Women Bloggers Are A Force

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.

Black Lives Matter

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.


Anna Maria Chavez

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

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.


via BlogHer

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.


Internet Week Recap

By Lucy Drummond

I attended Internet Week New York (IWNY) to better understand how our wired connectivity is affecting businesses and other fields. What I found is quite promising.

Once a year for IWNY, technology and internet luminaries descend upon New York to take part in a flurry of panels, events, and showcases. The goal is to celebrate and reflect on entrepreneurism, innovation, and the impact of technology. Of course, plenty of similar conferences and events take place throughout the year. But Internet Week–now in its seventh year–is unique in its quality and breadth.

The major victory I witnessed at IWNY 2015 has to do with its active spotlight of women. I have never seen so many prominent women recognized and given the stage at a major conference unless the conference’s theme is specifically devoted to women. Both men and women are doing creative, promising things with the internet, and IWNY successfully brought light to many of them.

In attendance at IWNY 2015 were Plum Alley favorites Jenn Shaw and Molly Hayward. These two ladies completed successful campaigns when PA’s crowdfunding services first started.

Zuckerberg, Brown, Lapin, Hayward

Hayward spoke on the panel “Taking Taboo Topics Social” with news anchor and Rich Bitch author Nicole Lapin, and lawyer cum media mogul Binta Niambi Brown. Moderated by Randi Zuckerberg of Zuckerberg Media. The panel tackled such issues as menstruation, money, and sex with humor and grace.

This was one of my favorite panels of the week.

A highlight of this year’s IWNY was Chelsea Clinton, who spoke with data visualization expert Ben Fry on their recently released No Ceilings: Full Participation Project. Clinton’s goal with the project was to make a mass of data points living and breathing through human stories.

Clinton’s humility allows her work to shine through. I was struck by her poise and eloquence.

Chelsea Clinton

No Ceilings celebrates achievements such as the increase of women who participate in the workforce around the world. The report also points to where more work needs to be done. For example, women have less access to the internet than men.

Fry has requested that developers who believe they can improve the report contribute to it on GitHub. No Ceilings is truly a 21st century report.

The co-founders of Wired, Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rosetto, spoke with Webby Media Group President David-Michel Davies. The two Wired visionaries were prioritizing web-based content in the early 1990’s when most people still didn’t know what the internet was. Metcalfe and Rosetto’s cool demeanor betrayed the secrets to their success: confidence is key.


Rosetto, Metcalfe, Davies

Another highlight of the week was its opener: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the genius writers and stars of Comedy Central’s Broad City.

Broad City

Jacobson, Glazer

Jacobson and Glazer owe their ascent partly to the internet. With humble beginnings at the comedy training ground Upright Citizens Brigade, they achieved viral success from their friends after filming their first “webisode.”

Their career pasts influenced their internet mastery: Jacobson did SEO and video uploading for TED, and Glazer managed social media for a skincare brand. These young ladies prove how fluency in media can propel creative projects forward.

I greatly appreciated their response to an audience member’s question about the common comparisons between their show and HBO’s Girls. They began their response by saying that it’s wonderful to be considered alongside such a successful show. But they also pushed audience members to think about the assumptions in the comparison; why must one show be favored over or measured against the other? Why can’t both shows, that center around the lives of young women, be celebrated and liked?

Overall, IWNY 2015 was a success. It provided a space to listen to others, think critically about tech and internet developments, and connect on the ways that the internet has changed lives.

Napa Valley

Women and Wine

Women of the Vine

This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the inaugural Women of the Vine Global Symposium in Napa, California. I learned about viticulture and sampled world class wine at the Master Wine Tasting. All of that was great fun, but what struck me was the intersection of several different worlds and the burning desire of women to get ahead in whatever industry they are in.

I remember the days of feminism when I was in college; I marched for the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington and we fought for the right to control our own bodies.

We have come so far in many ways and not far enough in other ways. The fight for equality has made progress. Many women now appreciate the fairness of equal pay for equal work. However, the economic battle still continues.

