Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Digital Hollywood in Silicon Alley

What happens when you put five successful women at a table, led by another successful woman, and a meaty topic? Rich conversation and informative dialogue, that’s what. I was lucky to be included in a panel at Digital Hollywood with Oxygen Media editor-in-chief Sarah Bartlett, Strategic Marketing VP Lisa Kraynak, Loretta Staples of Scient and Columbia Tristar Interactive’s (Sony) Lynda Keeler on Tuesday, May 16. The sharp-witted Alice O’Rourke of NYNMA led our discussion, and comments from the audience reflected the conversational aspect of our panel. Since our topic was “Internet Media & Women = E-Content + E-commerce,” our discussion focused on the role women play in the internet landscape and workforce. Sarah and Loretta brought up some statistics from the recent Pew Study on gender and purchasing. The study showed that 10% of adult American women went online for the first time within the past six months, and that while women have arrived online, they’re still not dominant. Their shopping behavior still typifies the stereotypes that exist.

Stereotypes do exist for a certain reason, and despite our mothers burning bras and telling us we can “do it all,” -- be Superwomen in the ‘80s and have a full career and family life -- that reality just isn’t here yet. And despite the Internet being heralded as the great leveler, the traditional stereotypes have simply transitioned online as well. For instance, several recent studies have shown that lists of CEOs include a handful are women. Now companies like iVillage, Oxygen and even Sony’s interactive division, of which Lynda is running, have large percentages of women in top management positions. Women are still running strong in areas they’ve always been strong in: communication, creative, women-centered, family and entertainment based organizations. But men are still running the game in many of the traditionally male-centered industries: finance, business-to-business and government.

When I’m out each night at various new media events, it’s distressing to see how the men outnumber the women. And the women I do meet are not the CEOs, CFOs or COOs. Many are in the traditional fields – marketing, account executives and creative areas. This is good; don’t get me wrong. We’re seeing more women in roles that allow them to shape our public perception of products and services – that’s a powerful situation. But frankly, I want to see more women running more of the show!

Lisa commented that the Internet is creating a level playing field for women to learn about finances, and that online games and social activism are areas in which they will also enjoy utilizing the Internet and exerting power in the world. The Internet is still one of the greatest opportunities for women, men, children and the disenfranchised to become empowered, gain a voice and exert influence in our world. It’s a mixture of idealism and activism, but with the groundwork laid down for us and the tools at our fingertips, let’s continue utilizing them and strengthening our influence. A poignant close to the panel was a comment from Hillary Rettig, editor of Technocopia, who was in audience. She wanted us to remember and note that there is a large number of women out there who are very techno-savvy. And they’re not afraid of technology or the Internet. She also mentioned that many of the e-entrepreneurs and women CEOs aren’t necessarily out at the industry events because, like their male counterparts, they’re in the office running their businesses! C’est vrai.