Five White Men Talk About Social Media

Fri, Mar 21, 2021

Events, Social Media

Although I came of age at the height of the so-called Flower Power and Women’s Lib movements, the extent of my feminist activism was trying to join a men’s intramural snooker team as a freshman at Baylor University. Actually, that wasn’t even my idea; the guys I hung out with in the Student Union wanted to draft me because I frequently beat them. But I was denied permission to join a men’s team, and the administration refused to make snooker a coed event. So my days as a young, idealistic rebel — including momentary thoughts of a possible future as a professional billiards player — were short-lived.

All these years later I’m feeling some righteous indignation again. Maybe I’ve just been hanging out with Queen of Spain on Twitter for too long. (I’ve even been reading her blog occasionally, but don’t tell her.) Although Erin’s a couple of decades younger than I am and way more liberal, we agree that women are still treated differently, and that it gets old being invisible.

Every few months the blogosphere revisits the topic of gender differences at conferences. Jeremiah Owyang recently asked the recurring question: where are the women speakers in social media, picking up on a post by Lena West, X Chromosome Web 2.0 Rock Stars. Where the discussion really gets going is deep into the comments, with people cross-posting on both blogs.

This is my favorite quote from Lena:

People keep talking about how women are such ‘naturals’ at what makes social media so effective, so why aren’t the female leaders more visible? …

When I ask the question: Who are the male ‘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.

This afternoon I got an email from fellow Dot-Connector Brenda Thompson with the subject line: “Five White Men Talk About Social Media.” That got my attention and I opened the email right away.

“This just REALLY annoys me,” Brenda wrote. “The Chamber of Commerce is doing a thing on social media. … [she names the panel lineup] … It’s nothing against any of them, but did anyone think for a minute that they should have a woman on the panel?

“Having just renewed my chamber membership for a hefty $439, I will be passing along my thoughts to them, as well.”

It irked me too. It’s not like the organizers would have had to look very far to find some outstanding women to speak, and I’m not just referring to myself. In less than 30 seconds, Brenda and I came up with a list of five or six local women who would have made great panelists.

See, lists are easy to make. But women on lists are still invisible if conference organizers aren’t looking for the list.

We could debate endlessly about why women still lack visibility and what it feels like to be invisible (I’ve got some stories, so don’t get me started).

Instead, I’ll leave you with one anecdote that underscores the problem. This comes from BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort, pointing to Mary Hodder’s recent review of a New York Times article about girls who code online content:

So when they interview people like Doc Searls, Loic Le Meur or David Weinberger, all of whom are very smart about tech, those articles are in the Tech section or Business, but when they talk to girls, who for the record, are far more technical in this article than these three tech experts, girls are put in Fashion. I’ve never seen coverage with Doc or David or Loic in Fashion.

Maybe I need to take up snooker again. This time around I won’t take “no” for an answer. And I want my championship reported in the Sports section, not Fashion, even if I’m wearing my pink boa.

Update: I have indeed been officially invited to join the panel (which, I repeat, was not my purpose in writing this post) and am preparing a bio blurb for future publicity for the event. To avoid scaring the suits, I’m going with a corporate headshot, not my boa avatar.

This post was written by:

Connie Reece - who has written 135 posts on Every Dot Connects.

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47 Comments For This Post

  1. Brenda Thompson Says:

    The people putting together the panel were in a hurry. It wasn’t a conspiracy. They have daughters! They are not pigs! No one was really “in charge.” I believe all of that is true. But it remains unacceptable that not one of the people involved looked at their lineup and realized what was wrong with it. SXSW Interactive heard this complaint loud and clear, and this year had a large number of women panelists and speakers. Several were from Austin. There are a number of women here, including Connie, who LIVE in the world of social media, who should be the first on any list of experts to talk about the subject to small business owners. (For the record, I’m not talking about myself here, but I can recommend at least five other women experts in social media for your next panel.)

  2. Silona Says:

    esp considering Erica will be doing a gotsocialmedia in Austin…

    And actually Hugh Forrest at SXSW every single year makes a huge effort to be sure SXSW has Diversity. Every year he and I get together for lunch and talk about interesting female speakers he might be able to find and target for the next SXSW.

    Though my “hot babes of open source” panel wasn’t chosen for SXSW2008. So I count as an unbiased source right ;-)

  3. Jeremiah Owyang Says:

    Don’t forget Charlene Li, through my first hand experience is one of THE smartest people on Social Media.

  4. Aruni Gunasegaram Says:

    It is true. I’m still not sure why because there are many great women in social media. But as I’ve often heard before, people promote the familiar. If there are men doing the selecting, they will look to people like them first. This is why it’s so important as women (and men) we support the women in the field and recommend their names often.

    This thinking will only dramatically change when there are more women in decision making roles, on boards, on selection committees, etc.

