November 16, 2005
Wired: Women aren't podcasting
Wired News reports that just 15 percent of the 2,000 attendees were women at the first trade podcasting tradeshow, the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference.
Some startling statistics reported at the conference bore out this suggestion. Leo LaPorte, host of one of the most popular podcasts, This Week in Tech, said in a keynote address that his audience is 97 percent male, according to market research. Yahoo senior product manager Joe Hayashi said 85 percent of folks who use the search engine's recently released podcast directory are men.
There are successful female-hosted podcasts out there, like Gretchen Vogelzang and Paige Heninger's MommyCast show, which landed a one-year sponsorship from paper-goods maker Dixie, and got mentions in Variety and Hollywood Reporter for their interview with the filmmakers of March of the Penguins. Wired says women podcasters have more privacy concerns than men:
November 06, 2005
insult, injury, and irony: seattle newspaper coverage of SeattleMind
I just got back from Seattle's entry in the recent rash of 24-hour tech "camps"--SeattleMind. Andru Edwards of GearLive did a great job of organizing the event, but despite what seemed to be everybody's best efforts, there weren't many women to be seen there.
The first session I went to on Saturday was run by Ponzi Indharasophang, and it was on the topic of women and computing (aka "where are they all?"). It was a great discussion, and one of the things that people like Nancy White and I emphasized was the ongoing problem with how women in tech are represented by the media--both in entertainment (movies and TV) and in the news. To get more women participating in the tech field, we need more positive representations of the women who are already here.
One of the people in that session was Tara Hunt, someone whose excellent blog on internet marketing (HorsePigCow) I recently started reading, and who'd actually flown up from the Bay Area to participate in MindCamp. She's funny, smart, and talented--exactly the kind of woman who you want other people to know about.
When I got home today, and took a quick look at her blog, I saw she was pointing to the weblog of a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, John Cook, who'd also been at MindCamp. The title of her post? "Quoted out of context...really." That didn't sound good. So I took a look.
Cook apparently interviewed a number of MindCamp participants, including Chris Pirillo and Robert Scoble. He also talked to Tara, and chooses to end his post with this clearly out-of-context (if you know her) quote:
Riya.com's Tara Hunt -- who also was involved in the conversation -- described Web 2.0 this way:
"For me, it's the free parties and beer."
Insulting to Tara, who's far from a shallow party girl or web 2.0 groupie. Injurious to the image of women in computing, because it portrays the guys as having all the deep thoughts, and the women as party-going hangers-on. And deeply ironic, given the note on which we started MindCamp.
Personally, I think Cook owes Tara--and the rest of the women who were active and valuable participants in MindCamp--an apology.
Tara has written on her site about how the article made her feel, and makes some great points about how hard it is to balance being feminine and being respected in high-tech contexts.
I should also say (after having a conversation with my husband, who felt I was being unreasonable in my criticism), I don't think this was a deliberate attempt at sexism or exclusion. But the fact that it was ignorance, rather than malice, doesn't make it better in my mind--particularly when it's coming from someone in the "mainstream media," someone who I would hope would be aware of the power of his words to shape public perception.
April 10, 2005
"A List Women Over D Grade Men"
In "A List Women Over D Grade Men: Y Chromosomes Worry", "The BetterBadNews panel examines rank sexism in the technorati priesthood skewering gender norms overdue for an upgrade." It's a funny video making fun of many characters and situations involving folks in the blogosphere. (Note: very in-jokey.)
February 27, 2005
Women in podcasting
Since I’ve been talking about women in podcasting, I figured it would be a good idea to create a running list of podcasts which feature women as hosts or cohosts. Here are the ones I know about so far. Some of these I listen to regularly, others I’ve only heard once or twice. But all are the product of women’s efforts. Please check them out…
'Podcasts' are regular audio shows that are automatically delivered over the internet to subscribers, and can be listened to at any time, e.g. on your iPod while you're commuting to work.
Listen to Amy's own explanation of why more women should start podcasting, and read her response to Adam Curry's position on women podcasters (i.e. “I just see podcasters as podcasters, I don’t see them as male or female.”).
Somewhat related: Kottke's explanation of why the History Channel doesn't generally allow the use of female narrators. Apparently, they're thought to seem less gender-neutral than men, and also less authoritative.
September 04, 2004
Women in film
There is a great analysis of opportunities for women in documentary vs fiction filmmaking in the latest Ms. Magazine:
Chris Hegedus, whose co-directing credits with partner D.A. Pennebaker include "The War Room" and the recent "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," got involved with documentary filmmaking in 1970.
“There was the feminist movement, anti-war protests and civil rights activism,” she says. “It was such a political time, and the new portable sync-sound 16mm camera rigs made it possible to just pick up a camera to film people’s stories. It was a way to be independent when Hollywood was so distant, especially for women.”
While 16mm technology was as key to the production of documentaries in the ’70s and ’80s as digital video is today, the expansion of cable and public television has been crucial for their exhibition. Unlike the Hollywood movie business, PBS and cable TV from their inception welcomed women as executives, producers and directors.
July 13, 2004
The Brit fixation on Belle de Jour
The Guardian has announced this year's MediaGuardian 100, "the definitive guide to the most powerful movers and shakers in one of the UK's most vibrant industries." Candidates were judged using three criteria: "cultural influence, economic clout and political power". Declaring that this "wasn't such a good year for women," The Guardian includes belle de jour, an anonymous weblogger, in its new media top 10 (free registration required, tipoff from Boothwoman).
