Why Tech Already Has Women (And Why They’re Better Than Arrington)

UPDATE: Robert Scoble believes our comments are taken out of context, and has offered this Cincast on his views about women in tech. We appreciate Mr. Scoble’s participation in this important topic, and wish to encourage all parties to discuss the matter.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has shared his thoughts on Women in Tech. You can view his take here.

Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte

Image: “Women of WiFi, after Caillebotte” by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

by Danny Brown and Geoff Livingston (Cross posted on Danny’s blog)

Contrary to Violet Blue’s disappointing stance about women in tech in 2010, this year saw a terrible new trend, the outright enforcement of the glass ceiling in technology.  First there was Michael Arrington’s terribly ignorant rant, followed verbally by the likes by Robert Scoble and Ms. Blue, as well as the visual use of boobs to sell copies of WIRED by Chris Anderson and crew.

Before opining too much, here are some statistics for you (the first three were originally cited by Allyson Kapin in Fast Company):

In spite of the statistical advantages of women in tech, negative trends towards male speakers and executive leadership continue. Worse, reading this negative enforcement of sexism in tech has been a damn shame. Working with great women in tech — Susan Murphy, Beth Kanter,  Kami Huyse, Allyson Kapin, Amber MacArthur, Sarah Prevette, Lisa Kalandjian and Cali Lewis to name a few this year — has been a phenomenal experience for both of us, and they demonstrate every day how brilliant and capable they are.

In fact, these women are better than the likes of Arrington and crew, because they would never allow themselves to demean an entire race, gender or religious sect of people on the Internet.  Even if they had such feelings (which we doubt), they would rise above this kind of baseless attack to offer solutions.

Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t come across as too surprising. TechCrunch is hardly the purveyor of common sense and good “fights,” as they’ve shown continuously in the past with their attacks on PR, CEOs, bloggers – basically anyone who doesn’t bow to Arrington’s missives.

There are certainly issues for women, as pointed out by Allyson Kapin in the above articles as well as many other women who discuss this issue. Men have a role in it, too, as evidenced by this year’s newest glass blowing experiences.  Moving forward, men need to be more active about providing solutions to create a more level playing field. For example:

  • Actively support women in business, both through choices of partners, vendors and employees, and in promotion.
  • Support men and women trying to help women.  Whether it’s Girls, Inc., supporting female entrepreneurs abroad, efforts to highlight Women Who Tech, or a host of other efforts, support women.
  • Stop trashing and reacting to women trying to succeed.  Rather than get into throw downs about how women create their own problems in tech — or worse revert to past bad practices like conferences for men — work to create an inclusive balanced playing field for every human being.
  • If you are a man and you don’t like these types of actions against women — posts, magazine articles, speaking rosters — say something. When both genders actively voice dissatisfaction in this matter, it becomes a powerful statement.
  • Instead of supporting old structures for speaking — such as soliciting speaking submissions from chest beating male A-Listers — build an editorial mission for the conference, and seek out great male and female speakers beyond the comfortable and immediate social network.
  • Stop thinking with the mindset that “women” and “success” are two words that – together – are news, and start thinking it’s the norm.
  • Think of the challenges your great-grandmother, grandmother and (possibly) your mother went through to be someone. Then ask if you’d want that still, and add your wife or daughter into the mix. Would you want them to be viewed as “unique” because of their industry choice? And that’s “unique” in a negative way, not in a good one-of-a-kind way.

To be fair, this isn’t an isolated issue with the technology sector. Think of a lot of industries, and you’ll find that women are often viewed as second-best to their male counterparts. They may have won the vote but it’s clear that women still trail men when it comes to advancement, recognition and financial reward compared to their male peers in too many industries.

But it’s even more evident in the technology sector, where too many geek overlords want to keep the sandpit for themselves, and maybe the women can solder a chip or connect a conference call between the male kingfishers.

And it’s just plain stupid. For every Michael Arrington there’s a Bindi Karia; for every Robert Scoble, there’s a Gina Trapani; for every Chris Anderson there’s a Stephanie Agresta. And with new innovators being sponsored to come through from India, and developing countries making women and technology one of their key focuses, these names (and others like them) will only be added to.

Frankly, an argument can be made that most of the modern gender imbalance issues are rooted in men not consciously looking for great women, as opposed to them not existing. 2011 can be a year where forward progress can be made — by both women and men.  Let’s hope the community joins together in working towards that goal.  Given how great women are in business, why wouldn’t you?

