Renee Semiz knows what it’s like to be the only woman in the room. Working as a technical services advisor during her twenties she would regularly find herself the only female in a vast oil refinery during the night shift.
“I don’t know if it was whether I was worried about being female, or just being young and wanting to be respected, but that was a little scary at first,” she smiles. “But in every case I had the same hard hat, and the same steel toed boots as everyone else. We had a job to do.”
Now, as UK managing director for marketing at international energy firm Phillips 66, a company she first joined in 2005, Semiz takes a similar view on what it feels like to be one of only a few women working in a heavily male-dominated industry.
“Early on there may have been some perceptions I had to overcome, but in every case I have always proved myself to be competent and perform as well, if not better, than my male peers, so I gained credibility very quickly,” she says.
Semiz wants the same for other female marketers too:
“If women could do anything differently it’d be to have the confidence to do more, to go into a field typically dominated by men and if they do, they’ll find they can be very successful.”
I’ve learned from my male directors, but I’ve always adapted their qualities to my own style of management.
At Phillips 66 meanwhile, Semiz says there’s lots of work going on to promote a more diverse and inclusive environment, with the company casting a wider net when it comes to its search for talent.
“We’re starting to fill that under-represented pipeline, though it will take time for those people to grow and move through to be selected for senior leadership,” she notes.
Semiz believes companies in traditionally male-dominated sectors are now more aware than ever of the value of nurturing diversity.
“If you have a diverse team you get more innovation, more creative ideas and ultimately better results. In marketing we need to attract people with a wide range of skills,” she adds.
“You need people that understand the logistics, the operations, the economics of what you do, but also people with interpersonal skills that can provide a level of service our customers expect and deserve.”
So, what would her advice be to women thinking of entering a typically male-dominated sector, but feeling a level of trepidation?
“People should follow their passion and not worry about the barriers of whether or not its male dominated,” Semiz insists. “When our people are happy and feel they’re contributing that’s when we get the best performance. There’s no reason women can’t and shouldn’t look to this industry, and be very successful.”
For proof, they need look no further than these four highly successful female marketers, each thriving in a male-dominated space.
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