    When someone asks me about social media here in Austin, I always bring up your name Connie! :-)

  5. thom singer Says:

    Connie has since been asked to be part of this panel…. as an oversight was made. When such an oversight is made, the best course of action is to apologize and make corrections. While I am not in charge (and therefore speaking out without the real right to speak out), the committee who put it together (which I am part of and which includes women members) did not intend any harm. I was part of the process and know first hand what went down. There was no malice. We are now taking the steps to remedy the situation.

    Within 5 minutes of being made aware of the oversight by Brenda people were in touch with each other trying to build a solution.

    I was impressed by the willingness of everyone to see the issue and find a fix. This is what we all want from organizations that we participate in. No group of volunteers and staff will ever be mistake - free. It is how the group steps up and works to be more inclusive, admit a mistake, and do better going forward that makes them shine.

    If we can learn from such things, then we all get better. The Chamber is an AMAZING organization that does great things for our community…. and the purpose of this panel was to bring knowledge of the social media community to the physical local small business community…. no cause any division.

    I see this as a lesson for the power of social media in getting things corrected fast. 10 years ago the information could not have traveled fast enough to do anything about it.

    I hope that people will attend this event and enjoy the program, as exposing more small business owners to the good and the power of the social media community is important….and was the goal of the organizers.

    ******I also know first hand that Connie will make more than an impression on the audience…NOT as a woman, but as someone who has knowledge about the topic and a wiz-bang personality.

  6. Brenda Thompson Says:

    Thom, I appreciate your and the committee members willingness to see the issue and correct it right away. It’s good that there are still six weeks to promote this event, with a more diverse panel. As you know I’m a longtime member and serve on the communications council of the Chamber. I have a vested interest in the Chamber representing me and my business. I will attend the event, which I know will be better and richer with the inclusion of Connie Reece, one of the nation’s top connectors in social media-lucky us having her here in Austin and being so generous with her time and talent.

  7. Connie Reece Says:

    @Silona - your name immediately popped into my head as a local woman who knows social media.

    @Jeremiah - thanks for reading and commenting. But the fact that you mentioned Charlene Li as if you’re adding her name to the pot misses the point. It’s not about list-building anymore. And this is for a LOCAL Chamber of Commerce panel, not a major conference.

    @Aruni - thanks, as always. You’re fast becoming one of the most knowledgeable women in Austin about social media because you’re doing it, every single day, as a business owner.

    @Thom - please believe me, I know there was absolutely no malice involved. That thought never entered my head. But I take issue with your statement that “an oversight” was made. That’s my whole point, the fact that women are easily overlooked because in many ways we are still invisible, even when we are working hard to rise to the top in our chosen field — and even when we are right under your nose, so to speak.

    I appreciate the way you responded so quickly and personally. I haven’t known you long but certainly know you well enough to imagine that you were no doubt mortified to think you might have unintentionally offended me. To be a stickler, though, I have not been invited to be on the panel. You subsequently asked me if I would be the moderator, which is a heck of a lot different than being a panel presenter.

    I’m not even lobbying to get a spot on the panel. That’s not my purpose in calling public attention to this. I’m simply frustrated that FOUR DECADES after I refused to create a stink over something that was a lot more petty than this, not all that much has changed. That makes me profoundly sad.

  8. QueenofSpain, Erin Kotecki Vest Says:

    I have no idea how I manage to do these things but I also recently inspired a post on how this is about tech, not feminism over @shegeeks. Go figure? But I think the point is somewhere in the middle-they don’t think of us first, but some of us (also) are not putting ourselves at the forefront. In this situation Connie it really seems like they weren’t even thinking of women, period.

    When I’ve been asked to recommend people for things I need to make sure I include men. I have to make an effort to do it because men are not in my ‘inner community’ and don’t usually spring to mind. But see-I make an effort-and that seems be the difference.

    Anyway, keep up the spunk and I totally won’t tell the conservatives ;)

    @QueenofSpain — Erin, in this case they were not thinking that clearly about the topic or audience, IMO. After all, there are a lot of women who are Chamber members, and with the audience being small business owners — HELLO! Increase in women entrepreneurs has been huge. I have to say that the task force and Chamber leadership were VERY quick to make changes and thanked us for pointing out the lack of diversity.

    And thanks for not ratting me out to the conservatives. :-)

    - Connie

  9. tony c Says:

    I can think of 5+ women names instantly (from Twitter):


    All have had a profound impact I believe and engage us regularly.

  10. Brenda Thompson Says:

    Thom, why don’t YOU be the moderator and have Connie on the panel?

  11. Sarah Vela Says:

    Hear, hear, Connie. And I’m glad to see you’ve since been added to the lineup.

    I still refer to myself as a feminist, I refuse to let that word die. Sexism, like racism, like homophobia, is still so very very pernicious in all of our circles, all over the globe, including the “enlightened” world of social media. great post.

    Sarah, thanks for the comment. It was good to meet you, ever so briefly, at the Las Manitas tweet-up during SxSW. — Connie

  12. Erica Ortiz Says:

    Its not just the social media circle, its everywhere. We all like to believe that gender discrimination is in the past, but today, its just done in a less disclosed, more PC way.

