26 Sep 2011

Observation .....Where are the women?

When I was a child I changed what I wanted to be when I grew up on a weekly basis. I was often told that it wouldn’t be possible. I couldn’t be a ballerina because I was too tall, I couldn’t be a singer because I was tone deaf, I couldn’t be an astronaut because I got travel sick just going to my Granny's on the bus. There were lots of things I couldn’t do because I was rubbish at them but no-one, absolutely no-one ever told me that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl.

I worked for an airline for eleven years in a predominantly female environment where no-one cared about my gender. Seniority was based on rank and experience. It wasn't until I left that environment at the age of 31 that I noticed some people treated me differently because I was female. It’s rare, but it does happen.

Last year I had a phone call from a guy who was organising an event and looking for speakers. The conversation was going well until he said “we don’t have a woman so I thought of you.” Really?! “You don’t want me for my brains, my sparkling conversation or my wit; you’re only inviting me so there is a token woman on the panel?”....I could say I politely declined but to be honest, I was far from polite. Was this a one off? No, in the last year it's happened twice.

I put it down to the individuals being idiots rather than a reflection of the bigger picture as the majority of men I meet don’t live in the 1950’s. However can you remember the last time you read a feature in an industry magazine entitled “Men in Digital” or “Men in Advertising”? No, I can’t think of a time either so why do it for women?

When following large events and conferences on Twitter I frequently see other women question “Where are the female panellists?”. The answer appears to be that they are often not there or greatly outnumbered by men. Why is that? Are women backwards at coming forward? Is ratio a factor depending on industry? Are women not invited to speak at higher profile events or do we decline the offer due to a lack of confidence? I’m genuinely interested to find out.

I consider myself to be what I call an “Equalist". I believe people should be judged on their ability, not their gender, race, religion or what school they went to, and the vast majority of people I meet share the same values. We all joke about “typical man” or “typical woman” which is pretty harmless (let’s face it, if there was such a thing as “typical” the divorce rate would be a lot lower) but for future generations we need more positive role models, male and female.

I was cautious about writing this post as there’s a chance some will consider it anti-men or think that I’m going to take to burning my bra in the street. If you’ve met me you’ll know there’s no chance of that and talking to my female peers has convinced me to publish this post. I’m writing this because there are lots of seriously talented, hardworking, intelligent women who represent a whole generation of little girls who grew up believing hard work and ability were more important than gender. I’d pay to hear those women talk, sharing their knowledge with the business community and sharing the stage with their equally inspiring male counterparts. So, the next time you attend a big conference with an all-male panel please ask the organiser where the women are? I seriously doubt they are all washing their hair.

23 Sep 2011

Allergic to jargon?

Do you remember the guy on blind date who told Cilla he was a vision technician? Cilla was perplexed until he revealed that was a fancy way of saying he was a window cleaner.

The Oxford English dictionary provides the definition of jargon as:
special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand
Extensive use of jargon drives me crazy. I find that those who use a lot of unfamiliar or vague words to explain a concept often have no idea what they are talking about or are trying to elevate their own position. The person listening to them is often lost after the first few sentences but is too embarrassed to ask “What does that mean?”

I’ve been attending lots of fantastic events this week and the topic of jargon keeps cropping up, usually followed by the rolling of eyes. One girl told me her jargon allergy developed every time she heard the word “transmedia”. Other favourites amongst the group were “guru” , “buzz” and the overuse of the E word, “engagement”.

Personally the word that irks me the most is "transparency". I trip over this word on a regular basis because it’s everywhere; an example being “Businesses using social media should be transparent in their message to customers.” I think the majority of business people are honest and smart enough to know that misleading customers is damaging to any business and pointing this out is a tad insulting. If businesses haven’t figured that out then they will soon enough whether that involves social media or not. Let’s not insult people’s intelligence or alienate them with jargon and go for straight talking instead.

If I remember correctly the window cleaner still got the girl in the end.

*Image courtesy of ukgameshows.com

12 Sep 2011


Social Media Week is coming to Glasgow, a week of events across the city with a variety of speakers and a multitude of different insights, views and opinions. It’s a great opportunity for those who are interested in social media to learn, share experiences and network.

One of the speakers I’m most interested to hear is Edinburgh based Joe Tree, founder and CEO of blipfoto.  The concept of blipfoto is very simple, take one photo each day and post it to a journal where other members can view and comment on it.  There are no adverts on this site, no brands pushing their products or trying to sell. The site is for personal use only with the exception of charities and not for profit organisations which fits in with the overall ethos. It’s pure, it’s human and I'm finding it addictive! There are skilled photographers posting images of great beauty and then there are beginners like me, snapping away on their mobile phone when something catches their eye.

Blipfoto has created a real sense of community because everyone is sharing. There is the guy who records his skydiving activity (brave!), people capturing images of their family, pictures from and of all walks of life. There is something quite magical and inspirational about it and there is something new every time I visit.

Despite the fact that blipfoto is not for commercial use there is a lot to be learned from the concept. Mainly that unique content, sharing information and respecting others are key ingredients for creating a successful online community .

Of course ROI, measurement and strategy are extremely important but take a moment to step back. Social media isn't about numbers, it's about people, communication, and interaction.

I joined blipfoto simply because I like it and I come back for more because there is always something new to see. Any business using social media should consider these points, don’t let your sales team take over with links and promotions and the constant need to sell, sell, sell! Create a space for your target audience to enjoy and get value from and they will come back for more.