At the Ideas Project apparently women don’t have any ideas.

As some of you may or may not know, I founded a women’s-only technology conference, She’s Geeky. There has been a bunch of conversation in this past week about the lack of women speakers at tech events (in fields like web 2.0, social media, government where there is significant female participation).

It got started with this top 10 list put out by the Speakers Group that included NO women. Then O’Reilly published its first round of speakers for Web 2.0 Summit that was only 20% women. Allyson Kapin called him out, started a petition, and a whole discussion got going in Twitter. It continued with the inc500 conference.

This morning via a link I ended up on this website: The IDEAS Project. This is a site talking about the big ideas of the social web and the future of identity, collaboration, standards development, and norms on the digital web. The pictures speak for themselves.






For those of you counting:

  • 5 women out of 50
  • racial diversity by my observation 2 asian people and 2 black people
  • No one under the age of 30 and not that many under the age of 40.

Monitor Talent is behind the site and it is sponsored by Nokia and powered by Xigi.

Many of the men here have written books or have academic credentials.

Of course it is a social media site, so any one can contribute. I just don’t want to contribute to a place that is so skewed in one direction in terms of the starting point. This is not a hard core IT subject, this is social media and use of the web and the network in a forward looking way. Looking along the side, all the contributed ideas so far come from handles with male names.

It all makes me wonder:

  • Who is a real “authority” on a subject?
  • If you have a title and a position at an institution this means you must know, right?
  • If you have written a book you must have it right?

Some friends are in this “talent pool” like Jerry Michalski, Clay Shirky, Doc Searls, Laura Fitton, Christine Heron, Esther Dyson, Bob Fankston, David Hornick, Robert Scoble, Kevin Werbach, Andreas Weigend, Ross Mayfield, Charlene Li, Jeff Clavier.

I am curious if they asked about the gender balance reflected in this project up front?

Have they worked to recommend that Monitor Talent pick up more women talent? or even proactively suggested monitor seek to develop women talent?

The web offers a huge opportunity to change who is seen and referenced as having authority and we need to take advantage of this change the web offers.

I know this… I I have never had a formal position at any company, yet IdM leaders at major companies like Microsoft, SUN, Novell, Burton Group, PayPal, Google, Yahoo!, etc. point at my blog, and I have, at least within that world, a lot of authority as a community leader – I have led 15+ events on the topic of user-centric identity in the past 5 years and and spoken about 3 times a year at other events. I am very very comfortable talking about the topics in my industry, this is what I DO – I am an evangelist, a communicator, but this alone didn’t translate into being able to speak without training, practice or support. (I currently don’t proactively seek to speak because I had a bad experience and it rattled me.)

I think we need to work on moving beyond just taking at face value “old” positional authority like having a title at a university and proclaiming expertise – it doesn’t mean those people participate in the communities that are actually driving the innovation they speak about.

There is a systemic issue here. I hope that it can be addressed by the whole community.

Here are some talented women in identity if you ware wondering who they are.


  1. says

    In my sense of being, I feel the wrongfulness and plight of females in technology, from this post,and from a few you’ve posted on twitter this week (like the one from pleia2).

    I have a strong sense of urgency, that something must be done about this. I have some of the credentials, and I’ve written papers, presented at conferences, and developed/designed a plethora of websites. The decisions is that moving forward I can continuing to learn new technologies and techniques in my spare time, or spend my time telling people about what I already know. This reminds me of an observation I had over a year ago when twitter was beginning to flood with social media *experts*. There’s often a division between people that do technology, and people that write about technology. And now I see a new division – one between the people who’s careers depend on public speaking engagements (authors, VCs, consultants), and those people who’s careers depend on executing (entrepreneurs, developers, engineers, designers). Some people are lucky to be able to do both, and one day I’d like to call myself one. But for now I’m too busy doing technology, a.k.a. too many ideas for projects and not enough time.

  2. says

    Thanks for asking, Kaliya.

    Until you brought it up here, I barely remembered “The IDEAS Project.” If you had asked me what it was, I wouldn’t have had a clue. I remember being pulled aside at a Nokia party on the roof of a building at SXSW in March, giving an interview, and going back to the party. I just checked back through old emails and found that I had been navigated there by a friend who was involved in the project. For what it might matter, that person was a woman.

    I had assumed it was a Nokia project. I didn’t know Monitor Talent was involved. As it happens Monitor Talent is here in Cambridge (where I’m based these days). A couple years ago I had thought that Monitor might consider representing my Talent. I met with some people there and nothing came of it. Whatever the reason for that, it wasn’t because I’m female.

    For what it’s worth, the number of women interviewed for the IDEAS Project was seven, not five. That comes to about 14%. According to Kirrily Robert’s presentation on women in open source, the tech industry average is 20%, but the average among open source developers is much lower: 10% for Drupal, 5% for Perl, 1..5% for Drupal overall. As she also points out, there was just one woman at the Linux Kernel Summit. This squares with the readership of Linux Journal, where female readership is in the low single digits. This is at a magazine that is owned and run by women. We’ve tried to raise the percentage. It ain’t easy.

    You also say you see “No one under the age of 30 and not that many under the age of 40.” How about the number over the age of 60? I count just one: me. Not that I care. (I really don’t.)

    I think there are several overlapping problems here. One is a demographic imbalance of highly lopsided dimensions, for which there are many bad causes, some very deep and long-standing. Another is lame conferences that keep inviting the same yakkers to stand on stage or sit on panels. (This IDEAS thing holds a mirror up to that system.) Another is the buzz business of Twitter and blogging and traffic-driving, which also tends to smoke its own exhaust.

    You know how to fix all that? Do exactly what you’re doing already.

    It’s interesting to me that you’re complaining about broken systems you’re already doing a great job replacing. You’re doing it with IIW (which is very much your show, and quite successful — as a productive thing, rather than as a show business thing, for which I say Bravo). You’re doing it with Open Space, for which you are by far the most vigorous and effective advocate and practitioner on the whole planet. You’re doing it with She’s Geeky, with this blog… the list goes on and on.

    You need to face the fact that you rock. You don’t need ordinary conferences and other Business As Usual crap to give you validation. You’re doing great.

    Keep it up.


  3. says

    Hi Kaliya.

    Thanks for your comments and for visiting Nokia’s Ideasproject website. It’s absolutely true we have to do a better job of representing women on the site. We all know that the gender balance is not 50/50 in the technology world — even, weirdly, the social media world..but that is no excuse. We just interviewed two female new Ideators last week, a step towards a better ratio…and plan to make it a priority in the next year. Hopefully in the coming months we’ll be able to attract Big Ideas from more women — you’re right that there are a lot brilliant female voices out there.

    Valerie Buckingham, Forum Nokia Developer Communities

  4. says

    Wow. He’s a sleaze, true-but that was the lmeast scam ever. Why would anyone send anyone else pics of themselves scantily clad if you’re not dating or flirting? Even if these girls didn’t suspect anything with the first request to save a scholarship , the second one that asked for a picture with less clothing should have rung loud alarm bells.Bottom line-the internet is forever, people. Don’t take anything for granted.

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