When I first saw this title I thought it meant talk about those in engineering/ science and my mind baulked. The nearest I get to that with my background is social sciences and it is still quite a leap from there. At this point I could get into the lament about the lack of women in technology and draw conclusions about the education system but that seems a rather tired argument and as I do not have the energy for that I will leave that to others.
It was clear that technology has a much wider meaning in today’s world and includes all the recent developments that have spun off the internet such as twitter and the mobile web – which for those of you who are wondering refers to accessing twitter, the internet etc from smartphones like an iphone. I for one have become addicted to twitter and other social networking platforms so much so that email seems like very old technology now.
After talking to a number of people and doing some internet research an idea started to form and that was to talk about something I am passionate about – social media – because it is part of the current technology revolution and there is an interesting twist in terms of how it impacts on women. This is probably due to the fact that in 2008 and 2009 the 46% mobile web growth has been through women: the increase in women users is 43% as opposed to 26% of men.
If you are wondering why that is then just think about what it is as that helps to explain the growth. In the good old days, people made connections by chatting over the garden fence with their neighbours. Now there are more accessible ways of doing this via the mobile web which provides instant access to hundreds if not thousands of people. It is all about chatting and putting yourself out there as explained in Penny Power’s great book: Know me, like me, follow me – a must read if you have not already. On the whole women enjoy this form of connection more than men and so that is why I believe they have been attracted to it.
Another reason and one that certainly applies to me is that it could be their only way to connect with the wider world. When I had children, I found that I had very little time for myself especially for offline working which is how I got into twitter and facebook as a way to reach out and stop myself going stir crazy with two under two.
In the last six months big companies and charities have also seen the power of women as promoters of their brands or message. An example of one such organisation is Save the Children (SCF). They wanted people to understand about the work they were doing with children in Bangladesh so they approached three of the top mummy bloggers and tweeters in the UK and asked them if they were interested in going out to Bangladesh to see what SCF was doing and essence spearhead SCF’s marketing campaign through their online networks. They agreed and within next to no time the Mummy blogger community was behind them, christening it the Blogadesh campaign and using the hash tag effectively. They raised awareness about SCF by blogging about the trip and SCF’s campaign to get a petition in front of Nick Clegg with 100,000 signatures before he went to the UN in September. It was a hugely successful viral marketing campaign – the SCF facebook page now has over 13,000 signatories.
This year was also saw the start of the cybermummy conference in the UK which I am sure in part was inspired by the work started by BlogHer in the States. The three women behind cybermummy got together initially to provide a platform for British Mummy Bloggers (BMB) in the form of an online network. BMB started out as a Ning Community and has grown to over 2000 bloggers. Another first in 2010 has been the introduction of the MADs – the Mummy and Daddy blogger awards which were hosted in September at Butlins in Bognor Regis.
Many outside the community have observed this trend and tried to ride the wave with varying degrees of success. The most famous reference to it was the politicians’ desperate attempt to win the cyber mummy vote. I will never forget the conversation with Gordon Brown on Mumsnet that ended up discussing what his favourite biscuit was! Companies have been more successful at courting Mummy bloggers in particular to preview their products and then write a sponsored post – enticements have included being able to keep the product if it’s a whizzy gadget through to trips abroad. Some companies have requested that bloggers do not mention they are writing a sponsored post when they write about their particular product. There has certainly been a lot of debate in the blogosphere over the ethics of all this and each blogger has had to find their own way through on it depending on what they are comfortable with doing.
For the moment anyway the mobile web is a land of opportunity for women. The number of people peddling teleseminars and other tools that will help make your blog more attractive; or bring you sales worth thousands through Linkedin, Twitter and/ or Facebook has also grown. In my view selling oneself as a social media expert has a short shelf life as it won’t be long before the older generations will either have got it or found another way to do business; for the youngsters it is on a par with drinking Mum’s milk, they grow up with it. As an example my daughter was talking about sending a text at age three!
Whether you are a Mum or not, the thing to remember is that this technology is fun and a way to build up relationships quickly. As you get to know people, they like and respect you and want to follow you. If you are not attached to the outcome of these activities and see it all as an adventure then you will have great success and I do not mean of the monetary variety necessarily. I got my first break on TV through twitter and met the co-collaborators for my book through it.
I am so passionate about the opportunity that the tools of social media can offer that from time to time I share with women what I have learnt for a small fee so they can enjoy the buzz too. The next opportunity to engage is coming up fast and that is the first TED Women’s Conference: Women Unlimited has been granted a license to stream the videos at an event in London on 8 December.
Will I see you there?