For women, use widget

Female experts are notoriously under-represented – in the media, on expert panels, at conferences or anywhere requiring informed comment.

Female experts are notoriously under-represented – in the media, on expert panels, at conferences or anywhere requiring informed comment. The problem is not that they don’t exist, but that they are under-exposed, and researchers or bookers find it hard to find suitable female voices – or easier to book their male counterparts.

It is a conundrum that is currently making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic – in the UK, the BBC is repeatedly in hot water over its lack of women commentators on high-profile programmes. It is also something that SheSays, a Brooklyn-based organisation for the advancement of women in technology and the creative industries, decided to tackle head-on.

Following numerous daily requests for help to find female experts, SheSays decided to roll out a new approach to shining the spotlight on women. Together with PLH and Equalisters, it has launched an online widget that allows users to ‘Find a Token Woman’. The tool can be embedded in third-party websites and blogs and lets visitors search a list of expert women by different industries – easy peasy.

The tongue-in-cheek name, and simplicity of the online tool, were created in deliberate contrast to the prevailing discourse surrounding the issue, according to SheSays co-founder Alessandra Lariu.

“Historically the lack of women at a given industry has been approached in a very serious, almost political way,” she explains. “We meet great women everyday and we believe they do exist and could be relatively easy to find. We must to do something about it and not just write articles about the subject. That’s too formal. We need something more active and the widget is a tool that could facilitate women’s exposure.”

And as so often, when you wait for something too long, two come along at once. In the UK, blogger and co-founder of online magazine Week Woman Caroline Criado-Perez launched The Women’s Room, an online resource for people looking to find female experts. It allows anyone to nominate themselves or acquaintances in particular fields of experience.

There might not be a widget, but the no-nonsense, proactive approach to democratising exposure for women in all industries dovetails nicely with SheSays’ campaign.

Following its launch last week, The Women’s Room now has more than 500 entries and counting. These solutions may be simple, but their effectiveness would be much appreciated by many.


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