No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers?

Earlier this week Susannah Breslin wrote a post on Forbes Women titled, Why Women Shouldn’t Go to Tech Conferences.  In a nutshell, she was upset about the frivolous and seemingly non-tech way that women were presented, and chosen to present, at Tech Week.  Having just spoken on a panel at CE Week in New York a few weeks ago I gave this article a serious reading – and commented accordingly.  But, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Something about what Susannah touched upon is all too true – and with BlogHer just a week away I haven’t been able to shake the thought that women are being put into tech “lite” panels more often than not.  I have complained quite publicly that many panels and conferences aimed at women are incredibly lacking in real data, concrete takeaways and information and are often full of generalizations and “feelings.”  But, looking back on all of the panels and conferences this year I also felt that way about many of the panels that had men on them too.  Maybe the truth is that few people are actually experts, that many conference agendas are packed with people who know someone, or have an entertaining power point presentation or a huge twitter personality that is fun to be a part of in person but doesn’t give you a whole lot to work on when you leave the room.

I don’t want to see the ghetto-ization of women at tech conferences.  I hate the idea that women need a separate “mommy” track or that all they want to do is gab about being better at social media because hey, women like to talk!  On the other hand, who can hold forth on a panel about how brands should and could work with mom bloggers other than mom bloggers?  The goal is to have women talk about SEO, programming, coding, sales, raising capital, growing a business and social media, marketing, PR and more.  When women are fully integrated into all programming, the specialized “women” tracks won’t seem so precious.  That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer.  There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.

I will be heading to BlogHer next week, and make no mistake about it I am thrilled to connect with so many brands I love, I use and I hope to have sponsorship and campaign partnerships with in the future – for Beccarama, the Blogging Angels and most importantly for me now as the co-founder of my internet start-up,  My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get.  That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops.   Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that.  As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that BlogHer is for and by women.  I will be hanging out at the Geek Bar to learn from some very tech savvy women and then I will turn right around and have an awesome day sponsored by Sony, getting new profile pics and my hair and makeup done, because I for one won’t be put into a virtual corner.

81 replies on “No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers?”

  1. Interesting Read… I agree with most of what you had to say (and i like the fact that you admit to being a bit conflicted with BlogHer being primarily for women) and would also like to add my 2 cents. I am an engineer who has worked with some brilliant female engineers. With that said, I have often noticed that the more brilliant they are, the more they just hold their head down and code; they hardly want to participate in anything. Why do think this is so? Could this underlying reason, which I can’t identify, be the reason we don’t see more of these capable women on the panels at tech week talking about their expertise?

  2. I totally get your points but just one tiny quibble. BlogHer have always been open to men to attend and participate. If men choose not to want to attend that is another topic. There has never been a restriction on men coming to the convention.

  3. I have not been on tech conferences ever, so I can’t judge the situation, but I must say a lot of women are much more technology educated than men. And using Web 2.0 intensively for several months now, I can only add women are more effective there too.

    For the discrimination part from my area of work (writing) it is pretty obvious women cause some level of discrimination by themselves. I as a man found ‘women only literary contests’ discriminatory too (not for men, for women!). On internet we can have some equality of sexes behind avatars, but as at the moment things are going, this is changing too.

    Hope my English is not too bad and I did not strayed from this highly flammable subject:)

  4. Several recent comments seem to go down a “poor and oppressed-by-society women” road. Having seen quite a lot of feminist debating and pseudo-scientific reasoning over the years, I would caution against jumping to conclusions about e.g a sinister “Patriarchy” or similar scape-goats. In reality, most differences in outcome and behaviour that can be observed are ultimately based in biology—e.g. that men naturally and on average tend to focus more on careers and less on children than women do. The point is not whether there is a difference in outcome (e.g. that men, hypothetically, become successful chefs more often), but whether women are in some way hindered or disadvantage through differences in opportunity. There are no signs that this is the case on a non-trivial scale and looking at the net-effect of advantages and disadvantages for both sexes. Indeed, if anything there is an increasing tendency to discriminate against men, above all in my native Sweden.

