Eileen Naughton has embraced feminism in ways she never thought she would. When she began her career in media, she was hopeful for a world that had moved beyond gender stereotypes and discrimination, but since reaching the leadership ranks of major companies, she has become an advocate and mentor for a new generation of women. Naughton, Google’s vp, global accounts and agencies, was a founding member of Women@Google, started by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Lean In fame. She is also active with groups including New York Women in Communications and is an honoree at the group’s Matrix Awards this week. She is also a mother of three. Naughton talked with Adweek about women’s issues, technology and media, and what inspires her.
How have your views on women’s issues evolved?
The remarkable thing is, and from my experience when I was younger, I thought I was living in a post-feminist era and I didn’t necessarily seek out or belong to a lot of these women’s organizations. My expectations were that there was a level playing field, but I realize now that we don’t live in post-feminist era. There’s no such thing as post-feminism. We need to have role models and to celebrate women who push through despite odds.
Why are women’s issues so important to the dialogue in the tech sector right now?
It’s an important conversation. The data show that tech companies overall underindex in their representation of women. Less than 50 percent of the population of tech companies is female, and in the general population, women are 51 percent. The facts are clear: There are fewer women in technology than in the population, and the more women going into technology the better the outcome.
What can be done to increase women’s representation in the tech world?
Learning institutions need to begin very young, in middle school at the latest, encouraging girls in math and science. It starts with having a prepared population.
You described kind of finding your voice advocating for women’s issues in your career. Why the evolution?
In more traditional media, women have higher representation in leadership roles than is the case in professions like banking or technology. In part, becoming a more seasoned executive helped me understand my own responsibility in lifting up women who work on my team, and being part of the technology industry, recognizing the thinness in leadership roles that is pervasive in technology.
What’s your biggest contribution to helping women advance in tech?
As a mother, I raised two daughters and a son, and one daughter [Emma] took first place at the Technovation Challenge, the largest global competition for girls who code. So I’ve done my part in adding to the gene pool of women who code.
Careerwise, what’s your biggest focus?
I am working at the confluence of content marketing, consumers and technology. Moving from the analog world into the digital world changed the very fundamentals of consumer behavior and the way marketers have to connect and reach consumers. My role has been one of bringing marketers into this new world.
Which previous Matrix Awards honorees have inspired you?
[Former Ogilvy & Mather CEO] Charlotte Beers is just a brilliant thinker and great Texan. Frankly, Oprah is remarkable. … There’s just an amazing collection of women—some less well-known, some better known—but in aggregate, these are women who made a difference, and I’m honored to be counted among that circle.