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35 Women Leaders in Ad Tech Share Insights for International Women’s Day

The challenges women face in ad tech are universal, transcending specific roles or tenure in the industry. The future of ad tech is intertwined with the pursuit of diversity, as having manifold perspectives is essential for propelling this innovative industry to new heights. In honor of International Women’s Day, we gathered insights from 35 industry thought leaders to shed light on what it means to be a woman in ad tech.  

In many industries, the absence of diverse voices in leadership positions is a common issue, and ad tech is no exception. Traditionally male-dominated field, a transformative shift is underway. This change is ushering in an era where previously underrepresented groups not only have a seat at the table but are ascending to leadership roles where they can enact real change. 

That’s not to suggest the work is done – far from it. However, the needle is moving in the right direction. As more women rise in leadership roles, they pave the way for their peers, fostering greater opportunities for advancement. 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’ve gathered wisdom from 35 distinguished woman leaders in ad tech (you might even notice some 2023 Top Women in Media and Ad Tech honorees). They share the hurdles they’ve jumped over, the importance of connecting with other women in ad tech, and their aspirations for the future — not only for women but also for other marginalized groups who have been overlooked in the industry.

Fostering a Space for Inclusion of Diverse Voices

Creating space for diversity in industries where it has not previously been the norm requires intention. This means making space at the table for all underrepresented and marginalized groups, women included. 

Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, Chief Revenue Officer, Yahoo.

“While professional women face more hurdles than our male colleagues, I try to focus on the advantages you have in the advertising industry. The business case for women is clear and we need to help more women join, succeed, and stay in the workforce for success in our shared future. To give more women a seat at the table, I have had the opportunity to take a leadership role as the Executive Sponsor of Yahoo’s Women Inclusion Network so I can support not only my team but also the entire company.”

“Being a woman in ad tech places me right in the heart of an industry where innovation and change are constant. At Oraki, our leadership team stands out because three out of four of us are women. This fact isn’t just for show; it’s a reflection of our commitment to excellence and talent, regardless of gender. Yes, we’re breaking the mold in terms of statistics, but it’s not something we dwell on daily. Our focus is on harnessing top talent to drive innovation. Facing challenges head-on, from adapting to the rapid evolution of technology to tackling stereotypes, only fuels our determination. We’re here to innovate, inspire, and prove that talent knows no gender boundaries.”

Deborah Kilpatrick, Co-Founder and VP of Marketing, SourceKnowledge, a mrge company.

“It has always been exceptionally rewarding to be in the ad tech industry as a woman. At the very beginning there were not a lot of women in the industry, but now it is changing somewhat and there are more women around the table contributing in meaningful ways. One of the challenges has always been there is an underrepresentation of women in the developer roles, but even there I am seeing a shift recently. One thing that I have learned over the years is that the more diverse the team, the better the output.”  

Barbara Burnett, Head of Buyer Development, Colossus SSP.

“As a Black woman in ad tech, working for a Black-owned SSP and being part of the leadership team under a Black, female CEO, I find immense pride in the opportunities this industry offers for continuous learning and collaboration with brands. It’s empowering to contribute my perspective to a space where diversity is increasingly recognized and valued. However, I also recognize the challenges that persist in achieving overall equality, particularly in terms of representation and advancement opportunities for women of color. Despite these challenges, I’m optimistic about the potential for meaningful change and am grateful to be part of an industry where progress is possible.

Revital Kristal, Head of Advertising Group, Intango.

“Coming from a male-dominated entrepreneurial space, where for me, being the only woman in the room was pretty much the norm, landing at Intango felt like stepping into a whole new world. Here, your gender doesn’t set the boundaries for what you can achieve or the opportunities you can grab. At Intango, we don’t just talk a big game about diversity and inclusion – it’s actually how we roll, day in and day out. For me, leading Mani-Festo with an incredible group of women, I quickly realized that here, gender really isn’t a barrier. We’re not about just paying lip service to diversity; we truly live it.”

Lori Goode, Chief Marketing Officer, Index Exchange and BRIDGE Board Member.

“I’ve learned there’s real power in occupying space that’s uniquely mine; as a woman, a leader, and through my individual experiences and skills. I’m also finding an incredibly strong and growing community amongst the women in ad tech today, with expanded opportunities for support, networking, development, and growth. We’ve seen increased diversity in ad tech over the years, but we still have a long way to go. The reality is that work is better when it is inclusive and considers a rich set of perspectives and experiences – and it’s proven that business outcomes are better, too.”

Carryl Pierre-Drews, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“Being at the heart of the digital ecosystem within IAB places me in a predominantly male-dominated environment. My journey as a woman in the ad tech industry has not been without its challenges, but these adversities have instilled in me distinct strengths: empathy, emotional intelligence, and resilience, as I climbed the professional ladder. My unique experiences empower me to empower other women, uniting diverse voices and guiding them to make informed decisions and accelerate their ascent into leadership roles.”

