Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The population and workforce is aging. What are we going to do about it?

An infrequent look into Google+ this afternoon brought up a post by Dick Stroud commenting on the increase of UK workers over the age of 50. Our population is aging and the proportion of older men and women working is also increasing. We're also living longer and our pensions don't kick in until we're older (assuming you have one at all - can't see the gig economy being big on pensions).

Here's a summary from a UK Government report from November 2015
  • Employment of workers over the age of 50 has grown significantly over the past decades.  
  • The employment rate for people aged 50 to 64 has grown from 55.4 to 69.6 per cent over the past 30 years, an increase of 14.2 percentage points. 
  • The employment rate for people aged 65 and over has doubled over the past 30 years, from 4.9 to 10.2 per cent, an increase of 5.3 percentage points. 
  • The largest increases in employment rates over the last 30 years were for two groups: for women aged 60-64 the rate grew from 17.7 to 40.7 per cent; and for women aged 55-59 it grew from 48.6 to 68.9 per cent. 
  • The employment rate gap between men aged 50-64 and women of the same age dropped from close to 28 percentage points 30 years ago to 10.9 percentage points in 2015. 
  • The proportion of people aged 70-74 in employment almost doubled over the past 10 years (from 5.5 to 9.9 per cent), and numbers in employment more than doubled from 124,000 to 258,000. 
  • Part of the increase in the numbers of workers over 50 can be explained by demographic changes, but growth in employment rates shows that the number of people over 50 in employment has risen faster than the population over 50.

As I wander around the mobile marketing and advertising sector and big agency world, it's a young workforce. If you wander around the tech start-up scene, the workforce feels as young, if not younger, even if the founders are not young themselves.

I've seen from many of my peers from the early days of the mobile marketing industry that they are now becoming advisors, non-executive directors and mentors. I've done this myself and am always on the lookout for more of these opportunities. (Get in touch if you know of one!)

That's all well and good, but not everyone in the workforce ends up at the top of the pyramid. What about everyone else? What role is there for older workers in our mobile marketing world? Not that 50 is old, but to a 22 year old entrepreneur, that might feel very old indeed. And although ageist recruitment practices are illegal, they still happen all the time as those recruiting tend to recruit in their own image. It's human nature to an extent but also down to a lack of thought about actual requirements. And some good old-fashioned prejudice in some cases.

How do we find a balance between nurturing new talent whilst also benefitting from years of experience and keeping people gainfully employed through their whole career rather than relegating people to years on benefits or working hand to mouth? 

Is this a leadership task? Is this about changing the culture to be more inclusive? Is it rethinking assumptions about age and capability? Or is it a moot point in light of robots and AI taking our jobs and we get a Universal Basic Income instead?

If you ever want to see your assumption about age and capability be challenged, go see Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic Theatre in London (I think it's returns only but you might get lucky). It's an incredibly challenging role and Glenda is magnificent in it, and absolutely at the top of her game. She celebrated her 80th birthday in May of this year. Yes, her 80th. I was gobsmacked when I realised that.  

I'm told that the generation gap in media doesn't really exist any more as we have access to the same media thanks to the likes of Facebook, Twitter et al. Can we make the same true of work opportunities?

So to the under 50s, especially if you are an entrepreneur or you recruit in the tech sector, what can you do to attract, retain, recruit and benefit from some older additions to your workforce?

And to the over 50s, especially the women over 50, don't give up on yourself! And don't give up on the chance to work in this vibrant, growing sector.

And yes, yes, I know that there are physical limitations as you get older. But you can have physical or mental limitations at 21 too. And, you know, tech can alleviate some of that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Happy Slapping 2.0 - Sex, honour, shame, and blackmail in an online world

I was in two minds about writing this post but I felt it was worth sharing.

If you've known me for any length of time or read much of what I write and talk about here and elsewhere, you'll know that I'm vocal in the gender debate in the mobile industry and beyond. I want to see more women in senior level jobs in our sector, more women at board level, more female investors (and to become an investor, you have to have worked your way to the top to earn the money or you've inherited it), and more women join our industry in all types of job from coding and programming to data science to marketing and ops and more (and not just in token sales roles to appeal to the male tech buyers thanks very much). 

