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Sexism is alive and well, oh yes

In a former life I was so interested in feminism that I was doing a PhD on its history.  Back then I hadn’t encountered much sexism directly, although I was very aware of its existence.  I was more interested in it in an abstract way, of what gender actually meant, and I disappeared so far up my own Lacanian arse that I didn’t manage to get my research written up.

Since then I haven’t encountered much sexism directly either, although I am perhaps more aware of its existence.  I don’t work in a sexist environment and I have never felt that I couldn’t do something because I am a woman.  I’m lucky.  I don’t think I am affected by the pay gap, and since I don’t have children I have not really come up against any of the hurdles that can entail for women.

However, I am extremely aware of the latent sexism/chauvinism in the industry I work in.  Advertising/tech is dominated by men at its higher echelons.  Maybe this is because of the childcare thing, since we work stupid macho hours and do a lot of travelling.  However, that can’t be the only reason.  Time and again we see the same men being asked to write articles or speak at conferences, and when women are invited it appears tokenistic, even to the extent of being open about ‘needing a woman’ so thinking of her.

I went to the Social Buzz Awards panel discussion last week and the content was rather disappointing – I was expecting a conversation about insight, innovation and ideas, but instead it was largely focused on the personality required to run good social media, and whether women were better at social media than men because they are better at multitasking and communication.

A twitter argument began the event because of the 8 panelists, there was only one woman, who didn’t attend the event. The panel just didn’t represent the social media practitioner audience – which was a healthy 50-50 split of men and women.

I didn’t really enjoy that discussion much.  I would much rather have addressed the issue head on than on Twitter, which just felt passive aggressive.  I don’t want to come across as petty.  This feels like a serious issue.  It is a serious issue.

It is comforting to know that this cause has been taken up by influential, international names in the industry such as Farrah Bostic, Cindy Gallop and Edward Boches.  The toomanywhitemen hashtag highlights not just the gender unbalance but the ethnic one too, although I guess this is more relevant in places outside of Scotland.

On the day of the International Marketing Festival (which featured a lot of male speakers) we held the inaugural She Says Scotland event.  It was really fun to do, and we were quite aware of the contrast between the two events.  She Says has been going since 2007, having started in London/New York, and it’s about giving women a platform, to share their ideas and experience.  If women can become better known via this organisation, help to put them top of mind when ‘normal’ conferences are being planned then it will have done part of its job. It’s not just about giving women a voice in the industry though, there is a mentoring system and it’s all about helping each other.  You don’t have to be a woman to come to the events either.

I am glad that Dominique took the plunge and decided to get it started in Scotland.  We need it.  Watch this space for details of the next event, which will be in Glasgow…

How to sum up?  Well, I guess I am a feminist because talk of ‘ladies’ and ‘better communicators’ and too many men speakers at conferences pisses me off.  I think we’d be better off if we all tried to make a change and help to make the great women working in this industry more visible.  What do you think?  Is feminism a dirty word?  Is it all about sexism?

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