The Balancing Act 

Whether it’s balancing career and home life or simply the many responsibilities at work, women in any industry are often expected to juggle more than their male counterparts. This can be even more challenging in a traditional male industry. 


“I always find it so humbling when junior female team members ask me how I learned to do it; to navigate family and work, egos in meetings, being talked over, or passed over. I won’t say that I’ve always done it gracefully, or successfully, but if I can show other women that it can be done, I hope that inspires them to keep going and to know they can get there. 

Successfully navigating the landscape of adtech as a woman requires a balancing act. It entails confidently expressing your voice and ideas while remaining humble and open to continual growth and evolution. I’m incredibly grateful to be a woman in this industry, I am empowered to set the tone for our culture and how we engage and treat one another.”

“Flexible models implemented amid the pandemic have done much to make tech roles more accessible, so maintaining a certain level of versatility will be crucial to help female employees at all levels juggle work and family needs. Big changes take time. Although it can be hard to see advances in the short term, what we’re doing today will greatly influence the opportunities for women in years to come, and we need to continue doing it.”

Lindsay Boesen, Senior Director of Marketing, KERV.

“A huge advantage women have in ad/mar tech is our innate ability to connect with people, which is at the heart of our industry. I find empowerment in leading collaboratively and shaping the future of media and consumer experience. For me, the challenge lies in balancing the self-imposed pressure of being ‘enough’ across both mom-life and work-life. It’s about showing up each day as I aspire to, while also navigating the corporate expectations and family sacrifices that can sometimes come with it.”

Jennifer D’Alessandro, Head of Ad Sales and Marketing, Future Today.

“As a woman in ad tech, I embrace the dynamic landscape of our industry, where opportunities abound and voices are heard. It’s exhilarating to not only have a seat at the table, but to have a voice that shapes the future of digital advertising. The empowerment I feel as a woman in this field stems from the recognition that success in both career and parenthood is not only achievable but embraced. Ad tech fosters a culture that values productivity and flexibility, allowing women to thrive in both professional and personal spheres.

Gabby Turyan, Director of Product Marketing, Digital Remedy.

Women are extremely talented at being able to juggle several roles on their plate, all while delivering excellence. I have had numerous times where I had to put on a different hat to solve a challenge, and some days have been harder than others. However, this has empowered me to take on more responsibility and become more of a strategic thought leader. While being able to change, flex, and take on new challenges is incredible, I think being a woman comes with a risk of burnout. The true balancing act is being able to keep performing while evolving and defining personal and professional growth boundaries.”

Mentorship is Crucial

Many women we spoke with cited great mentors as a contributing factor to their success. As they ascend the ranks, they pay it forward, offering support and mentorship to the next generation. 

Michelle Hulst, President, GumGum.

“Being a woman in this industry empowers me by providing a platform to influence the development of more inclusive and ethical advertising technologies. It allows me to mentor and elevate other women, creating a more diverse leadership landscape. The challenge lies in overcoming the industry’s gender biases and ensuring equal representation and opportunity. However, these challenges also catalyze advocating for change and demonstrating the invaluable contributions women can make to ad tech.”

Julie Clark, SVP, Media & Entertainment, TransUnion.

“I cherish the journey that brought me to this dynamic industry, and the great mentors who have empowered me along the way. Over the past 20 years, I’ve seen the ad tech industry evolve in major ways, and today, there is considerably more awareness around bringing diversity into the space. While heightened awareness about diversity is evident, the ongoing challenge lies in the genuine incorporation of diversity into the fabric of our industry.”

Emily Barfuss, Chief Marketing Officer, Ogury.

“Throughout my career, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of representation and inclusion for women’s personal development. Being mentored by a woman who had followed a similar journey to myself has motivated me to pay it forward by offering my support to other women in the industry. I feel grateful to now have the experience and opportunity to mentor other women by offering advice, reviewing resumes, helping them prepare for interviews and even educating them on how to negotiate offers – something many women feel uncomfortable doing.”

“Even in 2024 it is not common to find a woman founder in ad tech. I’m conscious of that and it is a part of what drives me. I want to be a trailblazer and do what I can to support women in ad tech. I recognize the importance of mentorship in developing the next generation of female leaders in ad tech. I do this by being supportive of my own team and providing mentorship within my company as well as sharing my time and experience with young adults just getting started in the industry as a resource they can look up to and reach out to.”

Cathy Oh, Chief Marketing Officer, TV & Mobile Service Business, Samsung Electronics.

