I used to write a column for a site dedicated to ‘female readers’. In one of my first articles, I asked whether women novelists write differently to men.
Back then, I found the topic compelling and squirmy in equal measure. I still do. So lets get the disclaimer out of the way now: any attempt to proclaim upon gender is inevitably rife with woolly instinct and clumsy cliché.
When the wonderful Alex Wood asked me to join The Memo (as Associate Editor, with a particular remit for the intersection between innovation and publishing) I was rabidly excited — not just at the opportunity to create a fresh, sustainable model of journalism with some very, very smart people, but because it would give me the chance to experiment with what sort of content women in leadership, innovation and publishing really want.
A quick confession.
Whenever I hear people complain about how tough it is for women in tech, I think of my sister. Emma is a forester. She launched her own company, Native Forestry, with her husband ten years ago. If you think being shot down in a brogrammer-filled boardroom is challenging, try dropping your one and three year old daughters off at nursery, wrangling with a misogynist landowner, then planting several hundred saplings in the rain.
Although I have, throughout my working life in both social media marketingand tech (ish) journalism, been outnumbered by humans with unmatched chromosomes, I don’t think I’ve been particularly marginalised, patronised or under-remunerated. I have in fact been blessed with a number of incredible mentors and supporters, of both sexes (and occasionally other species).
As an avid reader, watcher and listener of anything to do with innovation, however, it’s a different story.
I’m not a scientist or a programmer (although I am in awe of those distant, rigorous gods of material certainties); I’m not a Wired-style gadget-fetishist (although I’m not averse to a natty bit of hardware); and nor am I interested in how wearables skinned in this season’s chartreuse can help me lose weight (although I am digital editor for a fashion magazine). And no, I don’t particularly want to hear another keynote from Sheryl Sandberg or Angela Ahrendts (amazing as they are).
Here’s what I want more of.
- Actual innovation (as opposed to tech). There are lots of new tools and platforms — and things being done on them — which aren’t the least bit innovative, and I’m bored of hearing about them. Innovation can be found in attitude, culture and creative approach as much as in code.
- Context. Less Gollum-like fondling of shiny things, more analysis of what they mean for our lives, brains, bodies, trees, kids, societies.
- A sense of history. Every generation thinks they’re undergoing unprecedented change. Maybe we could learn from the past with a little more humility, as well as celebrate the undoubted progress we’ve made.
- A richer perspective. I crave inspiration on how to build innovative careers and companies that embrace physical and emotional health, the environment, family and fun — as well as power and money.
- Wit. Surely there’s a middle ground between solemnity and snark?
- Elegance. From beautiful UI to a perfectly turned sentence, aesthetics are not shallow; they form the shape and tenor of our world. But ugliness is easy when you’re in a rush. We’re all in a rush.
I hope that some of you — both men and women — might feel the same way.
I’m not sure that I know what it means to be a woman, let alone what it means to be a woman in leadership or tech or publishing. But I do know that it involves telling stories about the future of forestry as well as Facebook, and I sure as hell look forward to jumping about in the leaves (whether in wellies, brogues, or a towering pair of heels).