Hands up - how many women in business still feel the need to put exclamation points at the end of each sentence to seem kinder, or more approachable?

What about saying “I think…”, when - really - you know what you’re talking about? Or, saying something like “I’m sorry if that’s a silly question” to stamp out criticism?

It may sound silly, but I think I’ve been guilty of that! 😉

Confidence in the workplace is vital, but one of the things that can obstruct this is feeling like you’re not supposed to be there in the first place. And for many women, this is a very prevalent feeling.

It’s sad but true. And it’s always a good time for a reminder that you are in the right place, and you’re doing a fantastic job.

Last week, we released the first in a two-part series to highlight the talent and hard work of women in product marketing, particularly looking at their journeys into the industry, and how the progression into their careers was perhaps affected by their gender, or other factors like age and race.

But we’re not finished bringing their experiences to the fore. For the second part of this series, we’ll be focusing on:

Pssst. If you’re enjoying this series, sign up for Future of SaaS’ brand new virtual event: Women in SaaS Summit, taking place on July 13

Being overlooked due to gender

There’ve been many conversations about women in business being overlooked or undermined in their role due to their gender - for example, being called a “girl boss” or “SHEO”.

Do you feel this is something that is prominent within product marketing, or have you experienced it yourself?

If so, how have you managed to overcome this issue? If not, do you have any opinions on this issue?

“I’ve never been called a “girl boss” or “SHEO”, at least not to my face. 😅
"But now that I think about it, being called a “girl boss” or “SHEO” doesn’t necessarily mean that the other person underestimates you or your abilities. I see it as a way of saying - you’re female and you’re a leader.
“Some people may choose to interpret it as - you’re a leader “in spite of” being a female. But that’s their opinion/perspective, and they’re entitled to it.
“Of course, there’re misogynists who underestimate women generally, and I’ve encountered such in my previous career.
“But I don’t believe that calling someone a “girl boss” or “SHEO” is undermining or misogynistic. It’s how you choose to interpret it that matters.”
Christiana Okere, Co-founder of myStash

“I haven’t experienced this myself – possibly because I’ve primarily worked with a startup in a country that doesn’t yet have a strong product marketing community. I think if I let myself be bothered by slurs about female leaders I would, so I try to avoid this type of conversation and focus on doing a good job! 🙂
“In my opinion, if you deliver excellent results while being compassionate to those around you, gender is completely irrelevant.”
Cat Tyack, Associate Product Marketing Manager at FishingBooker

“I haven’t personally seen this in the product marketing space, but I guess it may depend on what industry you’re in. I think “girl boss” and similar adjectives are patronizing and should be avoided at all costs.”
Michele Muriyan, Product Marketing Manager at OneTrust

“I don’t think this is something that’s prominent in the product marketing community. I experience the role as quite an even split when it comes to gender.
“However, I’ve experienced some instances of people undermining me in my role (sometimes unintentionally) and I’m a big believer in open and honest communication.
“Call it out. Even if it’s awkward. Every time I did, I felt better, because I knew that next time that person would be more attentive to the words and perception they have of me and other women.”
Irit Schwartz, Director of Product Marketing at Digital Turbine

“Coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, there aren’t so many product marketing professionals. The few I’ve interacted with have been very supportive in my career journey and I haven’t faced any discrimination.
“As Product Marketing Alliance’s brand Ambassador for the Sub-Saharan region, I want to help create a space for all product marketers, male or female, to be comfortable in sharing their experiences. I believe this’ll help stop any form of gender-based discrimination.
“I recently had a podcast interview with Carl Thomen who’s a male Product Marketing Lead based in South Africa currently working at Peach Payment and he was very supportive about my career journey and my contribution to the community.
“I’d encourage other female PMMs to always voice their opinions if they feel like they’re being discriminated against and seek the support of the PMA community to gain the support and guidance they need, or if they feel left out.”
Carolyne Mweberi, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Qhala

