What I'm Reading...
Women Superstars

X Chromosome Web 2.0 Rock Stars

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia Technology

There is a thread here that has interested me - and I'm not going to let it die. I want to piggyback on the post about Sheri McConnell.Rockstar

I read this post last week and didn't really think more of it at the time.  But, as the week went on, I started to think more and more about it. Then I was thinking about it an awful lot. It was just under my skin in a way that things I get passionate about have a tendency to do.

Really, where are all the female web 2.0 rock stars?

I'm so tired of seeing the faces of Paul Gillin, Guy Kawasaki, Jeremiah Owyang, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a HUGE fan of these guys. I try to attend every event where Jeremiah Owyang is speaking - he's THAT insightful. And, I download anything (within reason) Guy posts to his blog. I tell people to read Paul's book al the time. Very smart guys, no doubt, but I'm just a little tired of the same old same old. And, while the W List was great, I'd rather a speaking opp at AlwaysOn/Forrester/Gartner/Fortune Small Business conferences.

Thinking that I might be a little 'over the top' (as I tend to get about issues that hit home), I asked a very, very well-known marketing/business change guru the question that made me doubt for the first time that this man had cajones. Normally he's a bold guy with fresh ideas and super dope responses.

But, when I asked him:

"Where are all the female web 2.0/social media rock stars? Not the company starters. I mean the ones that the media should/could be quoting?"

His response was to dodge the issue by replying that:

  1. gender isn't an issue (Hah! Since when dude?)
  2. good content is what matters (as if there's no good content from women??)
  3. and then he pulled a dummy move by telling me "the web needs me" and offering up Kathy Sierra as a good example of a successful woman in the web 2.0 world (excellent example, but ONE woman???)

Nice try buckaroo. I like flattery and all like that there, but I'm not buying that crumbling bridge you're sellin'.

I immediately replied that I would LOVE to have the liberty of thinking that gender (or race) doesn't matter in this world, but that is a leisure afforded only to white males - of which he is one.

Up until this time, we had had a back and forth communication - after I sent my last reply, the email lines went icy cold.

I find it amazing that the men who are in power in web 2.0 TALK a good game about inclusion, but are basically unwilling to show up to effect change - even in the least little bit. They ask women not to focus on gender, to just let things evolve...I wonder where Black, Latino or Jewish people would be if things were just allowed to evolve?

I find it ironic that everyone wants to talk about inclusion in this damn industry and NO ONE wants to talk about race or gender - I should say, not the men. Their cajones shrink to the size of tic tacs the minute the subject of women's advancement, industry power and recognition comes into view.

Dreck, I thought this guy was smarter, more with-it and more in-tune than that. Maybe, maybe not. It's not going to stop me from reading his material and emailing him every now and again. He's still smart as hell...I just look at him differently now.

Perhaps he is thinking about it, but he's just not willing to go there with me...(yet - or ever).

Perhaps he's thinking about an appropriate response.

Perhaps he's figuring out a plan of action.

Perhaps he's asking all the other male 'action figures' what they think.


And, maybe I'm making a hole in my career by even posting this, but I don't give crap. Like I told you before, authenticity is the best form of marketing there is.

P.S. Never one to present a problem without a solution. I think I have a solution, but I'm not going to share it quite yet. Let me work on it for a good bit and get back to you with my results. Stay tuned...


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Lena West


Thanks for stopping by the blog to comment...

I attended BlogWorld Expo last year and I will say without a doubt, I was really impressed with the diversity and variety of speakers.

Let's hope the word spreads about the diversity at BWE and next year, we'll get more people to attend and soak up the knowledge that permeated the conference.

Rock on, Rick!


Rick Calvert

Great post Lena. Forgive me for taking the opportunity to tout our record; that is BlogWorld's record on involving women and minority speakers at our inaugural event.

I must give Dave Taylor who served as our Education Director full credit for bringing this to my attention early on. Early on in planning the event he told me we needed to make a concerted effort to involve female speakers. As soon as he said it I knew he was right.

Like you I have seen the same old boys club of speakers over and over again. Many of them are great, but hearing the same talk, or the same message from the same folks every couple of months gets old.

With that said, here is a list of great women who spoke at the first BlogWorld & New Media Expo last November:

Stephanie Agresta
Paula Berg
Toby Bloomberg
Sue Bohle
Butterfly Wife
Jennifer Cisney
Anna Creech
Jory Des Jardins
Maggie Koran Fox
Vanessa Fox –
Amy Gahran
Mary Katherine Ham
Lynne d Johnson
Rachelle Jones
Marjorie Kase
Kathie Legg
Carla Lois
Charlotte-Anne Lucas
Mary Jo Manzanares
Taylor Marsh
Jeralyn Merritt
Dawn Olsen
Wendy Piersal
Daniel Phung
Robyn Tippins
Denise Wakeman
Debbie Weil
Leora Zellman

Charline Li was originally on the schedule and but had to bow out due to a conflict and was replaced by her colleague Jeremiah Owyang.

Leesa Barnes had a last minute conflict and was replaced by Jason Van Orden

Arianna Huffington was scheduled to give our second keynote but had a conflict.

