Why Every Woman Should Know How Her Blog Works or,Why Women are still marginalized.

This Saturday, I attended WordCamp Philly at beautiful Alter Hall, which is a conference for people who hate spending time outdoors. Also it’s for people who enjoy using WordPress to build their website. (Like me! This site is built with WordPress! Also with sweat and tears.)

See?  Here I am in my natural habitat:


There were four tracks, one for beginner users, one for intermediate, one for WordPress developers, and one for WordPress designers.  I consider myself intermediate, maybe at the edge of developer/designer, so I went to a mix of sessions in all four tracks.

I learned a TON about how to build a better site for *YOU* guys, the users, some of which I’ll be playing around with over the next couple months here, why Facebook is the future of creepy data, and why you shouldn’t use WiFi mostly.  I also got to meet some cool people I’ve been interacting with through Twitter up until now.

Aside from all the cool stuff I learned, I also realized that, women were the minority at this conference, which was ostensibly designed to be very user-friendly and non-intimidating.  Well, that’s not completely right. There were maybe 40% women at the beginner sessions, 25% at intermediate, and 5-10% at developer/designer.  Maybe 3 or 4 of the speakers were women.  And yet, about 50% of all bloggers are women, and WordPress is quickly growing in popularity as the blogging platform of choice.   (Maybe I just made that statistic up.)

It's all dudes. Pic via @wjdennen

It wasn’t a huge deal for me; I’m used to it.  In the conference I went to on Wednesday with my coworkers and boss, I was the only woman from our group. I would say maybe 35% of that conference was women.  At work, on our floor of 50ish people,  I’m 1 of maybe 15 women.  In my econ class, maybe 10% are women.

Usually, I don’t think in terms of men and women.  I’m just doing what I do.  It’s like when someone asked Golda Meir how it felt to be a female prime minister and she said she didn’t know because she’d never been a male one.  But the more I get into the tech scene, the more I want to know why.  Why were all the women in the beginner sessions at the conference?  Why is there still a gap for men/women in business school, law school, and the sciences?  Why is it that when we have a group meeting at work, do all of us women stand and all the men sit down (I’ve been consciously working on changing this for myself)?

Most importantly, why are women still spending most of their time online in pink ghettos like BlogHer, Forbes Woman, TheStir, The Knot, The Nest, Pinterest,etc. etc, while men are building profit-making software, talking about economics, and building beautiful data visualiztations, not to mention going to blogging conferences and learning about WordPress so they can make money off women who don’t know how their blogs work? Why are women still letting themselves be organized in panels called “Social Media: A Woman’s Touch?”

I don’t know what the answer is for everyone.  I think part of the problem has to do with the fact that women are biologically wired to be the primary caretaker of children, no matter how unfair it seems sometimes, so that automatically takes us out of representation at the places we want to be.  It’s hard to spend a whole Saturday to yourself learning about WordPress when you have to take care of the family, or when your attention is on your son’s doctor’s appointment.  Although, lots of men with kids were there.  Because their wife was at home with the kids. The other part of the problem, at least for me, is that we, as women,  maybe both have a bias against math/science and are socialized differently than guys.  Although plenty of  male authors (who are published more than women, by the way) seem to avoid it.

The other reason is honestly, and not to sound like Barbie, math is hard.  While studies have disproven the fact that math is harder biologically for girls than for guys, for whatever reason, girls are still not going into tech and science in the same way that men are.  In America. In other countries, there’s more parity. Part of it has to do with the way we’re raised.  Part of it has to do with the way we’re wired.  Even though I am all up in tech, I have to go against all of my own talents and skills in writing, socialization, and the arts (perfect skills for blogging) in order to do part  my job, which involves writing code and making sense of large amounts of data.  I specifically chose this job and this field because I want to challenge myself to work on this instead of resting on my laurels as a writer. But then, why are men at the top of fields like literature and journalism as well?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that women that are interested in changing this need to climb out of the pink ghetto.  We need to be going to industries and jobs that are male-dominated, because that’s where the money is. We need to be blogging not about being a ‘mommy’, or shopping, or fashion, or makeup, but about math and business and  stuff. But no need for the content to be boring.  You just have to know how to apply the right angle. Why not shopping AND math?  Why not your kids AND economics?  We need to be rolling up our sleeves and learning how our blogs work. Differentiate yourself, both in your blog and in your career.  Because as soon as you start doing something that all other women are doing, you start losing credibility and money.

So, if you blog, start going to blogging conferences.  See how your blog works, check it out under the hood.  And do the same thing with your career.

Here’s the part where we get to the comments and you tell me whether I’m right or wrong and how we can fix the pink ghetto:





24 thoughts on “Why Every Woman Should Know How Her Blog Works or,Why Women are still marginalized.