    Truth is, it is still very prevalent and I think a lot of it is in their subconscious pschye. Their natural thought process on authority, knowledge expertise, and “best of” ability lands on men, and women are often left the afterthought.

    My personal experience being a female in the male-dominated sport of drag racing has taught me just how prevalent gender bias is. 30 years after Shirley Muldowney fought to get her NHRA Competition License, we still have very few women able to compete in the top classes. When they do, a firestorm of controversy errupts about their ability to handle the car, whether they deserved the ride over a male competitor, and who they must’ve slept with to get it. They are more scrutinized, more criticized, and given far more roadblocks than any male rookie driver. And why? The car doesn’t know what gender its driver is. Why must I go through so much more just to prove I am just as capable as any male off the street?

    I’ve been talking to many of the women currently competing, and it seems our experiences are all the same. Such a misconception that women have it easy in motorsports and get the easy ticket.

    The Good Ole Boys of the motorsport world may be a bit more vocal about their bias, but its still prevalent everywhere.

    Erica, I hear you loud and clear on this one. And sad to see things have not changed that much since 1975, when I got such flack from a man who didn’t like the appraisal value I put on his collector car, a gull-wing Mercedes-never mind that HE had called our company because we were specialists in the market. He insisted on speaking to a man, so I put him on the phone with my dad (family business), who said, “Connie’s the expert on pricing, you’ll need to ask her about it.” It’s a shame you have to do it, but just keep on proving yourself. Love this statement: “The car doesn’t know what gender its driver is.” -Connie

  13. Jennifer Navarrete Says:

    I find it interesting that when I think of folks who are living/doing/creating Social Media here in Texas, I think about the “Ladies of Social Media”. Names like Connie Reece, Erica O’Grady, Sheila Scarborough are a few that come to mind. There are so many more.

    As an organizer of several Social Media events here in San Antonio, I can tell you that I always look for a diverse group to present on various topics. Considering the wide and varied makeup of the Social Media audience it only seems natural that the folks speaking should be a representative one.

    Social Media is not vanilla. It’s all the colors under the sun, in all shapes and sizes. Breaking down walls, forging new ground and having your voice heard through the din of the same old same old is what makes Social Media so great.

  14. chantelle Says:

    As the female tech blogger for Walrus magazine, my focus is necessarily gendered. I have received comments warning me to stop talking about gender because it doesn’t matter. Especially when I wrote my opinion of the Sarah Lacey SXSW matter.

  15. Anna Farmery Says:

    Connie - I totally understand your point of view. I live and breath social media and like you grew up as a business person not a “woman in business”. I must admit it is one reason why I am looking forward to NY because there is a mix of people - often when I go to events I do find it hard to “break” into the inner male circle conversations. You are either tagged as pushy or on the pull! If only :)
    In the old days business was done on the golf course…interesting as I was a scratch golfer who played for my country and yet could never take part in the business golf days as women were not allowed :) Far from becoming cynical I just decided to get my head down and work harder, which fortunately got noticed. In a similar way now I find it hard to break into the male speaking world….for instance when people list women in podcasting it was the “sexiest women in podcasting” and clearly at 42 I struggle on that front, maybe I need a feather boa! Speaking events come often as referrals and I notice a lot of my “gigs” come from female referrals or knowing the organisers…at the moment there is a greater male ratio which leads to more male referrals. For now I take the same viewpoint as with my golf days…work hard, deliver fantastic speaking engagements, produce better and better podcasts and hopefully one day people will see me as someone who has a lot of ideas to share on social media…People like you help as role models for others, keep speaking, keep pushing and one day conferences will be more representative…after all I now compete in golf days:)

    Anna, I loved the anecdote about golf days. Most of my speaking gigs come via referrals as well-not that I don’t put myself out there, but that’s the way things tend to work.

    I am SO looking forward to getting to meet you in NYC at Blogger Social — just two more weeks! — Connie

  16. Victoria Marinelli Says:

    I think your take is spot-on, and they not only should have reached out further (not like it would have required that much of an effort), but that they’d be crazy to not have you involved, specifically.

    Silly white guys.

  17. francine hardaway Says:

    I grew up in a man’s business world. I PUSHED myslf to the front. Men push themselves all the time — by cold calling, by joining golf clubs, by doing many things to call attention to themselves. If you look at Robert, Loic, Jeremiah, etc. they are OUT THERE always. Women generally don’t do that. Two years ago I tried an experiment: how far could I push myself into young men’s world of social media.From no where. (well, Arizona) As a woman of a certain age. Everything going against me. But guess what? Done. You girls have to be a little more pushy. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s top of mind awareness. Getting yourself on the panel is the first step.

    Francine, I love the way you call us “you girls” — I certainly look up to you as an Elder Stateswoman of the Internet, even though you’re not that much older than me. Thanks for the reminder to be more pushy. -Connie

  18. Ann Handley Says:

    Great post Connie and good for you for saying what you do, and saying it so well. I have felt a lot of your frustration myself, and witnessed it, and all I can say is… the best thing to do about is just what you are doing: Talk about it. Thanks.