“I’m fortunate that I’ve not run into this issue in my career. I appreciate that using terms such as “female CEO” or “girl boss” is seen by some as a way to emphasize the achievements of women and the adversaries that they’ve overcome.
“For me personally, I’d prefer not to have my gender referenced when my role or job title is described because my role shouldn't be any different than if a man were doing it. My view is that if I want to be seen as on the same level as men in the workplace, I should define my role and success the same way.”
Marie Volpe, Senior Product Marketing Manager at TrueLayer

“It’s different at every company with every team. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced being overlooked or undermined because of being a woman. Many years ago, I remember a man shaking every man’s hand at the table, but I got a wink and a wave, which made me so angry.
“I’ve learned to pick my battles, identify what I can and can’t control, and stand up for myself. When I’ve experienced an issue of this nature, I evaluate how often and severe the interactions have been over time for myself and others at the organization.
“Sometimes, I’ve let it go or figure out ways to work around it. If it’s a serious problem that is unprofessional and makes me consistently feel uncomfortable or undervalued, I’ve raised it with my manager and/or HRBP with specific examples.
“If it’s not addressed despite escalating the issue and the situation is unhealthy, I’ve left to find a more inclusive work environment that’s better aligned with my values.”
Sophia Chang, Product Marketing Manager at Bullhorn

“The “girl boss” story - or cult - when it became mainstream a few years back gave the corporate world a refreshing point of view, one that was female-driven. I was also intrigued and elevated by that theory - one that gave women the upper hand and made them proud of “taking care of business” the way men had for years.
“However, if you go a bit deeper, the “girl boss” archetype has a very self-centered basis, aiming to keep women working in the power structures usually occupied by men, without changing the workplace for the better, for everyone. And, if the structures go untouched, how can we guarantee gender equality across industries?
“We need to be able to change the workplace, not ourselves, to fit into male-oriented environments. That’s why I find labels like these problematic. It’s not as prominent in the product marketing sphere, but I’ve experienced it in other sectors, especially in the ad world.
“To overcome it, I always try to find a balance between being assertive and confident on a personal level and trying to transform the reality around me by questioning traditional structures and outdated processes.”
Christina Katsantoni, Lead Product Marketing Manager at Mention Me

“I’ve been pretty lucky not to have experienced it so far in my career but I do have pretty strong opinions on it. It’s very much a double-edged sword. We do need to highlight women who stand out in typically male-dominated industries to show that women can be great at it as well as their male counterparts.
“However, there shouldn’t be a need to highlight these women because in an ideal world we’d have women killing it in all the different industries as the norm.
“I do hope we lay equal emphasis on women making an impact in their fields as well as working on actionable initiatives, creating conducive environments, and breaking down barriers that stop other women from succeeding as well.”
Diamond-Hope Kingston, Product Marketing Manager at Cognassist

“I never faced issues because of being a woman, more of it was because of my age getting people who are working for more years and more experience doing things that are needed for me was a task.
“To overcome that my ex-manager always used to say, you have to create a give and take relationship with them so that they’ll help you with things you need but that never helped me as a product marketer you’ll always be the one asking others to get stuff done not the other way round.”
Aashi Kothari, Specialist Product Marketer at Newfold Digital

“I think this is a really prevalent issue for women in product marketing, simply because a lot of product marketing roles sit within the tech industry. There are loads of initiatives circulating at the moment to try and promote women in tech roles, as it’s such a male-dominated industry.
“But it’s not an overnight fix. We need to do more to nurture the natural progression of women into tech, especially in roles like engineering.
“Despite this, my own personal experience as a woman in tech has been a very positive one. I’m lucky that in my current role I work closely with the VP of PR and Communications, the VP of Product, and the CPO, all of whom are inspirational, motivating leaders – who just happen to be women.”
Mercedes Gleeson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at GWI

