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Alumna Blazing New Trails for Women in the Workforce

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Susan Dugan


Profile  •
Ayla Peacock

Attending an all-girl K-12 school in Cleveland, Ohio, ignited Ayla Peacock’s (BA ’15, Creative Writing, International Studies) lifelong passion for empowering women “on behalf of womenkind. It changed my brain from the inside out and taught me how to be a woman in the world,” she said.

Interested in world travel, the director of digital strategy at the consulting firm Kin & Carta (formerly Spire Digital) initially majored in international studies but took English classes “as a relief valve from some of the heavy, political issues.” By junior year, she’d accumulated enough credits for a double-major in international studies and creative writing.

Applying Liberal Arts Learning in the Corporate World

Following graduation, Peacock landed a marketing position at 5280 and later wrote for a smaller magazine but found writing lonely. “I was more interested in working with the creative people who were bouncing tennis balls off walls and whiteboarding,” she said.

She moved to a technical recruiting firm “learning to be comfortable around technology terms I didn’t know very well,” she said, giving credit to her time at DU studying abroad in France for helping her to break through the unknowns.

“I didn’t know any French. So, I felt OK listening to unfamiliar technology ‘languages’ and googling them later,” Peacock said.

Recruiting led to a job with a marketing agency where Peacock says she was poached to Spire Digital as their first ever marketer. Despite being a new employee and the youngest person in the room, Peacock spoke her mind to the CEO.

“I’d say ‘well, do you like your website copy better or do you like money better because I can prove that changing the copy here will get us more revenue.”

Her candor paid off when Spire Digital went from  30 to 150 people in two years and got purchased by Kin & Carta.

“My fingerprints are all over that acquisition and now I work for a publicly traded global firm selling million-dollar-and-higher services and consulting contracts,” Peacock said.

Peacock attributes much of her success to writing courses at DU. “I took a lot of poetry classes that taught me not just how to write but how to think about the world. I can connect the dots from those classes to writing a really succinct email that gets the attention of a CEO at a Fortune 100 company.”

Advocating for Gender-Pay Equity and Family Leave

Peacock has made teaching women to negotiate salary a personal priority. As a former board member with Women in Digital Denver (now Together Digital), Peacock looked at how women can become more transparent about what they’re making and what their expectations are. She took women under her wing and role-played how to negotiate.

As a salesperson, Peacock has been grappling with how current maternity leave policies and inequitable pay for people who have children contributes to the gender wage gap.

“How do we attract women into this role when often they are the ones who will have to take three months off?,” she said. “If you’ve got a multi-million-dollar quota, that’s impossible.”

She finds believing a colleague can just cover for you unrealistic. “Maybe they close a deal or two but they’re not out there searching for leads, advocating for prospect customers. How can we make it easier for families to happen and women to get paid while doing that?”

Navigating these conversations takes practice, Peacock admits.

“I had a lot of hands-quivering-under-the-table moments, particularly at Spire Digital as we were being acquired and I would have to say ‘I’m contributing to this sale and want to be paid fairly for it.’ As the company was accepting of those conversations, I grew more confident,” Peacock said.

But the journey continues. “Yesterday I was introduced in an email by one of our male leaders to take over a conversation,” she said. “The prospect assumed that I was my colleague’s assistant and asked me to share time when my colleague was available.”

Peacock told him, “I’m not an assistant and your assumptions are biased. This is my job and here’s my availability.”

Those “little wins” along with continuing support at Kin & Carta continue to strengthen her resolve.

“Kin & Carta has a strong push toward diversity, equity and inclusion and mandates that all roles go through an interview process that includes 50 percent males and 50 percent females,” she said. “I brought up the maternity leave problem for women salespeople and they wanted to work together to address it.”

Peacock plans to interview women leaders at big companies who have maternity leave policies she and her company think are “cool” about their process.

She pays it forward by talking with recent DU graduates through Career & Professional Development about “how this job of mine came to be,” she said.

“I’m only 29 but I’ve done roles in recruiting, marketing, PR and now sales and have found that the major I chose, while unconventional and not listed on job descriptions, has supported my many different career choices.”