Women at Matter: Working in a women-dominated industry

By Matter

In honor of Women’s History Month, our Women Professionals Circle is conducting an interview series highlighting perspectives of some of Matter’s female leaders on the issues and challenges women face in the workplace, in our culture and at home. Check out the past two conversations on Barriers + Challenges and Working + Parenting

In our final interview, we focus on what it’s like working in a women-dominated industry, with some great advice from each of our interviewees! 

Question: How have women leaders helped you move forward?

Emma Gielata, Account Director, Pittsburgh Office Lead

I’ve had great support from all my women managers. They’re able to understand what my goals and aspirations are, support me along my career trajectory, and help me out if I have questions or need help. They’re able to better relate to what I have going on personally and professionally. And experiencing how they’ve managed me and supported my growth has helped shape my management style too. 

Monica Higgins, Vice President:

 I started at a large global agency in New York and at that point, the consumer practice group was led by three individuals, two of whom were women, as was the VP I reported to. So right off the bat, I had the opportunity to see women in leadership roles. Having that visibility right away was helpful, because there wasn’t a situation in which I felt like it was necessary for women to break through to get into those positions of power — they were already there. 

Question: How do you deal with female-dominated industries such as PR sometimes not being taken as seriously as male-dominated ones? 

Emma Gielata: I’m on the B2B tech side of Matter, so I’m working with a lot of male counterparts who are the subject matter experts. To see how the client interacts with my male team members versus me is always interesting. But I think it’s a matter of just owning what you know and being confident in yourself. Then, following that up by delivering great work. 

Vanessa Boynton Taylor, General Manager, Precision

The thing that has convinced clients to listen to women when they prefer male expertise is not a sudden change in our gender or discipline. It’s not only attitude and confidence, though those certainly help. What gets their attention is being able to show them we understand their business, their hesitations, their barriers and opportunities. Doing the hard work and demonstrating our knowledge. That’s what makes the difference. 

Question: What advice would you give your younger self, or to younger women professionals?

Emma Gielata: My advice to my younger self is to have that confidence. Our CEO Scott always says, “we have the right people in the right seats.” That’s true for any organization. There’s a reason why you’re in the role that you’re in — own it and be confident in what you know. 

Vanessa Boynton: You have to take the time and do the work. There are going to be flashier, more exciting elements of your job that distract your attention, and while they might inspire your passion, they don’t accomplish anything without the “boring” stuff – reading, research, agendas, notes – backing them up. The “boring” stuff builds the foundation for everything we do. Master that first, and then you can start to pepper some excitement into your day. 

Monica Higgins: Agencies have always been such an important place for women to grow and build the foundation of their careers, because by nature they are collaborative and inclusive environments. 

In terms of how women can present themselves, I’m constantly trying to make sure that I’m not talking “up” at the end of a sentence. I try to say something that ends more in a statement than a question, because I feel like others can perceive that as a lack of confidence in what it is you’re presenting. 

Danielle Conlin, Vice President, Human Resources

Spread your wings. Don’t always stay in your lane. Challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. If there’s somebody you want to meet or learn from, take the initiative and set up a meeting. If you want to learn about a different department or a specific service a company offers, go for it! 

That concludes our Women’s History Month interview series with just a few of our agencies inspiring women leaders! Thank you so much to our interviewees for sharing their perspectives and guidance on the complexities of being a woman in the workforce. 

Interested in working with our amazing women leaders or being one yourself? We’re hiring at all levels across PR + marketing disciplines, so check out our open roles and let your career take off!