Thriving As A Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry: Gina Pomponi of Bluewater Media On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male Dominated Industry

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readSep 5, 2022


Failure is not fatal. People are human and everyone makes mistakes. Always give yourself and your employees the freedom to fail forward and use mistakes as a learning tool.

In the United States in 2022, fields such as Aircraft piloting, Agriculture, Architecture, Construction, Finance, and Information technology, are still male-dominated industries. For a woman who is working in a male-dominated environment, what exactly does it take to thrive and succeed? In this interview series, we are talking to successful women who work in a Male-Dominated Industry who can share their stories and experiences about navigating work and life as strong women in a male-dominated industry. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gina Pomponi.

Marketing Expert Gina Pomponi is President and COO of Bluewater, one of the leading digital marketing/video production companies. She has spent 30 years in the business pioneering digital marketing Bluewater is headquartered in Florida and markets for hundreds of major brands located throughout the country. She is an authority on interactive marketing, event-driven marketing, media analysis, branding, content marketing, and other key topics.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I had an amazing childhood. My parents were business owners for my entire childhood. This allowed my mother to be home with us which was fairly unusual in the 70s/80s. My sister and I were very lucky that our parents had the means to give us everything we wanted (within reason of course), however we had lots of responsibilities. I can honestly say that one of the most important things my parents ever instilled in me is work ethic. Even at a very young age, we had chores. Although I hated it back then, I learned the importance of working hard to get the things you want. It also taught me the right way to parent my daughter. As a single mother, my daughter and I were a team at home. She helped me with things around the house like laundry, cooking and cleaning. Today my daughter is a wife, mother, and doctor, so I think it worked out pretty well.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

I saw an ad in a newspaper for an entry level position at Direct Response Media. I came in and worked my way up very quickly. I became VP in under 5 years. I took reports home and taught myself. No one had time to show me how things worked, so I had to learn everything on my own in the beginning. After a year I became the media director and in four years I was named Vice President, and every department ran through me. When I moved on from Direct Response, I had grown it to over $100 million in billings.

From there I moved on to Mercury Media, where I started and led my division to over $100 million in billings in less than 5 years. Having achieved so many things at this point in my career, the blueprint for success is part of my DNA. I have no doubt that I will accomplish an even higher level of success with Bluewater Media and much of this confidence is due to the company’s trust and faith that I have what it takes to do the job, and then some, even as a woman. Wink wink.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Ice storms are prevalent in Pennsylvania where I began my media career. We were smack dab between the areas of heavy snow and rain. The result is ice storms. We had a particularly bad one back in 1998 causing the Governor to “close” the state of Pennsylvania. Back then we didn’t have remote access that would have provided the ability to work from home. Since “the show must go on,” we all packed up our kids and braved the icy roads. Once arriving at the office, we realized the parking lot was covered in about 3 inches of ice. To get into the building, we created a small human chain to pull everyone across the parking lot. We made it in, no one got caught driving, and we had extra help faxing and filing from the kids that day.

Looking back on this event years later, I always laugh. Perhaps we shouldn’t have driven in an ice storm, but we always managed to overcome hardships no matter what.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Boy this is an easy question! My primary character traits that have helped me become as successful leader are:

  • Integrity — The Oxford dictionary defines the word “integrity” as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. This is something I live by. Your integrity is something no one can take from you. It’s the keystone of who I am. The best advice I can give any woman or man: integrity matters. Period.
  • Empowering and Developing Others — I believe that our most important resource is our people. Developing and training individuals to help them grow into successful marketing professionals has always been my mantra when building a business. This combined with my leadership in sales (new and organic) has been the driving force in the 900% growth at Bluewater Media.
  • Work Ethic — I was raised to have a strong work ethic. It’s how I’m wired. I’m driven. Very driven. Always giving 100% on everything I do is extremely important to me. The funny thing is some might see this as one of my flaws as I’ve been known to get very intense at times. Although I do feel like I’m mellowing with age.

Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Can you help articulate a few of the biggest obstacles or challenges you’ve had to overcome while working in a male-dominated industry?

This is a funny question. I’ve never thought there was anything I couldn’t achieve because of my gender. Perhaps I had to work harder than a male would have in the same role to achieve what I did, but I’ve never thought about it. And it certainly NEVER held be back. Have you ever heard the term “empty suite?” You’ll never hear someone refer to a woman leader using the term. Food for thought.