Aside from the financial gains a company gets from having more balanced teams at every level, you may wonder why I'm so vocal on this issue. Google it. You'll find plenty evidence and solid research to support this if you don't believe me.

It's because of this: The shaming of women around the world for no reason at all except that they're women; The fact that there are still child brides; FGM; And rape culture in all strata of society. The everyday sexism I, and others experience at home and in the workplace is trivial in comparison to these issues but they are part of the same global problem. It's a continuum.

This article, 'Sex, honour, shame and blackmail in an online world', brought it home to me as to how much work there is still to much to do to change entrenched attitudes and make the world a safer and lovelier place to be for all people, of whatever creed, colour or gender. 

There is much in the article that is truly horrific. But this particular paragraph really shocked me. It had never occurred to me that this would be a 'thing'. This is happening in Agra. The home of the magnificent and awe-inspiring Taj Mahal - a monument to undying love - seen as the most romantic building on the planet. 
"In August 2016, the Times of India found that hundreds - perhaps thousands - of video clips of rape were being sold in shops across the northern state of Uttar Pradesh every day. One shopkeeper in Agra told the newspaper: "Porn is passé. These real-life crimes are the rage." Another, according to the same report, was overheard telling customers that they might even know the girl in the "latest, hottest" video."
I doubt this stuff is restricted to Agra or even India either. It's happy slapping gone to the extreme (that's if you're old enough to remember that). That doesn't make it better or worse. And you might say that technology is to blame as it makes distribution easy and cheap. Despicable scenes of war and terrorism have been distributed on phones for more than 10 years. But it goes much deeper than that. It's about changing attitudes whether it's the everyday sexism experienced in a business environment or on a political podium or the dreadful crimes that women across the world are victim to.

I know these things are not easy to fix and change won't happen overnight. Poverty is playing its part in this as much as culture and tradition and wrong-headed ideas about the role of women in society and what we're good for. But change it must.

IOT, Connected Devices and You

I thought the Internet of Things was supposed to make life easier and simpler? Just ask Alexa (Amazon Echo) to turn on your music, add things to your shopping list and order them for and even tell you a joke. There are adverts on TV suggesting we turn our homes into smart homes so we can monitor our energy usage. We're encouraged to monitor our fitness with Fitbit devices and Apple Smart Watches. There's everything from a connected toothbrush to make sure you're brushing your teeth properly to a connected babygro that monitor your baby's heart rate and other vital stats.

Turns out we're just making it more complicated than ever - security being the thing about all this stuff that feels the most complex to me.

You've probably already heard that the DDOS attack that put out a whole bunch of websites last week was caused by security weaknesses in connected devices or 'internet of things' allowing a massive botnet to be created.You may say, oh, that's not me. I wouldn't be affected by something like that! I don't have an Amazon Echo or a Nest thermostat or anything like that.

Except, you could be affected. It's not these fancy, high-falluting new gadgets that aided the attackers. The list of devices that were used to propagate the Mirai virus includes printers, routers and TV receivers. How many of us have those in our homes and offices and don't think twice about it? Hmm.

As Benedict Evans said in his newsletter last week where I picked up on this story (you can sign up for it here), "A network designed to withstand nuclear attack, brought down by toasters". He's not far off the mark there. 

I hope someone is working on a solution to help normal people get their heads round this stuff to make it easy to manage our digital lives. I'm already boggled by the amount of passwords, settings, app updates and other online admin I need to manage. I don't want more of this stuff. I want less. How about you?

And how do we raise the profile of security issues like these to make them accessible to the general public and to make it a no-brainer to set-up and manage and lessen the admin burden?

More on the DDOS attack here and here.