  1. As long as there is no discrimination and everybody allows to do what they enjoy to do and be successful in it why is it matter so much if you are a man or woman ? As always you see kids as some annoying obstacle on the way of total equality of genders. At some point you understand that creating  and raising successful human being could be the most satisfactory experience for a lot of women – more that trisecting of an angle or figuring Goldbach’s conjecture.  It also could be the most challenging thing you ever get to do !

    1. I’m not saying that kids are an obstacle.

      Actually yes I am.

      Kids are amazing and probably the best thing most people will produce. And much harder than most jobs. But as long as women are biologically slanted to have kids, they will always be at a disadvantage in society. Before it used to be that women were forced into staying at home because they had kids. Now it’s less severe, more like a wage tax. But it still exists. And I’m interested in this problem and how to solve it.

      My biggest thing is that men never worry about what will happen to their career when they have kids. But women always have to. And it shouldn’t be that way.

      1. Actually, I think the problem is more that men never worry about what will happen *to their kids* as a result of their career choices, whereas women always do. And that’s not necessarily something that can or will change.

        1. That’s completely unfair. I took my most recent position at a 30% pay cut specifically so as to improve my work/homelife balance. I make less now but see my kids before the sun sets most days.

          It doesn’t get much better than that. 

          1. Doug, this is really commendable, but unfortunately, I think this is an extremely rare thing for men to do, or at least from men that I know both as friends and friends of friends. In fact, most men I know try to make more as additional children are born.   But it is encouraging to see more men grappling with work/life issues, at least publicly. 

          2. My husband did the same thing.  Took almost a 50% pay-cut from his tech job to become a teacher in order to have summers and vacations free to spend with us – and do a job he prefers anyway.
            As for the “pink ghetto,” I see it more as a “pink demo.”  The fact is, I write romance novels, cozy mysteries and books about soap operas and figure skating.  My readership is primarily women, so I like the idea of promoting and marketing on sites and blogs that cater to, attract, and appeal to women.  It’s a feature, not a bug.  (And for statistical purposes, I have three kids, which is why I left *my* high-paying 9 to 5… or 6… or 7 job to free-lance exclusively.  Today the kids are off from school, and I don’t have to lose my mind looking for child-care or otherwise struggling and juggling.  That, too, is a feature, not a bug.)
            And if anyone would like to me to guest blog on your “pink ghetto-ized site”… I’m your girl!  Contact me!

  2. Kids are a big obstacle, but more than that it’s a lack of confidence. Reading “The Bad Tempered Gardener,” and Anne Wareham mentions that when she was taking a garden design course, the women in the class were doing the exercises on their own yards or friends’, because they were working towards the credentials to start charging. The men in the class were doing the exercises and taking money for the design work while they were still learning. That’s a socialization issue, and it spans pretty much all areas of work.
    Also, to totally over generalize, women do social media to make connections, rather than to make money. There are very few women out there making a living from their blogs intentionally – people like Dooce and Pioneer Woman are good examples. And they are not bloggers anymore (if they ever were), they are brands. Brands can have a self-confidence that an individual woman can’t. Look at James Chartrand.

  3. Last week, Lisa Randall was on the daily show.  My first thought wasn’t about how amazing some of the stuff she studies is (notably the extra-dimension stuff), or how well she can present unbelievably complicated information about theoretical physics despite her incredibly high intellect.  My first thought? 
    Whoa, total babe.
    Is that my fault?  Her fault?  Society’s fault?  I don’t know – although it’s pretty safe to say it’s not mine.  I have an opinion, but I don’t have the research to back up my opinion. 
    Then, Ira says to me the other day: “The older Sema gets, the more I could imagine myself being a stay at home mom”.  Of course, she added the qualifying sentence: “as long as I could still have a job where I work from home and I’m powerful and successful.”  This is huge.

    1. We are conditioned to judge everyone based on how they look, even if we try our best not to.  Why this is the case for women more than men probably has to do with all the ads sexing up women than men. 

  4. Awesome post, seriously. I think you’re right that women are biologically wired to think about family, children and to give these things highest importance. Even in my relationship (I’m not married nor do I have kids), I notice that I tend to crave family life, settling down, having kids, etc a bit more than my SO when I am thinking of my future career or our future together. He, on the other hand, is more prone to thinking primarily in terms of career, and not giving as much thought to future kids, etc. Sometimes it frustrates me, because I feel bound by these emotions. I feel like my desire for kids/family/personal stability is so much greater than his, and is suffocating me. At the same time, I feel a certain emptiness when I try to think primarily in terms of career and nothing else. How do women change their priorities, the very way they naturally think about career/family balance? It’s a difficult one.

  5. Vicki:
    Thanks for coming out! I know we had a blast and I’m glad it seems as though you did as well.

    As one of the event organizers, I would just like to point out: we went with the speakers that volunteered and we enforced no rigid class participation. Those that chose to go to the beginners’ course did so of their own volition.