“On the whole, I’d actually say no, it’s not something I personally have experienced. That may be down to the fact that the majority of PMMs I’ve worked with have been female, and together we’ve developed a culture of support and strength.
“However, just because I haven’t experienced this first-hand, that’s absolutely not to say it doesn’t go on, as it does.
“My view, in general, is that the best way to overcome issues such as these is and will continue to be through organizations championing female representation at senior leadership levels. When female leaders stop being a ‘novelty’ and become as normal as male ones, that’s when this rhetoric will become completely obsolete.”
Laura Mavrias, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at Expedia Group

“I can’t speak for product marketing specifically - but it does exist and is so frustrating to witness. It seems to want to patronize females, imposing a set of ideas that don’t work for everyone on how they should lead.
“Workplaces need to let people bring their full self to work and not undermine that. I’ve seen that when women are able to embrace being a “female leader” they’re their most inspiring, bringing others along with them.  
“At my old company, for example, I was fortunate to see two women be very open about their challenges of being a carer, and dealing with miscarriage and it was both motivational and reassuring to see, but it must have taken bravery and the right support network around them to give them that platform.”
Sophie Barwood, Product Marketing Manager at Adverity

“I think it really depends. Workplace culture is everything - toxic workplaces certainly exist, and they’re not just bad for women, but for any employee. Thankfully, I’ve never had to experience working in a toxic workplace myself.”
Verche Karafiloska, Product Marketing Executive at Cognism

Advice for prospective/existing women product marketers

Do you have any advice for other women looking to become a PMM, or just wanting to advance their career?

“My advice? Just do it. If you feel the need to change or advance your career, then why not?
“Many times, we’re crippled by the fear of leaving the familiar and venturing into the unfamiliar, but you won’t experience growth if you don’t take that leap. This is why I live by a personal mantra that says - I can do anything, I just haven’t tried everything!”
Christiana Okere, Co-founder of myStash

“Be confident about your own abilities and practice promoting them. Women are too often held back by being modest or uncomfortable about putting their own ideas forward, which honestly reflects badly on their ability to market a product well. I’ve been there!
“So-called “feminine” traits like empathy and creativity are essential in the product marketing role, so if these are your strong points then build on them and focus on articulating the value of your ideas. Remember that  to market a product, you first need to be able to market yourself!”
Cat Tyack, Associate Product Marketing Manager at FishingBooker

“My entry into product marketing was a combination of luck (being in the right place at the right time) and hard work (taking initiative and creating opportunities).
“Be kind: Aim to make a good impression and be kind to everyone you work with because you never know where the next referral is going to come from. Chances are you’ll run into people you know from your past jobs at new jobs. Also, on a less self-serving note: it’s cool to be a good person.
“Show up & be consistent: You have to be excellent at doing your core job first, then find opportunities to expand into projects you enjoy. What projects can you take on that align with the company or department goals? Take a step back and look at the big picture, it’ll make you a lot more valuable.
“Take ownership: No one cares about your career as much as you do. You need to be vocal about what you want, then roll up your sleeves and do the work. I took on side projects, starting with areas I noticed the business needed help, and this was noticed by leadership. All of this is secondary to showing up to your day job.
“Be confident: This is a skill which can be built. Preparation helps. A lot."
Michele Muriyan, Product Marketing Manager at OneTrust

“Build your network, reach out and consult other product marketers - people are much more approachable than you’d think - LinkedIn is the best way to connect. I found myself supporting other product marketers early in their career journey, having coffee chats, and connecting.
“I suggest having a list of questions you’d like advice on and a direction as a starting point. You could also use the PMA Slack community to connect with other professionals.
“Get to know the job before you do the job, this would give you an idea if this is the role for you. Learn the nuances of being a product marketer in an early-stage company versus growth versus an established one; the role is different in every company.
“If you’re interested in becoming a product marketer in your current company - work with your product marketing team! Get to know them and what they do, so when the opportunity arises, you’ll be in the best position to interview.
“And another last one that is more general about career progression - build a plan! I’ve read Shellye Archambeau’s Unapologetically Ambitious and really admired her courage and consistency in creating her career plan. She writes a lot about having a career plan, researching it, and making conscious and consistent decisions that would support that plan.”
Irit Schwartz, Director of Product Marketing at Digital Turbine

