Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Women, the creative industries, digital technologies, blogging and inclusion

I want to keep this brief because it's supper time, but a little explanation around this blog, my research topic and how a little event on Monday suddenly put all that stuff into sharp relief.

A story: About 10 years ago I was immersed in all online stuff in the local area (was even regaling the whole 'Charlotte Carey Online' debacle (a rather low budget BBC Radio WM weekly tech radio show) the other day) this all carried on for a few more years and then in 2000 I had my daughter. I took 6 months maternity leave. What happened in that time was a bit weird. I kind of lost my tech mojo or perhaps my confidence to keep on top of the fast changes in technology.

Another thing I noticed was a whole bunch of women that I'd previously met at private views and the like, who had mysteriously disappeared, were now in this other world. The mummy world. It is a day time world where there aren't many private views or networking events, def no impromptu after work schmoozing and networking happens but accompanied by nappy changing and other baby related stuff.

Now this is all quite a while a go for me, mojo was recovered, although slightly altered, private views became once more an option - occassionally. But the whole impromptu thing now has to be planned for.

(and I should add a little disclaimer here: In my experience having a baby and looking after ones small child is one of the most awesome and wonderful experiences - I am not trying to diminish that in anyway. I also know that this is not unique to women and that increasingly men stay at home and take care of childcare)

Now why do I mention this all? well it was this experience and some early research I was involved in that lead me to the work I am immersed in at the moment around gender and entrepreneurship in the creative industries. I got to thinking: if so much about the sector is characterised by sort of night-time living, networking, friendships and 'who you know' then how do folks with caring responsibilities and baby sitting issues get involved? how are their careers affected by this potential exclusion?

This was highlighted recently at the Bham Bloggers (see below) meeting where a bunch of women couldn't make it due to childcare. Now this is not to say that this is the only reason women weren't there (but that is for another posting). But a point that was raised, was that potentially women’s voices are missing and this is pretty serious to the development of these areas. Discussion (see comments related to this blog posting by Stef) led to how women could potentially organise themselves into some daytime blogger meetups, child friendly ones at that. That perhaps these could be a stepping stone to the wider group.

What interests me is that by having a voice, women interested in technology and how it could shape their businesses and the sectors they work within might really add value and a different perspective to the overall mix.

Later: Re-reading my final paragraph and having thought about it some more I realise this sounds a little patronising. What I sort of mean is that they should be shaping/influencing this stuff as much as any one else and in some quarters probably are, but here in the WM it still feels very male dominated - am Imaking sense?

Anyway I'll get in touch with those women and see if we can fix something up?


Nick Booth said...

Hi Charlotte, the wider the range of people involved the better. We all know the benefit of a diversity of ideas. Very early on I made a slightly haphazard range of people admins on the facebook group, on the assumption that individual control is a weakness not a strength. You are amongst them.

Our first meeting was in the daytime, although that led to a number of e-mails saying that it might work for the self employed but was a problem for the formally employed, so evenings were better. It's always a trade off. I've thought from day one this is best managed by a number of us doing what we can. There is no sense, in my mind, that the bloggers group belongs to anyone - the point is to give as many of us as possible as many chances as possible to learn as much as we can from each other. Does that make sense?

Charlotte Carey said...

Makes total sense Nick - and I will do my bit to try to encourage wider participation. I guess there is a hardcore who devote a lot of time to this stuff and they just happen to be male.

My posting here is more about a wider issue - just seemed highlighted on Monday. This is particularly pertinent, in that fewer women run businesses within the tech side of the Creative inds - these being the businesses that generate the most money - it is important to figure out why and whether or not it matters .

This is not to say that women aren't contributing .. (hence the PhD...)

Now am I making sense?

Ana Milgram said...

Another valid topic, I don't have kids, but if I did, and maybe when I do, the plan would be for us to bring kids to pvs, and for my partner to take them home after as he doesn't drink and therefore doesn't like going on to pubs.

I imagine some people would think it strange for me to be out networking while he did that, but wouldn't think twice about a man staying out while the woman was at home.

Charlotte Carey said...

Hi Ana

Sure thing my daughter, now 7, still comes to PV's with me and certainly did as a baby, less as a toddler as too nightmareish and certainly her dad did/does his share of childcare.

I think that sometimes the staying out business is not always so appealing if you are breastfeeding, or haven't slept and certainly networking with a child in tow is less easy.

Totally agree there is no reason for women with children to miss out, but somehow the reality is often different.

Once again I want to reiterate how ace it is do be a mum - a very valuable job in itself


Katie said...

Hi Charlotte,

It strikes me that people may also be asking 'Why go?'