You can add to that list at least a dozen other women that we approached to speak but were unable to attend for one reason or another.

It turns out about 30% of our speakers were women. We didn't have a particular number in mind just that we needed to make a concerted effort to include great female speakers.

That went hand in hand with our overall mission to include the greatest diversity of bloggers possible.Which ties in to your original point not just a diversity in gender or race but of opinion and point of view.

I will my comment here but you have inspired me to post more on the topic on the BlogWorld blog as well.

Account Deleted

Wow, it feels like we've been pushing this rock up this hill forever. I can't really add too much to all these wonderful comments other than to say I think we need to vote with our feet, and just stay home from conferences without diversity.

And tell the organizers why.

Lena West


Your point is well-taken - and we all (in the comments) called for diversity across the board.

While this post is focused on gender, I'm glad it's bring up new twists on the same topics as well.

Thanks for reading and writing,



Let's go with gender here for a minute. Even when gender is taken into account and there is a "search" for quality women speakers, the SAME people are still being called upon. Again. And again. I completely believe just as there is a Boys Club, there most definitely is a Girl's Club that keeps it elite. If you are the flavor of the month, you will be asked over and over until your usefulness is finished. Then, we see the new batch that speaks at all of the same events. A cycle of repetition in speakers and topics. Sadly, some of these events are ones that people go to for new voices.

There are times I think it is just as hard to elbow your way into the Girl's Club as a woman as it is elbowing into the Boy's Club.

You asked "how do we make it easier for women to apply for available speaking gigs?" I think the question that truly needs to be answered is how do we make these conference organizers LISTEN when they are approached.

Jake McKee


All good responses, thanks for taking the time. There are a number of "that's not quite what I was getting at", but you've clarified nearly everything in a way that I can say "Yeah, what she said".

A few things I'll clarify/expand on though.

First is what you said here:

"You'll have much better luck enjoying my posts if you just go with the flow instead of taking everything I write so very literally. I think that might be 'men stuff' :)"

Fair enough, but surely you can see the mixed message you're sending when you first say "men" aren't interested in participating in the discussion then go on to say that men are part of the solution and they need to pay attention to that. Words mean something, and perhaps to your audience your words are completely understood, but as someone who isn't able to read pages of context in order to understand the current entry, what you say is what I understand.

OK, into the real discussion...You said:

"If you don't know what it's like to be a woman of color, it's best to *not* go there. To tell a female person of color that an 'establishment' doesn't exist and then to cite BarCamp or BlogHer as an example of why there isn't one, is a slap in the face."

I'm a big proponent of not accepting white males saying there's no *general societal* establishment. Totally agree with what you're driving to here.

My point, however, was that *within this industry* there is opportunity that is basically limitless. You're not held back from making change happen like you might be in other industries. My point about BlogHer is that a group of brilliant women decided they wanted to change something and they did. Did they have more trouble finding a venue, convincing speakers to come, or getting promotion? I don't know, that's a good question. I'm willing to say that, despite my assumptions, perhaps being a woman made this more difficult than if I were to do it. I'd be curious to know. I'd like to see more of this kind of change happen, and my point about BarCamp-style events is that we can all do it. We can all get started. If anyone of us, man or woman, stand around waiting to get invited to TechCrunch40 that's likely never to happen. So screw TC40. Let's find something else to do that's even better. Let's do what you're doing and increase our profiles in other ways. That was my point, not to say that *you* haven't do anything.

(Which by the way, the last part of my comment about doing something wasn't directed specifically at you - it's a general statement from someone interested in addressing the issue speaking generally)

OK, next:

"I'm sure many women *intend* to kick out speaker inquiries left and right, but it never gets done."

So part of what makes conversations like this frustrating to me, the white male, is that every time I bring up much of anything, the first reaction is dismissal ("You're just a white male, so you don't get it"). This attitude then taints the entire conversation, so I find myself feeling like it's pointless to continue engaging. This isn't a "poor me" thing, I'm just clarifying. But I do think it's important to understand the question "Why don't more men participate in trying to solve this problem?" I show up and join in the conversation and you all but say that I've stepped into a community that I don't understand and never will. That makes it tough to stay engaged. I may be just a white male, but I have a 14 mo old daughter that I'm trying hard to raise without the baggage of gender roles, stereotypes, and "female specific" gender roles... at least as much as I can. I'm the proud dad that dresses her in the shirt that says "Future President" (with the word Princess crossed out and president written over it). I want things to better for her and I engage in these conversations to learn how I might be able to do that. I might not "get it", but I work my ass off to try. But working my ass off to try isn't just about listening and accepting, especially not when even female opinions are so varied. It's about debating, discussing, and probing to better understand and develop my own opinions. (So thanks for the great conversation! :))

Now that aside, when I read statements like the one above, I find myself wondering why this is a female issue. I intend (or at least have until this year) to crank out inquiries too. I intend to make it to local networking events too, except that I find myself making the same choices that you seem to be implying are unique to women - should I go out and build the career or go home and see the family. Trust me, I understand this, even as a white male too - if I go to an after hours event, I'm giving up seeing my 14 month old daughter for the day, consider how early she goes to bed. I have a great many male friends who have faced the same issue and time and again choose the family. (And yes, I'm more than willing to agree that women have MORE weight about this issue, but it's not exclusive)

Oh, and as far as Forrester keynoting... Charlene Li keynote the one I attended. And she did amazingly well.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Off to get the baby girl u

Lena West

@ Jake - part 1:

Jake, anyone who knows me knows that I don't wait for *anyone* to do *anything*. Read a couple of my previous posts, if you haven't already, and you'll get a feel for my personality. If you couldn't tell that from the tone of my post, I don't know what to tell ya, guy.