    (No signs except for the difference in outcome, to be precise. This difference, however, is better explained by biology and Ockham’s Razor—the Tabula Rasa view of humans that lie at the bottom of e.g. gender-feminism was refuted by science before the first blog was written.)

    1. You would caution against jumping to conclusions….. I made no such jumps or conclusions. No need to caution me, but thanks anyway. (And if you did not mean to include me in that, you should have perhaps used a different example.)
      My point IS in fact that there is a difference in outcome. I do not speculate on how that comes about — rather above my pay grade, shall we say — but note that this may be part of the same constellation of stuff.
      Your other comments are well-taken, however.

  5. I keep wondering why it is that:

    Women have done most of the cooking in the world for ages, but most ‘chefs’ are men, inc. TV show chefs,
    women do most of the ‘home sewing’ but the famous ‘designers’ are mostly men, including the ones who only draw and then hand off the work to be done by the unnamed women,
    secretaries used to be well-paid respected professions when men mostly did that job,
    The one paid profession women still have (mostly) a lock on is illegal and therefore dangerous.

    It is not stretching too far to suggest that this is just another view of a part of the same landscape.

  6. Londonchoirgirl; So true and I do not have any of those traits so I have spent alot of time wondering why they get like that. Where the logic is in it, because there does not seem to be any.

  7. As I’ve found so far during my year-long project to read only women writers (and blog about it), women are often very hard on each other. In fact, this is the subject, or at least a major theme, of many novels by women.

    However, it’s not enough simply to observe this. You have to look at the causes for this behaviour: the social conditioning that has embedded a tendency in women to police each others’ behaviours and to undermine each other. This is one of the most pervasive and powerful social traits that continues to perpetuate inequality in western society.

    1. I am hopping over to your blog right now. That sounds like a fantastic project. Though it’s funny – my nine year old daughters only like books right now with female lead characters. That is what they are drawn to and they don’t care the gender of the author. However, most of the authors tend to be women.

  8. Good points.
    It sounds like blogging is such a broad topic that people can’t figure out how to serve the population in a general way so they invent niches.
    Or it’s like the publishing industry, searching for and segregating “chick lit” and “lad lit”.

  9. You make a valid point! There are many women out there who are technologically savvy and some people neglect to consider the fact that there are many women that are studying Information and Computer Science in college which, in turn, expands their technological minds, giving them the credentials to potentially work for big companies like Microsoft or Apple.

    In the end, everyone is human, and we all have the same mental capacity to understand and do whatever we set our mind to!

    Thank you for your post! It was an intriguing read!

    If its okay with you, I just started my own blog recently and I would really like to post my link along with my comment, it’s I invite you and your readers to take a look at it, comment, and subscribe!

    1. You appear to make the common error of assuming that education is more important than built in aptitude. In reality (and barring a too dumbed-down education system), those not sufficiently bright will fail to complete their studies—not turn bright because they did complete them.

      In particular, it is not true that “we all have the same mental capacity to understand and do whatever we set our mind to”: There are large individual variations (not everyone can become an Olympic athlete or a math professor) and non-trivial differences between group distributions (e.g. that men are relatively better at spatial thinking, while women are relatively better at languages), implying that the proportion of individuals with the right aptitude (and inclination) for a given field can vary from group to group.

  10. I struggle with the notion that women can’t choose what theya re interested in, or how they want to behave in the workplace or professional arena. Why is there anything wrng with women choosing what society judges as “lighter” subjects if that is what interests them? Likewise, I struggle with criticisms about women “behaving like men” in the workplace or the boarroom – who is to say that isn’t that person’s natural inclination anyway?

    Women are very very critical of each other.

    1. I absolutely agree that women should be able to write about whatever they want to write about. And there’s nothing “light” about parenting, just ask Dr. Spock! I think where the issue comes up is when you have women who write about many topics, and happen to be mothers, and are still labeled a mommy blogger because of it.