“A large part of my responsibilities is fostering an inclusive and empowering environment where every employee is invited to have a seat at the table, ensuring that diverse voices are heard and ideas are given the opportunity to be amplified. Nearly 15 years ago, I founded and sponsored Women+, a Samsung Employee Resource Group, to provide mentorship, allyship and recognition to women within the organization. Women+ embraces diversity and creates a truly inclusive and cross-cultural network of support and collaboration. Since its launch, we’ve seen remarkable growth, with over 300+ members, including both women and men, across 13 cities and 8 countries.”

Alexandra Soldan, Vice President, Marketing, eyeo.

“As a woman in adtech, I want to say that mentors are vital to success. I have been lucky to work in environments with great mentors (many of them women), who encouraged me to proactively raise my voice – not only because of my gender, but also because of my background and the experiences I bring to the table. With my voice, I’ve been told that I have an opportunity and a responsibility to amplify and inspire others.

Lindsay Wiles, Head of Advertising, Wurl.

“As a woman in a male-dominated field, I feel empowered to amplify the voices and visibility of my female colleagues in ad tech who may be looking to me as a source of support for navigating their careers or pursuing their aspirations with confidence – whether that’s through addressing gender bias on industry stages by ensuring female representation or being a part of a company that values having women in leadership positions across all teams within the organization. Still, allyship from male mentors – or, better, ‘sponsors’ – is critical. Especially in an industry traditionally dominated by men, women having the support of our male colleagues presents a strong opportunity to show inclusion, and is something that I think we can see even more of in the future.” 

Women Supporting Each Other & Lifting One Another Up

There may be fewer women in ad tech than in other industries, but the camaraderie women offer each other in our industry is unmatched. When we look to other women for support and encouragement, we can create an environment that values talent above all else. 

“My advice for women in the technology industry is to be the hype person for other women. Cheer each other on, rather than viewing them as competition. Pay close attention to the women doing great things and find ways to champion them. The more we highlight the great work that women are doing, the more we adjust the narrative and shape the picture of women’s critical and impactful role in the industry and across wider society.” 

Jacqueline Corbelli, Founder, Chairman, CEO, BrightLine.

“As a woman in ad tech, I am grateful to the incredible women who have demonstrated their courage, determination, and effectiveness as leaders. Their impact has been transformative for the industry and a major contributor in shaping my own role to inspire others. We’re at a crucial juncture where waiting for validation is no longer acceptable. It’s about seizing opportunities to demonstrate our natural leadership abilities. This collective mindset is what fuels our empowerment, driving us to redefine industry norms and pave the way for future generations.

Kristen Whitmore, VP, Consumer Intelligence & Analytics, Lotame.

“Since so many of the companies in ad tech are young, we have seen women join their ranks at an early stage across a full range of positions. This means that in many instances, women have been able to forge a trail within the company and are represented across a wider range of job types – including at senior and executive management positions – than is common in many other industries. The presence of these women often contributes to an environment that is more supportive and welcoming to women in both culture and practice from everything from healthcare and leave policies to compensation transparency and equality.”

Katie Arena, VP of Marketing, Clinch.

“I very much subscribe to the notion that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ especially when it comes to supporting other women and closing the gender gap. I’ve had the privilege of working at ad tech companies that seem to really make an effort to establish a more gender-diverse workforce, but until equal representation is reflected on panels, in boardrooms, and behind the decisions that impact tech innovations at serious scale, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Susu Grace, Head of Experience Partnerships, Givsly.

“I would say one of the challenges is the persistence of an outdated mentality that women are pitted against each other for limited leadership positions. However, this challenge empowers me to stand on the side of progress and actively choose to uplift, celebrate, and support other women around me. By choosing to do this we will create more opportunities for all women in ad tech to thrive.”

 

Patti Boyle, Chief Marketing Officer, Dstillery.

“Each of our experiences has been unique, but I’m confident that along the way, we’ve all been inspired by many independent-thinking, smart, encouraging women … So what positive change would I like to be part of, for the women who will drive the next generation of women leaders? I’d want them to embrace a spirit of confidence, to know that the professional world is theirs to explore, that no challenge is beyond their capability, and to feel a naturally warm sense of welcome in any field they choose to enter. Whether modeling themselves after incredibly accomplished women in data science, advertising, and technology, let’s hope that this upcoming generation of professional women embraces their superpowers and levels up industry innovation. Let’s look forward to more women leaders supporting their colleagues as they push boundaries together.”

Don’t Sweat the Mistakes

Women often feel the need to prove themselves by being perfect – the problem with this is that no one is infallible. It’s important to learn and grow from mistakes rather than dwelling on them. 

“For me, being a woman in this industry dominated by men is an advantage. We not only have the skills to do the job, but also bring the important soft skills that ensure our success. Think about empathy; I always keep my door open, ensuring that everyone is listened to and receives constructive feedback, just as a good friend would. That helps me better understand my team and how to lead them as well as empowering that person to do better work. I remind my female colleagues: you were hired because you are qualified. So, be confident, enjoy your work, leverage your amazing skills, and don’t stress over mistakes – everyone makes them. Do the boys feel bad when they are wrong? Not at all. So, learn from them and move forward!”

