I’ve held for a long time that whenever someone says “we’d like to hire women but we don’t know any” or “we really want women as speakers on our event but we don’t know any and if we do they say no”, it is really down to the lack of quality and balance in their network of contacts. When I organised international conferences myself, with our team we made sure to invite speakers while conscious of the lopsidedness of our own networks, overcompensating in our invitations to get a result closer to a 50/50 balance. Now that my company is hiring new people every now and then, that too is an opportunity to counteract such imbalance.

Last week I wrote about ‘homebrew CRM‘, in which I mentioned Rick Klau’s post on his contact management routines. One element that jumped out when I was reading his post was that he had taken a look at his contact lists to see how the men/women ratio was in his network. There’s nothing in LinkedIn that let’s you explore your contact list as a single data set. It’s only a rolodex still, no way to visualise the data in that list in any way (e.g. geographic or sectoral distribution, or other cross sections of the list). Rick mentioned he had downloaded all his LinkedIn data and all his Twitter data, and then used that data export to work on. I requested the same data from LinkedIn and Twitter.

It turns out that LinkedIn’s export contains a list of contact names (but not the link to their profiles, as that isn’t ‘your data’), and a key piece of information they normally don’t show you: the date you connected. (Interestingly LinkedIn offers you nothing to record the context and reason you connected. The Xing-platform, heavily used in Germany, does do that, and I find it very useful)

Having names and dates, I manually indicated someone’s gender, and then used the dates for basic insights into how my recorded network developed over time. (Typing this I realise I still have the export from Facebook when I deleted my original account 2 years ago, and I could do the same there)

For now I looked at two measures: the balance between women and men in contacts I added each year, and the balance between women and men in the total number of contacts each year. Currently I have some 2150 contacts, of which some 600 are women, for a percentage of 27%. That is significantly lower than I had intuited. I think such overestimation is a known effect.

Looked at per year for the contacts added that year, the balance over time has improved from 10% in 2003, to between a third and 40% in the last handful of years. That last number is in line with the overall percentage I had intuited, so apparently I am using my perception of recent years as the estimate for the entire period. That low 2003 starting percentage has a lot to do I think with the general imbalance of the early adopter crowd that came into LinkedIn when they launched in May 2003 (I joined in June ’03) and the low number of people I connected to those first months on the platform (11 in 6 months).

Getting closer to a 50/50 balance on LinkedIn isn’t completely within my control I realise (unlike in my feed reading), as it also depends on who I actually meet in my work, and each working environment has its own existing gender distribution. It is also not completely outside my control. There is agency in new situations and contexts, such as whom I seek out for conversation when participating in an event. Yet, getting to a 50/50 balance for the total would mean connecting only to women for a few years, adding about a 1000 new contacts that way. History does keep one back clearly.

cummulative per year

new contacts added per year

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On my way back to the parking lot after getting a hair cut yesterday, on a whim I walked into the Flehite Museum to see what was on. A nice surprise was the exhibit of 100 works of Engelbert L’Hoëst (1919-2008), a local artist. Colorful expressive work. What spoke to me most were the night views of the sea he made in Portugal. Playing with how the moonlight can set strong accents.

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Three ships, Portugal, 1975

Also a really nice touch were a few facsimiles of diary notes the artist made.

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I don’t have a style, because every moment of life is different again. …. I have always remained seeking.

And, this one that led to my conclusion below.

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It is evening, a dark sky, some light further away. I hear the first tones of a bird starting a song. Again I see the spring nearing in my garden. My studio is full of excitement of what is about to come.

As E and I discussed this over dinner last night, my conclusion was it is really useful and good to share as much of your creative expressions and observations as possible, jot it all down, however trivial they might seem at the moment of making them. It provides glimpses into thoughts, processes, and are of value as such to those near and after you.

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Self portrait of/by Engelbert L’Hoëst, 1957

We had a very pleasant day at Dutch Design Week today. Some interesting things, but it did seem less inspiring than other editions. Maybe because we could roam and linger less this year. Our 3 yr old shared the experience with us, and that means my attention was with her a lot of the time. But some exhibits simply weren’t all that. Like reinventing the cellar to store fresh produce?

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Das sieht sehr interessant aus, Heinz. Die Verbindung zwischen Degrowth-denken und Contentstrategien; ich glaube wir brauchen mehr solche Beispiele wie man abstrakte Vorhaben umsetzt oder übersetzt in kleinere, mehr alltäglichen Kontexten, ohne dabei in die Falle des ‘toten Urgrossvater Prinzips*’ zu tappen.

Vielleicht ist auch dieses Event am 11.11. in Brüssel etwas für dich (ich habe vor dabei zu sein, hoffentlich klappt das auch): SciFi Economics Lab, von Edgeryders organisiert. Im Orga-Team ist Alberto Cottica, die du vielleicht im letzten Jahr bei Elmine’s Geburtstags-unconference gesprochen hast.

Ich habe aber auch eine ganz praktische Frage, über den Formfaktor deiner Präsentation: mir gefallen immer die HTML Folien, weil es ja leicht teilbar und in einem offenen Standard ist. Aber bist du während deines Vortrags von Internetzugang abhängig, oder hast du einen Weg das auch lokal auf der eigenen Maschine zu zeigen?

* Mein toter Urgrossvater ist Weltmeister in Energie, Wasser, seltene Erdmetalle, und CO2 usw. sparen. Seit er gestorben ist spart er 100% bis in aller Ewigkeit. Leben heist Verbrauch, und daher ist ‘sparen’ als Ziel an sich keine Lösung, ‘smartes’ denken über sparen im Kontext (neuer) Ziele aber schon (wie LED). Frei nach Bruce Sterling bei Reboot 2009.

Replied to a post by Heinz Wittenbrink Web teacher and blogger, living in Graz and sometimes in Dubrovnik.Heinz Wittenbrink Web teacher and blogger, living in Graz and sometimes in Dubrovnik.

Preparing an English version of my presentation on Content Strategy for Degrowth for our #coscamp today