By Maggie Cely
More than 3,500 content creators gathered at the Hilton New York for BlogHer 2015, a two-day conference convened to champion the next generation of women in the blogosphere. Women travelled across the country for the rare opportunity to connect with fellow blog aficionados, participate in insightful workshops, and amplify the voices of women. The keynote speakers were incredibly candid about their experiences, failures, shortcomings, and lack of direction when they began their careers – not unlike what founders must endure throughout their entrepreneurial ventures.
Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Vanessa De Luca, co-founders of “Black Lives Matter” via BlogHer
During her keynote, CEO of Girl Scouts Anna Maria Chávez set the tone for the conference in a single quote: “A man asked me why he should care about girl scouts and empowering young girls. What’s it to him? I said, ‘it becomes an economic issue. Every day we’re keeping half of the population away from the table.’” This is identical to conversations we have here at Plum Alley, where we spend every day working to equalize the capital raising process for female entrepreneurs.
Chávez is well acquainted with this half of the population, given that she heads up an organization with over 3 million active members and 50 million alumni. The population of US women is just over 158 million.
A girl scout and Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girls Scouts of America via BlogHer
Chávez chiefly spoke about issues young women are facing today, noting confidence as the most prohibitory to their development. She also discussed her misgivings with public policy notoriously limiting girls by keeping them “on the discount rack.” A live-tweeter’s dream speaker, she provided incredible, genuine advice throughout her keynote. Her talk echoed what we believe at Plum Alley – that unconscious bias is no longer a sufficient excuse, and we must become our own advocates to achieve the change we want.
Powerhouses from a host of industries took the opportunity to follow the theme of overcoming adversity, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Soledad O’Brien, and Ava DuVernay.
A personal highlight was Gwyneth Paltrow’s keynote, which doubled as an overhaul to traditional, monolithic “Q&A” style interviewing. Paltrow discussed the beginnings of Goop, a lifestyle blog she curated to help busy women make educated choices about health and wellness. She captivated the audience with her frankness and ability to laugh at herself as she spoke about building her company, maintaining her acting career, and being a parent.
Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop via BlogHer
Oftentimes, event hosts and interviewees are compelled to portray unwavering self-assurance in front of an impressionable audience. I’ve recognized this phenomenon on entrepreneurial panels, especially female-specific ones. Some women feel that calling on moments of self-doubt would discourage the audience and make them look unsure of themselves. However, in the rare moments when panelists are forthcoming, audiences leave feeling inspired and activated knowing that their role models, too, had shortcomings. The audience on Saturday was visibly relieved to hear Paltrow admit “I look back and I think, ‘what was I thinking?’”
In conjunction with the keynotes were a series of educational workshops, ranging from effective social media strategy to creating intriguing “clickable” headlines. Media experts hosted the workshops in small, round-table settings, giving attendees the opportunity to connect more deeply and gain more targeted insights. I attended the “Better Headlines” workshop, and was given tangible advice that I could immediately apply to improve my headlines. Such media strategy is necessary for anyone who wants to succeed in the twenty-first century, including female founders and entrepreneurs.
Overall, I found BlogHer to be incredibly insightful and informative. I was surrounded by strong, forward-thinking women, rallied together to magnify the voices of women in the blogosphere – a proverbial “sleeping tiger” community that is gaining traction very quickly.