  19. Dayngr Says:

    Social Media is about community so it isn’t too surprising that at times it mimics the community around us. Look at all the major corporations and their ratios of male to female power players. However, having just had SxSW in their backyard you’d think they would be more in touch with who is in-the-know. I do hope that all the local women in social media will be attending and contributing to show how many of us there truly are.

    It’s bad when the Good Ole Boys exclude us, but it’s worse when our fellow females do the same or worse. I am reminded of the time a woman made some extremely snarky comments regarding the ladies that were on one of Guy Kawasaki’s social media contact lists. I was one of the two females he followed at the time and the comment made suggested that we had to sleep with someone to be on that list. Apparently the thought never occurred that we might have something useful to contribute to the conversation or community.

    I believe that the more we put ourselves out there and contribute, as equals, to the conversation the more people will take notice. It is also extremely important to stand together and speak out when we do come across these types of situations where a more diverse panel of experts is needed.

    Good point, Dayngr, about getting criticism from other women to the tune of, “Who’d you have to sleep with to get that?” Never appropriate, but unfortunately, it still exists. -Connie

  20. Joe Cascio Says:

    I don’t know the people involved here, but knowing the general technical sophistication of MY local Chamber of Commerce, it sounds plausible to me that the people organizing it didn’t have a clue what Social Media *is* in the first place, and so didn’t realize how significantly women figure in the Social Media equation. Then of course, you can see the subsequent reasoning. Oh, it’s about “computers” and the “Internet”, so it must be a guy thing.

    Pure speculation on my part. But anyone who’s really involved in Social Media has to be blind not to see how many women are involved and how they’re pushing the envelope on different fronts.

    Joe, I really appreciate your comment — especially as the first male commenter not to resort to a list of “oh, hey, here are some more women speakers.” :-) -Connie

  21. B.L. Ochman Says:

    I just sat through the remarkably enervating AdAge Digital Conference in New York and the same “oversight” happened there. There also were no people of color of either sex. Just a bunch of old media guys in suits sitting around talking about re-purposing old media content for the web.

    This is way more than an oversight. This is a point of view that is deeply entrenched in business and, sigh, after all this time, hasn’t changed much at all.

    So we womenfolk will have to keep building revolutionary campaigns in social media for our Fortune 500 clients out here in the wilderness. :>)

  22. Cathryn Hrudicka Says:

    Connie, bravo for bringing your inner activist out in the open to write about this oversight. I agree with what many of our colleagues have said here, as I’ve been dealing with this issue for many years in the area of pro audio, as well as other technology-related areas. The double whammy of being a woman and being older than 35 or 40 really can make one invisible to the male establishment, and in the case of pro audio, this can mean younger men as well as OMGs.

    It is discouraging not to see much change in the “invisibility” realm after decades of activism, whether you are “liberal” or “conservative”—diversity and equal rights cut across political lines. As Francine mentioned, we do have to step forward and promote ourselves as leaders, even when we are criticized for standing out, but there’s the bigger issue of increasing awareness and changing the underlying social views. I am encouraged to see more young women entering tech fields, especially social media, and forming professional organizations. We still need to see many more girls and young women who believe they can have successful careers in engineering, programming, pro audio, and other tech fields usually dominated by men. Girls are still often not raised to have the same level of self-confidence as boys, which inhibits many women from stepping forward and having the courage to stand out—that is still a vital issue we need to address.

    Cathryn, you made me smile with your reference to my “inner activist.” You are so right that this cuts across political lines. And your point also resonates with Kara’s comment, about the teacher questioning if her daughter really wanted to be the only girl in a class on robotics. Makes me want to scream! There’s the underlying problem, in a nutshell. -Connie

  23. Kara Soluri Says:

    I agree with Francine’s comment about women needing to put themselves out there more, and think Cathryn’s comment about self-confidence from a young age speaks to why they don’t. In the 4th grade, my daughter signed up for a Robotics extracurricular in a renowned Austin school district. The night before it started, I got a call from the teacher. “I just wanted to let your daughter know that she is the only girl who signed up and there are 19 boys. Will that bother her?” It didn’t bother her, and she joined the class, but I had to wonder what it was keeping the other girls away. In 4th grade - FOURTH GRADE - the preoccupation w/looks and boys starts, and there is such a cultural push at girls from a young age to be appearance-obsessed. The audience for the proliferation of shallow teenage shows w/heavily made up 13-year-olds is girls, grades KINDERGARTEN-5. Campaign for Real Beauty has powerful video on You Tube speaking to the damage done by marketing directed at girls. It’s called Onslaught. If you haven’t seen it and have a daughter, watch it at

    If I had dedicated the same amount of time to furthering my career as I have to obsessing over 20 pounds, I can’t imagine what I might have accomplished by now. Most females I know have succumbed to some degree, but nearly all are in the closet about their body image obsessions. I’m over it and outing myself, as I have an 11 year old daughter I need to protect. We are damaging our girls, and new media marketers, men and women, have the power to change things. Let’s be more responsible with what we produce as a culture.

