I’m not having a baby, I’m having a conference.

This week 24, 25 if I include myself, smart, experienced, and highly engaging women took to the Public Sector Digital Marketing Summit virtual stage.

The speaker tally? 34.

The men rocked it too. But this is a story about actionable female empowerment.

The topic got lots of engagement on LinkedIn.

Be sure to connect with each speaker tagged in the LinkedIn post below.


Ask me how?

There’s definitely more deliberate action needed to ensure gender balance on conference schedules, but I didn’t need to work hard to get a 50/50 split. In fact, I’d say, I had to ensure there was male representation.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. It’s such a true statement and until any of us use our platforms to make the change we want to see in the world then we may as well continue shouting from the ditches.

I knew that if I really subscribed to absolute gender equality then I had to be what I wanted to see.

I didn’t have a gender quota in my event plan. I had the vision to get the best public sector marketing pros to deliver value to the audience by discussing lessons from Covid-19 communications.

It wasn’t a tricky task. These women are all around me. I watch their social media posts, l learn more about their work, see their passion and their drive and then simply reach out.

It went something like this…

“Hey, I really admire your work and I think more people need to hear about it, but also see you.”

The ‘see you’ part is very important. Unless you are seen, you are not heard.

When I was growing up I only ever saw men splashed on telegraph poles back home in Donegal. My ambition as a 7-year old girl to be on the radio was pitched against my reality of hearing and seeing (on TV news) mostly men.

I once was the token woman on an election poster in Donegal, but that’s another story.

Often I have to coach and coax women to see their value, to believe in themselves. I prod and probe at their insecurities and try to diffuse the narrative that they aren’t worthy or that it would be more appropriate to give the credit to another colleague. “See yourself”, I implore.

I know many people watch me and think I’ve mastered the art of believing my own BS but trust me, I’ve battled my own insecurity demons, and feelings of worthlessness or fear of being called out really keeps you down. But what those humans think of us is none of our business.


I want to ask you a question

When’s your next gender reveal party? Why not match or exceed my 72% women empowerment metric? What’s stopping you? Are the answers more patriarchal rhetoric and women shaming?

Don’t tell me that because this was a marketing and comms conference that it’s representative of women dominating in these jobs.

Maybe you need to take off your gender bias glasses and see what is really happening (probably quietly) by the women in your sector or section and sitting right next to you. She’s your mother, sister, daughter, niece, aunt and friend. We are all part of the problem and solution. What’s needed is a mindset and cultural shift driven by action, not words.

How about leaders stepping stage left and saying:

◦ The woman that wrote my speech is here.

◦ The woman that spent hours doing the research that I’m presenting is here.

◦ The woman that knows more about this than me but didn’t get this job is here.

Wouldn’t that be a creative approach?

But if you really want to know why I chose each speaker, here are the criteria. It just so happened that the amazing women speakers fulfilled the brief and some.

1. Knowledge based on experience

2. Experience based on action

3. Insights based on reviewing the data

4. Actions based on hunger to close the knowledge gap between them and their audience in the public interest

5. Ultimately to build trust in a world where we are conquering by dividing opinion online

So over 15 hours across two days, we heard from 24 female leaders in government, public sector, and digital marketing.

I want to thank, again, the brilliant tales and tactics shared at the Summit. You shared the learnings from the frontline of digital communications when the chips were down. You inspired your peers who watched on. You have written the book on digital mastery in the public sector by your work. You just don’t know it.

YOU need to be seen and heard over and over and over again. And then some more!

I want to shout out the women on the Summit team who had this woman’s back.

Djameela, Angela, Melanie, Siofra, and to my daughter Sophie (minding her brother while I worked every final hour to bring everything together).

Let’s leave the last words to Cher and Hilary Clinton

“Women have to harness their power—it’s absolutely true. It’s just learning not to take the first ‘no’. And if you can’t go straight ahead, you go around the corner.”

⁃ Cher

“I believe the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.”

– Hillary Clinton

Amen Sisters. I see you.

Yours in digital,

Joanne.

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