“The advice I can give other women looking to become product marketers or those advancing in their career is that you can attain whatever you set your mind to. If you have a vision of being a VP Product Marketing Manager at a global tech giant that’s solving a problem you’re really passionate about, you can become just that.
“What you need to do now is connect with other like-minded people who are heading in the same direction and ask lots and lots of questions. I used to be the shy one in the room but after realizing that it wasn’t serving me, I shifted gears.
“Now, I’m always the one person in a room who is constantly asking questions, sharing my viewpoints, and trying to understand different viewpoints when solving a problem.”
Carolyne Mweberi, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Qhala

“My best advice for women looking to get into product marketing or advance their careers, in general, is to just go for it. We let fear hold us back a lot in life. Whether it’s a fear of being rejected by a job application so we don’t apply, fear of not speaking up in a meeting because we think we might look stupid, or not trying something new for fear of failing.
“My best advice to anyone looking to become a product marketer or progress their career, in general, is to not worry about what boxes you don’t check or what you don’t know. If you get rejected, are wrong, or fail at something new, you’re in the majority. Struggle and failure are essential to getting where we want to go. It means you’re learning and making progress. And that’s the fun part!”
Marie Volpe, Senior Product Marketing Manager at TrueLayer

“Don’t underestimate your worth. Women are more capable than they believe themselves to be. While there are systematic barriers, you’ve got to trust yourself, advocate for a better way, and find allies to help.”
Sophia Chang, Product Marketing Manager at Bullhorn

“I know it sounds like a line out of a self-help guide, but don’t be afraid of taking risks and jumping into the unknown - becoming a product marketer was one of the best decisions in my career, but I had to change my fixed mindset into one that promotes growth and continuous learning.
“Women learn from a very young age that a “safe” career is the best path for them. Ignore that storyline and go after the career you want.
“Being a PMM is such a rewarding experience. PMMs are the connectors within an organization, working cross-functionally with everyone, but they’re also the ones who get asked most frequently, “what is it exactly that you do?”.  ​​
“Be prepared to show and prove your value to the team and the business. Dive into your product, sales, and customer success functions, identify your competition, and get to know your users and clients - learn, practice, learn, and practice some more. Knowledge is the most important driver for your career success and fulfillment.
“Don’t hesitate to ask questions - you don’t have to have all the answers or be the loudest voice in the room to be heard. Claim that space. Build strong relationships based on mutual respect and professionalism within your team, company, and other PMMs in the field.
“Craft your product marketing role based on your strengths, weaknesses, and skill gaps - this way, you can figure out your responsibilities and where you should focus on. Keep in mind every business is different, so flexibility is a must. However, “no, that’s not my job” is a full sentence, so don’t be afraid to use it responsibly!”
Christina Katsantoni, Lead Product Marketing Manager at Mention Me

“I’d love more women to become Product Marketing Managers, we absolutely need the diversity of thoughts and ideas that we bring to the table.
“Customers, clients, and audiences are incredibly diverse and we need that diversity behind the scenes of amazing products to make sure these products speak to everyone. The more diversity - whether gender, sexuality, disability, or ethnicity - there’s space for all of you in every room!”
Diamond-Hope Kingston, Product Marketing Manager at Cognassist

“Start working as soon as you can; don't wait for the right opportunity to come to you. As long as you work smart you’ll grow.”
Aashi Kothari, Specialist Product Marketer at Newfold Digital

“Just keep being you. Find out what your personal brand is, and stick to it. Never be afraid to be your true self at work, regardless of your gender.

