She’s changing the game for tire buyers and career-builders.
Jessica Egerton basically sums up marketing to women with one word. “Don’t.”
She recognizes that we don’t want to be talked down to, minimized or left with the feeling that the wool’s been pulled over our eyes. As director of Brand Development at Cooper Tire, Jessica gets that more than most marketers. That’s because even with an undergraduate degree in communications from Boston University and an MBA in Business and Economics from the University of Kentucky, she holds another degree which she credits her overall career success to: A degree in psychology.
“My interests have always been in how people behave,” Jessica says. “That’s really what was preparing me for wanting to work in advertising, since I was focused on the different levers of decision making.”
While starting her career path at an advertising agency and then moving into home goods before finally joining the automotive industry with Cooper Tire, Jessica describes her branding and marketing approach as being all-embracing. “You can be buying cereal, toothpaste or tires, people have certain triggers or universals that you can find. It’s understanding those things, being open to understanding and approaching everything with a willingness to listen and learn,” she says.
But one thing Egerton is really passionate about in her marketing strategies to women is to not put anyone, women or not, in a box. “Marketing to women can be good for raising awareness but it’s more about the universals of a need” Jessica says. “Generally, I try to stay away from bucketing our approach in that way because I’ve often seen it result in some very gender-biased and stereotypical communications.”
Addressing Industry Challenges By Creating Space for Women To Succeed
Coming into the automotive industry for Jessica “was less about a specific desire to join the automotive world and more about working with the company that I thought had incredible potential,” she says. “I thought that there was an incredible opportunity to really tell the Cooper story and that’s what brought me here.”
The opportunity to address diversity was an added bonus. It’s widely recognized that women are underrepresented in automotive jobs and that diversifying the workforce is a huge opportunity for these companies. “I see Cooper as being very committed to addressing these challenges, with the newly created Coopers Women’s Network and being recognized for the diversity of our Board of Directors, having 30% women. We’re taking efforts to be more diverse and inclusive and we’re really making progress there.”
Jessica is leading an initiative in diversity and inclusion as the Executive Sponsor of the Cooper Women’s Network. “It’s been a year of absolutely tremendous growth that has sparked a lot of thought-provoking conversations at Cooper Tire. It’s been an eye-opening experience on both sides, and has created a lot of optimism and excitement about where we’re going.”
But, she knew as soon as she joined Cooper Tire that the experience would be a been a positive one. “The very first email that I received when joining this industry was from an employee at a manufacturer in a different state that simply said “Welcome to the Family, we’re glad to have you.”
Building a Better Industry, Together
Although Jessica found her introduction into the community at Cooper to be welcoming, she still recognizes the many challenges people face in industries across the board, like the career development pipeline gap, fairness in hiring and promotions, mentorship, sponsorship, and career coaching. But she also notes that these really go beyond challenges just for women. “I would say that the tire industry could make improvements in just overall being more diverse and inclusive.”
But what can the rest of us do to work together for a brighter tomorrow? Pursue a mentor, says Jessica. “I encourage women everywhere, encourage anyone, to really seek out mentors. But remember that no one is sitting around looking for someone to mentor, who will tap you on the shoulder and ask you if you want help. You have to take on that initiative and responsibility to seek that mentor out.”
And while finding and building a trusting relationship with a mentor can take time, Jessica also shares some immediate advice for the women looking to advance their careers. “While you will encounter challenges, and there are going to be compromises every day. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself or for others. Sometimes it’s difficult to be the only one to speak up, especially if you’re the only women in the room, but you can’t be heard if you don’t speak. Sometimes I need to be the one to speak to encourage others who aren’t yet ready to do so.”
In this industry, Jessica says that she recognizes “I have an ability to help make the path smoother for those coming after me. That’s something that has changed my perspective about what real success looks like.”