All The Ladies, Louder Now! #wit11

Ada Lovelace by Andrew Becraft

So, I was supposed to be churning out lengthy documents for Social Media Week London this morning, hence finding procrastinative distractions in the shape of Twitter, when I spotted this from @wendytanwhite:

RT @evarley: Has everyone been nominating great people for @fastcompany's Most Influential Women in Tech 2011? #wit11

Wendy's made me ponder the number of women working in technology and a problem we've had in the past, finding high-profile women to speak at events and it's not just us, judging by this comment from Wired's Chris Anderson,

There are "not enough high-profile women in the tech industry who are recognizable to sell a cover," he wrote.

I'd thought the situation for women working in digital businesses might be better than other industries, partially because it's newer and (big philosophiocal leap, here) theoretically less affected by older prejudices.

However, my already shaky confidence was completely undermined whilst on the Digital Mission to New York, when reflecting on the previous six trips we've origanised I realised that, based on the main representative per company, the ratio was not-quite one female-fronted Digital Mission company on each trip. Bear in mind over half of Chinwag's team is female and acutely aware of this.

So, my nominations for Women in Tech 2011 #wit11, a roll-call from the Digital Mission series of events:

Now that's an entrepreneurial, dynamic and formidable group of women. It's noticeable that only two come form tech start-ups and the rest come from the agencies.

I also noticed watching #TheEuropas from the office on Friday, the number of women involved in supporting the start-up sector: Eileen Burbidge, Sherry Coutou, Avid Lazirdeh and Elizabeth Varley to drop a few names.

Hopefully their presence and awareness will make the start-up world more accessible for women in the future. On our part that means making sure our events aren't dominated by male-only speakers, fortunately Mel Norman who is working with me on Social Media Week is on the case (BTW, wanna get involved?).

I'm interested to know. Is the situation getting better? And who would you nominate as for Women in Tech 2011...and why?

Photo (cc) Andrew Becraft.


A couple more to add to the list

There's definitely no glory or recognition in being part of the tech world that actually does the stuff rather than talks about the stuff. I don't think that's a gender thing. It's a traditional divide. The doers need the talkers to keep talking so our industry gets attention and investment, and the talkers need the doers to keep doing so they have something to talk about!

It might be seen as an "outdated" feminist perspective, but I think some women are still held back by their own perception that it's not ok to be a "self-promoter" - be that in Tech or any other industry. The men who get the glory just don't have that inner dialogue that asks "do I sound like a show-off?" when they start talking about their successes. But there are plenty of men these days who keep their heads down too. I just think there are more women that do because we often still don't quite believe that we deserve to be at the front of the room talking about ourselves. Notable and glorious exceptions and nominations from me include: Maddie Woods, Sienne Veit, Caroline O'Donoghue, Trisha Brandon and the amazing Michelle Goodall.

I'd also definitely nominate Kristina Halvorson. Her book "Content Strategy for the Web" has single-handedly catapulted the formerly invisible work of content strategists and production people into the spotlight on the tech stage. For me personally that's almost more siginificant than whether women are getting the recognition they deserve. (Almost!) Content professionals have been largely unlistened to in the tech world, in my experience, and to have someone standing up and being so vocal about why that can't continue has been just brilliant for me and my content devising colleagues in 2010.

(PS Thanks Michelle - that's quite a list to be included on! :-) You're too modest to include yourself but I think anyone who has worked with you would do so.)

Isn't it a little chicken & egg?

Nicely raised Sam. I only have a couple of thoughts to add to this:

1) This idea that there are no high-profile women to feature in press/include in events is a bit chicken and egg. For people to build a profile SOMEONE has to start profiling them, no? (Not including you guys in this)

2) To echo Joanne's comments, I really like Astia's approach to the whole issue of supporting women in tech. Their focus is on "women led" businesses - meaning supporting & promoting women in senior management positions of start-ups and tech companies, not just having an entrepreneurs/founders/CEO criteria.

It's not about demonising men and ignoring meritocracy but simply noticing now that women contribute an important role to senior management teams, as do men, and it would be great for events and media to reflect the balance which already exists in many successful businesses.

PS Love your observation about women in agencies. The marketing world is dominated by women, but if conferences were to be believed none of them do digital marketing!

It's not sexy.... create industry awards that recognise people in any field who just 'get on with it' and do consistently do a bloody good job. This is the issue, it's not a gender or a female competency/confidence one.

For the record, I also agree with Joanne and Mel.

Sam, you asked for nominations for Women in Technology. I'd have a category in addition to the usual ones that drive media coverage/social media speculation and sell tables at awards events. It would recognise women who consistently do a good job in technology.

My nomination list would be too long to post but Mel, Joanne, Katy Howell, Tamsin Bishton, Bian Salins, Anna Rafferty, Suw Charman-Anderson, Thayer Prime and Alex Butler would be on it.


People who 'Get On With It'

@Michelle - definitely agree with you about recognising the people who JFDI. Trouble is, that's always a downside of award ceremonies, those that are turning the cogs and producing things don't always have time to fill-in forms, promote their nominations, etc.

Good list of people, too. I definitely agree about the meritocracy, but I also think it's important to recognise (extending this out a bit further) groups that are making significant contributions, but don't get the 'air' of publicity in quite the same way.

This is an old nut, but I'm

This is an old nut, but I'm also frustrated that awards and recognition for women tend to go to CEOs and reps from large agencies and firms rather than on the industrious efforts of women in technology who may not count the work they do for the sector as their primary job. Sue Black, for instance, is undoubtedly an inspirational woman in tech, whose work to save Bletchley Park has been done entirely from her own initiative. Helen Milner, while high profile, doesn't ever seem to get enough recognition for the work she does at UK Online Centres for adoption of emergent technologies among older people. Then there are countless women in tech who don't run businesses or speak at conferences, but who create tech and promote & train people in use of tech, and have a far more substantive effect on technology adoption than the CEOs and corporate speakers out there.

If we're going to talk about influential women in tech, I think it's time to stop nominating CEOs and celebrities. While their talent is clear, they are just good business people and/or good communicators. But their jobs and their profile already reward them for their work. There are a lot more influential people out there at the coal face, actually influencing adoption and adaptation of technologies for business and personal outcomes. And I think it's they that deserve recognition.

It's about the best not the gender!

Great post Sam and it's something that whilst organising FOWA, we constantly battled. Ultimately, the more females that are speaking, the more this raises awareness and encourages other females to speak.

However, the one thing that I would add (and this is probably controversial) is that I believe that speakers should be picked on their ability to speak and expertise rather than their gender or ethnic origin for example. Unfortunately the number of female speakers does tend to represent the skew in the industry which thankfully is changing. However, I would much rather listen to a guy with lots of experience than a woman just because she's female and in the industry. I think we're getting to a good position now, where there are more great women with awesome experience and so hopefully this will change.

I actually believe that the skew in the ongoing gender-gate means that women have a better opportunity, given that there's fewer of us... so when you do a great job, it's easier for that to be recognised. But they're just my thoughts ;)