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Breaking ground – how female leadership is facing today’s challenges

Introducing the next in our Women’s History Month mini-series, we turn our attention to industry challenges and how aspiring female leaders are finding opportunities in adversity. 

Once again, we are drawing on unique insights from a collection of inspiring women in leadership positions to uncover what the leadership landscape looks like for women right now. Following our discussion around career advice and support networks, this article will highlight the significant challenges facing women in marketing and business leadership in 2024 – and how some of the most ambitious female leaders are rising to face them.   

Artificial Intelligence

The meteoric rise of Artificial Intelligence across the past 12 months has been impossible to ignore, and it was rightfully a common talking point for our panel. Despite being marked as a challenge, what stood out most was a sense of excitement among this community – with many viewing AI as an opportunity for growth and development.  

Lucy Alligan, Bluprintx Global Director of Marketing, shares: “ensuring that we are all AI ready will continue to be the key challenge. I am excited about the opportunities we are seeing with AI, from consumer behavior to budget optimization and efficiency gains.” Echoing Lucy’s enthusiasm, Emma Fairlie, Bluprintx Global Director of PMO, concurs: “AI has the potential to transform every aspect of project management. This is an exciting challenge that we must actively prepare for to leverage efficiencies within our processes.”  

This enthusiasm points to the unique opportunity leaders face to show pioneering business management by adapting to the challenges AI brings. To Lucy, this means staying abreast of the latest advancements in data management and integration techniques, and collaboration across all teams with clear goals and workflows. 

“To harness AI to its fullest potential, we need to ensure that our technology is effectively integrated to maximize its capabilities. And that our data infrastructure is clean, organized and accessible for AI applications,” she explains.   

This concept of harnessing AI to its fullest potential is an important one, and our contributors pulled out different threads of this narrative. Lucy’s example is one of them – from a technical perspective, it’s essential for businesses to become “AI ready” through best practices around technology and data. 

There are also ethical and humanistic perspectives to consider. Harnessing AI isn’t just something that businesses are grappling with – it’s the teams and individuals championing its use. It’s about finding a balance between leveraging the automative power of AI without losing the human touch. 

On this point, Gillian Rhodes, Chief Marketing Officer at Avantis Education, explains: “marketers must embrace new technologies. In the case of AI – use the robot, but don’t be robotic. AI brings incredible opportunities but it’s not yet emotional intelligence. Great marketing involves emotion, and we women have that in bucket loads.”  

Taking this one step further, discussions around Artificial Intelligence have led many to consider the ethics of integrating AI into the workplace. Leaders may see different responses to AI among their teams – excitement, openness, but also potential fears of what it might mean for their positions. In this, we see more than ever the need for conscientious leadership to manage and merge these different perspectives. 

Speaking on acting ethically and transparently as business leaders, Karen Shackleton, Marketing Director of Warrantywise, predicts: “the human element of leadership will become even more salient. People will be looking to us to ‘do the right thing’, not just be compliant. Trust is all important.”   

‘Doing more with less’

A recurring theme across our network of experts regarding challenges in 2024 is that of financial and budgetary restrictions – and consequently the idea that leaders increasingly need to help their businesses ‘do more with less’.    

This challenge, which straddles financial and human resourcing considerations, presents an opportunity for those leaders able to steer their businesses through a difficult landscape.   

Jasmine Sym, Senior Digital CRM Owner at AIA, summarizes: “the biggest challenge is needing to do more with less. But this presents an opportunity to seek out digital solutions to help realize long term value while gaining operational efficiencies.”  

Leaders across every industry will inevitably face challenges, and confidently guiding others through periods of ambiguity is essential. Leadership is not just about always doing more, but understanding what is truly practicable and effective. Recognizing this, our network highlighted the significance of delivering maximum impact regardless of resources or budget.   

Louise Morgan, Director of Technical Marketing & PR, shared a slightly different perspective: “I think it’s time to move away from ‘do more with less’ and replace it with ‘less is more’. Sharpened focus in the short term will create a more stable foundation to build on.”  

With these resourcing challenges in mind, ‘efficiency’ was a salient point. Zoe Collins, Group Finance Director at Bluprintx, explains: “economic challenges mean pull back on spend, so trying to balance and ensure teams are working in the most efficient way becomes even more important.”  

Echoing the sentiment of opportunity, Monica Callaghan, Head of Operations and Strategy at the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities, states: “robust business development and updated risk protocols will need to be established to work through the strategic and operational issues ahead.”  

So, while we can acknowledge ‘doing more with less’ as a serious task for the year ahead, it’s one which may see female leaders come into their own – bringing fresh perspectives to boardrooms and panels that are calling out for new ideas. 

Supporting change through people growth

Our female panelists all agreed that the pace of change is accelerating, and, as it does, the importance of effective people management should not be underestimated. This is particularly true when it comes to empowering your teams and their leaders to make the best decisions in a fast-moving tech climate.  

“Speed of change is an important issue in both my sectors and I can’t see it going away,” explains Dr June Dennis, Managing Director & Marketing Strategy Coach, Mountain Top Perspectives Ltd. “We just have to look at how AI has impacted education and the marketing profession in just under one year. And, that’s the tip of the iceberg!” 

Indeed, Gillian Rhodes, Chief Marketing Officer of Avantis Education agrees that business leaders don’t have a choice when it comes to adapting to rapid technological advancements, “It’s a case of evolve or die,” she says.  

Karen Shackleton, Marketing Director of Warrantywise, suggests that building and maintaining a culture of continuous learning is one way to help teams adapt and keep up with the pace of change. She also believes that a diverse and inclusive leadership is essential, “to ensure we are challenging ourselves to do better,” she explains.  

Hilla Bakshi, Tech Ecosystem Leader, anticipates a new order of employment as the AI revolution continues to gain pace, but warns that, without action, women could be the first ones to pay the price: “In order to be competitive, women must embrace the revolution of artificial intelligence. Companies must invest in training, development, and mentorship programs to ensure women are given the resources to succeed. Women should also have the opportunity to learn new skills and acquire the necessary qualifications to stay ahead of the curve.” 

In order to achieve this, she says it’s essential that companies create an inclusive and supportive working environment to ensure women feel supported and empowered. PR and Communications Trainer Maud Davies feel this is also important in meeting another big challenge faced by businesses today – attracting and retaining talent. 


There are undoubtedly challenges on the horizon in 2024, but through these discussions it is abundantly clear that there is a groundswell of female leadership talent rising to meet them. From personal and progressional growth to creative problem solving and proactive support, new approaches to today’s business landscape are unfolding in real time.  

Next week, to close off our series celebrating Women’s History Month, we will look forward with an honest examination of representation, inclusion and diversity among female leadership.