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Women in marketing: 13 inspiring stories from female leaders

In recent years, thousands of inspiring women in marketing have made great strides in achieving gender equality, with 60% of marketing jobs in the United States now held by women.

Even better, research by the ANA found that of their 870 member companies in 2020, 56% of senior-level executives were women – an increase of 4% over the year before. This improvement in gender diversity in marketing is great news and reflects the tenacity of women in marketing all around the globe.

To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of 13 inspiring female leaders who have found success in marketing. From trailblazing entrepreneurs to C-suite extraordinaires, here are their motivating stories.

Table of contents

  1. Maggie Chan Jones

  2. Michele Linn

  3. Cara Scharf

  4. Ann Hadley

  5. Maryam Banikarim

  6. Jackie Hermes

  7. Heidi Bullock

  8. Mina Seetharaman

  9. Rebecca Lieb

  10. Stacy Minero

  11. Olga Andrienko

  12. Purna Virji

  13. Margaret Molloy

  14. Final thoughts

1. Maggie Chan Jones

Maggie Chan Jones is a groundbreaker in marketing. At 14, Maggie convinced her family to move from Hong Kong to the U.S. for better education opportunities.

With an MBA from Cornell University, Maggie began her marketing career at Microsoft. Her career progressed quickly, moving up the ladder to lead their marketing strategy as the Director of Cloud Services and Office 365. Following this, Maggie became the first female Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, leading a global team of 1,300 marketers.

In 2017, Forbes named Maggie the 15th Most Influential CMO in the world, solidifying her legacy in the marketing world. She has now moved on to found Tenshey, a company focused on empowering people of all backgrounds to achieve equality in leadership.

Maggie’s favorite piece of advice is a one-liner from her Grandmother: “Just be happy and be yourself.”

Follow Maggie to learn how to support other women in marketing, work towards a career “North Star” and gain sponsorship to move forward.

2. Michele Linn

When the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) was founded in 2011 to help advance the practice of content marketing, Michele Linn was hired to help launch the blog and editorial strategy. With over 20 years of experience as a marketing manager and consultant, she was perfect for the job, and during her time there helped grow the CMI audience to over 200,000 subscribers.

In 2015, Michele was named one of the “Top Women in Media” by Folio magazine, and in 2017, she left CMI to pursue her long-term goal of producing original research. During this time, Michele was also co-host of the Marketing Breakout Podcast, a program dedicated to finding creative solutions to common marketing problems.

This is how Michele went on to co-found Mantis Research, a survey-based research organization that helps companies derive actionable insights from their data.

With an illustrious career as one of the earliest thought leaders in content marketing, it’s clear to see Michele’s passion and knowledge in her work.

Follow Michele to learn more about conducting original research (e.g. surveys) and see shortlisted content marketing tips from other top marketing influencers.

3. Cara Scharf

Cara Scharf has over 25 years of experience in advertising and marketing. Starting as a Senior Media Buyer in the ‘80s, she quickly rose to become the Executive Vice President (EVP) of Tangible Media, driving billings from $10M to $50M during her time there.

Cara has received over a dozen prestigious awards for her work in marketing. These include being named the Marketing & Advertisement Entrepreneur 2018 and Most Innovative Marketing and Advertising Executive Northeast 2017.

In 2009, Cara founded Fearless Media, a company focused on providing comprehensive strategic planning, PR, media and marketing services. She is also currently the Executive Vice President of ReKTGlobal, a cutting-edge entertainment organization that, in conjunction with Fearless Media, helps with esport brand management.

Reflecting on her fearless approach, Cara stated in an interview with Insight Success:

“One of the most difficult issues women face is that people don’t always take you seriously. You don’t need confidence to start, you need guts. The confidence comes with knowing you have been able to beat all the odds. Only 0.1% of the founders in advertising are female. That is what I think about if I start to doubt my abilities. I am here 10 years later. If I am running a successful business for almost 10 years now – that should mean something.”

Follow Cara to get inspiration for creativity in the marketing industry and learn how to navigate political ad campaigns.

4. Ann Hadley

Ann Hadley is another trailblazing thought leader in the marketing industry. As the bestselling author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, and Content Rules, Ann’s marketing advice has reached thousands. She’s also a regular contributor to publications such as Entrepreneur, IBM, Huffington Post, NPR and the Wall Street Journal.

Early in her career, Ann founded ClickZ, one of the earliest sources of digital marketing information. Later, she founded MarketingProfs which now has over 600,000 subscribers and is a leading training and education company in the marketing space.

