Where Women are Headed in 2013: Philanthropy, Activism, Advertising, and Tech

This story was originally published by Vitamin W on January 16, 2013, here. 


This article is the second in a series about thought leaders’ predictions for women in various fields in the New Year.

“There’s a benefit to including women, there’s a benefit to considering women, and there’s a benefit to having women included in everything,” said Rachel Sklar, one of the women that Forbes calls a woman changing the world. Sklar, co-founder of Change the Ratio, and other women in the fields of philanthropy, advertising, and tech are the movers and shakers who are attempting to add women to the equation. VITAMIN W spoke with some of these women, and asked them for their predictions and hopes for women in the new year.

4. Philanthropy & Activism

While women have always been at the forefront of activism, they are only recently being recognized as philanthropists. Indeed, in a November New York Times article, Women’s Philanthropy Institute director Debra J. Mesch said, “Women don’t think of themselves as philanthropists….when you think of philanthropists, you think about Warren Buffett and Andrew Carnegie. You think about all those older white men.”

Yet between Melinda Gates’ work providing contraception to the poorest countries in the world with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Oprah Winfrey’s work empowering women and children through the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, it is clear that not only are women becoming more prominent philanthropists, but that their philanthropy is directly affecting women on the ground. Giving to women and girls is on the rise; a 2009 study showed that giving to women and girls increased by 24% while overall giving increased by 14%.

In 2013, the myth that women are not philanthropists will continue to dissipate. VITAMIN W spoke with Susan Celia Swan, executive director of V-Day, the global movement dedicated to eradicating violence against women. Swan noted that the women working with V-Day are taking a creative approach to activism, which is directly tied to philanthropy. Unlike “armchair activists,” or those who comment blindly on atrocities without truly understanding their nuances, these philanthropist-activists “want to get more deeply involved in the story, understand what it is that they’re funding, and they want to get more deeply involved in spreading the word, helping on the ground, and seeing what’s happening,” she said. They’re using social media to “raise more funds and raise more people.”

V-Day’s movement One Billion Rising invites one billion women and men to rise, dance, and demand an end to violence on February 14. In terms of where women are going this year, Swan said, “I see a steady increase in philanthropy and activism. What we’re seeing is that women and men all over are creating projects tied to social media and getting the word out, and we’re seeing it worldwide where people are embracing One Billion Rising.” Changing consciousness, she said, is at the heart of the rise of philanthropy and activism.

5. Advertising

Women were entirely absent from AdAge’s Who to Watch in Adland in 2013 list. According to The 3% Conference, an organization dedicated to starting a dialog on women in advertising, merely 3% of advertising creative directors are women — that’s less than the percentage of women in congress, the C-suite, or behind the director’s camera. Despite the fact that female consumers control close to 80% of consumer spending, advertising remains a boy’s club. And even though women are dissatisfied with the ways advertisers market to them, advertisements by and large cater to the male gaze.

What has changed over the past year, however, is the increasing prominence of organizations, like Miss Representation, that condemn sexist ads, reminding us of the extent to which advertising informs our perspective of women. For instance, at the CES conference this year, VentureBeat journalist Jolie O’Dell publicly castigated VOCO, a voice-control company for ads that featured images of women’s body parts with the lines “Play with my V-Spot” and “Because oral is better.” Miss Representation and other organizations use the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to pinpoint products and companies that objectify women through advertising and media.

There’s probably no one better titled to make futuristic predictions than Ann Mack, who is director of trendspotting for JWT, one of the world’s top ad agencies. This former journalist who worked for AdWeek told VITAMIN W, “As the industry continues to undergo major change thanks to advances in social, mobile, and data technologies, women in advertising will invest much of their time mastering and leveraging these developments for business and personal gain.”

Mack envisions a new way forward in this male dominated industry: “More women in the industry will embrace an entrepreneurial ethos — no matter what the size of the organization — acting nimbly, efficiently, effectively, and creatively to pilot truly original initiatives.”

VITAMIN W also spoke with Kat Gordon, the founder of The 3% Conference, on her projections for women in advertising in 2013. She said that “women in advertising are learning that their femaleness is not a liability to be fixed, but an advantage to be celebrated. 2013 will be the year of more high-level appointments of female creative directors. The year already started off with a bang with the appointment of Colleen DeCourcy as co-global executive creative director of Wieden & Kennedy. The 3% Conference is expecting to double its attendees this year (its second), signaling to the world that women in creative leadership is an important business issue.”

She hopes that women this year “see the world as a place of abundance rather than scarcity. When we realize there’s enough success to go around and readily support and champion one another, we live the adage that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’”

6. Tech

A 2012 survey on the number of women in senior technology positions in the United States reinforces the brutal reality that tech remains a field dominated by men. According to the survey, just 9% of U.S. chief information officers are women, down from 13% in 2010. A Reuters survey found that 40% of the 450 American tech executives polled said their IT groups have no women at all in management positions, and in that same group, half of the executives said women were not underrepresented. American CIOs are part of a boys club that doesn’t seem to seek change.

Still, 2012 also saw the uptick of several powerful women in tech, most notably Marissa Mayer’s appointment to CEO at Yahoo! after becoming one of Google’s first twenty employees.

Various organizations have cropped up over the past several years that attempt to bridge the gap between men and women in tech, including Change The Ratio, Girl Develop ItGirl Geek Dinners, and the Tech Lady Mafia. There’s also Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code to develop the younger generation.

VITAMIN W spoke with Girl Develop It co-founder Vanessa Hurst, who said that in 2013 women are “taking the reins and making their own sites, apps, and technical futures by educating themselves and learning with organizations like Girl Develop It.” Hurst is using tech “to foster open innovation among social mission organizations, and specifically to promote open source, humanitarian software development.”

Similarly, Aminatou Sow, founder of Tech Lady Mafia, predicts that “digital media will continue to increase our visibility in 2013. Women in Tech are more and more vocal about wanting a seat at the table and less and less patient about being excluded or harassed online….We’re constantly pushing for gender parity and an acknowledgment of women’s work in STEM and entrepreneurship.”

Despite the frustration, many prominent women are emerging in tech. That’s a topic that Lynsey Smith, who runs the Portland chapter of Girl Geek Dinners, said is necessary to discuss as well. “I think we are beginning to shift the discussion from ‘Where are the women?’ or ‘Why aren’t there more women?’ to highlight the accomplishments made by women,” she said. “The conversations are going to be more confident and centered on accomplishments and personalities instead of simply gender and negativity.”

Megan Reback is the Assistant to the Publisher at Talking Points Memo. A former news intern for TPM, she graduated from Connecticut College cum laude in May 2012 with a B.A. in English and Government. Prior to joining TPM, Reback wrote for her college’s newspaper and interned with Planned Parenthood. In addition to her full-time job, she writes for various publications on women’s issues. She can be reached atmeganreback@gmail.com.


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