Maybe I was lucky to grow up in the media advertising industry, where most of the people I worked with and for were women. Even though I didn’t work in a male-dominated industry, I did have many male clients. Back in the 1990s, the senior management were older men at many of our clients’ companies. For a female (especially a young woman) to walk into a room meant having to have more of a presence and being an expert in your field certainly helped.

At Bluewater Media, as a woman, I am never treated any differently even though all my business partners are male. I am respected for who I am and what I know. It doesn’t matter that I’m a female. I believe and hope that the world is changing. Perhaps it is, slowly.

I am a single mother. As I was developing my career, I missed a lot when it came to my daughter — Christmas parties at school, sporting events, etc. — as it wasn’t very acceptable to take off work for family. Was this because I am a woman and needed to prove myself? Maybe. Luckily, the grandparents were able to attend. While my daughter didn’t suffer (she’s now Dr. Samantha Pomponi), I wished I could have had it both ways.

Luckily, now I’m in a position where I can change this reality for others.

Can you share a few of the things you have done to gain acceptance among your male peers and the general work community? What did your female co-workers do? Can you share some stories or examples?

I work as hard, if not harder, than anyone else. It isn’t just about proving myself to men to gain acceptance, it’s about living up to the standards I set for myself and leading by example. My team knows I will roll up my sleeves and jump in the deep end with them. That’s one of the ways you earn the respect of your staff and peers. I also have an open-door policy to allow the team to utilize my skills in their development and growth. I sit one-on-one with team members to just listen as well as help them develop skills that will benefit them now and in the future. I try very hard to “pay it forward.”

What do you think male-oriented organizations can do to enhance their recruiting efforts to attract more women?

It should never be about gender. Actions speak louder than words — you must walk the walk to attract women to your brand. Show that your company stands for, empowers, listens to, acknowledges, respects, and creates room for growth for women. It’s that simple. Provide more seats at the table and pay them the same as their male counterparts. Trust me, they are worth it.

Ok thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman In a Male-Dominated Industry?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Failure is not fatal. People are human and everyone makes mistakes. Always give yourself and your employees the freedom to fail forward and use mistakes as a learning tool.
  2. Family first. Unfortunately, this is a rule that took me a long time to embrace, but nothing is as important as family. I spent many extra hours at work and missed so many of my daughter’s school event and games. If I could go back in time and change one thing, it would be this. I make sure that my team at Bluewater Media knows that family comes first.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. The saying, “the rotten apple ruins the barrel” is a very true statement. I work very hard to maintain a positive vibe in the office and ensure others do as well. We work hard and I want my staff to WANT to come to the office every day.
  4. Every person has different strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never met any two people that are exactly alike. Understanding an individual’s strengths and weakness helps you position them for success.
  5. Be a mentor. Everyone wants to have a mentor but being someone’s mentor is equally important. I had the privilege of mentoring my mentor’s daughter. She came to me fresh out of college with a background in education and started as my assistant. I trained and mentored her for several years, growing her to Director of New Business. She later joined me at Bluewater as VP of Client Development. It fills me with a sense of pride and accomplishment in that she doesn’t necessarily do everything the same way I do, but her willingness to learn and apply my methods and processes to find her own success is gratifying. I believe we all have a professional obligation to take all our knowledge and experience and share it with everyone who is willing to listen, learn, and grow.

If you had a close woman friend who came to you with a choice of entering a field that is male-dominated or female-dominated, what would you advise her? Would you advise a woman friend to start a career in a field or industry that’s traditionally been mostly men? Can you explain what you mean?

Simply put, I’d advise her to reach for her dreams. If you work hard, nothing is out of your reach.

Have you seen things change for women working in male-dominated industries, over the past ten years? How do you anticipate that it might improve in the future? Can you please explain what you mean?

Our mothers were really the first generation of women to join the work force (although my mother didn’t work until I was 18 years old). They were our motivation to go to college and get full time jobs instead of being expected to stay home.

The women of the GenX generation have changed this landscape significantly. While many of us had to deal with sexism and even sexual harassment, we have worked hard to change the working world for women in generations to come. In 2022, we are close to a 50/50 male/female work force here in the U.S. Hopefully my daughter will never have to be asked this question.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I think I my answer to this question might be a surprise. I’m a rocker chick! I would love to have breakfast with Robert Plant, formerly the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Music means a lot to me. Songs are memories. I associate different songs with different things. I’m also the lead singer in a rock ‘n roll cover band, so I’m able to continue to enjoy that passion while being a leader in the DTC marketing industry.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.