Career Advice, Equality

Is marketing communications the Pink Ghetto?

I really want to believe times have changed and that women are not assumed to only be good if they are in PR. I picked up the term “pink ghetto” from a candidate I was interviewing for VP of marketing communications back in the early 90s. She had spent her early career at Apple, in PR, and was wanting to come to a company (I was VP Marketing at Synopsys at the time) that did not pigeon hole women as only being suitable for PR.

Well, imagine my somewhat amused horror as I read the post from The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs last week on Andrea Jung. It’s an amusing rant (as usual) with enough of a grain of truth (as usual) that it makes you stop. The paragraph in question is:

She gives me this look and says — get this — she says that she works for the shareholders and that I work for her. That’s she’s my boss. I’m like, Lady, I’ve never had a boss in my life and I’m not about to start now and honestly I am going to friggin kill Al Gore for convincing me that we needed a woman on our board even though I told him there’s a reason why you don’t see many women running tech companies and it ain’t for lack of trying. I mean they’re fantastic at stuff like PR and maybe marketing as long as when you say marketing you really just mean a fancy word for PR. Advance work, making sure the hotel has the right water in my room at exactly the right temperature — stuff like that, stuff where I don’t actually have to really deal with them except to give them orders, and then when I tell them to leave, they do.


Because I know this opinion is still thought (though rarely openly voiced) I often coach young women to manage their careers not to get caught in the pink ghetto. To plan out stages through different types of marketing and eventually into sales – to be sure to touch product marketing, program management, business development, communications and sales as a progression through building a well rounded skillset and career. Or if they love communications (as I have know both men and women to do) to be spectacular at it so they get to drive strategy. I’m happy to say that I have had a number of women come work for me in marketing over the last 20 years who are in high-tech and now have titles like CEO, COO, VP marketing, sales manager – and VP communications.

But I should also confess that I never had the communications job myself, both because I did not want to get trapped and because I don’t think I would have been any good at it anyway.