At the launch of Digital Women UK (DWUK) on Wednesday 25 September at City Hall, I said that the story of the website, and some of the thinking behind it, can be told through a Twitter list, a link and a hashtag.
The list is the Independent’s Twitter 100, which was published last March – with just 18 women featured the 100 “titans”. Words of Colour Productions, who developed DWUK, held a debate that July to discuss why, when there are so many inspiring, creative women out there, so few of them made it on to that list of influencers.
When another list was announced, this time BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, we worked on creating an alternative list, again to highlight all those creative, influential women who are overlooked by the mainstream media.
This failure to showcase women was really put into stark relief in October last year, when on my Twitter stream I saw a link to the Daily Telegraph’s newly-launched women’s section called Wonder Women.
I clicked on the link and looked at it. And looked again. There were eight photographs of women. Every single one of them was white. I forwarded the link to Joy Francis, executive director of Words of Colour Productions, whose jaw dropped, to say the least. One line from Joy in the piece we wrote jointly really summed it up: Shouldn’t it be Wonder White Women, or is race just a (politically) black issue?
It was during our conversations about how the media was failing to represent the diversity of women that the idea for DWUK came to us. We had lots of ideas about training and mentoring and helping women to develop their digital skills, but we also felt that these discussions about women and inclusivity and the media needed somewhere to go.
It was in August, while we were planning for the launch event that the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hashtag began trending. Initiated by blogger Mikki Kendall to express her frustration that white women, their concerns and perceptions so often dominate mainstream feminism, it’s still going strong.
There’s no getting away from it, I am a white woman. But as I said at the launch, I don’t think it’s good enough that one group of women, i.e. white, middle class ones, get to talk about women and assume that their perspective is universal. I also don’t think it should go unchallenged when those women use the colourblind card, as they did in the Channel 4 News debate about #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen recently.
Joy and I have written a piece for the New Left Project about the blind spot that operates in the media when it comes to women and race – we’ll let you know when it’s published. This theme of the blind spot will continue on the website in a series of blog posts and interviews, different women will be discussing how this blind spot impacts them.
We will also be featuring interviews, posts and podcasts about women’s digital journeys, as a way of understanding more how creative women have found their way in the world of social media and developed their skills, and how they use it. We hear a lot about women using social media, but know little about who those women are, or how they use it, beyond the more superficial information about consumer habits.
Part of DWUK’s brief is to build up a knowledge base about women using social media – we’ve already made a start with our recent Digital Confidence Survey, which will be posted on Tuesday 1 October 2013.
Alongside the training, we will be publishing articles by digital media and marketing experts, academics, digital savvy creatives and experienced bloggers, to help women make sense of digital media tools and inspiring them to use them more boldly. We’ll also be showcasing the work of creative women and organisations from overseas.
There will be a core team of DWUK bloggers, including Joy Francis and myself, Andrea Enisuoh, Mesha McNeil and Samantha Watson who is going to be working on developing the online community and will manage all the Google+ hangouts and debates we’ve got planned.
We also hope to have a growing team of guest bloggers who work in creative industries, or in digital media, who will pass on some of their knowledge and insights, spark debate or make us smile.
Julie Tomlin is co-founder of Digital Women UK