Networking Social Networking Twitter WISE women in computer science

Finding More Women on Social Media

DATABASE at Postmasters, March 2009  DATA BASE is an Oxford English Dictionary with the word "DATA BASE" cut into it with the laser cutter.
Credit: Flickr / Michael Mandiberg

Every so often I find my twitter handle in a list that forms a response to some guy saying “who are some women I should follow on social media?”. Do these things work? I don’t know. I’ve compared notes with other women on how long it lasted when a prominent VC asked that question (for me, <24 hours), which tells me at least sometimes they are ineffectual.

Besides that, there are different types of engagement, you can follow someone, but do you listen to them? And you can listen to them, but do you engage with them or their content? Typically we all go back and forth through these different modes, but if you just ignore, or perhaps worse, think “oh she’s moaning again” then this strategy clearly isn’t working.

I think the best way to increase the number of women you encounter on social media is to seek out women whose opinions or work you are interested in.

  • Women developers of your favourite products.
  • Women contributors to open source projects you use.
  • Women who have written articles you liked.
  • Women who have given conference talks you enjoyed.
  • Women who have been retweeted into your timeline.

This is harder than someone giving you a ready made list. For each one of these, there is a reason why:

  • There are few women developers, and some hide their affiliations for fear of threats.
  • There are even fewer women contributing to OSS, and many of them do so under gender neutral pseudonyms for safety.
  • Women’s content is shared less, and more likely to be (or be thought) women-focused.
  • Women are not fairly represented at conferences.
  • Women get retweeted less.

But these aren’t insurmountable. And moreover, for me at least, it’s vastly more flattering to be noticed because of something cool I’ve built or written than because I’m female.

As a cis-white-women I’m trying these strategies, and slowly improving the diversity of my feed, too.