Gender, gender, gender… A call to realign the balance in digital speaking

jill neyOver the past week I have had four emails all discussing the gender balance in social and digital. Most of these emails specifically addressed the lack of  gender balance in women representing the social and digital industries at large conferences and events.

Since the start of the year I have been celebrating women in digital. We know women are there working in digital so why are they not on that stage?

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg believes: ‘Women are held back by many things: bias, lack of opportunity, lack of flexibility. We also hold ourselves back. We don’t sit at the table; we don’t raise our hands; we don’t raise our voice. I believe our world would be a better place if half our companies and half our countries were run by women’.

This week at Digital 2013 in Glasgow the outcry at the lack of women on the stage was evident on Twitter:
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When a women appeared on stage, Mike commented:

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Clearly there is an issue. Are there not enough women working in digital who could contribute value, meaning and insight to the discussions at Digital 2013 or any other digital event? And in any case, do people expect to find us there?

Hell, I have a PhD in social consumer behaviour, one of the biggest growth areas in social and digital understanding. I wasn’t there. Not that this automatically entitles me to be, but in terms of opening up scope and credibility and representing women in digital it might have been nice.

Last night I received a LinkedIn mail from a man looking to do a PhD in social media and was asking for my advice. When this happens I generally ask the person why they want to do a PhD, it’s not always necessary. His response was that he wanted to be known globally and this was the only way it was going to happen.

I have to say, I was a little shocked. I have drive, you all know I do, but why don’t I have that drive? It’s cited all over the place that I’m Scotland’s first doctor of social media. I should be taking this guys drive and hammering it home for the women! I’ve got a USP, a credible voice in an industry that largely needs a credible voice. At the very least I should be the voice for women in digital in Scotland. It has me thinking… Is this a personal challenge now! What do you think, is it possible to be the voice of women in digital?

My email from Social Media Week London states that they are aiming to have a 50/50 split in speakers for the September 2013 week. Let’s see if that happens. And what about Digital 2014, do you think there will be more women on the panels?

I have to say that this is probably not for everyone. We don’t just want anyone standing up there. I recently put out a call for guest speakers for my masters class at Strathclyde University on social media. There were three slots, user generated content, strategy development, and multi-channel attribution. The number of enquiries and offers I received was staggering and there were a lot of women in there too.

The thing that got me is that nearly everyone said they were proficient at speaking on all three sessions but then looking at their websites and expertise it was clear that this was not the case. It goes back to this credibility thing again. You need to speak about your strengths, don’t just go in for any speaking opportunity. There seemed to be no strategy in the decision to speak and knowing ones limits in terms of knowledge. This is not good!

So while women may be under-represented in speaking on digital and social perhaps the best way to overcome this is to strategically think about our strengths and knowledge in the area. Don’t apply for anything but work on building credibility in your area.

I don’t know many digital ‘all rounders’, get your niche and work with it. This strategy may just make the difference in being represented.

Jill Ney is the3rdimagazine’s social media editor.

1 Comment on Gender, gender, gender… A call to realign the balance in digital speaking

  1. Morna Simpson @girlgeeks drew my attention to this which rather makes your point for you. Morna had the rather delightful idea that all the women were elsewhere doing important deals whilst the boys hung around for the photoshoot. All the best, Richard @poetryzoo where the gender balance is 50/50

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