While women have made huge strides in gender equality and perceptions, some stereotypes have come back to haunt us again in revised forms. According to one especially reductive “Mars and Venus” formula, men use Facebook and LinkedIn to increase serious opportunities, as well as for purely social functions, while for women such media are just a way to share cheesecake recipes and coo over baby pictures. While we may delight in such activities, women are already using social media in ways that fly in the face of such simplifications.
Building a voice
Largely as a function of gender-based socialization, women often don’t feel the confidence to assert themselves within the usually male-dominated milieu of face-to-face board meetings. Even for more seasoned career women, it can be daunting to be a minority in such a high-pressure physical reality.
Within the realm of social media, women in the workplace are building networks of mutual support that counteract the patterns of the past. Professionals who are less likely to take risky positions when confronted with flesh-and-blood critics feel more secure in cyberspace, and given that social media are designed to elicit positive reinforcement through likes and affirming tweets, this has an upward snowball effect of raising confidence.
Expanding opportunities to connect
Women in particular have often taken advantage of social forums to get things done, whether it be through PTA meetings or neighborhood welcome wagon groups. Social media simply takes the already existing tendency of women to be socially engaged and expands it to a greater level. Female-based communities are evolving in a way that cuts through particular companies and physical limitations and connects female players throughout industries and geographies. Twitter’s hashtag function in particular allows women to easily follow issues that matter to them and forge coalitions based upon shared concerns, from immediate personal needs to calls for large-scale social change.
Such a framework is obviously a powerful tool for taking action in ways that would never have been possible before. Because the internet bypasses so many barriers that separate us, women who were formerly isolated can now access high-profile players in their field and, conversely, build an accessible, highly visible platform for self-promotion.
It’s worth singling out the revolutionary potential of crowdfunding within social media. Women have historically had a more difficult time capitalizing concepts and proposals, but the interplay of social media and crowdfunding is turning that paradigm on its head. Statistically, people tend to contribute to contacts similar to themselves, meaning that women are more likely to finance other women’s projects.
Gaining from the Benefits of the Virtual Office
The 9-to-5, brick-and-mortar limitations of the workday are being undone by men and women alike, but women in particular are edging towards a preference of working fewer days in a physically-defined office. Not only that, women are shown to actually be more productive when working in a virtual office.
In part, this is because women have an increased desire to balance the needs of the rest of their lives into work, an integration that the 20th century model of a career doesn’t accommodate. By using social media to create a zone of productivity that isn’t burdened by time, space, or bodies, women are changing how everyone thinks about the workplace.
These shifts are only in a nascent state, and we can be sure that in an economy in which half of all women are primary breadwinners, the influence of women through social media is only going to continue to revolutionize career roles, gender limitations, and the very world in which we live.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional in Southern California. As the founder of her own company, Gryffin Media, she knows how important social media is to its development. To see more of her writing, follow her on Twitter today!