“For product marketing specifically, discover which areas of marketing you enjoy, collaborate with other teams, and see how you can add value to their day-to-day.
“So much of product marketing is about stakeholder management and synching with different teams across the business. You want to be an ally to all so that you can build trust, and successfully get your peers to support your vision and story.”
Mercedes Gleeson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at GWI

“If you’re even just curious, absolutely explore it. Get yourself out there, reach out to people on LinkedIn whose career experiences you admire and would love to learn from, and attend networking events.
“As corny as it is, you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take, so go for it! Put yourself out there! The worst that can happen is someone says no.
“I’d also recommend LinkedIn Learning as a great platform with modules on product marketing where you can dip your toe in the water and understand more about the discipline, as well as of course, all the fantastic free resources on the PMA site!”
Laura Mavrias, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at Expedia Group

“Because so many of us cross-over into product marketing from other roles, I think my advice is to really think hard about how your previous experience could add value to a product marketing team and try very hard not to under-sell it.  
“Be systematic about it and don’t downplay it. It’s a valuable experience and the list itself will give you huge confidence in applications and starting your role.
“I’ve thought of so many extra ways I could have articulated the value of my experience since joining - for example, coming from an agency background, I completely overlooked how much presentation experience I had and this now makes it a lot easier for me to present to sales teams and sales enablement.”
Sophie Barwood, Product Marketing Manager at Adverity  

“Learn to listen to customers, to teams, to competitors. Create processes and build a playbook that works for YOU and your organization. Define what product marketing is in your organization and communicate your core pillars with internal stakeholders.
“Be everywhere. Your job is to connect all the dots and bridge the gaps between teams, so make sure you know who’s responsible for what and what each team’s priorities are. Be flexible about the way you do things. Plan, execute, learn, change, repeat.
“Never work in a silo (that’s the exact opposite of what a product marketer should do!). Build cross-departmental taskforces for your core pillars. Ask for opinions and feedback and involve knowledgeable people from different teams.”
Verche Karafiloska, Product Marketing Executive at Cognism

Spotlighting other inspirational women PMMs

Are there any other women in product marketing that you really value, or have had an impact on your career, that you’d like to spotlight?

“Yes, Maggie Bean!
“I don’t know her personally, but I listen to her podcast, and I’ve learned a few tips which I apply in my own podcast – Product Marketing Starter - where I speak with product marketers across Africa about their journey into product marketing.”
Christiana Okere, Co-founder of myStash

“I’m very inspired by April Dunford’s work. I saw her speaking at November’s Product Marketing Summit in London and have read her product positioning work in a lot of detail.
“I pretty much followed her suggestions by the book while I was establishing the product marketing role in my company! I find it inspiring that she’s managed to completely reframe such an established marketing concept and become the authority on the subject.”
Cat Tyack, Associate Product Marketing Manager at FishingBooker

Emma Stratton’s always posting great tips about B2B SaaS product marketing on LinkedIn, while Tamara Grominsky is another great product marketing thought leader.
“April Dunford wrote the playbook on positioning and I read Sheryl Sandberg’s: Lean In, which really motivated me to take initiative at the start of my career in tech.”
Michele Muriyan, Product Marketing Manager at OneTrust

“So many! The first one is Giulia Sergi who introduced me to the wonderful world of product marketing, and without her, I wouldn’t have discovered this role.
“I’m also grateful to Susan “Spark” Park for the insights and structure of building a strong Go-to-Market plan, while Shelly Eisen-Livneh and Hila Lauterbach have served as a constant fountain of knowledge and advice.
“And two others that have been ‘Linkedin influencers’ for me are Mary Sheehan - for creating the Women in Product Marketing podcast and the “Metrics that Matter” presentation about product marketing metrics, and Emma Stratton for her messaging and positioning advice.”
Irit Schwartz, Director of Product Marketing at Digital Turbine

