As part of our ongoing series examining the media’s “blind spot” towards gender, race and class, we ask Joséphine Goube, director of Migreat and co-managing director at Girls in Tech UK, about the media’s attitudes towards women and the role digital media could play in ensuring that more diverse voices are heard.
What was the motivation behind creating Girls in Tech UK?
Girls in Tech UK is about raising the visibility of women in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. At its core, there are women who are just not visible enough. This is not to say we are going to talk about feminism, or we are going to talk about gender – that is not our purpose because there are lots of people doing this brilliantly. What we thought was, we’ll do our job to raise the visibility of those women who have freed themselves from chauvinistic society, and who are free to inspire role models who then inspire others.
How would you define, or characterise the media’s blind spot with regard to the invisibility of women?
I do think they are invisible in the media and I think a lot of people are talking about this. We have talked enough about sexism. What we don’t talk enough about are the positive outcomes, the women who make it and the current changes happening in technology for them. I do think it’s great to talk about the problems if it’s to solve them, and we need to talk more about the solutions and highlight the successes of women.
What do you think of the media’s coverage of women’s issues generally, and how does the blind spot operate in that respect?
I think the image is stuck in the 1970s and 1980s, and between people who see feminists as angry people and those who see them as victims. I think this image is slowly changing, and we need to support this change by alternative speech. It means talking about the successes and showing the positive and constructive change for women.
What role do you think digital media plays in challenging the blind spot?
I don’t know how many people of our generation read or pay for a newspaper. More and more information is coming through social media and digital media formats. It has become a powerful force for instilling topics and debates into our thinking. The old media runs on money. They need readers. They need people to buy their publications, and they are not going to be around for long if they don’t reach out and connect to the masses that are on social media, talking about something very different from what they are reporting on today. The women and migrant-related content online is growing for a reason: it talks about the daily life and experience of people. The mainstream mean is going to have to address this change in the demand of readers for more reality and follow the “diversity” trend. The blind spot is becoming the thing that everybody talks about thanks to digital media’s growing influence.
Have you encountered any negative experiences using digital media?
Working with Migreat, you encounter a lot of people who are anti-immigrant. So we have had a few negative experiences, not much, but digital media enables anyone to say anything. That’s the only challenge. I mean it’s great that everyone has the right of expression, but it doesn’t necessarily educate. Secondly, it doesn’t mean there are interactions or conversations. Instead, there might be monologues or encounters with one another. It’s a bit of a risk. For a world that wants to be better informed, people will keep missing each other if they don’t speak and understand the same language. At least, there are conversation happening and it can lead to learning. A negative experience on digital media can be transformed into a positive one through conversation.
Do you have any experiences of being represented in the media in a way which has been influenced by the blind spot?
The media is interested in female entrepreneurship as it’s a hot topic. It’s more about the fact that you’re a woman talking about entrepreneurship rather than female entrepreneurship, to the extent that ‘if you’re good looking, even better’. This is because when you are an example of who they think a woman in technology is, maybe it can challenge the stereotype, which everybody has. If they can show that ‘geek’ isn’t that ‘geeky’, and that a woman in tech or an entrepreneur can be a social person, then they are taking the stereotype in the opposite direction instead of just getting rid of the stereotype altogether.
What steps can those working in the media take to challenge the blind spot?
The media needs to be more responsible in recognising talent from diverse backgrounds. The Huffington Post reached out to Migreat to get on board bloggers from India, for example, while Buzzfeed is doing articles for South Asians. The industry needs to react and put new labels under diversity, not under minority because minority is a term that labels people, as if ‘you’re a minority, you’re under the majority’. Diversity is a better word. We need to have communities on the ground to instil confidence to allow people to express themselves.
Interview by Lwam Tesfay, Digital Women UK’s online editorial assistant.
About the author
Listed by Management Today as one of the top 35 women in Business in Britain in 2015, Josephine Goube currently heads Migreat, the fastest-growing global platform for migrants to get access to information and immigration support. Outside of working hours, Josephine dedicates her time to Girls in Tech UK, a non-profit raising the visibility of women in the tech and entrepreneurship sector in London and operating a mentoring scheme. She previously worked at TechStars London and Rainmaking, co-founded the London School of Economics Business Incubator and graduated from the New Entrepreneurs Foundation.
You can find Josephine on Twitter @josephinegoube.