About Danny Brown

For readers who aren’t familiar with Danny, he is co-founder and partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, a full service marketing agency offering integrated , social media and mobile marketing solutions and applications. He’s also the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a community-driven social media charity initiative to connect globally and help locally that’s raised over $100,000 since inception in 2009. His top ranked blog is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as Canada’s Top 50 Marketing Blogs, and won the Hive Award for Best Social Media Blog at the 2010 South by South West festival.

Questions & Answers on Cause Marketing via Social Media

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Two weeks ago Network for Good‘s Kate Olsen and I hosted a U-Stream chat to field questions and answer on our eGuide about Cause Marketing via Social Media. Well, we had some video broadcast issues with U-Stream, but managed to capture several questions via chat. Here are those questions and our answers.

If anyone has additional questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section. We’d love to continue the conversation.

Q1. How can nonprofits promote corporate partners’ investments (as part of their CSR programs), in ways that add value to corporations and also resonate with stakeholders?

There needs to be a clear value proposition that works for all parties. That means it takes more than simply offering a $5 donation with every purchase, although, in the end, that may make sense. Let’s look at two examples:

1) KFC and Komen came under fire this year for pink buckets of fried chicken. The fatty food and breast cancer combo did not resonate well for all of its stakeholders. What would have worked (may be not as well for sales) a little better for all parties is pink buckets of grilled chicken. The company gets the responsibility and marketing points, Komen better serves its mission, and non KFC customers may be more inclined to visit a KFC fast food restaurant.

2) Staples and DonorsChoose offers a great cause shopping model. Buying at Staples equals an investment in education, and one the customer chooses. Clearly a win for DonorsChoose and the customer, but also Staples. Why? Because Staples is an office products company. Most of the workforce that needs its products has a college education. Win, win, win.

Q2. What cutting-edge, creative types of promotion would make a nonprofit a leader in this arena?

Geez, that’s a tough question. Promotion and leadership seem opposed at times online. While you can certainly claim leadership, it’s really about serving online stakeholders with valuable content and activities for cause purposes. When you are successful at that, the community often promotes your effort faster than you would. The types of promotion – blogging, social network participation, crowdsourcing – really are a means to the end. Without the core understanding and service to the community, the cause marketing will fall on deaf ears.

So Pepsi’s Refresh, while annoying at times with its constant retweeting and vote for me asks (Geoff’s opinion), succeeds because the participants care enough to submit proposals and get the ideas promoted, and hopefully voted on… Thus promoting Pepsi. Even better for Pepsi is when voters also promote their favorite projects. But if leadership was contingent on Pepsi’s promotion solely, Refresh would not have been a success. It would have been a bad ad campaign.

Q3: What is cause marketing? How do you define it?

At its best, cause marketing is a subset of corporate social responsibility. CSR seeks to benefit a company’s community of interest with philanthropic acts, often in the spirit of the company’s natural interests. So for example, an auto manufacturer would have a natural interest in fostering better education for those inclined in core engineering studies such as math and science, or in supporting science that creates better hybrid vehicles that reduce gas emissions.

Cause marketing ties CSR with marketing by demonstrating to and even involving a customer or stakeholder base in the philanthropic activity. This can be marketing for a variety of reasons. Whether its branding, reputation, or direct sales.

Consider the Dow Live Earth Run for Water. Clearly Dow was trying to reinvest in its the community and reverse some of the past negative effects pollution has created on its brand. While the community didn’t react in an overwhelming positive to Dow’s efforts, it was a beginning first step to better its image, a clear marketing effort with a CSR bend to it.

Q4. What should be the nature of the relationship between companies and nonprofits?

In our opinion, it should be a well reviewed business deal for both organizations. A company clearly has some sort of marketing benefit it would like to achieve. And it is willing to pay for it.

But the nonprofit also has a stake in the game. It needs to decide whether the dollars will make the right impact on its programs and/or mission. It, too, will benefit from branding, but if the marketing crosses a line and conflicts with the larger organizational goals then the nonprofit should make a strategic decision to negotiate or say no.

In two prior examples, KFC and Dow, the nonprofits and causes involved suffered negative brand hits for participating in their respective efforts. Now, the money may have outweighed the negative consequences, but these are good examples of nonprofits that may have negotiated, and possibly could have done more to protect their brands.

Q5. How many cause marketing partners is ideal?

There’s no real limit, but there is such a thing as over exposure. Another question with multiple partners is while marketing may happen, is change occurring? Or are there so many chefs in the kitchen that the food is getting burned?