Monday, October 24, 2016

China, Big Data and Social Scoring - Big Brother Is, In Fact, Watching You

This isn't entirely new news from The Independent today, but it is an update about the Chinese government implementing a sort of comprehensive Klout score to each and every citizen and in turn, limiting access rights to certain services (including travelling by train or going abroad), goods and even jobs. It's the stuff of fiction of the kind of society Orwell was writing about.
"A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to have fallen short. The overriding principle: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.” A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.
The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China's companies and citizens in a single place – and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal “credit.”"
I first picked up on this story last December and wrote about it on my blog here in some depth. I hadn't exactly forgotten about it, but had brushed it to one side. But Big Data and the algorithms that are interrogating Big Data are not going away anytime soon. And in that respect, we're all affected in some way or other. We are being measured and tracked and assumptions are being made about us all the time based on our home address, where we work, where we travel to, the products we buy, how much money we have and who we are connected to.

There are clearly some very useful aspects to scoring to make certain things in life and business easier - after all, we have extensive credit scoring in Europe and the US. But that's not a perfect science by any stretch of the imagination and is prone to fraud, abuse and misuse. This will likely increase. I don't think there is an easy answer to this. Some kind of scoring is inevitable when there is data available (and it's available in bucket loads). We are being scored all the time at some level - from targeted advertising to credit scores. Is it the price we have to pay to have a digital life?

1984 play image
On a side note, but not entirely unrelated, I recently went to see Orwell's 1984 in London at The Playhouse Theatre. It's very powerful and pertinent to today's society and I highly recommend it. It's on a limited run and closes on Saturday 29 October. Catch it while you still can. Or you could read the book as a refresher.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

What does the skills gap look like in the mobile sector? Have your say!

As a long-serving veteran of the mobile marketing, advertising and media community, I have seen how the sector has evolved over time from its lowly beginnings with SMS. I spend time mentoring and meeting under-graduate and post-graduate students of business and marketing and I'm always surprised at their lack of awareness of the opportunities in the mobile sector. I'm also painfully aware of the lack of teaching on the topic at undergraduate and post-graduate level. And I'm wondering if that is having an impact on the innovation (or lack of) in the sector and in turn, if that means we're missing a trick somewhere. And that's why I've set up this survey.

A couple of years ago, the Mobile Marketing Association published a report on the opportunity in the mobile sector in the US, and as part of that, highlighted the skills gap. I can remember thinking it looked pretty stark at the time - a huge opportunity on the one hand but not enough people with the right skills and attitude to deliver on the other.

I know this is partly addressed by companies with their own in-house training, but I'm wondering what else can be done to both make the sector more attractive to both new graduates and more experienced people looking for a career change and also make sure that the people coming into our industry have the skills and tools they need.

To that end, I have a first meeting with a senior academic from one of the fastest growing universities in the UK on Monday 10th October 2016 to discuss the skills and teaching gap in mobile marketing, mobile advertising and mobile media and to see how we can address that. And I'd like to hear your opinion on what they are.

Whether you're a seasoned professional with a decade of experience under your belt, or you're new to the sector, I'm interested in your point of view. If you are hiring, what skills are you looking for? If you're new to the sector, what would have been helpful for you to learn before you started the job?

Although this questionnaire is geared towards the UK market, I'm also interested in hearing opinions from our friends in other countries since it's a global industry.

This questionnaire will remain open past the meeting date so don't worry about filling it in after 10th October! The conversation will be ongoing, as we work towards understanding and addressing the skills gap. If the form below doesn't work properly, please use this link instead.




Tuesday, October 04, 2016

A little gender analysis of my social networks is revealing

I hosted a lovely dinner last week in London for ladies working in and around the mobile industry. I was thinking on the way home about hosting another one in a couple of months time and what I could do to attract more women to come along. And that got me thinking on how many women I'm connected to on social media. These thoughts were alongside those on the gender pay gap, women struggling to advance their careers (McKinsey), the advice that was circulating that women should remove their photos and resort to initials only on social media, why women don't seem to get pay rises and the depressing constant that women are not in senior roles in digital agencies or tech companies. So I did an analysis out of curiosity.

