But it wouldn't mean nothing NOTHING without a woman or a girl
January 5, 2016 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm scheduled to be on a panel about lack of women in senior roles within my industry. So I'm looking for pointers to articles, short podcasts, studies, puff pieces, reports, and just general interesting point of views on encouraging women into industries (from both women AND women).

I'm speaking at an industry event next week on a panel about lack of women in management roles, and lack of women in 'prestige' positions.
My industry is the entertainment industry. And basically, there are very very few women beyond admin or junior hospitality roles, that's true (no studies that I can find but unarguable anecdotal evidence, for example 90% of the people I work with are men).

I'd really like to move beyond us all whining that it's been tough as a woman and then at the end of the hour, coming to a common agreement that things are slowly getting better so let's just continue as we are. I'd like this to be the beginnings of a masterclass on how everyone can encourage women into higher up positions and the steps that individual women can take to move up the ladder. I'd like this panel to serve some actual use, I've been on enough talking shop panels to last me a lifetime. Also, this is not a common topic within my industry, so I'd like people (especially men) to come away with some solid pointers on possible action and next steps.

I'm a woman running a company with other women in a male dominated industry, so it's not as if I've not thought about these issues before. But I haven't sat down and read reports, studies, interesting point of views on encouraging women into industries.

So, I'm looking for pointers to articles, short podcasts, studies, puff pieces, anything which touch on these themes. And if it's not too 'chat' I'd also be interested in hearing both men and womens thoughts on these kind of issues (doesn't have to be entertainment industry specific as these issues are universal).

Thanks in advance metafilter
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Sheryl Sandberg gave a great talk at Grace Hopper this October, and she referenced to a lot of interesting data and studies. They were in a tech context, but could be interesting for your audience.

One thing I loved as an action item from her was to write down three things you did well that day.
posted by pando11 at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's lots available at Geena Davis's Institute on Gender in Media site, seejane.org. "The Institute has amassed the largest body of research on gender prevalence in entertainment, which spans more than 20 years. Our biennial symposium is the only event convening over 300 decision makers, content creators, and thought leaders to share best practices and create a blueprint towards establishing a gender-balanced media landscape."

Honestly, I think the recent articles on 'Practical Steps Men Can Take to Support Feminism' (35 Steps here, 20 Steps here, etc.) is the place to start no matter what industry you're talking to or about. A lot of it comes down to nothing more and nothing less than supporting the women already in your life so they can do their thing, and getting out of the way of women you work with who are already doing their thing. If you can get the men in the audience to commit to working their way through that list one item a day, and reporting back about how it went in a group email or skype, I bet it would be pretty interesting.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:57 PM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

So, I appear to be the highest ranked woman on Hacker News.

If you aren't familiar with what that is, it is a forum run by the business incubator Y-Combinator. I joined it in hopes of furthering my goals of figuring out how to develop various web projects and turn them into profitable enterprises. A lot of people are there to network, stay up on business news, try to establish a presence in order to apply to the incubator, etc. Many people there clearly are successful in using it to further their professional goals. For a long time, I wasn't getting out of it what I wanted and I still feel I am getting less than a man would who does the things I do, but my experience is better than it used to be.

At some point relatively early on, I began getting a metric fuckton of pushback from the men there. (It is an overwhelmingly male forum.) I found this incredibly baffling because the amount of karma I had -- which is something of a proxy for prominence on the site -- was nowhere near enough to make the leaderboard. The site is not very legible in that regard and I did my own data collection and finally concluded that the problem was that I was "prominent" for a woman, even though I had (spitballing these figures) less than 5k karma at a time when the bottom of the leaderboard was 12k. That still made me apparently the third highest ranked woman at that time.

Gathering that data in order to come up with evidence for what was going on and trying to flesh out the problem space was step one in resolving my issues there. Being the most prominent woman there comes with all the responsibilities of being a prominent man there -- in terms of having to be careful about what I say because people will react strongly to it -- with damn few of the benefits. I am still not on the leaderboard and I still am largely failing to get networking benefits out of it. However, it is no longer a shit show for me to open my mouth there and I am making headway on my projects. Those two facts are interrelated.