Ann has been celebrated for years as one of the leading women in marketing and was recognized by Forbes as one of the most influential women on social media in 2011.

Her work primarily focuses on content marketing and how companies can improve their writing and content.

Follow Ann to learn more about all things digital marketing and content marketing, plus how to respond to the latest industry disruption.

5. Maryam Banikarim

Maryam Banikarim has more than 25 years of marketing experience, much of which was spent managing global brands as Senior Vice President (SVP) or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for companies like NBC Universal, Univision Communications, Hyatt and Gannett Corp. Now, Maryam is the Head of Marketing at Nextdoor and serves on the advisory council for several companies including Samsung Retail.

Not only is Maryam an incredibly successful marketer, but she also uses her success to transform the lives and careers of others, as shown by her work with various non-profit organizations. She is a Board Member for Reporters Without Borders and the Women Trailblazers Council, Executive in Residence at Columbia University and a co-founder of NYCNext, a volunteer organization aimed at rejuvenating the creative scene in NYC.

A renowned motivational and business speaker, Maryam often focuses on leadership, diversity and inclusion in the world of business.

Maryam has been recognized as one of The New York Post’s “50 Most Powerful Women in NYC”. She has also received the Columbia Alumni Medal, the most prestigious award from the association, as well as the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for her contributions as a US immigrant.

Follow Maryam to learn how to make your marketing content more accessible and how to navigate working in the marketing industry, from job searching to leading a team.

6. Jackie Hermes

Jackie Hermes earned her MBA while simultaneously starting a vegan cookie company and experiencing her first pregnancy. After that, she began her first full-time marketing work with the SaaS company Zywave.

This kind of hard work and hustle has come to define Jackie in her career. She soon left Zywave to found her own business, Accelity, which provides planning and execution of marketing strategies and software implementation for companies. In only a few years, Jackie turned Accelity into a 7-figure company without any external funding.

In 2018, Jackie co-founded the Women’s Entrepreneurship Week, an event series to connect, showcase and educate women entrepreneurs.

Jackie is active on both Twitter and LinkedIn where she consistently posts great advice for those developing their content strategies.

Follow Jackie to learn how to market as an entrepreneur or startup and how to develop a personal brand.

7. Heidi Bullock

Another tour de force in the marketing world, Heidi Bullock has the kind of resume that makes you wonder how anyone has the time to accomplish this much in one lifetime.

Heidi has over 20 years of experience in marketing, beginning in the life sciences with a degree in Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering. Starting as a product manager, she later earned an MBA and rose quickly from Director to Vice President in Marketing to Chief Marketing Officer.

Heidi is now the CMO at Tealium, a tech company that focuses on real-time customer data orchestration. She has contributed to thought leadership books, including the Clear and Complete Guide to ABM Analytics and The Definitive Guide to Account Based Marketing, Lead Generation, Content, Mobile Marketing, and Engaging Email.

Heidi can often be found speaking at B2B marketing conferences and is a consistent guest speaker on various podcasts and shows, including Catalyst. In 2018, she was named one of the SaaS Report’s “Top Women Leaders in SaaS.”

Follow Heidi to learn how CDPs can help your business and discover industry news related to data management.

8. Mina Seetharaman

Mina Seetharaman has had a long and successful career as a leader in marketing. Currently, Mina is the Global Vice President of Strategy & Operations and Global Product Management at Gartner, one of the world’s top tech research and consulting firms.

Before this, Mina was the Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Creative Officer at The Economist. During her time at The Economist, Mina led a team of writers and editors, managed their marketing strategy and ran the NYC office.

Even before this, Mina was the director and co-founder of OglivyOne’s innovative Content Marketing Practice tool and it was here that she solidified her legacy as one of the greats in digital media.

Mina has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to ensure their marketing success, including Microsoft, Citigroup, Barclays, American Express and more.

On the side, Mina is a judge for the World Media Awards and has worked with the UN Women Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC) since 2018. The GICC is part of the UN’s strategy to increase gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, and Mina’s collaboration shows her dedication to helping other women achieve success.

Follow Mina to learn about job opportunities in the field and see whose work she’s celebrating today.

9. Rebecca Lieb, PhD

Rebecca Lieb is a true specialist in the field of digital marketing. She is a strategic advisor, research analyst, author, columnist and keynote speaker. As an advisor, she has worked with many of the Fortune 100 brands including Facebook, Nestlé, IBM, Adobe and more.