    Kara, the Campaign for Real Beauty is so timely — how I wish that had been around when I was your daughter’s age. Thanks for sharing your insight. I look for this to appear on your blog soon in a more developed post. :) -Connie

  24. Tony Katz Says:


    Is the issue that women were left out completely, or is the issue that specific women who have more knowledge on the subject were left out? Are we talking about the idea of women’s rights, or the idea of creating the best panel possible?

    Also, the men being “white men”. If the panel had been picked with white men and black men, would that have been ok? But what of Latino and Asian men?

    I do not disagree that the panel selection was skewed, or that there is a natural tendency to think of “men and technology” together (or, more to the point, white men and technology) - a thought that is, in many cases, antiquated. But deeper lies the question of what is the panel, and who is best to present/discuss the issues? Where does the expertise or the experience lay? Sex and race should never outweigh brains and ability.

    Tony Katz

    P.S. - I wear a suit, and I think the boa is hot! Wear it proud!

    Tony, it’s the first. You know that I hate the idea of quotas and would never want to be chosen for something ahead of a more qualified man. One of the important issues in this case is that it is a Chamber of Commerce event — and the Chamber’s purpose is to represent the best our city has to offer, in whatever industry. Austin happens to be a high-tech city with a very diverse population, and a commitment to that diversity. And the focus of the forum was not actually technology but marketing — how to use new tools and technologies to market your small business. So the ideal panelist is someone with a marketing and small business background who is adept at using the new tools and technologies. I’ll match my credentials in those areas against anybody in this town — male or female, black, white, brown, or purple. And as the executive director of the Social Media Club, I’m not exactly invisible — or should not have been — to the people organizing the panel. -Connie

  25. Stephanie Agresta Says:

    Hello Connie. First things first - love the boa!

    Let me first say that although I’ve been around for under 4 decades, I’ve long been involved in women’s rights issues and increasing exposure for women in business. This issue you raise has been one I’ve been working on in the tech industry for over 10 years. We used to call it “women in new media” though. Technology changes, people don’t (to quote Ms. Deb Schultz).

    I speak frequently on panels covering issues of social media, affiliate marketing, monetization strategies and online strategy. I make an extra effort to include women on those panels. For example, at the recent Affiliate Summit in Vegas, the social media panel I put together included me, Deborah Schultz and iJustine (covering 15 year age range, btw).

    IMHO, the answer involves a combination of raising awareness for event organizers, press, etc, and also encouraging women to take a more aggressive role in self-promotion.

    That is something neither you or I have any issues with. :)

    Have a great day!

  26. RichardatDELL Says:

    I like that you have been reading Queen of Spain, and you are entitled to get riled up. Now that you are in. Blow them all away with your brilliance and expertise, not to mention sheer leadership. I know you will :-)

  27. Kim Haynes Says:

    Great post and thoughtful comments. Now when I think about it so much of this does seem true, the first people I think of are mainly male, but there are definitely female influencers that come to mind in Social Media. Actually here at Bulldog the women and men equally encourage our Social Media engagements which is encouraging and probably partly why I don’t see such a great divide. Of course I would see a great divide had I seen the original invitation to the Chamber event.

    I too have to believe that women in a very large generalization don’t “put themselves out there” as much or somehow in the same fashion that men self-promote and we as women have to stop that blasé effort and get out there more. Self promote when we are a part of something wonderful or creating something impactful.

  28. Goldie Katsu Says:

    Tech interviews in Fashion. Now that is weird. But for the women on or not on the panel it is an interesting point. I don’t think it is an intentional oversight, however it is reflective of a general mindset. When we have to make an effort to be diverse or it is just an oversight there is a visibility issue going on. The question is how do we change it?

    Speaking up and acting to include more women on these panels is certainly part of this. But I suspect there is more that needs to be done and can be done. I’d love to know what other steps can be done, as right now I’m sort of drawing a blank. Although taking up snooker again sounds like a good first step. :)

  29. Kay Bell Says:

    Connie et al,
    Thanks for taking the time to post such thoughtful comments about the role of women and how it still is perceived in our society. I also reached young adulthood at time of social activism: the 1970s, when the Women’s Movement was in full force. I was a proud charter subscriber to Ms. Magazine and remember thinking lo those many years ago, “Oh, yeah! It won’t be long now.”

    But …

    Today I see so many women, young and older, who either take for granted the small steps forward that women have made in the last 30-35 or seem to not care.

    As a finance writer, I see this same disturbing trend with women and money. We make it (though not enough relative to our male peers), we invest it (again not on par with men) and we spend it, but too often we don’t take complete control when it comes to knowing all we could or should about it.

    Thank all y’all who have bothered to comment here for still caring about truly including the more than half our population in the full spectrum of life. The powers that be, usually the men in charge, need to be made aware, but we women need to push them, too.

    So sign me up for the next revolution — social, technological, fiscal and otherwise!

