Jory Des Jardins is an author, media strategist, and the president of global sales and business development for BlogHer, Inc.
In early 2005, we co-founded BlogHer. It started in a coffee shop, as a labor of love to answer to a oft-repeated question roiling through the mainstream blogosphere: Where are the women bloggers? The conventional answer to this question was all too often based on the assumption that women simply weren't blogging—technology being one example of a topic about which women supposedly didn't blog.
So when Internet and technology conference speaking rosters were skewed 80-90% toward male speakers, and when media reports on the burgeoning blogosphere quoted and cited nearly 100% male bloggers, the rationale was that the rosters merely reflected the gender ratio out in the real world.
Women, who have long been the majority of Web users, are now just as likely to create or read a blog as men, as Pew reported in 2006. In July 2005, based on our work as media strategists; and as bloggers on politics, law, e-commerce, health, business, entrepreneurship and our own personal lives, we knew that. On July 30, 2005, more than 300 women who blog—and many men, too—sold out the first BlogHer conference, held in Silicon Valley.
What do women want? Technology. Our work with bloggers indicates that blogging is the gateway drug of technology to many new users. It is also a terrific source of emancipation from mainstream media coverage of the field for established female developers, tech writers, engineers, and tech entrepreneurs.
Today finds BlogHer planning our fourth year of conferences, publishing a news and social community site at BlogHer.com, and running an ad network. So where are the women bloggers? They are blogging—in huge numbers about everything under the sun (including technology) and they are, in fact, becoming technology's early adopters, changing our world and the face of the online marketplace.
Women are evolving with Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools, but BlogHer's mission remains rock-solid: BlogHer exists to create opportunities for education, exposure, community, and economic empowerment for women bloggers. Why is that our mission? And why does it resonate so with women online?
Because stereotypes of women and technology do not reflect reality. We couldn't resist partnering with other women who blog to pick up the money that media companies were leaving on the table. Let's just call it good business.
Part of that good business is the BlogHer Ad Network, where BlogHer publishes quality advertising on more than 690 blogs by women. A year ago we began with a test network of about thirty mommyblogs: that much maligned and denigrated population of women online. We live what many a flippant reporter or blogger forgets: that women make up more than half the population, more than half of all Internet users, more than half of all bloggers, and we control more than 80% of the household dollar.
Add to those impressive numbers a demonstrated female enthusiasm for social media. Women have adopted blogging technology at an unprecedented rate. Women's involvement and adoption of Internet technology grows, which should matter to technology companies and technology developers.
We women use technology, and our beloved computers and mobile devices, to improve all aspects of our lives. That's why even savvy non-technical companies (such as BlogHer advertisers Kraft, Dove, Gerber, and Uncle Ben's) are reaching out to bloggers across topics as varied as food, health, politics and business. Even those of us who are moms do more than parent. This isn't news but, according to our community, it is a novel approach:
"For the first time in my life, it was okay to be completely me at a conference: a woman, a mother of three, an entrepreneur, a writer, and a blogger," said Barbara Rozgonyi, BlogHer '07 attendee.
Today's woman (mom or not) is too busy changing her life, making room to Twitter, Flickr, or even "lick her iPhone," to slow down for old attitudes and old biases. Technology, as a tool for equipping women to improve our lives, is far too important to ignore. A new population of users is becoming early adopters, and we want a whole lot more than a "pink" version of a product.
Blogging and social media have created a new economy of personal publishers, many of whom want to bypass traditional media outlets altogether to create our own platforms, using Web 2.0 technology.
Blogging has provided a path for women to become DIY authors, technologists, and business people; we are entrepreneurs who are self-enabled by their use of technology. What could be more empowering than to grab your own corner of the Internet and grow your own business? Why wait for someone to invite you to contribute to a series such as this one, to a technology book, or to a conference?
Our fervent hope is that tech companies—from web application providers to electronics manufacturers—will reach out to women to find out how they can serve their primary customers, who are women of all ages, languages, and abilities, better. All they have to do is read our blogs.
We should talk about progress, and whether women are making it or not. We should also walk our talk: support women who are using blogs, using Web 2.0 technology to raise their voices, and to fund their passions. The marketplace is listening, even if technology companies or the IT industry isn't.
Are all BlogHer members geeks in the traditional sense? Are they women in technology? Yes, in a very holy way. At this year's BlogHer, keynote speaker Annalee Newitz said it was time to re-think our definition of what it means to be technical. We asked the crowd how many people out there considered themselves to be "self-taught geeks", and at least three-quarters of the 800 in attendance raised their hands. These are women who have taught themselves HTML, PHP, and CSS, not to mention audio and video production techniques.
Any company who wants to find the vocal, passionate users who represent half their user base (or even more than half) should visit BlogHer.com and mix it up with the women who read our news and lead our community via their blogs.
Women are telling you exactly what we think. We invite you to reach out and join the conversation.
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