Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Silicon Stilettos

I just went to a great meetup. Silicon Stilettos is a networking meetup aimed at business women in the IT industry.

I went along last night and loved it. It was a great way to catch up with like-minded women in the industry, and hopefully learn a few tips and tricks from them, and share my own experience.

Despite it being an IT industry Do, I seemed to be the only actual developer in the lot - but that didn't surprise me at all. Even after decades of equal-rights, I still find that even with the small number of women in the IT world, that majority of them tend to be in marketing or PR, which played out amongst this group. But that's fine - after all, if I wanted to learn yet more IT stuff, I could go for linuxchix, GirlGeekDinners or any one of the non-female-only[1] user groups I attend already. So it was great to see a different side of the IT industry - and there were certainly a few women there that were quite savvy in the field.

The best chat was about social media as it pertains to IT PR, how big corporates still haven't realised they should do it, and how those that realise they should don't know how to get started. Mainly because they're so used to hiding behind their corporate brand-projection that it's hard for them to dredge up a real, unique and human voice, which is what is needed for social media to actually be genuine and appealing.

Often, big companies try to continue the sort of push-style marketing they're used to, just dropping it into twitter/facebook as though that was how to win over the social media crowd. They couldn't be more wrong, of course. Social media demands a real and genuine connection with people, and you can't do that by braying about how good you are.

A lot of companies still don't get the "conversation" part of the equation and fail to understand that at least one half of a conversation should be devoted to really listening to the other person[2]. Failing to pay attention can lead to serious problems quicker than you think. One of the women spoke about some kerfuffle that happened over facebook/twitter when someone at nestle was obviously having a bad day. Clearly, social media can also go horribly horribly wrong...

So, I think the meetup wa a resounding success, and I'm really looking forward to the next one.


Why go to an all-women group? Well - that's hard to answer without offending people, but I'll try. It's not that I don't like co-ed groups - I'm not terrified of men. Being in an industry so obviously dominated by them means I've gotten pretty used to hanging around with them... but there are still cultural differences between the sexes (in an on-average way, and I'm sure entirely due to different upbringing). While it's great to do the mixed-thing it can also be good to get amongst other women too.

Being an expat I can immediately see similarities with hanging out with others from my own country. It's not that I don't want to assimilate - I spend > 95% of my time hanging around with locals... but it's also nice now and then to get together with other Aussies and bitch about how crap the NHS is compared with Medicare (for example). :)

The expectations and culture are simply different. For one thing, I noticed that most of the attendees had one small drink and I wasn't the only one leaving before 9 to get home. Being used to IT get-togethers where you get funny looks if you don't have a second or third drink and get a sense that you're just "not up to it" if you don't hang around until way past 10 (regardless of it being a school-night)... this came as a breath of fresh air. Seems like these other women also have a life... :)

It still surprises me that companies don't get this. After all, The Cluetrain Manifesto was written a decade ago, and folks like Seth Godin are doing their best to get the message out every which way they can. Yet I still see big companies pushing the same rhetoric out as though they could just transcribe their traditional TV-ads or print-media brochure-ware onto the web. They remind me of those obnoxious types that will talk over the top of everyone at dinner but only ever talk about how good they are, without realising that the adage of "show don't tell" isn't limited to novel-writing.

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