    That being said, I would also like to point out that the single person talking about monetization and how to really make something of your site was Yasmine Mustafa. She gave an excellent breakdown of how she leverages her blogging skills to make an income online. She was bold, she was up-front and she gave a great talk.

    We definitely want to have as many views as possible represented at Philly area WordPress events, so if you have any ideas on how to encourage anyone, be they male or female to come out, we’re all ears!

    Thanks again for coming out. 

    1. I LOVED the event and thank you so much for taking the time to organize it and make it amazing.  Having planned events for 200+ people before, I understand the pain of event planning, and yours was very well executed.  

      I think it is definitely interesting who showed up for what sessions, especially given the fact that, like you said, there were no restrictions and people could go wherever they wanted.  Can’t wait to attend more Philly WordPress events..the community seems pretty awesome. 

      P.s. Your talk had just the right amount of mustaches in it.  

  6. It’s too late in the evening for me to add much constructively to this conversation, yet I do want to share three simple observations in no particular order:
    (1) It’s wonderful to see such a potentially divisive topic being argued in a respectful and non-confrontational manner. That’s a key to resolving major issues — look for common ground and then explore differences from there.
    (2) It was great to meet Vicki in person at WordCamp Philly.
    (3) I too noticed the overwhelming number of men in attendance.

    “We need to be going to industries and jobs that are male-dominated, because that’s where the money is.”  I could not disagree more!  Competing with men at their game is a disappointment waiting to happen (not always, but all too often).  The key for women is to blaze their own trails and not be ashamed if that trail leads straight through the “pink ghetto”.  I found out recently that there are quite a few of those “pink” blogs that bring nice revenue streams and enviable opportunities to their owners.   It all boils down to working smarter…always! 

    1. What you and Alina above said are probably true, in a way.  To me, personally, it would be demeaning to hawk Tide detergent and weight loss pills for affiliate revenue. But for some women it’s a part-time career. The problem, I think is that women in women-majority industries make less money than men.  But if it doesn’t bother you, it’s definitely a legitimate career choice. 

  8. I was never interested in anything related to computers other than the basic stuff, until I was “forced” to do so. And guess what? I love it! so much so that I started teaching myself C. Although I was raised by a very gender-neutral family, It just never occurred to me that I might like it. Ironically, I see a lot of parallels to knitting, which I learned when i was 5 years old (as did my brother, who went on to study math)

    1. I think the thing is, teachers never really push girls or boys towards programming. Most people who enjoy it discover it on their own. 

  9. Nicely written, as always. 

    Here is my objection, throughout this post (and in many in the past) is your assumption that the ultimate objective for everyone is and should be to make money and this is why we shouldn’t major in history or philosophy or write about being a mommy. But in my experience money does not buy happiness, it buys security, comfort, food, medicine…duh…but it does not make you a fulfilled, content, and purpose filled human being. 

    Should people who blog understand their platform and how to make money (if that is what they choose)? Yes they should. Are there bloggers who don’t care about that and are just in it to make connections online and be validated for choosing to do work that is meaningful to them? Yup. I only really started blogging after my daughter was born because I was desperate to feel connected (parenting is isolating) and to feel validated in my choice to forgo (for a period of time) a job that was outwardly valued (with a paycheck) to raise a human being. 

    We don’t “need” to blog about math and business and stuff if what we are passionate about is fashion or if the experience we need dissected, analyzed and validated is motherhood. I think what you’re saying is that if your passion is math, business and economics to not be afraid to tackle it and blog about it just because you are female, there were will be readers (female and male) eager to read your take on it. 

    I could write more but my kid is sick so duty calls.  

    1. I agree. I should have added that, if your goal is to move up the corporate ladder or make more money, you should be doing these things. The reason I wrote this, is because a lot of times I see stuff like, “Women still being marginalized” or “Mommyblogging is bad” or “I can’t find a job with X major,” or whatever, and my answer to that is, don’t do stuff that marginalizes you and you won’t get marginalized.  I mean, obviously it’s not a guarantee, but just a guide. 

      And absolutely if you blog to be fulfilled socially, do it for that reason.  I also started my blog because I was bored at work and didn’t know a lot of people in DC and it opened up a whole world to me outside the code, including everyone who comments here, online people I’ve met in person, and experiences I never, ever would have had if I didn’t blog.  I didn’t know anything about hardcore WordPress when I started and it’s not how I built up a wonderful community of people that are my online friends. 

      1. I should add that another reason I wrote this post I that see that bothers me is women belitting themselves in how much they know about technology in posts like, “Oh, I don’t know how to make this picture bigger, just bear with me,” or they’re scared because they don’t know how to transition from Blogger to WordPress, or run security on their blog, etc, and as a result they pay $$$$ to “experts” to do stuff that they probably could have done themselves with maybe 45 minutes of Googling. This behavior has led to the rise of “Social Media Experts,” which I hate.

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