That, along with: 'Is it going to be lots of techy talk where I'd feel out of my depth?', 'What will I get out of this?', 'Will I fit in?'. Those are certainly some of my thoughts - but whether or not they apply to women in particular, I don't know ...

Those questions, along with the cliqueyness of the blogging scene (Yeah, I know it's not supposed to be ... but, from the outside, it does seem that way!) makes going to meet-ups pretty off-putting. In fact, probably the biggest barrier for me is the idea that everybody else already knows each other, at least to some extent, and kind of 'belongs' ...

Mine is a business blog and probably of more interest to design students than anyone else, so where does that fit in ... if at all? In a way, I just don't feel progressive (if that's the right word) enough to get involved - but then again, I certainly won't have the possibility of either learning more or contributing anything useful if I don't join in - aaarrrrgghhh!

Okay, so this is me:

I'm female; I run a business and have a blog (albeit a business one); I'm interested in what's going on in and around the city; I like to know how technologies are moving along and think about how they could best be utilsed for business and other stuff; and - though admittedly shy at first (!) - I also like meeting new people. Still, I simply don't feel comfortable at the prospect of joining an established group who are no doubt extremely knowledgeable and far more likely to contribute useful stuff than I'd be able to.

In essence I think my problem is: I'm not convinced I'm the right sort of person to go along.

Personally I'd feel much more comfortable meeting up with fewer people - and people who I know have similar reservations - at least at first so I don't feel as much of an outsider. Granted, this may just be me being a proper wuss - but perhaps there are others who have similar inhibitions?

(Bloomin' Nora, that turned quite wordy - hope there's some sense in there somewhere!)

Charlotte Carey said...

Hi Katie

Thanks for your very insightful posting - I think you are so right about a bunch of things and I can relate, my blog is not about Birmingham it is about my research. Just happens the research area sort of fits with the topis of gender and creativity and technology comes into it. Below is my response to Ruth Wards Birmingham Post posting - which sort of backs up your point:

I think both sides have a point. I think there are probably plenty of female bloggers around (although I have no statistics and have yet to meet that many) but they def don't attend local events related to blogging, but perhaps they don't identify with the Birmingham Bloggers thing. It seems the hardcore Birmingham bloggers (who attend meetings) are coming from a very much tech perspective, as well as a Birmingham centric perspective. It would be interesting to speak with female bloggers about their perspective perhaps it is more content orientated in which case neither the local or the tech aspects will attract them.

The issue I feel is that where you get an organised group of people who are discussing potential funding streams and innovations, related to the tech side and blogging community, that this discussion could equally be informed by the potential alternative (female) perspectives. By missing these perspectives we potentially miss some interesting opportunities and innovations.

Ruth ward post

I know there has been some talk about a women only group - I think there might be scope for something less formal but perhaps a pre-meet half an hour before the main feature - what do you reckon?


Charlotte Carey said...

Oh and 'hi Katie' - just followed your link and recognised you! - looks like your doing some interesting work.

I'll let you know how the Bham bloggers thing evolves

Katie said...

Hi Charlotte,

Yep - we've got some good stuff going on at the moment work-wise. It's pretty busy ... but, hey, it's lunchtime so I'm allowing myself time to do some blog-reading!

I agree - the hardcore techy side of things scares me off; but if I knew there were others there who felt the same, it'd definitely make me more inclined to get involved. I wouldn't feel like the only spare part, I guess!

About the idea of a women-only blog meet-up thingy - I can see that the biggest downside to this is that it's purposely isolating the gals from the guys - definitely not the result any of us are after. The whole point is to bring together different ideas and points of view ...

If, however, by forming a separate group it'd encourage us womenfolk to join in something we otherwise wouldn't, perhaps it could actually be a good thing ...?

(Oh dear - if you ever want both sides of an argument - I'm the one to ask. So bloody indecisive!)

Anyway ...

This micro-group thing needn't apply solely to women-only groups, of course. There are already smaller groups - the Multi-pack guys for example - who have their own meetings, then go to the big Brum meet-up too (I assume they do anyway?!). This bit-by-bit approach may help people get used to the idea of getting together via online stuff - which is still a pretty alien concept to most.

Basically, it's about getting people comfortable talking and giving their opinions - if we can do this by first forming small groups which then hook up with other groups, it should grow fairly organically from there.

(Oooh, then there'd be this little group, which joins up - on occasion - with other groups to make one huge, almighty supergroup that'll need the entire NEC to hold it ...! Okay, that's going a wee bit far - but you get my drift.)

Right lunchtime is well and truly over now as I am wittering wa-hay too much.