  11. Iafrau, You can check out my website if you want. I had a Avon website for 3 years when my babies were still nursing and we did a lot of walking around in the summer with the stroller, because they were born in the summer partly. I do all of my banking on line now and is a site that I use to sell my photographs. I bought one image from myself already on canvas for $103.00.

  12. Hi Becca,
    Thank you for this post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.
    I have just starting blogging this year, and I am on board with you on ” My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get. That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops. Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that.”
    I am open to new ideas, the DO’s and DON’Ts, being coachable, and on improving my blogspace “Puerto Rican Movers”. I am making efforts to not “me, me, me” it and improve on blogging skills for when I launch my business site. I believe there is always room at the top, no matter who you are, because we do label ourselves. And by the way, if we don’t brand ourselves someone else will, sadly it will most likely not be nice things.

    Thank you again for the tips! Keep up the great blogging!

    La Frau

  13. I think Susannah Breslin is all kinds of fabulous, however on this matter I don’t agree with her. I wrote a bit about the need for things like women-only spaces on my blog here.
    After reading all of these comments I feel compelled to do another post though!

  14. I believe that my son’s grandmother in Ventura, CA was one of the very first bloggers back in around 2006. Does this sound about right? She had a little “blog” on Facebook. It did not make much sense. It was the first time that I had heard the word “blog”, but I knew that she was on to something. I am still totally amazed by how much it has taken off.

    1. Not even close: I heard the word long before that and the phenomenon is even older. Wikipedia says e.g. “The term “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger[4] on 17 December 1997. The short form, “blog,” was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog in April or May 1999.” and “Justin Hall, who began personal blogging in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers”.

  15. this is bullshit. Stop thinking of yourself as a woman and start thinking about yourself as a human being.

  16. Speaking as a software developer and big time nerd: I would love it, if more women “got their geek on”. At the same time, however, we must remember that having certain proportions of men and women or having certain minimum representations is not an end in it self: What matters is that individuals are allowed to make their choices as they see fit (and to the degree they are capable of delivering, when e.g. career paths concerned). The sad fact is that the proportion of women who are interested in e.g. programming is far smaller than for men, while the proportion who enjoy e.g. clothes and children is far higher. Further, this appears to be largely a result of inborn preferences.

    It then remains one thing to be done: Letting nature take its course, without forcing it in either direction, without blocking those women (or men) who want to enter a certain field, without forcing those who do not.

    (I address a similar topic in an earlier post: )

  17. Yes …it’s a problem isn’t it? you see there is this desire and need for equality . . fantastic. that’s how it should be… so why am i refused admission to a vegetarian restaurant in Manchester because it’s a ‘women only’ night?? sexism is never going to be solved by ‘reverse sexism’ is it?

  18. I really enjoyed this post! I totally agree with you… I have had a difficult time breaking into the blogging world for the simple fact that I didn’t want to be another Mommy Blogger (no offense to anyone…really) i am a Mom but I wanted to step out with something else to bring to the table and because of some of my first posts I realized that I could learn a whole lot about myself and the world by doing research. If I write about things that concern not only myself but others then I was sure to have an audience. I am a tech savvy woman, I am the computer geek at work, even though IT is not officially in my title. I rarely hear from other women on gadgets and software. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to though!

  19. This was the comment made byMiriam Gonzalez Durantez on being married to Nick Clegg the Lib-democrat Deputy PM of the UK –
    “I always get very surprised when I’m asked this question because, you know, I have three children, I have a busy career and I have a very busy husband. Yet my husband has three children, he has a much busier career than I have, and he has a busy wife.“Nobody would ask him how he balances everything. For some reason there is a kind of assumption in your question that it is my role to balance it,”
    I think this sort of sums up where we still are in the male-female roles in the world and really, bloggers, workers, politicians – it really should be all over by now. Gender is entirely moot!!

