Friday, November 19, 2004

'Online Divas' Speak at the Tech

This Wednesday evening I attended a panel/networking event, entitled: "Online Divas" from a series entitled: "Conversations with Innovative Women in Technology Series."

Part of the lure for me was both the topic...innovation online, as seen through the prism of female experience...and the presence of diva blogger Halley Suitt on the panel. The other three "online divas" were definitely corporate types, the CMO from Yahoo, the VP CorpCom from Cisco and a Director of Consumer Web products from Google. Halley is a different breed...striking out on her own to make her living.

Moderator Moira Gunn is an NPR fixture, hosting its only show on Technology, TechNation.

My Assessment: the panel could have been a lot richer, in my humble opinion.

The conversation centered around two primary topics.

Topic #1: How women use the Internet, and how that might differ from how men, particularly techno-geek men, use it. There were few conclusions drawn, however, about how that would drive innovation moving forward, which, after all, was what the series is supposed to be about. We learned that shopping for clothes online is tough, and that men just don't understand.

Topic #2: Balancing career & children. You cannot, apparently, have a panel for any woman's group without discussing this. And frankly, I'm over it. Not only does it completely marginalize the numerous women who either a) are past their child-rearing days, b) are years from thinking abut it or c) shockingly simply aren't going to have kids (or can't)...but the conversations that arise are rarely really useful/helpful/surprising etc. If you want some support group time, go find a support group. This was even more obvious than usual with this group since two of the four women on the panel had both stay-at-home husbands AND nannies. Tell me how many women in the audience that applied to?!

All of the women seemed sharp (although Gunn got a bit incoherent at one point.) Halley, in particular was a breath of fresh air. I felt the moderator had a slight problem with marginalizing the Director from Google...Marissa Mayer, who, as the youngest member of the panel and the most immersed in the technology execution side, was probably the panelist Gunn related to least.

But I was mostly disappointed that there were so much personal anecdote telling and so little thoughtful commentary on the tech/Internet industry, and how women can leverage their ideas and their skills to succeed in it.

The best part was afterwards, meeting Halley in person and running into Mary Hodder, who I had enjoyed meeting so much at BloggerCon. Had some good conversation there, about the future of online technology, why women are perfectly positioned to drive that future, and of course, men and sex.

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