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Inspired Blog3 Ways We’re Closing the Gender Opportunity Gap

Today marks 99 years since American women were granted the right to vote…and we’ve come a LONG way since then.

We have more female representation in government than ever before, more female representation in the workforce than ever before, and a rapidly growing movement of allies and advocates all over the world.

But there’s a lot of work still to do.

In the US, women are still less likely to hold higher-level, higher-paying jobs than men.

Take, for example, the rapidly-growing tech industry. Women only make up 20% of this workforce, despite making up more than half of the US workforce overall. And the companies that make up the Fortune 500? Only 33 of them have female CEOs.

What does this data actually mean?

It means that in order to solve gender inequality, we must consider not just pay gaps — but opportunity gaps. 

There are bigger-picture societal changes in motion (such as programs to encourage young girls to pursue careers in STEM), but every company can take action now to close the gender equality gap.

Here’s how we’ve moved the needle within our own organization in the past several years.

#1 We’re using data to keep us accountable.

Our data mirrors the national trend. When comparing equivalent job levels, compensation for men and women looks like this:

Pictured: Equality!

That’s a very encouraging dataset, and it would be easy to stop there – but it’s not the full picture. We must next ask ourselves a harder question: What percentage of those higher-earning roles at RV are held by women? 

When I first started at Red Ventures (nearly 8 years ago), I was a Digital Marketing Associate. I was in my late 20s, I was getting acclimated to the pace and intensity of Red Ventures life… and I was starting to think about having a family. To be honest, I was looking around the company and seriously questioning if it would be possible to have a family AND a successful career here. Our Senior Leadership team at the time included only two women – and neither of them had children. In fact, I knew of only a handful of working mothers across the entire company. 

Fast forward a few years, and things look very different: 

Pictured: Progress.

In 2019, nearly a third of RV Leaders (Director-level and above) are women. Three of those women are currently running our largest, most strategic verticals at Red Ventures, and we have an amazing community of working mothers at RV. In fact, 24% of RV women are moms (myself included!).

Looking at this data, it’s encouraging to see an upward trend across all roles, and significant growth in Leadership, Technology, and Creative/Content roles. But it also makes clear that we have many areas of opportunity – most noticeably, women in tech.

It’s a process; not a destination. Using data to keep us honest and accountable is what will keep us on the right track.

#2 We’re empowering employees to focus on broader career goals.

(In other words, focus on the inputs – not the outputs.)

Increasing compensation can absolutely be a career goal — but employees should first focus on actionable objectives that will get them there. For example: learning new skills, unlocking achievements, and volunteering to take on greater responsibilities are all productive goals that are likely to lead to increased compensation.

At Red Ventures, we hold performance reviews twice a year, and we ask every employee to reflect on what the “next step” actually means for him or her. Is it expanded responsibility? Is it working in a different part of the business? Is it transitioning to a different career track altogether? Managers can then offer coaching and clear guidance around the experiences and skills that will be most effective in helping employees reach those goals.

We also recently introduced career trajectory maps, which detail common differentiators we’ve seen historically in successful performers who earn promotions, and we’re transparent about compensation ranges based on performance and experience. Trajectory maps offer more clarity for ALL employees (regardless of gender) and enable all employees to drive their careers. It also provides a company-wide standard, helping to remove bias in compensation and promotion decisions. This is huge – it levels the playing field because women typically don’t press for promotions and raises in the same way their male counterparts do. 

We believe a strong foundation of trust, where all employees feel they can visualize a strong future and have the ability to advocate for themselves, is the key to empowering them to pursue big opportunities – and to bring others with them.  

Pictured: Me. Power. La Croix.

#3 We’re building stronger connections for allies and advocates.

One powerful example of this is our She Is movement, which started in 2015 as an effort to empower, educate, and inspire female leaders at Red Ventures. We invite RV women to share personal stories and career advice, and we cultivate a strong community of RV women committed to supporting each other.

She Is is a powerful movement, and it’s a natural extension of our company culture. We encourage a culture of celebrating each other’s success, and we help each other grow. Many women who visit Red Ventures often say to me it’s incredible that there isn’t a sense of rivalry among the Senior women at RV. My take is that there’s never a place for anything other than a supportive environment – regardless of your gender, tenure, or role. We believe in being great people to work with, and that means competing to win in the context of a common goal, not competing against one another to get ahead. We create an environment where everyone has opportunities to reach their full potential.

It also means being an ally. Male allies are equally as important as female advocates, and we’re fortunate to have a strong network of them at RV. Every man on our Senior Leadership team is an ally, and we expect everyone at RV to help us cultivate an inclusive environment for all employees.

For example: Coaching is fundamental to our culture, and it’s the most powerful tool we have to accelerate career growth. However, studies show that women don’t receive as much critical, constructive feedback as their male counterparts. Being an ally for female coworkers simply means sharing candid feedback, speaking up when you notice inequities, not interrupting in meetings, and celebrating success with the whole team. 

At the end of the day, if you’re not working towards diversity in the workplace, you’re simply stifling your organization’s potential. Diverse teams have been proven time and again to be better problem-solvers, better innovators, better businesses – and better places to work. 

As leaders, it’s up to us to build cultures of inclusion. We must develop talent pipelines that support more diversity. And we must consider equality not only in terms of scrutinizing compensation – but as unlocking long-term, high-level career opportunities for talent from all backgrounds.

One last thought

A few weeks ago I was chatting with women on my team, and we started talking about the assumptions people make about roles, Red Ventures, their careers, themselves. And I was reminded of all of the wrong assumptions I made 5 years ago. 

We make assumptions about jobs we haven’t even taken on yet, about our own capabilities, and about what we can handle. Women in particular have a tendency to underestimate themselves.

So my ask is this: 

Always think of your career with an open mind, and don’t underestimate your own capabilities. Because the world needs MORE powerful, capable female leaders. And so does Red Ventures. 

About the Author:
Sarah Soule

Sarah joined Red Ventures in 2012 and spent time on both the marketing and operations side of the business before moving into leadership roles as General Manager, Executive Vice President, and now President. Sarah currently leads our Digital Services vertical.

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