recent list of top-10 CMOs in Silicon Valley, six were women. While I have become accustomed to seeing the revolution in marketing and the role women have been playing, I was struck by just how many marketing executives are women. While attending the Marketo customer summit last month, Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of women attaining leadership roles in technology to an audience of 6,000, of which about 70% were women.

Women have long held key roles in marketing at tech companies, but executives in other departments such as engineering, sales, and business development have often received more recognition. That’s because marketing has traditionally been seen as a “cost center” instead of a “revenue generator.” CEOs worry that they are wasting money on marketing because they have had little idea if it was working to move the needle in terms of revenue. The infamous John Wanamaker quote “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half” still keeps many CEOs up at night. As a result, marketing was largely kept out of the C-suite at tech companies because it wasn’t viewed as mission critical. However, there is a big change afoot that is putting the spotlight on marketing’s true value.

As is often the case in the tech industry, technology itself is at the root of the change. A range of software has debuted over the last five years that helps quantify marketing’s impact on the top and bottom line. In the race for customer acquisition and retention, marketing automation, content, and analytics and optimization platforms are becoming critical for businesses. Technology from companies such as Marketo, Hubspot, Optimizely, Captora, and many others is transforming marketing into a systematic, repeatable, and measureable process. Content marketing platforms that help companies ideate, create, source, publish, and analyze the impact of marketing content across web, social, and mobile channels are also elevating the “art of the story” to a mission-critical business practice. Marketing is becoming a hybrid tech-creative discipline that combines art and science. This revolution in marketing holds the promise to humanize the world by enabling brands to connect in a highly personalized and relevant manner with their audiences. In this proclamation of the “Holy Grail” of Marketing, even the pundits have joined the fray: “By 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs,” says Gartner Research.

As an investor in technology companies, I have long admired the impact of marketers such as Sue Bostrom, former CMO of Cisco, Angie Hicks, founder and CMO of Angie’s List, and Gail Ennis, former CMO of Omniture. I work with a lot talented female marketing executives at our portfolio companies, including Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at NewsCred, Stacey Epstein, CMO of ServiceMax, and Dominique Levin, VP of Marketing at AgilOne.

Of course, marketing is not the “domain” of women any more than hard tech is the purview of men. I know plenty of killer women coders, CTOs, and VPs of engineering, as well as smart male CMOs. Startups and entrepreneurs often look for an entry point, a “wedge” product, an opening of sorts into a market. In one of the greatest transformations promised by technology that is upon us, this new focus on next-generation marketing could be this “wedge” women need to vault into prominence and the C-suite, not just at technology companies but beyond.

Whether they take on the role of CMO or CMTO, women marketers have the chance to lead a new generation of results-driven marketing that transforms their companies from within. What really excites me is that the CMTO function won’t just drive marketing but as the role with the closest measurable pulse of the market, it will influence technology purchases across the organization; help set business strategy; and help steer decisions in engineering, product, design, sales, business development, HR, and customer success. In other words, the CMTO is a position with key decision-making responsibilities. And I believe many women are perfectly suited to this role, given how it uniquely combines the art and the science of marketing.

Finally, we arrive at a great combination of right timing with the right goods – game on!

Rajeev Batra invests in SaaS and marketing software companies at Mayfield. Some of his investments include AgilOne, Marketo, Newscred, Servicemax, SmartRecruiters, TrustRadius, and ViralHeat.


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16 comments
Mohd Bakhsh
Mohd Bakhsh

The leadership role for women or by women particularly in tech driven business is yet to be filled . The women in large number are though joining this field ,it will take time for them to occupy top slot. The time is now fast changing and the next century will receive them with ope hands. 

Marisa Lomask
Marisa Lomask

I suspect most top execs in marketing rose before the data revolution and acquired their data crunching skills on the job. However most entry level tech marketing jobs now require a degree in Statistics or Economics. I don't know what the current gender ratios are college graduates with those degrees, but in the past those degrees were mostly men.

OuSema Set
OuSema Set

Do you mean that you have posted not interesting stuff before ?

Karrie Sullivan
Karrie Sullivan

I often get to play this role. It just typically ends up being a side job with no title associated with it. That said tech capability for a marketer is absolutely a differentiator in a world often dominated by creative, media, and brand people who often have difficulty crossing between disciplines.

John Calder
John Calder

Get Sheryl Sandburg. She's a genius and a visionary. She 'leans in'. She has PR people telling you what she didn't do. Can invest I invest in stupid (her) please...

brookeburdge
brookeburdge

@anniedestef yup, agree! marketing's one function that is really only successful when integrated & communicating w/ every other dept

Mazza_Mcleod
Mazza_Mcleod

@phpeach I was thinking of you whilst posting this. Can't wait for team pocket rocket to launch!