So, I sometimes write about such subjects on my personal blog. The link is in my profile. Memail me if you want suggestions on specific posts to look at.
posted by Michele in California at 1:31 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's advertising/media/PR industry specific, but check into the 3% Conference.
posted by functionequalsform at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am amazed that you can't find studies on the employment of women in entertainment. There are so, so many — the evidence is most definitely not limited to anecdotal. The last year was especially significant in terms of the amount of dialogue, accompanied by a lot of studies and stats, eventually leading to an ACLU action and an ongoing EEOC investigation. Start with Dr. Martha Lauzen's research and the blog Women and Hollywood. The ACLU investigation, though focused on directors, cites statistics from many places that did studies on more than just directors, so if you just dig one level deeper —go to the sources of their stats — you will find a wealth of information.
posted by ljshapiro at 1:44 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Might not be quite what you're looking for, but Janet Crawford's talk at Webstock on The Surprising Neuroscience of Gender Inequality was pretty great and well-received.
posted by maupuia at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lady Gaga

I am on a tablet, so links are a challenge. I haven't read any of the articles, but Lady Gaga was recently in the news for slamming the music industry as "a fucking boys club." The link above is one of the first things that came up in a search.

Again, I haven't actually read the articles, but my approach to getting somewhere on HN involved very much avoiding slamming it as a fucking boys club. So while you might find those articles interesting as anecdotal evidence that even very prominent women in the music industry feel stymied, I will suggest that, generally speaking, cussing out men in power is not a great strategy for being invited to the halls of power that they largely control. I have gone to some lengths to describe the problem space in neutral, non-blamey terms and tried to educate men on how their choices stymie me and other women while being understanding of why men as individuals make those choices and that they aren't usually trying to exclude women, but when the vast majority of men make the same choices for the same reasons, it becomes really problematic for women to make headway.

This message tends to go over poorly with women, who tend to be mad as hell and want Justice. I understand the feeling, but I don't see that as a viable path forward. Ironically, sometimes women on Hacker News are incredibly assholish to me without recognizing that their ability to participate in the way they do is something I paved the way for. It aggravates me, but getting up on my high horse about it is something I do my best to avoid because I see nothing to be gained.

So, what I am trying to tell you is that looking up articles on Lady Gaga's views may be valuable anecdotal evidence and a source of insight, but her public screed is something you should probably try hard to actively avoid emulating. This is a catch 22 you will face over and over if you want to actually make headway on this problem: the actions that have short term emotional payoff and that will play well with an audience of women are very often antithetical to making real headway. I am less clear on how to talk to women about this. I get a lot of flack from people who accuse me of victim blaming. Since HN is overwhelmingly male, my approach there has been to focus on crafting a message palatable to the men and largely trusting that me paving the way will open doors for other women, which it does seem to be doing. More recently, I have begun doing the kinds of things male movers and shakers do, like reaching out privately to individual women to say "Hey there! That isn't going to play well on HN. Let me suggest you try this other approach."

So, I think you are going to face challenges with doing this as a group thing. Reaching out privately to individuals makes it possible to convince them that I am trying to help them be successful. The same suggestions made in public are much more likely to get perceived as victim blaming and much more likely to get flack from people who want Justice in the form of someone's head on a platter.

I have my moments when I feel that way, but, in some sense, I am not the idealist I get perceived to be. I am a pragmatist. I care much less about some abstract concept of what "should" happen and much more about actually moving those numbers. That ends up being an incredibly hard message to "sell."

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 2:54 PM on January 5, 2016

This article, Women’s Music Industry Horror Stories: Abuse, Sexism, and Erasure, inspired by a question raised by Pitchfork Senior Editor Jessica Hopper, might be a good starting place. You might also have some success contacting Hopper on Twitter since she's been researching the subject for a few months now.
posted by ljshapiro at 3:07 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look at the other panels at your industry event. Are there women on those panels?
posted by nicebookrack at 4:06 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in this post on Metafilter I made last year, Sumana Harihareswara's keynote talk at the WikiConference. Lots of great stuff about how to create a supportive day to day working environment for all kinds of people in tech, and I think it's really relevant to other fields as well.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:22 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I enjoy the podcast "Stuff Mom Never Told You" for thoughtful discussions on gender and women's issues. I would link to a specific episode, but they're pretty much all great.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:23 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lean In is a good general-purpose guide for how individual women can maximize their chances for advancement. What Works For Women at Work, by Joan C. Williams, is even better. Note that Lean In is frequently criticized for avoiding structural issues and structural solutions: it is really only focused on the individual.

But I think I agree with the commenters here who are urging you to stick to what you know. You're not an expert on the topic of gender in the music industry, and you're not going to become one overnight. For example, you say "things are getting better." Are you sure that's true? (I'm not. I don't know anything about the music industry specifically, but I do know that in the last 30 years women's progress towards equality at work has stalled in many fields, and been eroded in some.) If you're not sure about the facts, maybe it's best to just skip them, and instead stick with representing your personal opinions and experiences.
posted by Susan PG at 1:05 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

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