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.

Perhaps...

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...

Comments

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Nicole Simon

@Karin I am not really that modest, it is more that I enjoy other things better - I do consider myself to be a decent workshop hostt and work in more one on one environment, but real speaker material (also as in keynote speaker) is something else. ;)

Karin

Okay, you do not want lists, I got it. But forget it, men will not refrain from speaking in order to push women.

Are women refraining from getting typical women's job, so that men can get a go (nurse, education, hair dressers, etc. etc.)? They will let men overtake if the position in case has "male" characteristics attached to it (image, standing, reputation, public appearance, being heard, having a voice in public, etc.).

I am generalizing. Of course there are situations, where we try, but a men is pushed by others (men and women). But a lot of this public invisibility is indeed voluntary. Even if based on our education.

Karin

I recommend Nicole Simon from Germany, who commented above and is far too modest to suggest herself ;-)

Lena West

@Sprezzatura:

I agree whole-heartedly, which is why if you look at the comment trail, you will see both my comment on Jeremiah's blog AND on this blog says "NO" to the lists everyone is creating and I jump directly to asking the male social media action figures to make recommendations. I don't want more lists (passive), I want the men to start refusing to speak at biased conferences...if not that, then start making heavy-handed recommendations to conference organizers (active). I want action. Me and passive don't mix well.

I agree that what I'm doing could be considered career suicide - especially since I'm working hard at being a social media power player myself, but I believe what is for me, is for me. I affirm that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.

Thanks for your comment.

-Lena

Sprezzatura

A cross-posted comment from jeremiah's blog:

The really unfortunate part is that when women do speak up and say something about sexism in the tech world, they can do themselves some real career damage (which is why I’m not using my real name here).

It’s there, and it’s rampant, and it’s incredibly frustrating — all the moreso becasue so many of the perpetrators genuinely do not think that they’re sexist. If you asked them, they’d say that of course women do great work, and that they believe in equal opportunity, etc etc — but when push comes to shove they fall back on their boy’s club comfort zone.

The solution is for more men to push themselves out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of potential payoff for men to do so, which is why change is so slow to come.

Lena West

@Nicole:

So, the question is...how do we make it easier for women to apply for available speaking gigs? Or, maybe even more basic than that, how do we get women to put speaking at the top of their priority/marketing efforts list? Or maybe, how do we get 'the establishment' to recognize/find people who won't exactly promote themselves?

Does anyone else think this would be useful -- or have I missed the mark entirely?

-Lena

Nicole Simon

I can't talk about race or anything, as Names usualy do not speak of that, but looking at the last conferences I have been involved on the organizing sides, there is an absolute trend about women speaking.

The trend about not submitting proposals, of not submitting material to choose from online to get an idea about that persons presenting style etc etc.

Most women also don't work the usual channels of self promotion like men do - don't get me wrong, I am the first to find that bad - but they often don't even do it in the good way.

IIRC there where about 10% submissions from females for the web 2.0 expo in Berlin - and some of them where only a female name because they where submitting for a guy.

If you are setting up a conference and want to fill the content, do you really have to *search* and hunt those females to get them to speak?

Even further, those speakers need to sell tickets too with their name - which in many cases is not happening because as you said, they are not the rockstars ...


Melanie Notkin

Another vote for Deb Schultz. She's brilliant.
http://www.deborahschultz.com/deblog/

Lena West

@Yvonne & Mary:

I understand what you mean about Kathy. I don't knock her decision to bow out. I've never been in her position and I wouldn't dream of trying to put myself in that position. I have been stalked and it's scary as hell. I have never received repeated death threats so, I wouldn't know. I hope Kathy does come back - this year she's speaking via video for SXSW interactive - and I applaud her.

I also think KD Paine does more in a day than most people - yet she doesn't have the mainstream visibility of a Paul Gillin or the kid who started Facebook. WHY??? There's no reason for that - other than the boy's club.

I just can't understand people who want to live in a world where gender and race don't matter. It absolutely amazes me. We live, today...right now, in a society that was built on sexism and racism. Built. The current system still upholds these cancers - but I guess only a few people can see it.

As I've said, I don't have the liberty of waking up and being a white male, so I don't know what "race/gender doesn't matter" feels like.

Of course, this is not a crutch that one should lean on - I can't STAND when people 'play the race card', but sexism and racism need to be discussed in the larger context of social media. And, if I have anyhting to say about it, it will.
I will NOT go gentle into that good night.

-Lena

Lena West

Thanks to all who commented. Seriously.

The point of this blog post is NOT to create another list of 'women in social media'.

Why is it that when someone comments about the dearth of female social media power players, that people start creating lists?

Yes, these women exist. They all do good work, no doubt. But, are they keynoting conferences of any magnitude? Are they even profiled and held out as experts nearly as much as the males.

It's not the fact of their existence that I'm questioning - it's their visibility. And, sad to say most of these women are invisible when it comes to most people in social media.

Ask someone who Jeremiah Owyang is and you'll get a totally different answer than if you ask them who Jennifer Jones is or Heather Champ.

When I ask the question: Who are the mal 'action figures' in social media? You can almost see them in your mind's eye.

But, I ask, who are the female power players in social media...we start creating lists.

It's almost like someone who has been accused of being a racist or bigot to then start naming all their friends who are people of color.

-Lena

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