Twitter
My Twitter audience was easiest to analyse since Twitter does it for you via their advertising system. Just go to http://ads.twitter.com and check the analytics. It gives you a breakdown of gender, income, location and interests. What it doesn't do is measure who you are following so we'll have to leave that for another day when I'm truly bored and don't mind working it out one by one.

Out of just shy of 9000 Twitter followers, it's a 70/30 split male/female and my organic audience is 75/25 male/female. I'm guessing that's based on what tweets are shared and by whom. 

You might say that this kind of breakdown is to be expected due to my long history in the mobile sector. However, I actively follow a lot sewists and crafters to get some variety and balance in my find. This group of tweeters tend to be mostly female. And my perspective is that a lot of them follow me back. But without further analysis, it's hard to say.  

LinkedIn
I've been active in women's networking groups for almost 15 years including Digital Eve, WiMD, WiTT, Everywoman as well as my own female-focussed events. I'm also pretty good at adding people I meet to my LinkedIn as I use it as an outsourced contacts database if you like. I'm also good at weeding out fake or dodgy profiles. I do check people out before I add them due to the risk of spam, scame and phishing. I have about 3,500 contacts on LinkedIn as I've been active there since they first launched. I downloaded all of them.

Once I'd done some deduping, removal of people I knew to be deceased, accounts that were businesses rather than an individual and a handful of dodgy accounts, I worked out who was male and who was female based on either a) I knew them personally so could say male or female b) I checked their profile for evidence. 

On that basis, the gender split was 69/31 male/female. Hmm. I thought there would have been more women in there.

Facebook
Finally, I downloaded all my Facebook data and got my friends list. (Go to settings and Download your Data and follow the instructions). I use Facebook for both personal friends and family as well as business friends as a way of keeping in touch. The total number of friends, once deceased, duplicates and non-attributable accounts were excluded was just over 1200. I didn't count my followers as part of this exercise. And I followed the same process as I did for LinkedIn. 

The result - 60/40 male to female. A bit more balanced, but still skewed male. And that's with my having attended an all girls school for 9 years too!

What to conclude?
Without doing analysis on other peoples' accounts, it's hard to tell what is cause and what is effect and if this is a 'oh, it's just you, Helen' thing. I think there may be several contributing factors:

1. The fact that I've been working in mobile technology for the last 16 years has clearly meant that I've met more men in my line of work than I have women. And that's despite efforts made with hosting and attending female-focussed events. Where else am I supposed to meet other women in my sector for friendship, support and to do business with?

2. Women are more reticent about living life in public? I'm not sure about this, but anecdotally, it feels like there could be something in this. To counter this, do women in business need to step up and be more visible online so that other women will follow them and we can then see them too? According to Brandwatch in 2015, women are using social media as much as, if not more than men, but do not use it for business. Is that holding them back? How important is visiblity?

3. The women in the workplace, especially in the UK and US (where most of my network is) are not in the kind of roles where I'm likely to network and meet them. They're in lower paid or part-time work where networking is not part of the role nor would networking enhance the role necessarily. I'm thinking waiting staff, cleaners, teaching assistants, care workers, shop assistants and shelf stackers here. Is there any truth in that? Is that why I can't see women in mid-level or senior roles in any large number?

4. Women don't see the need for this stuff. They're too busy getting on with other things and have not embraced digital connections.

5. It is just a Helen thing, an anomaly, from 15 years of running Swedish Beers Mobile Networking parties!

Research has shown us over and over that companies are more successful if they have more women on the board and more women at senior levels. Mixed gender teams do better than single-gender teams. For those two reasons alone, I've been wanting to see more women in senior roles in mobile marketing, mobile advertising, digital, tech entrepreneurship etc for the last 16 years and still would like to see it. But it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle sometimes.

What have I missed? What other possibilities are there? Can this be addressed and if so, how? Does it matter? I welcome your thoughts and observations on this.

I'm planning to host another ladies dinner in London in the next couple of months and one in Manchester. Watch this space for details.