Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


International Women’s Day 2011 – make a small difference

International Women’s Day is on 8 March 2011.

Happy International Women's Day

Photo from Katkura

Although this day has been celebrated since 1910, there is always a danger that it provides a ‘warm glow’ moment and does not make any difference to what we do or think.  Not aspiring to revolution #egypt style, and partially prompted (but not managed!) by Fred Garnett, I have thought of something that we can do that can make small local differences to women, and possibly shift the tenor of online connections.  My other prompt was receiving a touching private  message from a former student, thanking me for helping her achieve promotion.  When I shared this on anonymously on Facebook, I got more props (not my intention!) and a general affirmation of the importance of positive feedback.

This left me pondering on the knotty question of Linked-in recommendations.  My personal policy on this is to make unsolicited recommendations whenever I think of them, but I have noticed recently that the number of requests for recommendations from male colleagues has been increasing (including from one for whom I had already written an unsolicited recommendation- you know who you are!!). I haven’t been able to find any research on gendered recommendation behaviours on Linked-in but would not be surprised if they are what we might expect based on what happens elsewhere – that women tend to get less glowing recommendations.  I also wonder who makes more recommendations – men or women.

So what I am asking you to do for International Women’s Day is to look at your acknowledgement behaviours  and make sure that you credit the wonderful women that you work, play and live with.  Who knows? you may already do this or you may do it in future.

Here are some concrete suggestions:

1. Look at your blogroll – are there any great women bloggers who should be there?

2.  When you visit a woman’s blog, go on – post a comment.

3. Retweet good posts you see from women.

4.  Follow some interesting women on Twitter that you see in a hashtag stream.

5.  Recommend some great women on Linked-in without them having to ask you.

6.  Tell the women in your life when they do something great or useful or that makes you happy

In general – spread the love!

Warning:  Please don’t do any of the above to me unless you were going to anyway or want to make me very embarrassed;)

francesbell • February 12, 2011

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  1. Cristina Costa February 12, 2011 - 1:15 pm Reply

    great post Frances and a lot of food for thought.
    Just a brief comment as I was heading my way out of the door …but thought this was worth commenting on before I went. I totally agree with you and hate getting linkedin messages asking for recommendadtions – the last two I got weren’t even from people I had worked close with and yeah – they are usually from men. Funny enough …I dont see them giving recommendations. I sure didn’t get them!!
    I am going to follow your tips. They are great. And I am just wondering if some men will too!

    Thank you for being there, for being my friend, mentor, advisor and listener in some of the recent critical moments of my life. You do make a difference, and that’s for the better xx

  2. fred6368 February 12, 2011 - 1:19 pm Reply

    Spread the Love unmanageably 🙂

  3. francesbell February 12, 2011 - 1:28 pm Reply

    Thanks Cris – you know I love working with you without me having to put it on Linked-in though I will one day;)
    @fred6368 glad you you took my little dig in good spirit – those late Friday night tweets were getting a tad managerial hee hee hee!

    • fred6368 February 12, 2011 - 1:51 pm Reply

      Have you ever been managed by me? Do what you like!
      My recommended managerial text book?
      The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
      Plus there was some subtxt to it which you nailed in your post (ask Cris)

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  5. Sarah Copeland February 12, 2011 - 4:02 pm Reply

    Frances, I saw this post on The Steve Walker Daily and felt compelled to leave a message even though we have never spoken before. It’s getting to that time of year to start compiling my Ada Lovelace Day 2011 blog post and I have been thinking about women who have inspired me to become the person I am today. This year, I feel my choice(s) might be more poignant than ever as I reshape myself as a feminist thinker, and feel increasingly frustrated by certain behaviours on-line that largely serve to perpetuate the patriarchal dominance. That’s why your suggestions instantly clicked and I will endeavour to do those things as and when.

    I received my first (unsolicited) recommendation on LinkedIn this week and it made me smile all day – what a lovely feeling.

  6. loumcgill February 12, 2011 - 4:14 pm Reply

    excellent idea Frances…

    There are loads of wonderful women I should have done this for on linked-in – haven’t really engaged with it very much but will now go on and add some recommendations. I already try to do the other things on the list but always good to be nudged a bit.

    will spread the word too.

  7. francesbell February 12, 2011 - 4:51 pm Reply

    @sarah I usually do an Ada Lovelace post too! so thanks for reminding me. I am pleased that you too are interested in the gendering of online communication. One area that interests me is women’s participation in public discourse, particularly policy debate. I have a sinking feeling that matters may not improve in the current economic climate. I am thinking about the post World War II era when all those women who had stepped up during the war had to return to domesticity. Anyway, interesting times in which we live, and let’s be critical, inquiring and strong – yay!!
    @lou – loved your purpos/ed post, particularly that you involved your son and partner- you’ll see you influenced mine when it comes out on Wednesday. Linked-in is just one example but I do feel that recommender systems will be another arena in which old inequalities are played out (not just gender).

  8. Claire Donlan February 12, 2011 - 7:09 pm Reply

    A really interesting blog post. I have mixed feelings about concentrating on gender issues especially regarding technology but will definitely try to follow some of your suggestions for International Womens Day.

  9. Maria Jose February 12, 2011 - 7:41 pm Reply

    Dear Frances,
    I’ve never pay attention to who is asking or receiving recommendations in LinkedIn. Now, after I read your post I checked my LinkedIn contacts and I not only realized I have more male than female contacts, I also looked for the recommendations, and in my small sample… there were more men recommended and being recommended. Interesting.
    Did you create the image you publish in your blog? It is in some way similar to the one I took for Women’s day University of Southampton photograph competition:

    Best regards,

    • francesbell February 13, 2011 - 2:49 pm Reply

      @Claire thanks for the comments.
      @Maria Jose your query prompted me to look again at the picture I had used , and discovered I had broken the licensing conditions so replaced it with this one. I really liked your picture and the stories behind it.

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