  30. Karen Swim Says:

    Thanks to Ann Handley for tweeting this blog post. It really is time for this inequality to end. I am happy that this particular situation was quickly rectified. There are so many talented women and a diversity of opinions (and gender) truly serves us all well. We will have differing perspectives and opinions and hearing them all serves to provide a richer experience. Thank you Connie for making our voices heard! There’s another smart woman, Dayna Steele who is making sure that the next generation of women will definitely not be invisible. Check out her


  31. Aliza Sherman Says:

    This feels all too familiar to me and it saddens me that it is still an issue over 13 years after I started my first Internet company, Cybergrrl, Inc. and the first women’s Internet organization, Webgrrls International.

    I remember either being the only female at the new media table or one of the tiniest handful. But it wasn’t for lack of women being on the scene and running innovative businesses in the space. It was simply the planners were in a hurry and reached out to the only people they rubbed elbows with - other men.

    When I was one of 5 women in a list of 50 people recognized by Newsweek magazine in 1995 for our Internet work, I was pissed off. I asked the editors why they didn’t list more women. They said “we couldn’t find any.” All they had to do was ask. We women keep very close tabs on one another and most of us would do anything to promote another woman, often even before we promote ourselves, because we know that if one of us is out there and visible, it is a huge win for the rest of us.

    I’ve been rejected by several major blogging, social media and Web conferences as a speaker in recent years (yes, I’m now in the position of having to ask/beg to speak at them). Maybe it is because this industry is often “but what have you done LATELY” and lately I moved to Alaska and had a baby.

    The first Internet industry conference to finally give me a chance to re-enter the speaking circuit was BlogHer last year, and I’ll be forever grateful.

    There are all sorts of “underground” initiatives to help event planners book more women speakers. Let’s help pull those efforts out of the dark corners and into the spotlight so the rest of the techie/new media/social media/blogging/virtual worlds, etc. events take notice and can’t make excuses any more.

  32. KDPaine Says:

    this isn’t just a social media problem. Look at the entire PR/Marketing profession and it dominated by women, but look at the podiums at all the conference and they’re all dominated by men. I want some smart group of women students to statistically prove this, and then we should really hit the media with it.

    Good point, Katie. Even when women outnumber men in a professions, they are still not as visible. I think I’ll forward your comment to RD French at Auburn and see if some of his students would be interested in the project. -Connie

  33. Jen McClure Says:

    The Society for New Communications Research would have been happy to connect them with a wide selection of our Fellows, including:

    Elizabeth Albrycht
    Dr. Nora Barnes
    Elisa Camahort
    Susan Getgood
    Sally Falkow
    Meghan Hindman
    Emily Metzgar
    Katie Paine

    Oh yeah, and for anyone who’s interested in how good they are, they can come and hear them speak at NewComm Forum next month! They will all be there, in addition to about 20 other women experts in social media. (See:

    It’s not that difficult to find excellent women to address these topics, you just have to want to do it. Just ask Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone and Jory des Jardin.

    Jen McClure
    Executive Director
    Society for New Communications Research

  34. Annie Boccio Says:

    The tech industry is still the heart of social media, and it’s still dominated by men. They have sheer quantity in their favor, and old habits die hard. Still, I have to agree with those who have suggested that women be proactive, don’t wait to be asked. The men who are in the forefront have put themselves there, no one went looking for them. More women need to do the same.

    Of course, I’ve had my share of conversations with condescending guys who think they need to explain things to me- but they’re becoming a rare breed. Progress is being made, we just have to keep pushing.

  35. Todd Jordan Says:

    Down with lists, up with variety. I agree the problem isn’t just no women, it’s no one outside a little circle of shoulder rubbing celebs. The folks like the Chamber of Commerce aren’t the culprits so much as they are overwhelmed by the common place, and uninformed of the variety available.

    There are plenty of great folks that could talk about social media, both male and female, of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Yet most of those ‘other’ folks won’t see the light of day unless someone sets down and makes an effort.

    What’s the real solution? Getting into the ‘in’ crowd? Creating a bigger crowd? Creating a network of people that acknowledges the value of individuals whether they be famous or not.

    I could talk up a small storm on social networking and media but I’m not making a living in it. That doesn’t mean I have no value but perhaps a different view point.

    What could we do? Stop waiting for the Scobles and such to plan things. Stop waiting for the ‘names’ to do a *camp, or *haus, or whatever, just start doing things, open things, loud things. I believe that’s the key.

    “The folks like the Chamber of Commerce aren’t the culprits so much as they are overwhelmed by the common place, and uninformed of the variety available.” Well said, Todd. This was not an exercise of blaming the Chamber of Commerce as much as highlighting that the problem of visibility for women still exists. -Connie

  36. Patti-with-an-i Says:

    Connie…..I am so sorry that whoever set this up, passed you up. You would have been perfect.

    I am just starting to get real opinionated on all this stuff. Maybe, it is because I am getting older and don’t care any more.

    But, whatever it is, this is just wrong. That panel could easily have been 3men/2women or 3/2men.