Yes, belle de jour, keeper of the "diary of a London call girl" clearly has more cultural influence, economic clout and political power in the British new media sphere than any other woman (with the single exception of Meg Whitman, US chief executive of eBay). What was Tessa Jowell thinking when she took the position of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport? Why is Liz Cleaver wasting her energies as Controller of Learning and Interactive at the BBC? I realise that The Guardian is just trying to show that they're with it, and belle de jour is a more titillating entry than last year's 'A blogger', but they really need to get over it.
The Guardian wants to know if it got it right and invites you to send an alternative top 10 from your sector. Who are the women with the most influence on the UK's new media sector?
June 30, 2004
One more patronising headline and I'll scream
The latest in a seemingly relentless parade of condescending 'women and technology' reports tells us that women spend more on technology than shoes. Fancy that!
"According to research commissioned by Sony Ericsson, women fork out an average of £478 on technology a year, compared to just £74 on shoes. 1,923 ladies were quizzed about their spending habits. 13% of them spend more than £1000 on gadgets a year, while 35% said they’d rather do without their swanky shoes, lipstick or diary than have to live life without their mobile phone.
"The average girl owns £1605 worth of gear, although they admit to choosing looks over features. However, only 23% get men to help them work their gadgets, with 63% making the effort to actually read the user manual."
(Via one of my favourite reads, shiny shiny.)
Reading this immediately called to mind Net games lure 'bored housewives, Gadget Gals and Women turned off by technology's 'geeky' image (aka Women Want Computers To Be Less ‘Nerdy’ and More Fun).
This is mostly a problem of cheap and easy reporting. In the case of the BBC's 'gaming housewives', the real story is that every major casual games provider reported that growth was being fuelled by middle-aged and female gamers. Screen Digest report author, Nick Gibson, "jokingly termed this the bored housewife". The BBC reporter was obviously tickled enough by this marketing speak to unthinkingly make it the focus of the story, rather than exploring why these pick-up-and-put-down games might be popular with women. Perhaps it has something to do with women being time-pressured rather than bored... I'm not sure this is the case - it's just a hunch - but if I was a professional reporter it's an angle I'd want to explore.
At least in this case it was just lazy reporting rather than a gross misrepresentation. The 'women want less geeky computers' story is, almost unbelievably, a report on the Information Society's Strategies of Inclusion: Gender and the Information Society, which is a serious study of 48 initiatives to include women in ICT:
By comparative analysis across 48 case-studies of public, voluntary and private inclusion efforts it identifies and analyses four main categories of inclusion strategies: Women-centred spaces, Symbolic redefinition, Relative numbers of women, and Resources for learning. The report points to the importance of creating a positive climate for women, and of providing knowledge and confidence building as well as technical resources. Initiatives need to be targeted towards particular groups; whilst knowledge exchange and networking could help to improve policy learning.
(Picture pilfered from Scrapbooks from the Cultural Archive)
April 27, 2004
What Technology Issues Would You Like to See on TV?
Hidden away in the comments to the Intel simulation post is this query from Anna Ceraldi:
I suspect she'll get more of a response if we elevate this to "post" level, so here it is. Leave your responses for Anna in the comments!
November 25, 2003
Or is it infuriating?
Over at eWeek, Steve Gillmor took on (John C.) Dvorak's anti-blog stance by offering a list of "a few of the original blog voices who (he’s) grown addicted to over the last few years." That list of nine names doesn’t include one woman.
November 08, 2003
how to discourage women from studying physics
So last week I posted about Planet Jemma, a fictional webdiary of a first year physics student is supposed to encourage high school girls to choose to study physics. Unfortunately I hadn't actually read very far into the serial when I recommended it.
You read Planet Jemma in five or ten minute installments over the course of a fortnight. Each day you get an email from her or one of her friends, and you get access to a new episode her video diary and other bits and pieces on her website.
I'm up to day 7 now, and instead of seeing a positive example of a female physics student I'm finding the serial a relentless attempt to convince its audience that boys studying physics are dorks, that teaching assistants are male chauvinist pigs with pinups on their office walls, and that if you're a girl who's stupid enough to study physics you'll get your bum pinched and be constantly humiliated and laughed at. Here's the (fictional!) teaching assistant's website with his webcam shot of himself - you'll see the first day's version, since you're not logged in, but on day seven, the webcam image is of the teaching assistant grabbing Jemma's bum. The only experiments you see done in this fictional physics department involve dipping bananas into liquid nitrogen and seeing how they come out frozen. I mean, come on, we did more challenging stuff than that in high school. There appear to be no lectures, no lab reports, and Jemma's social life involves only handsome male media and design students (do you think that might be what the lads who made Planet Jemma studied when they were undergrads?) and her disappeared friend, Abby, who dropped out despite loving physics. Jemma's mum writes her emails asking why she didn't study English, and Jemma decides she's "bad at the practical stuff and the machines" though she loves the concepts.
Jemma does write us very simplistic notes on black holes and antimatter, explained in romance magazine terms. Even apart from the silly comments about wishing boys in black holes, they seem so much simpler than the Carl Sagan explanations of astronomy that my little sister and I were thrilled with when we were nine or ten, that I can't see how they can really be meant for fourteen year olds.
I totally loved Online Caroline, which was made by the same people who've created Planet Jemma. I'm less than enraptured by Planet Jemma, though. I cannot see how portraying male physics students as horrible, sexist pigs is going to encourage women to study physics. Maybe I'm naive (and no, I've not studied physics), but this seems to be creating, not even reinforcing, stereotypes that are way beyond the challenges women may meet in a male-dominated university environment.