  20. I noticed long ago that there are several things of which the world has a surplus:

    movies & plays about show biz
    songs about music
    books about literature
    PhDs in Education

    Should I add “blog posts about blogging and bloggers?”

  21. I quite agree. Back in the 70s or so, in the British comedy scene when women were first coming on to said scene, they would often talk about what it is to be a woman, and in effect taking as if they were a minority, when in actuality they made up roughly 52% of the population. So talking about it made it happen – but they made it happen to themselves. Men talked about sports and driving, the news, politics, everything, but women only talking about being a woman.

    So, what’s the solution? Tritely put, getting on with the job in hand, and ignoring such trifling details until such things melt away, and become non-existent.

  22. What an eye-opening and informative post. As a someone new to the wide world of blogging, I see there is much I need to learn. I’m now setting some goals for the next year. I want to be on the tech side of things as much as the “softer” side.

    Does this pigeon-hole make my butt look big?

  23. I have read everything. I am floored that there are so many women who are writing seriously and some are getting paid to write. This was informational, and very helpful. I am a serious writer. I have been writing for a little over a year. I enjoy Word Press and love writing to my audience. I have felt recently that stepping out to find other bloggers and read their work would be educational, and helpful to me as a writer. This article is valuable, and I will read it again!

  24. Great story. Within the video game world it makes me cringe when developers believe that virtual shopping games and a gaming system that gives you quick access to social media sites (“hey, women like to talk!” haha) can be considered honest attempts at addressing the growing segment of female consumers. Can’t wait til the tech world gets the hint; women are just as big a part of the tech world as men!

  25. Wow, I’m glad this post got FP’ed. As a woman blogger, I definitely feel the sting of being grouped with the mommy bloggers and the food/fitness bloggers. The thing is, as you said, these are huge drivers of traffic, so of course we’d need experts on those topics. I do wish there were more women writing about other things. (How many personal finance women bloggers do you know, who don’t concentrate on frugality or families?) Luckily, there are quite a few female writers in the entertainment field, though, as with any industry, there are fewer and fewer as you go up to the higher echelons of popularity/fame.

    1. It’s funny you should bring that up because one of the websites I am most excited about right now is called Go Girl Finance – and it is really about teaching women personal finance not just about balancing a family budget or coupon quests. I am hoping there will be women moving into all areas and being recognized as such – not called mom bloggers when they are in no way writing about parenting.

  26. I really enjoyed this post. I honestly wasn’t aware that this was happening, and you make good points all the way through. I especially like that you said that women don’t need a “mommy” track about just social media. It’s not always about social media! 🙂

  27. Hi! I’m the CEO/Founder of GamingAngels and She’s Geeky Inc. GamingAngels is the largest female gaming community online and we also are very involved in community to get young girls thinking about careers in tech or gaming. We gave away a scholarship to computer camp this year and next year hope to launch a Mentor program.

    Having attended Tech conferences for my professional life, I have to agree that I’ve been very disappointed by some of the panels at events like CES. But I have really seen that come more from the women and what the moderator seems to expect that their contribution is.

    I have been on panels at PAX and PAX East (gaming conventions) where I speak honestly about the industry, what GamingAngels is doing and what changes there needs to be. I’m very excited to be a speaker at Blog Her in the Geek area to talk about the gaming industry, how mom’s can be supportive of their daughters’ exploration in tech, and any other questions that come!

    I’d love to meet you at Blog Her!


    1. I would love to meet you! We are currently implementing a major gamification strategy on I am so incredibly excited for the redesign and launch in mid-August. I think have two incredibly game happy girls who are also very math oriented makes me especially sensitive to wanting them to be in the thick of the development of gaming – not just the consuming.

  28. Interesting. I used to blog (paid) at True/Slant where Susannah also held forth on her blog there. God knows you wouldn’t find two women less similar in many ways than Susannah and I, but I do find the ghetto-ization of women bloggers just plain weird.

    At True/Slant and in my current blog, I have a readership fairly evenly divided between men and women of all ages. I do not have children nor do I typically write about anything specifically female. There are thousands of women already doing that.