Marilois Snowman, Partner and CEO, Mediastruction.

“Lego released a powerful global study and video this week of young girls feeling pressure to be perfect, which inhibits their creative potential. That need to be perfect breaks down confidence. I think female founders can relate to that study. Being a woman in ad tech means an explicit and constant reminder to push past the inner critic, ignore the need to be ‘perfect,’ and focus on the bounds of what’s possible. It’s an ironic paradox, given that recent research by BCG shows that women-owned businesses are more successful than their male counterparts. So here’s to the future where half of ad tech is female-founded and capitalized equally, and where women-led companies are free to experience failure at the same rate. Because we all learn from lack of perfection.”

Vanessa Eng, Head of Programmatic, Qortex.

“Being a woman in ad tech is not just a role; it’s a journey where I embrace the duality of privilege and challenge. I often remind myself that our qualifications speak for themselves. So, I approach each day with confidence, relishing in the joy of leveraging our unique skills. I encourage all females I work with not to stress over mistakes, as everyone makes them. In those moments, I reflect on this: ‘Do others and men feel discouraged when they make a mistake? Absolutely not. Use it as a learning experience, embrace the growth opportunities, and keep moving forward.’ This mindset empowers me in a male-dominated industry, where my distinctive perspective becomes a catalyst for innovation and change.”

Overcoming Challenges For a Brighter Future

It can be difficult to navigate being the only woman in a room full of men, which is why it is so important to build connections in the industry. When we understand that we’re not alone, we can empower others and feel empowered to take on the challenges that sometimes feel insurmountable. Women in ad tech are working toward a future where diverse voices are not only heard but championed. 

Amy Williams, CEO and founder, Good-Loop.

“You get very used to being the only woman in the room – which does require a slightly thicker layer of armor honestly. But it’s also a superpower. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry gives you a point of difference, adds a little extra fire in your belly and helps you build deep, often very meaningful relationships with the other powerful women around you. The ‘let’s grab a drink and see how we can help each other’ moments have been, in some cases, career-changing moments for me.”

“Being a woman in adtech is all about grit – sticking with your future vision day in and day out, and working extra hard to make that future a reality no matter what challenges present themselves. Although it can be lonely being the only woman in the room, we need to keep pushing and I see us moving in the right direction. As leaders in organizations, it is critical we bring up the next generation of women and provide them growth opportunities and a culture that values and respects women by allowing them to not only be in the room but to make the important decisions.”  

Marisa Nelson, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Equativ.

“Despite progress, being a woman in this industry does sometimes mean you’re faced with gender bias, stereotypes, and unequal opportunities. Navigating this can be intimidating, yet I see these obstacles as catalysts for personal and industry-wide development and change. I embrace the opportunities I have to bring my unique experience and skills to a constantly evolving industry and strive to empower other women to overcome the challenges they typically face in predominantly male-dominated sectors so that they can do the same. It’s empowering to realize that my contributions and collaborations with others can foster diverse perspectives and inspire new ways of thinking about gender inclusion. I ultimately remain optimistic about progress toward gender equality and better representation in ad tech in the near future.”

Karina Klymenko, Head of Creative and Compliance Global, MGID.

“There are of course downsides to being a minority in the industry. There can be gendered expectations, which can often make you feel you have to prove your worth. This is why making inclusion foundational to a company’s identity and forging connections between women across the industry is so vital. When women know we have support from the top down and strength in numbers, it gives us the confidence to push through moments when we are treated unfairly and set our sights on a more equal future.”

Hillary Slattery, Senior Director of Programmatic, Product, IAB Tech Lab.

“I’m continually blown away by how much talent is out there and I work hard to ensure that women are empowered to speak up in industry working groups, creating a platform and more visibility for that talent. It took the majority of my 15+ years in this industry to feel truly empowered. Working alongside the strong, brilliant, capable female product leads on the Tech Lab team has been integral to that growth. This industry is getting better and more balanced, but we’re certainly not there yet. I try to do everything in my power to ensure that it is easier for the next generation of women in ad tech than it was for me.”

Lindsey Wilkes, Vice President, Business Development, Orange142.

“Being a woman in ad tech means embracing both empowerment and challenge – it empowers me to bring diverse perspectives, creativity, and empathy to the table, driving innovation and inclusivity within my own team and network. And with the challenge of advocating for gender diversity and inclusion, championing the voices of women in leadership, and actively supporting the development of future female talent, we have in our hands an incredible opportunity to challenge traditional norms, break down barriers, and pave the way for future generations of women to excel in this dynamic and ever-evolving field.”


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