Rebecca has had a distinguished career in marketing and digital media. In 2001, she earned the position of VP and Editor-in-Chief at ClickZ – a company founded by previously-featured Ann Hadley. From here, Rebecca went on to hold several executive-level positions, eventually going on to co-found Kaleido Insights, a research and advisory firm.

During her career, Rebecca has produced a significant body of work, with over a dozen pieces of original research and several books on the topics of content marketing, strategy and digital media, including Content Marketing, one of the first-ever books written on the topic.

Rebecca also teaches at the Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Follow Rebecca to learn more about content marketing and digital marketing innovation.

10. Stacy Minero

After earning her Bachelor’s in Mass Media Communication, Stacy Minero began her illustrious career as a Strategic Planner for Coca-Cola and P&G.

After that, Stacy went on to become the Managing Director at Mindshare, leading the content marketing and communications planning for American Express, MTV and Hershey.

Stacy’s most recent role was leading Twitter ArtHouse, a global team focused on creators and their content, developing strategies that help creators be successful on Twitter.

Stacy has received several accolades throughout her career. In 2013, she was named the AdWeek “Media All-Star” and in 2017, Business Insider named her one of the “30 Best Business People to Follow on Twitter”. Most recently, she was named a “Female Frontier” honoree by CampaignLive in 2018.

Follow Stacy to learn about the latest movements on the Twitter platform and how other brands are using it.

11. Olga Andrienko

Olga Andrienko began her career as a Regional Sales and Marketing Manager for the Lux Express Group, the largest international express coach operator in the Baltic region.

After this, Olga moved to Semrush, a leading SaaS platform, where she started as the Head of Social Media Marketing. From here, she quickly moved up the ranks to Head of Global Marketing and finally to Vice President of Brand Marketing. During this time, she helped Semrush expand into over 50 countries and has won 9 global recognition awards for the company.

Olga now judges several UK- and EU-based content awards, as well as US Social Media & Communication awards. TopRank listed her as one of the “25 most influential women in digital marketing” in 2018.

Olga is also the event organizer and only female member of Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world which aims to enrich the lives of Jewish students around the world.

Follow Olga to learn what it takes to get hired by a company like Semrush and insider SEO marketing tips.

12. Purna Virji

With over 18 years of experience, Purna Virji is another force to be reckoned with in the marketing field. After years of managerial roles, Purna landed her first major gig as the Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft.

In this role, she was awarded the 2019–2020 Search Personality of the Year by the US Search Awards and named one of the 2018 Young Influentials by Adweek. She also acted as the chairperson of the Judging Panel at the Drum US Search Awards in 2017 and 2018.

Purna now works at LinkedIn as the Senior Content Marketing Evangelist and is a regular, top-rated keynote speaker at several conferences including AdWeek, The Next Web Conference and INBOUND.

Among her other awards and accolades, Purna was named the #1 Most Influential PPC Expert in the world.

Follow Purna to learn actionable LinkedIn and content marketing insights.

13. Margaret Molloy

Margaret Molloy has focused much of her career on inclusion and equality-focused campaigns and is constantly sought-after as a keynote and podcast speaker.

Margaret began her journey as a marketing intern at Enterprise Ireland and in her 20+ years of experience has held several executive positions at global companies.

Now, she is the Global Chief Marketing Officer and Head of New Business Development at Siegel+Gale, where she’s held the position for almost nine years.

Margaret is also well-known for organizing meetings with the top CMOs from around the world in the Siegel+Gale Future of Branding web series.

Margaret has received multiple accolades including being named The Drum’s 2017 B2B Marketer of the Year, a Marketing Society Fellow, one of TopRank’s Top B2B Marketing Influencers and one of the “20 Most Important Women in Marketing” by Agency Spotter in 2022.

Follow Margaret to see where she’s speaking next and which marketing leaders she’s shouting about today.

Final thoughts

There is no lack of inspiring women marketers in leadership roles around the globe. With the advancement of inclusive hiring processes and work practices, marketing workplaces in the U.S. have achieved a strong gender balance.

There are still many disproportionate challenges facing women – especially for women with racially diverse backgrounds. By exploring the lives and perspectives of inspirational women, we can continue to make strides in gender equality around the world.

As the field of marketing continues to grow and evolve, new opportunities will arise for trailblazers to take up the mantle and become the next generation of inspiring female leaders.

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