Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

[Editorial] Let's Change the Ratio Once and For All

BY Andrew Rasiej | Thursday, June 28 2012

Image from WIKIPEDIA: CHANGE THE RATIO (DESIGN BY JESS3 + 1X57)

Having been in the Internet tech industry since its early days, I have seen lists produced by many publications where the top 10, 25, 50, or 100 visionaries, innovators, entrepreneurs, VC's, startups, apps, etc are touted, highlighted, and held up as examples of our never-ending meritocracy. On a few occasions I have even been included in some, and sometimes I admit being disappointed to not be included on some others.

Although lists might seem silly, as a society we always seem to be interested in who is up and who is down, especially if they are competitors, friends, people we have met, or would like to meet. I am as much a contributor to this behavior as anyone I know, subscribing to this ethos and never really thinking about it twice until now.

Four days ago I found out that I was named to The Daily Beast/Newsweek's Digital Power Index, winning the ninth spot in the category for "Evangelists." There were nine other categories like "Innovators," "Visionaries," "Angels," etc. I quickly scanned the list, saw some really amazing names, and said to myself: "Wow, this is cool," and immediately tweeted a link out thanking The Daily Beast/Newsweek for the recognition. I then enjoyed a few joyful feelings of professional validation and continued on my way.

Then Wednesday, I read Rachel Sklar's thoughtful piece criticizing not only the way the index was compiled (See my P.S. below, on that) but the whole way that we as an industry and as a society re-enforce behavior that doesn't give women proper credit. At first I was mortified that I didn't notice myself that among the 100 names cited on the list, only nine were women. You see, when women are minimized, our perspective is narrowed. I am not suggesting we should look to some formula of what constitutes diversity, rather, we should realize that when we minimize women, we then lose out on the priorities and unique approaches that women bring to solving problems throughout the world, digital or otherwise.

My team and I pride ourselves on the fact that we go out of our way to achieve as much gender balance as possible at our Personal Democracy Forum conference which we produce every year. But now I realize that even by that measure, I am personally and professionally falling way short, if I am not seeing the imbalance naturally. This is not OK for me and not OK for our industry. And it is not OK for our now global connected society either. I want to do something about it!

So I am sending a letter to The Daily Beast/Newsweek, respectfully saying "Thanks, but no thanks," and asking them to remove me from the list and replace me with a woman I respect in my field who I think is an awesome evangelist, Deanna Zandt, who based on their selection criteria could have been easily listed in several of the other categories too. (By the way, see her great talk at PDF called "Don't Mess With Our Boobs: Ad-Hoc Networks and Online Power" which could have never been given by a man!)

I am also writing to every single man I know on the list whom I have email addresses for (about 25) and asking them to also name a woman they admire and who should be on "the list." I will also ask them to connect me with the other men on the current list I don't know, so I can ask them to join us.

When we are done, I hope to then go back to The Daily Beast/Newsweek and ask them to republish the list with our recommendations with a promise from them that next year, assuming they do it again, they will take gender balance into better consideration. By the way, Newsweek should have known better from the start, particularly after their public mea culpa two years ago publishing a 2000-word essay by Jessica Ellison, Jessica Bennet, and Sarah Ball, chronicling gender discrimination in Newsweek offices, which also reminded everyone of the fact that Newsweek had to deal with a very public lawsuit about the same problem in 1970.

I am not looking to create a new properly balanced list of the digerati. (Even if we could successfully balance such lists in the future, they would fall far short of being truly diverse in race, ethnicity, age, or physical challenges). What I am hoping to do is to pick up the conversation that we ALL MUST HAVE, that women like Rachel Sklar have worked hard to start and maintain.

We ALL need to agree and work together to stamp out gender discrimination once and for all from our industry. As it succeeds to make us all the more connected it might be able to help stamp it out elsewhere too. Please join me.

Andrew

P.S. As Rachel Sklar points out in her piece, I have nothing against the judging panelists who are all amazingly accomplished people in their own right. However, of the 52 total "panelists" only 12 were women. Also, oddly in the case of the "Virologists" category, two of the panelists, the amazing Jonah Perretti and Ben Huh, were also selected as two of the top ten. Should that happen?

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

More