The Biggest Idea in Social Media
When I consider the various definitions of Web 2.0—the umbrella term that covers social media, blogs, forums, and other user-centric and interactive components—I am struck by the similarities of its qualities to those of women in management. Reciprocity, sharing, open communication, and a flattening of hierarchies are often cited as qualities of both Web 2.0 and of women's management style. Perhaps that is why so many women have embraced social media both personally and professionally.
This makes it all the more ironic that so few women are found at the highest levels in Web 2.0 companies.
Early this year, Exceptional Women in Publishing (EWIP) held a one-day leadership conference in San Francisco. Kara Swisher of All Things Digital spoke forcefully of the total absence of women on the boards of ALL the major Web 2.0 companies.
We're talking, she clarified, about Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, and Foursquare. There is not a woman to be found on any of their boards. This is despite the large percentage of women customers these companies have—in some cases well over half the company's audience.
Facebook's high-profile COO, Sheryl Sandberg, does attend board meetings—but not as a director. She speaks at conferences on "Why We Have So Few Women Leaders," but she lacks a seat at her own table. Perhaps these companies try to even it out; Swisher's message to them is this: try harder.
Since one of EWIP's goals is to help women in publishing become board-ready, and to advocate for women on corporate boards, and since so many of the women in publishing are involved in social media today, this seemed like a mandate directly from Swisher to EWIP. EWIP is all about women's leadership; publishing is increasingly about digital; do something!
Thus Women in Digital Media (WiDM), a sub-committee of Exceptional Women in Publishing, was born. Appropriately, it was launched as a digital group; more ironically, it was launched in the very milieu where women's voices are under-represented at the top: as groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
It seemed to strike a chord. Within minutes the group on LinkedIn had dozens of members; and it continues to grow today despite what might be viewed as the inhospitable nature of its hosting site.
In September WiDM will make its first foray into the physical world, with its Big Ideas in Social Media luncheon. Co-hosted by Fast Company, the luncheon will be held on Thursday September 15th at the Mansueto offices in Manhattan. The discussion will kick off with big ideas from Colleen DeCourcy, CEO of Socialistic, and Robin Lloyd, Contributing Online Editor at Scientific American. The event is being promoted—where else?—as an event on LinkedIn and Facebook.
I expect to hear lots of big ideas at the event; maybe even some ideas about how to correct the disparity at the top levels of our field. That, after all, might be the biggest idea of all.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.