Women, even if they are more educated than their male counterparts, and work just as hard, are not entirely fairly compensated. They are not granted top executive positions, seats on corporate boards, or venture funding at the same rate as their male colleagues.

Excuses abound. One follows that women drop out of the labor force to have children. In fact, this is false.

One major Wall Street firm did a major study to determine why women were leaving the company in droves. The assumption was that women left to focus on their children, but they actually left to work at competing firms with more supportive bosses.

Another excuse is that women haven’t been in the pipeline long enough to make it to the top levels. Wrong again. I joined Goldman Sachs in 1980, and along with a handful of other women was mentioned in a cover story of Institutional Investor. Goldman said we were the women to watch. That was thirty years ago. The pipeline is full of talented women.

Women are succeeding, but true equality isn’t happening on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, in venture capital, or in film. The magic occurs when women come together to meet and share stories both inside their industries and across disciplines. Power is created when a network mobilizes to come together to advance careers. I saw that at the first Women of the Vine.


The view from the top

Women of the Vine was started by Deborah Brenner. Brenner had a successful career in technology before she resigned to do something more meaningful and exciting. After venturing into the wine business, she was dismayed to see how few women held executive positions.

In character fashion, Brenner decided to launch an event to bring together women in the wine industry. She hoped for 100 attendees. The event sold out with 400 people, 100 people on the waiting list, and an impressive list of corporate sponsors.

Ladies Networking

What does this say about women in business? It points to the power of helping one another for career advancement and success. It doesn’t matter if it is wine, film, or technology, women who connect and build critical mass have power. Just like the wine sampled this weekend, the power of women focused on success is intoxicating.


A woman-owned vineyard

Edit-a-thon at MoMA

Fixing Wikipedia’s Gender Bias

Wikipedia suffers from a lack of women editors, profiles, and contributors. One source says that only 15% of contributors are female, and in 2011 only 8.5% of Wikipedia editors were women. This is a problem because Wikipedia is commonly understood as the online repository and record for knowledge. Incomplete representation of the world both perpetuates inequality and writes a false history.

However, the complete picture of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance is actually a hopeful one. Inequality is a problem, but denial of its existence makes amelioration impossible. In line with its founding principles as a democratic, user-driven site, Wikipedia acknowledges its lack of women-related content and editors and calls for action.

This past weekend, to coincide with International Women’s Day, many arts and cultural organizations co-hosted Art+Feminism “edit-a-thons” with Wikipedia. At the Museum of Modern Art Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Center, volunteers trained women on how to become Wikipedia contributors and helped newly-minted contributors actually write and improve posts. We targeted a running list related to women in the arts that needed articles created or strengthened.

Wikipedia Training

Senior Wikipedians trained participants all day 

Lucy edit-a-thon

Lucy Drummond created French artist Camille Henrot’s Wikipedia page

The demographic of attendees was representative of the goals the Wikipedia community is working towards. There were more than a hundred people of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who come to the MoMA to improve the internet’s encyclopedia.

Woman Editing

Wikipedia Check In

It is not just the art world that has benefitted from such targeted edit-a-thons. Sibyl M. Rock, a woman instrumental to developments in mass spectrometry and the early digital computer Datatron at the CEC, did not have a Wikipedia page until Brown University hosted a 2013 women in science Wikipedia edit-a-thon. A lot of other women in technology have been recognized thanks to these efforts.

Sibyl Rock

Sibyl M. Rock

It is huge for one of the most popular websites in the world to acknowledge unequal gender representation, and invite its community to fix this problem. This represents the internet at its best: devoted to the people and calling for user participation. Furthermore, the solution the Wikipedia community implemented this past Saturday involves IRL (in real life) community strengthening. Using the internet to improve lives off of the internet is what a 21-st century connected, global network should be. In true feminist form, there was even a room on-site this weekend for sponsored child-care.

Edit-a-thon child care

Society, especially as concretized through the internet’s encyclopedia, needs women’s voices. We must give credit where it is due, and include women both in the content and creation in Wikipedia.

Lucy Drummond