Women tap the power of the blog
Site’s a key connection
By Maura Welch, Globe Correspondent July 17, 2006
Beth Kanter connects with people from Cambodia to Silicon Valley. Tish Grier debates with media luminaries from her artist’s garret in Chicopee. Lisa Williams runs a town forum for Watertown. Millie Garfield, at 80 years young, expresses her wisdom and humor to a growing audience. And it all happens on their blogs.
Women are a blogging powerhouse. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 68 percent of men are Internet users, compared with 66 percent of women, but since women make up more of the population, the total number of women online is now slightly larger than the number of men.
A survey by Perseus, a marketing research services company, indicates that 56 percent of all blogs are created by women and that women abandon fewer blogs than men do.
But a fraction of the so-called “A-list” blogs are authored by women. This inequity is not lost on San Francisco Bay area entrepreneurs and writers Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort, and Jory Des Jardins, the trio that started BlogHer.org, a sort of yellow pages for women bloggers. BlogHer’s mission is to create opportunities for women bloggers so they can pursue exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment.
In other words, BlogHer links women to other women and women to the world.
On word of mouth alone they have registered more than 2,500 women bloggers. In addition to this directory, volunteer and paid BlogHer editors write a guide for women bloggers, linking and contributing to discussions on a range of topics that BlogHer women start on their individual blogs. But the most unusual benefit of BlogHer may be the least wired part of it.
The second annual BlogHer conference, with corporate sponsors like General Motors and Johnson & Johnson, will be held July 28-29 in San Jose, Calif. Attendance is expected to double from last year’s session, which was supported by Yahoo and Google and attracted more than 300 women from around the country. Last year’s theme was “Where are the women bloggers?” The theme for BlogHer ’06 is “How is your blog changing your world?”
Indications are that it’s changing it plenty for some women. Boston-based BlogHer member Lisa Williams, who attended BlogHer ’05, is the founder of H2OTown.info, a community news blog for Watertown.
“What struck me was how different the hallway noise was compared to other professional conferences I’ve attended,” she said. “The hallways echoed with warm and excited `Ooohs’ as women met the women whose blogs they had been reading.”
Said Grier: “Face-to-face is very important. Meeting another person makes what’s on the blog real. At BlogHer I met people I’ve never known, but who really knew me because they had been reading my blog.”
In May, BlogHer launched an ad network for its membership to channel economic benefits back to the women who blog. The trick, BlogHer founder Des Jardins said, is to “help bridge the gap and yet still maintain the sanctity of their blogs.” As a result, the ad network is totally voluntary. But the economic benefit to women bloggers is not just in the few dollars they may earn in ad revenue; it’s in the human connections they make through their blogs. Increasingly, the conversations begun on blogs are spawning opportunities. Some women have quit their day jobs to blog full time.
A year ago, Grier started blogging two blogs full time: her personal blog called “Love and Hopes and Sex and Dreams,” and “The Constant Observer,” her blog about citizen media. She also frequently attends conferences like the one at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where she met Francois Gossieaux, the president of Corante, a respected blog on science, business, and technology. It turned out that she had been reading Grier’s blogs.
“He asked if there was anything he could do for me and I said, `Yeah! You can give me a job.’ “
And he did. Grier now writes and edits the Media Hub for Corante, a job that, unbeknownst to her, she’d been interviewing for by writing her blogs.
Williams, a mother of two and a former analyst for Yankee Group, said she has gotten several consulting jobs via her work on H2OTown, her blog about Watertown, as well as through her personal blog, “Learning the Lessons of Nixon.”
“Some people ask me, `Aren’t you worried you won’t get hired because of what’s on your blog?’ ” On the contrary, she said, “I get hired because of my blog. It’s my way to idiot-proof my life. If you don’t like my blog, don’t hire me!”
When asked how blogging has changed her life, Kanter, a consultant to nonprofits and the mother of two adopted children, laughed and said, “I don’t get the laundry done, and I’m late to school pick up.”
She stressed that “blogging is not a get-rich-quick medium.” Rather, it’s an investment. “I’ve met a whole lot of people — made great connections — that have led to work.”
Through her blog, she’s been asked to lead training sessions and secured a grant for the Sharing Foundation, an organization that helps children in Cambodia, of which she is a board member.
But blogging develops skills and opens opportunities that go beyond getting individual contracts or projects. Williams said she always thought that when her kids were older, she’d go back to work.
“But now I think I’ll never work for anyone again.” she said. “Blogging has made me an entrepreneur. It’s taught me entrepreneurial skills, how to make connections, how to tolerate uncertainty. It’s empowering. Everyone should do it.”
Blogs have helped women to find their voices. Some of them find their voice 15 minutes at a time, which is why Lisa Williams said it’s a perfect medium for multitasking parents. Many women talk about how they see their lives as markedly different pre- and post-blog. The biggest benefits — relationships, community — can’t be quantified.
Eighty-year-old Garfield, one of the Internet’s oldest bloggers, according to the Ageless Project, a site dedicated to proving the point that people of all ages are on the Web, sums it up:
“On my blog, people listen to me and they really get to know me.”
She observed that in regular conversation, someone else is always trying to talk.
“But on my blog I can finish my thought. And I’ve discovered I have a sense of humor.”
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
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