    Bottom line = we just have to work harder to get our names out. Unfortunately/fortunately, I am getting known as a “Pushy Broad”……oh well…LOL

  37. vicequeenmaria Says:

    I remember teaching a freshman-level women’s literature course at UM once that had more male than female students. I don’t know how these guys ended up in my class; it was Caribbean Women’s Writing, for pete’s sake! Anyway, it was a tough audience, but in some ways, the best one possible to open itself up to a new world.

    My point is that I’m glad you wrote this post, even though it wasn’t your intention to get on the panel. In so doing, a voice was heard. Everything happens for a reason and now you can go open *them* up to a whole new world too.

    In my book, the strongest people in social media (regardless of gender) would be those who aren’t just dedicated to an online presence, but those who physically (and intellectually) brave these awkward, new environments.

    So Connie, go out there and lasso ‘em with your boa! :-)

  38. Sean Moffitt Says:

    Connie. Congrats on breaking into the men’s club. Having chaired a number of seminars and conferences, I’m sensitized to making sure:
    a) the best, most relevant people are there
    b) people are easy to deal with
    c) there is a proper female/male ratio

    It would appear that Thom Singer made an honest oversight…he seems genuine in his comment - doesn’t change the issue but would hate to think an error in judgment will stick badly to a person that seems to want to get it right.

    My hope is #a and #b never have to interrupt achieving #c and it certainly isn’t a shortfall of qualified social media experts with a female chromosome. Jackie Huba was a great keynote for us last year too.

    One sad reality from a client and agency side, at the most senior levels, there is a male/female balance that is out of whack which perpetuates itself at these conferences regrettably.

    Good luck with it!

    Thanks for the comment, Sean. Nice to connect with you on Twitter as well.

    I should point out that Thom Singer was not even in charge of organizing this panel. He just stepped in and helped rectify the situation when we pointed out the lack of diversity. And you mention Jackie Huba — another imminently qualified woman who is right here in Austin. She should have been one of the first picks for the panel. She wrote the book, literally, on citizen marketers — a topic very appropriate to the panel in question. -Connie

  39. Linda Sherman Says:

    I do think you made an important point when you reiterated that this selection was for a LOCAL Chamber of Commerce panel. As such it is their obligation to appropriately represent the local business community.
    I look forward to seeing you at Social Blogger in NYC April 4 - 6.
    Your TwitterBud @lindasherman

    Linda, that was indeed the thrust of the article. It’s about a LOCAL panel, not a big social media conference. Yes, I look forward to meeting you in NYC! -Connie

  40. Kami Huyse Says:

    Connie; I just stumbled into this string quite late as I have been preoccupied with my upcoming move to Houston. If I didn’t know better I would have thought I was on a parent-focused blog. That community really knows how to comment.

    Luckily Brenda Thompson tipped me off as this is a issue after my own heart. I have no idea why it is that highly qualified and dynamic professionals (like yourself and all of us) are overlooked by those in our very own circles.

    Also, something that hasn’t been mentioned is that women do this too. We tend to also pick the men, link to men, etc. As Thom mentioned, the committee also consisted of women who didn’t think to ask if there were other women they should be recruiting to the panel.

    It is a pervasive cultural issue that no one likes to admit exists. Oh, and remind me NOT to challenge you at either pool or Scrabble.

    Kami, I’m glad you stumbled over here. This issue keeps cropping up and I’ve mostly stayed out of the “where are the women speakers” discussions because it’s a touchy issue. In fact, I lost a couple of subscribers when I posted this. But this one hit close to home so I spoke out.

    And don’t worry about pool or snooker — haven’t played in so long I might not remember how to hold the cue stick. But Scrabble? I’m still a contender there. :) -Connie

  41. Michelle/chelpixie Says:

    Connie: Late with the comment but I think the best approach is looking for ANYONE that is qualified and to look beyond the people you KNOW but for the people that are best qualified. It seems many times, people are chosen because they are best known.

    I’m glad that both you and Brenda spoke up, but am really disappointed that you’d have to.

  42. Adele McAlear Says:

    Most recently gender issues were driven home to me during Guy Kawasaki’s True Stories from Social Media Sites panel at SXSW. Why? Because Guy intentionally assembled a panel that was (almost) all female. Until that moment, it never occurred to me that having so many women on a panel would be strange. But looking at the dais, I was surprised at how alien it felt.

    I’ve come to expect mostly male panels, with some female representation, sub-consciously excusing “equal” from the mix as a fact of life in an industry with a larger proportion of men. However, having women dominate a panel at an event that was 1) not specifically about women’s issues or 2) targeted to women, was a bit of a revelation. I don’t want to see women consistently outnumber men on panels (because that is just as imbalanced), rather, I would like to get to the point where seeing a panel that is dominated by men would feel equally as alien.

    The industry as a whole needs to shift expectations and, for me, the change is about breaking bad habits. I believe panel gender is just not a conscious thought for most, but a question gravitating toward the familiar. How will that change? Make some noise and self-promote. And, with the conviction that these decisions are made without malice, I’ll do my best to educate, not alienate, as I go along.