    I’m a blogger. I want to build my audience. I’ll go anywhere I really feel confident will help me achieve that. I’ve yet to attend Blog-Her. I don’t identify, on-line or off, as a female writer. I’m a writer.

  29. “That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer. There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.”

    I almost feel like you could take this whole paragraph and do a fill-in-the-blank with whatever type of conference, or even profession. I heard that women in our society constantly undermine their own power and their own confidence, and shoot for goals lower than what they’re capable of. You make some convincing points.

    Nice post, and congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  30. I used to go to a lot of conferences for startups and I was always one of very few women in the audience. Eventually, I lost interest. There is a lot of fluff. I actually sat through a presentation by a mobile app company that revolutionizes the way people order coffee. Here is the truth – women and men need different types of products and services: women need solutions to save them time and effort, men need solutions to kill time and give them something to do. There are not enough solutions and products for women and they don’t get enough funding. So probably having separate conferences for women do make sense?

  31. Becca, I signed up for BlogHer last year but I post there very infrequently. Something I didn’t quite understand was whether or not I should be regurgitating what I post on here over there. The readership is HUGE! The exposure is wonderful and the networking, well that speaks for itself.

    Do you post differently over there? Do you blog for a living? I adore blogging and love learning more about SEO and online marketing (as well as expressing myself through this medium) so it’d be a dream come true if one day I was actually able to take the passion I have for this and also earn some income from it, as well. Your thoughts?

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. I do not post over at BlogHer. Actually I was incredibly lucky and honored that they plucked my blog out of the blogosphere and decided to feature a couple of posts on their homepage. I do blog for a living, as well as working as a social media consultant for companies, but my focus right now is on the launch of my new site for tweens called KidzVuz. If you have a passion for blogging the best advice I can give you is to keep at it, and participate in the community. By all means go to a blog conference – but you can start with a smaller one if BlogHer seems overwhelming. I started out writing for NYC Moms, which was undeniably an amazing intro to the blog community 3 1/2 years ago. They have since disbanded. And though I am not a big fan of writing for other communities for free I do think it’s a very good place to start for someone looking for exposure and a network. And listen to the Blogging Angels of course! 🙂 Good luck.

  32. Most of the time, when men I don’t know are trying to explain something tech-related to me, they’ll dumb it down to the point of absurdness.

    Is it because I like the color pink?

    …Or because they’re the ones who are SUPER outdated.

  33. Interesting how different this article and thread is when it’s blogger-focused.

    I totally disagree with tech conferences that pitch towards women tend to be fluffy and not enough substance. But then in my opinion the blogger world has a diverse, mixed bag of folks who may not have course work training on networked database development (for an organization, not personal use), project management, business analysis,e tc.

    I’m in a female dominant profession, where it is librarians. And these are folks with master’s level university degrees. Our conferences do have a tech focus in order plan, finance and develop services and operations that implement the best technologh solutions enterprise-wide: thereform I have seldom found such conferences with usually at least over 70% female librarians in attendance, “fluffy” in content or not sufficient fact-evidence based or hardball applications design.

    Check out the internet,…there’s evidence of our profession’s conference world.

    1. Well I think that would be a very different situation. The library world is incredibly tech focused because those are the forces shaping that world, and that tech is systems based as you said. Though I’ve been to a few ed tech conferences that are pretty male dominated too. The issue isn’t whether profession specific tech conferences are sticking women into a fluffy niche – it’s whether women are sticking themselves there. That is more worrisome to me.

      1. Perhaps some of these women who appear to gravitate to the “lighter”, fluffier content streams at a conference, is that to them, they might want to network in a more “women” oriented fashion and kibbutz in that way.

        For me, it really is business: I don’t get personal hardly at all with other women colleagues. I keep only 2 female librarian friends as personal relationships for last 20+ yrs. Everyone is …just professional, work-related chat.

