Why you should work with a female founded marketing agency
Culture & Ethics

Why you should work with a female founded marketing agency

Shannice Baynes
Shannice Baynes

This International Women’s Day, we caught up with Jenny Quigley-Jones, CEO and Founder of Digital Voices. 

Jenny founded the agency in 2017 with just a £500 personal investment. Since then, Digital Voices has grown to an international team of over 50 people, and was named Influencer Marketing Agency of the Year 2022.

She shares her experiences of being a female founder and why it’s important for businesses to work with a female-led marketing agency. 

So, what makes a female-founded organization powerful?

Personally, I think there are higher expectations for female founders to be emotionally connected to their businesses and employees. That is a very powerful thing and should set the standard for how all businesses operate - compassion should be the expectation.

That doesn’t mean you avoid hard commercial decisions. Instead it means that when you go through tough times - as all businesses do - you maybe them with accountability, openness and compassion.

What are some challenges or misconceptions you have come across as a female founder? 

There are quite a few. I try to not fixate on the negative experiences, as every identity has benefits and costs. I think it’s important mentally to prioritize any strengths that may come from being a solo female founder. But a couple of my experiences are:

  1. People underestimating you  or not taking your business seriously - One of the questions I used to get, particularly early on in Digital Voices’ journey, was “how many employees do you have?”, followed by “Are they full time or freelancers?”. At that stage, people are trying to work out whether you’re really an entrepreneur or a freelance consultant.  Now we have a team of of 50, that isn’t a question people ask so much! 

If you’ve committed a faux pas like that and feel like you may have underestimated someone due to a bias, that’s ok. An apology goes a long way.

  1. Sexual comments 

“You’re lucky because you can date or sleep with clients to win their business” (which we have never done!) said by another male founder in the industry. This is one of the very few times when people have crossed the line, but - as with probably most women at work - it happens. Having heard some horror stories from other female founders, I’d always recommend taking precautions with where and how you meet people to maximize the chance of being safe. 

  • Suggestive comments - if you feel comfortable, I have found direct feedback works well e.g. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to speak to anyone”
  • Whatsapp and text communications - it’s often easier to speak with clients and investors over Whatsapp. However, be selective with people you communicate with in this way. If someone crosses a personal boundary and you don’t feel comfortable anymore, reply via email the next day to give them a signal it’s a professional relationship.
  1. Surprise - This is the part I try to see as complimentary… The “it’s your company?!” questions. People have pre-conceptions of what a founder looks like, and there is power in subverting those expectations. In each individual moment, it can feel onerous explaining that “yes, you did found a company”. But cumulatively, each of those instances rolls up into changing societal expectations of what success and self-determination looks like.

UK women created a record number of new companies in 2022, how do you see the future landscape for marketing agencies?

Finally! Female founded companies statistically perform better. Since opening the office in the US, I’ve been blown away by the respect for entrepreneurship and women in business in America. Networks are strong. Talks are substantive.

In both the US and UK, women are founding more businesses than at any time in history. This is a positive step, both economically and socio-politically. Although women founders received only 2% of venture capital in the United States in 2021, women-founded companies in VC portfolios tend to outperform their male counterparts. For example:

Stronger returns on investment - According to First Round Capital, investment in startups with at least one female founder outperformed all-male founding teams by 63%. The Kauffman Fellows Report also found that women-led teams generate a 35% higher return on investment than all-male teams.

Smaller loan size and more financial independence - According to Biz2Credit male vs. female business statistics (2022), the average loan size ($49,712) for women-owned businesses is 50% lower than for men-owned ($83,198) businesses. 

In the Influencer Marketing industry, there is still a huge gender gap. Even in an industry where 77% of influencers actively monetizing their content identify as female, 8 out of 10 of the top Influencer Marketing agencies in the UK by revenue are run by exclusively male teams. This industry does not look so diverse when you look at the power brokers.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the industry goes. Hopefully, we will see marketers do more than pay lip service to D&I through performative campaigns. Marketing teams shape the world with the campaigns they run and the businesses they financially support. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and open the door by hiring agencies founded by people from diverse backgrounds. 

Agreed! Finally, what does this year's IWD theme of #EmbraceEquity mean to you?

Equity is a crucial aspect of building an equal society. You need to appreciate differences to accommodate and support people to reach their potential.

Personally, yes I’m a female founder. But I am also bisexual, a Third Culture Kid and have a myriad of other identities. An equity-first perspective means you see - and try to appreciate - the impact that all these identities have on the way people think and approach the world. 

If you run a team, with equity at its heart, you help people flourish according to their needs. It’s tough, but you’re rewarded with a team around you who are confident to bring various aspects of their experiences and identity to that table. It means you often find solutions or ideas you wouldn’t have generated alone.

If you’d like to find out more about founding a business, or would love to work with Digital Voices, please get in touch!

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