“Wow, where do I start? In the past year or so I’ve been exploring what other women in Product Marketing are doing globally and I am really inspired by a lot of them. These are the two that top the list for me:
Jewel Burks Solomon who is the Head of Google for Startups USA and Susan ‘Spark’ Park who’s doing amazing stuff at Meta as the Head of Product Marketing: VR Experiences - work, fitness, and media.”
Carolyne Mweberi, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Qhala

“I really value Olga Zapata, Head of Product Marketing at TrueLayer. She embodies someone who is successful in the workplace, but more importantly a great teammate and all-around human. She’s smart, humble, and empowers everyone around her to be their best.”
Marie Volpe, Senior Product Marketing Manager at TrueLayer

“I’m grateful to the women in product marketing who’ve shaped my understanding of this profession, what I can offer, and helped me navigate my career. These women are Sarah Ferguson, Dianne Hallock, Christy Green, Kimberly Bachman, and PeggySue Werthessen.”
Sophia Chang, Product Marketing Manager at Bullhorn

“There are so many inspiring women product marketing leaders to choose from:
Yi Lin Pei, Director of Product Marketing at Teachable, who is also a tech and career coach - discussing a work challenge with her a few months ago helped me see things clearly and objectively. Her LinkedIn feed is a crash course on all things product marketing.
April Dunford for her undeniable expertise and insights on product positioning and messaging for tech and SaaS businesses - she’s also an unmissable speaker!
Jasmine Jaume, Director of Product Marketing at Intercom for her amazing work in bringing Intercom's support solution and platform to market. This is my favorite product marketing case study where everything comes together perfectly.”
Christina Katsantoni, Lead Product Marketing Manager at Mention Me

Martina Lauchengco comes to mind! Her book Loved is the product marketing bible we needed so badly.
“Also, Yasmeen Turayhi! I love how she makes a point to share her knowledge, skills, and expertise with other product marketing managers in a world where getting resources are behind very expensive paywalls.”
Diamond-Hope Kingston, Product Marketing Manager at Cognassist

“My ex-manager is the one who helped me understand what product marketing is all about from the start. I’ll be ever grateful for that.”
Aashi Kothari, Specialist Product Marketer at Newfold Digital

“You can’t talk about women in product marketing without mentioning the wonderful positioning guru, April Dunford. After reading her book, Obviously Awesome, at the beginning of my product marketing journey, I became a huge fan of hers.
“I was so pumped to see her speak live during the 2021 Product Marketing Alliance Summit in London.
“Another speaker at that event that had an immediate impact on me was Susan “Spark” Park, Head of Product Marketing at Meta. Seeing a female product marketing leader at such a mainstream tech company was so unbelievably encouraging. Did I mention she’s an ace public speaker?

“And finally, I have to mention Jane Zupan – the woman who once took a chance on this fresh-faced, budding product marketer. Thank you.”
Mercedes Gleeson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at GWI

“Well, I have a fantastic boss in Jessica Cardonick who challenged me many times to trust my judgment and back my experience - having been a previous buyer persona of the product recently she knows I get the customers.
“She’s also super understanding when it comes to juggling workload and different priorities - something that is vital for Product Marketing leadership given the various directions this role can get pulled in.”
Sophie Barwood, Product Marketing Manager at Adverity

How to become a product marketer

PMM Hired is your lifelong career companion. Whether you're looking to transition into the industry or make the jump to VP of PMM, it's got all the tools and resources you need to create the successful, fulfilling product marketing career you deserve.

Hear how Marie Pachy, Product Marketer at Bridge, kickstarted her career with this resource. 👇

“If you value your time, get PMM Hired.” - Marie Pachy
We spoke to Marie Pachy, a Product Marketer at Bridge, about her experience with the PMM Hired resource we have here at Product Marketing Alliance.

Don’t miss out. Grab your career by the horns. Start your PMM Hired journey.

Get PMM Hired