        Then I go off to be alone after a conference. Usually my head is full of all sorts of learning and I’ve been psyched up/motivated.

        I have gone to a Social Media Unconference. It was ok…I found it “light” except for 2 brilliant women speaking on marketing related to social identity.

  34. i think you’re right. previously, i was in the tech industry, and most conferences were geared primarily toward men in a straight forward and data-packed way. then some semi-tech conferences began popping up, and they were geared more toward women. they had a lot more “fluff”. either way, i’d fall asleep…so i’m no longer in the industry 🙂

  35. I totally agree. I especially hate that if you’re a woman you’re most likely deemed a mommy blogger. And there’s nothing wrong with that term except I am more than a mother. I write about much more than just parenting and I hate being labeled in one specific way just because I happen to have children.

    1. One of my favorite lists that appeared this year was a list that put Chris Brogan as a “dad” blogger. I loved that and thought, it’s about time a man who just happened to also be a dad was given that label!

  36. Most of the blogs I read are written by women. (Food blogs mainly, not many mommy ones, since I’m childless.) It seems like they should be well represented at conferences. Food might fit into that soft category, but to me it’s serious business.

  37. “…women should get their geek on” – Yes yes yes!! I absolutely agree! In fact, I wrote a post about this a little while back called “The Evolution of the Computer Geek” and how more women need to be taking the wheel when it comes to our technological education and to stop being intimidated when it comes to I.T.

    Just in case you’re interested, here’s the link:

    Love this post! Great job and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    1. Thanks! Great link. I have a passion for getting girls into STEM and I hope the next generation of social media and gaming savvy girls become creators and not just consumers of tech.

  38. I’ve seen some pretty geeky women on a few panels, but a very few…like as in three, in three years. I think it’s a problem akin to affirmative action. Are there anywhere near as many women who are qualified to speak about these things? From the companies I’ve visited – just hanging around the halls and cafeterias – I’d guess the answer is no. The solution has to start long before we’re at the booking speakers stage.

    But from the audience side, you hit the nail on the head. We aren’t given the speakers we deserve. I don’t care if the person speaking to me about SEO has a penis or a vagina, I just want to know that s/he was the best person available for the conference and that I’m getting the most relevant info.

  39. Very interesting assessment of female bloggers — I’ve often wondered if there’s a “BlogHim” conference? My guess is, not so much…

    I hope you’ll report back on what you learn…

    1. There is no BlogHim – though dad bloggers have been known to crash BlogHer and other women blog conferences. But BlogWorld Expo is basically the all for one conference. They do a better job of balancing panel presenters I think.

      1. There is no BlogHim, in the same way there is no Male Studies counterpart to Women’s Studies programs, because Blogs and other technical spheres are, to date, male domain. Thank you for this informative article.

  40. Rebecca, I tend to really like nuts and bolts type events because it comes easier to me, love being given the details, show me how it works. I suspect that you are right on point here, the marriage of tech to social media is still so new that merging of the 2 communities is still a work in progress.

    I look to you & theblogging angels to help lead the way through this transitional period & look forward to seeing how you help shape & change these events into something of value for all who attend them!

  41. Rebecca, I expect different things from a huge conference than I do from a product specific Boot Camp, from the former I want general, clear info as to how your product/service will help me along with info on where to get more info or contact you, for the later I want in depth, hands on training (bring on those benchmark scores)

    Where some people see a “pigeonhole” I see opportunity, a chance to educate
    consumers,to infect them if you will 🙂 with the wonders of technology and a deeper desire to understand how things work.

    Thank you for serving up yet another great post!

    1. I totally agree. But I have to say that the information offered at Web 2.0 was so different than the “business” panels I’ve attended at women-centric conferences. There was a lot less talk and a lot more nuts and bolts information sharing. On the other hand any social media panel I attend has the same fuzzier language. I think that’s because so many people are trying to figure out the ROI, men and women, so it’s a lot easier to be entertaining when presenting those panels and have fewer real case studies and blueprints to share. It’s all still evolving.

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