Again, this ties back to the nonprofit and organizational missions and programs. Does the cause marketing achieve these goals, or is it just energy invested in branding that doesn’t help the larger effort? This should be the ultimate barometer of a yes or no.

Q6. What are recommendations for achieving a good holiday social media campaign?

Holiday social media is critical to a cause’s effort. Forty percent of donations occur in the month of December, while 10 percent occur during the last three days of the year (source: Network for Good).

Allyson Kapin, editor of Care2’s Frogloop blog, suggests that the three most important elements of a holiday fundraising (or any) social media effort are 1) Building an effective email list, 2) building an effective landing page, and 3) storytelling, the heart of compelling people to participate online. The latter part is critical because if your cause is going to make eight or nine asks during the holiday season to cut through the clutter, you need to tell a great story.

Cause shopping may be a great win-win in these situations. Companies, too, are heavily reliant on end of year sales for profitability. So if a consumer can 1) purchase a gift while 2) making a donation, it can become easy. In many ways, this is the ask to the consumer. But without a compelling story, it’s just not going to work well.

An example of a cause shopping experience that achieves the four essentials of cause marketing (suitability, authenticity, transparency and selling point) is the Clinique “Happy Day” each year in December. Last year, Clinique worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters to create personalized holiday cards that embodied happiness during the season of giving. The cards were available to customers in store or online with a $30 purchase of Clinique products – a great tie-in to the cosmetic brand’s “Happy” product line. Clinique made a $350,000 donation to the charity and helped build awareness for the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and programs. This year, be on the lookout for a new twist to the “Happy Day” campaign on December 10th.

Mindfulness the Key to Finding Female Speakers

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It’s late in another summer, and another thought “leader” has said that the blame for the lack of female speakers (or success) should be laid squarely on the shoulders of women. While there have been several great direct responses to this latest link frenzy, I felt that instead of participating directly (like I did last summer), the best commentary I could make is to outline how as a conference organizer I successfully garnered approximately 50% female speaker rates for all three BlogPotomacs.

First, I co-organized the first BlogPotomac with Debbie Weil, and together we set the precedence for the event series. We mindfully decided that at least three of the seven speakers will be women. This seemed like the right thing to do, especially considering that there are more women in communications than men. We wanted to represent our stakeholders with a group of speakers that at least came close to matching our audience.

Each of the three BlogPotomacs had predetermined topic areas, and speakers were matched to the topics. In almost every instance there were natural choices that made sense. A couple of times the would-be speaker was not available. So we found someone else! In one case, I held the spot for two months until my networking yielded the speaker.

But I didn’t give up. And when men asked for speaking spots (women rarely solicited a speaking spot, in fact I cannot remember one), I said no. I did not want the loudest chest beater. I wanted quality lady speakers, was committed to achieving that result, and would not be distracted.

We had some fantastic lady speakers including KD Paine, Maggie Fox, Kami Huyse, Shireen Mitchell, Liz Strauss, Amber Naslund, Jen McClure (emcee), Beth Kanter, Natalia Luckyanova, Jane Quigley, and Shonali Burke (emcee). Two of them are so great, they are now my business partners.

So, the morale of this story is as a conference organizer, it’s a conscious decision to either have women or not. As I told my friend Allyson Kapin, “If you spend time in a homogeneous social network like Silicon Valley’s VC community, then you will only get white, male venture backed candidates. It’s your job to go beyond the comfort zone. Victimization may be an easy out, but it won’t stop the criticism of your inability to break out of limited social circles.”

BTW, if you would like to hear some outstanding lady speakers sign up for some of the WomenWhoTech Telesummit on September 15. I’ll happen to be one of the few men participating, a refreshing change.

It’s Time to Reboot NonProfit 2.0

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After one hell of a blizzard and four months, Allyson Kapin, Shireen Mitchell and I are ready to finally host the first ever NonProfit 2.0 Unconference. This sold out Friday June 25th event will be held at SEIU in downtown DC. What better way to kick off the first Friday of summer then with fun wonky chats about change for our society with the people trying to improve it.

Beth Kanter (@kanter) and Allison Fine (@afine)

The event has already attracted some high caliber talent. Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, authors of The Networked Nonprofit (one of the bestselling books in America yesterday), will offer our first keynote. Our second keynote is The American Red Cross’s social media lead Wendy Harman.

The format melds the best of the BlogPotomac speaker and true Camp Unconference formats. Specifically, NonProfit 2.0 delivers the best of both worlds, offering great keynote sessions, but in an unconference way with no PowerPoint, 15 minute leads, and open questions and dialogue for fantastic conversations. Then from midmorning forward, NonProfit 2.0 shifts into a full-on Unconference.

The Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference (on Twitter at nonprofit20) will be DC’s only unconference dedicated to the social cause space. Why? Because this sector is special and unique. Using social media to create networked communities and movements is much different than selling products or services.

From volunteers and political action to cultivating donors and partners, social media for causes represents a mission. Often our communications impact society, benefiting Americans and citizens across the globe. Changing society for the better is a special, unique heart-felt activity. If you don’t have a ticket, join others like you for the social good keynotes on U-Stream via the NextGenWeb site.

Feel the love! See you on Friday.

Fail Well

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. ~ Confucius

Koko Crater Trail

Many folks fail in business, and for a variety of reasons, some more common than others. In American business, particularly on the communications side, there’s a misperception that failure is bad. In fact, failure often creates the seeds of future success. Many, many people and brands demonstrate this, including Apple, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, etc., etc.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be a part of the When Failure and Criticism Are Public during DC Digital Capital Week on June 18th along with Jill Foster of Live Your Talk, Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign, and Justin Thorp of Clearspring. It will be great to discuss failure in this setting, and ways to embrace it

A recent Paul Sloane article that Beth Kanter referred me to had one aspect of this down very well, the honorable failure. Sloane defines the honorable failure as an honest attempt at something new or different has been tried unsuccessfully.

I totally agree with this view. In fact, even successes offer lessons to be learned. I sold a company once. But a successful exit doesn’t mean it was a smashing success. In fact, many, many mistakes were made and some of them were public. I look at Livingston Communications as story book of lessons learned, good and bad that we can use to accelerate Zoetica’s success.

Where I really disagreed with Sloane was his labeling of the incompetent failure: People that fail for lack of effort or competence in standard operations. In this sense, while the person may not be right for the position, their decisions or lack of experience, in my opinion, actually engages in an honorable failure. Why? Because a failure can steer someone in the right direction, or a completely different one.

So I don’t deem dubbing someone’s failure as incompetent, regardless of how bad it was. Incompetence and such labeling continues a culture where we as a society are afraid of failure. Instead, I deem any failure an opportunity to learn a lesson or embark on a course correction. Whether we choose to pay attention to that lesson or direction is on us.

Experiential learning requires experience. And failure. Sometimes multiple failures. One of my favorite stories in the this vein came from Senator Mark Warner (R-VA), who founded Nextel. In a speech before the NVTC roughly ten years ago, he detailed how he failed as a lawyer and in two companies and in one point was massively in debt. He never gave up.

So, my friends, as the week begins, fail well.

Past Related Posts:

My Five Worst Professional Mistakes

Burying Negative News Stories and Posts

Confessions of a Start-up Junky

Keep. Moving. Forward!

Attend or Contribute to Twestival on Thursday

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The third Twestival will be held this Thursday in cities all over the world. A great event created by my friend Amanda Rose, Twestival has already benefit Charity: Water and hundreds of local charities with its global movement. This Spring’s effort will benefit Concern (on Twitter), an organization that seeks to provide education aid to some of the world’s most impoverished communities.

By partnering with Concern, the 2010 Twestival is aiming to highlight eight areas which are preventing some of our poorest youth around the world from going to school and getting the education they need. With the event just around the corner, Twestival has already raised more than $130,000 for this worthy charity. It is on track to surpass more than $1 million in combined charitable donations to date for all of three Twestivals.

“The power of Twestival is not just in the amount of money it raises for inspiring nonprofits like Concern, an organization whose mission it is to end extreme poverty,” said Allyson Kapin, editor of the Care2 FrogLoop blog. “It’s in Twestival’s incredible reach across communications channels, and how they help to raise awareness about nonprofits and social justice issues through earned media and word of mouth.”

There are several ways to participate, including changing your Twitter avatar. You can also donate directly or participate in the online auction.

And of course, the most obvious and best way is to attend one of your local Twestival events on Thursday. I’d like to highlight two in particular as the East Coast Zoetican:

As a former Washington DC Twestival committee member, I want to wish my colleague Nakeva Corothers good luck on Thursday. The Washington Twestival will be held from 6-9 at the Shadow Room. Sign up today! C’mon DC people, get on board!

And of course, all of my NYC nonprofit tech friends — including organizer Damien Basile — are getting ready their Thursday Twestival, too. The NYC event is extra cool with the Good Units under the Hudson Hotel experience from 6-10pm. The NYC Twestival could surpass $10k with your help!

Wherever, make sure to do your part for Thursday’s Twestival.