I don't have enough cache yet to be a keynote at a Forrester event. When I said "I'd rather" I meant "I'd rather see a woman keynote at Forrester..." That is NOT to say that I don't want a Forrester keynote, but I'm also not smoking crack either.

You'll have much better luck enjoying my posts if you just go with the flow instead of taking everything I write so very literally. I think that might be 'men stuff' :)

That said...

I have someone who pitches me as a speaker quite frequently and as I said, if you read my prior posts, you'll know that I just ended a 4-city speaking tour of the West-ocast back in November and I was just awarded the Entrepreneurial Champion for Women Award at a conference in Miami. I don't play. I was born for this.

When I said, "So, the question is...how do we make it easier for women to apply for available speaking gigs?" I didn't say I wanted the application process to be different. This is a blog about women for women and while men are welcome, you need to understand the context of the conversation here. When I asked that question, I asked it of a community of women - with whom I have developed a relationship over the past year or so that I've been a guest contributor to this blog - to see how we could better help each other. Capice?

As for women putting speaking at the top of their priority list...

But, to answer your question, no it's not all industry sexism, but it IS sexism coupled with societal roles. Many women who are at the age where they have the experience level to speak to a crowd usually have started families (not ALL women, some women) and in addition to the day-to-day grind at work, they have the majority of the responsibility of caring for their children. I don't care *what* anyone says, women do most of the work on the homefront still.

And, when it comes down to the choice - which it SO often does - of typing up that session abstract or going home to your family, the choice is clear.

This happens day in and day out. I'm sure many women *intend* to kick out speaker inquiries left and right, but it never gets done.

I don't have children, but I still have someone else vet speaking gigs for me (although I pitch myself most times), because I like to watch Project Runway and Judge Judy. So, I get my promotional needs met another way - but they *do* get met. I'm booked for speaking until October already.

As I mentioned already, it is *incumbent* upon conference coordinators to get fresh, *talented* faces on the mount. How they do it, I don't care. It's their job. Elisa Camahort from BlogHer, puts on kick ass events every year and she agrees with me (see her comment above).

I just LOVE it when white males talk to me about "the establishment". Let me say this: this country was founded on racism and sexism and this country's current laws and practices uphold these gaping holes in our society.

I never 'play the race card', but until you can turn yourself into a non-White female, please *do no8* presume to tell me *anything* about whether there is an 'establishment' or not.

A BarCamp is great. BlogHer is even better. But, we're not talking about that. We're talking about deep-rooted stuff here. Could I have started BarCamp? Sure. Even if I were a multi-zillionaire is it likely that I'll get an invitation to become a member of The Harmonie Club? Nope.

If you don't know what it's like to be a woman of color, it's best to *not* go there. To tell a female person of color that an 'establishment' doesn't exist and then to cite BarCamp or BlogHer as an example of why there isn't one, is a slap in the face.

I agree, let's change it. That's the *whole* point of my post and my proposed solution (see my comments interwoven here).

And, part of it starts with men - particularly white males - being willing to step up and do their part to ensure diversity.

Conference coordinators are next...

Thanks for reading, writing and partcipating.


Lena West


Thanks for jumping in - cajones and all.

Yes, I meant some not all. I don't really edit myself when I blog so please don't split my hairs. :)

Thanks for providing this perspective. I can see how this would totally be true. You are told that gender doesn't matter - instead of "gender DOES matter, but you should treat everyone the same" or some such statement.

I can see that. So maybe it's time to change the ol' messaging at home ladies.

Great point, Jake.


Jake McKee

OK, last point before my foggy brain goes to bed...

I'd also like to point out a reality that rarely gets discussed in the context of these discussions. You ask why "men" (again, assuming "some men" not "all men") tend to recoil at discussions of gender. There's an easy answer to at least part of this issue: many males my age (33) have been raised in the post-feminist era by mothers who came of age in a time where there was great social change related to feminism. I've been taught, consciously and unconsciously my entire life that gender is a none issue, that making distinctions between what men and women is simply bad form and/or flat out inappropriate.

You ask why men tend to back away from issues of gender equality, and honestly I think it's partially because we're confused about what the enlightened response actually is... either to ignore that there are differences and try to work on that premise, or to face them and risk scorn because we're making that distinction.

Not making excuses or get defensive, just trying to share a point of view.

Jake McKee

By the way, considering the focus of this post, I find it interesting that you say that "men" don't want to talk about race and/or gender. I'm going to assume there was an implied "some" not the default "all"...

I'm participating in this discussion, I'm male, and my cajones are still operating at normal size...

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