Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What am I learning from BlogHer?

Well, besides learning to have a whole new respect for event planners. And learning that my anal retentive side really comes in handy sometimes. And learning that when you ask people what they think then, by God, they will actually tell you.

But best of all I am learning something else. I am learning that myths are meant to be shattered. Like the myth that women can't work together. Oh, you say, who would really say that? Well, as I expressed in an email to one of our Advisory Board members when she was looking for messaging around which to blog about BlogHer:

"It is appalling how the myth is perpetuated (frankly by men and women) that women can't work together; that women sabotage each other, that women suck up to men, that women love to have coffee klatches, but can't move beyond talk."

Well, BlogHer has been completely grass-roots. We saw something we wished was different and said, hey, maybe we should just make it happen. And then we thought, we really can't do this all by ourselves...let's see if other people would want to help. And it grew from there, almost uncontrollably. The BlogHer effort has seen a very diverse group of women come together and work together.

We asked for help, and people delivered.
We asked for input and feedback and got it, unconditionally.
We have dealt with conflict and respectful disagreement and kept moving forward.
People have both praised us and buried us, but we, as a group, just kept going.

All we had to do was make the slightest effort, and we found not just competent women voices, but diverse, competent women voices...talking technology, talking culture, talking identity, talking business.

And it's not just women stepping forward for glory-work. We have cool women who have agreed to do some of the nuts and bolts work or some of the less than glamorous work. They want to help. And none of them, I repeat not one, asked "what will I get in return?"

When you see women interact in groups in most media/culture-based examples, if it's a positive interaction it's some kind of kumbayah sisterhood of the traveling ya-yas. Either that or they're deciding the only solution to escaping the oppressive ways of "the man" is self-immolation. But I'm talking about women getting stuff done now. Getting down to business, whether that business was designing logos or planning a Friday night dinner.

The competent and collaborative spirit of women has been ignored by the media and by pop culture, traded in for Melanie Griffith vs. Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl...the good girl vs. the ice queen. And those messages, that women will be at odds in the work place, have been absorbed and generalized by many women.

It makes me sad every time I see it. And it's not just young, don't-know-any-better women, who may have had but one bad boss in their life! No, a seasoned recently elected San Jose City Councilwoman can perpetuate the same negative messages.

I grant you I've never had a female boss, well in the last 10 years anyway. But I have had me some bad male bosses, and it never occurred to me to say, "wow, men suck as bosses." Those men sucked, definitely. But my two greatest mentors were men. I have also been the female boss...to both men and women, and I save to this day a year-old excerpt from an IM exchange I had with a woman where she told me that she and a guy who were on my team were agreeing I was the best boss they had ever had. But I know at least one man and one woman who both probably think I sucked as a boss...people tend to think that when an employer and employee part ways.

I veering dangerously close to rambling now, but I've been meaning for some time to take that email I wrote to one of our Board members and expand upon it here. Forget the generalizations; it's really pretty simple: when you've got a good team working toward a shared goal, that team will work well together.

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