    I think it’s usually the case that the decisions are made without malice; rather, as you said, it’s a matter of breaking bad habits. I had mixed feelings about Guy’s selection of panelists. On the one hand, it’s good to see so many women speaking. But if they were chosen only because they were women, or in order to present a panel of mostly women, then I take exception with that. I’ve heard rumors (truemors? LOL) that Guy wants to be the first man invited to speak at BlogHer and can’t help wondering if this was a “stunt” somehow associated with that. Would love to hear from Guy first-hand because I do not want to misjudge his motives and I don’t know him personally.

  43. Jackie Huba Says:

    Kudos for getting some buzz around this issue of women in social media (although I’ll extend that to all business) being represented in events and conferences. Glad to see that Hugh from SXSWi is focused on this. And hopefully more people will because of your post.

    Maybe we should do a women-only panel on social media for the Social Media Club. And maybe at the last minute we’ll invite a man to be on the panel : )

  44. Connie Reece Says:

    @Jackie - You were on that short list that we came up with so quickly. I’d love to do an all-women panel for SMC and invite a token male. You’re devious. LOL

  45. Stephanie Sullivan Says:

    Just a quick note since I’ve only had time to skim through the comments. Great points! One thing I wanted to add is that I think “by nature” most women wait to be recognized for their amazing achievements, where many men have learned to promote themselves — even brag and exaggerate. (Think of the locker room!)

    All that said, women absolutely _can_ learn to promote themselves, even when it doesn’t come naturally. And yes, since women tend to be better in the relationship/connection sector, that can be utilized to advance them as well. :)

    Stephanie, I agree with your assessment; it’s not in our nature to self-promote as women (as a generalization). And sometimes we walk a fine line between being assertive or self-promoting and being considered pushy, rude, shrill, etc. -Connie

  46. Michelle Greer Says:

    Many of the men in social media are prominent because people are either paying to make them more prominent or they are using that prominence to sell books or push their companies. They aren’t just celebrities-they are spokespeople. Big difference.

    They also tend to bring their credibility from their current and former employers. Guy Kawasaki was an Apple Fellow and now promotes Garage Ventures, Alltop, and Truemors. Scoble was the “naked blogger” from Microsoft and now sells books. Jeremiah Owyang works for Forresters, who ultimately sells marketing reports and services. Whurley is Mr. Open Source from BMC (had to plug the ATX ;)). They are all nice guys, but I doubt we would see as much of them online if they and their companies did not benefit financially from their profiles.

    It’s hard to update your blog, buy all the equipment, edit videos and podcasts etc etc, if ultimately you are having a hard time paying your bills in doing so. I’d love to see more women champion good causes in social media, but first and foremost, I’d like to see more women own, run, and evangelize for companies so we have a reason to get involved in the first place.

  47. Sad that so many folks still see things FIRST through gender and race filters Says:

    As one of the “white men” on the panel, I was saddened reading these comments to find out that so many folks leap to the conclusion that the Chamber has a blind spot when it comes to picking females for things. From what I can see, the Chamber does an excellent job of having many events that are headlined by females.

    This panel isn’t even primarily about “Social Media” per se. It’s about the broader panoply of online marketing tools, which includes Social Media as a subset. And they’ve put together quite a lineup, if I do say so myself: the CEO of the largest Search Engine Marketing firm in the Southwest, the CEO of an integrated online marketing firm that is also a large Eloqua reseller, the CEO of a large and growing online/event/guerilla marketing company, and the head of the digital practice and the Texas office of one of the most successful PR firms in the social media space.

    So there didn’t happen to be a female this go-round … that can happen. The odds aren’t crazy any time you get a random sample set of four folks that they could all be men.

    This panel is geared toward helping BUSINESSES grow their revenues. With all due respect to the names mentioned as alternative panelists, 90% of the people mentioned would have a hard time
    pointing to PROVABLE, measurable revenues they have cost-effectively driven for their clients.

    This panel is NOT about how to twitter your way to prominence amongst of group of folks that in another world might be wearing wookie suits, speaking Klingon, hanging out at Mary Kay parties, camping at Ren Fairs, or playing Myst / Starcraft / Everquest. (environments in which far too many of the social media “professionals” might also be comfortable)

    I’m very much looking forward to the discussion. Bring it on …


    Bringing it on, Bill … Only two names were mentioned on my part about possible panelists. (The other commenters who listed names did not pick up on the fact that it was a local event, not a national conference.) So I don’t know where you get your disparaging remarks that 90% of the women suggested would have a hard time proving any measurable success on behalf of their clients. FYI, one of the names I proposed was Jackie Huba. From her bio on the Church of the Customer blog: “As a speaker and business advisor, Jackie has worked with Microsoft, Ulta, Discovery Education, Yahoo and Verio as well as thousands of small and medium businesses at association conferences. Previously, Jackie led B2B marketing efforts for 12 years at IBM in its software division.” I would imagine there are some measurable results tucked in there somewhere.

    About the charge of Twittering your way to prominence … nah, that snarky comment doesn’t deserve an answer.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got cookies in the oven and I have to plan my next Mary Kay party. :-)


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