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.

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.  

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.

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.

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