Bridging the Streaming Media Gender Gap
I just returned from IBC in Amsterdam, where I walked away with two bits of very heartening news—neither of which have anything to do with technology.
The first one actually isn’t so much a single news item as it is a trend. Companies in the streaming media space seem to be focusing more on long-term planning and success than on proving they can keep up with the latest buzzwords. So while it meant that there weren’t that many "Wow!" moments walking around the show floor, there were plenty of "Hey, that’s a really smart way to approach the market" conversations. And most of the companies that did have new products were actually shipping them, not just talking about things on the drawing board. As our publisher Joel Unickow said, "Less fluff, more stuff."
The second bit of news is one that is about neither technology nor business, but has tremendous implications for both. Saturday morning was the first in-person gathering of a group that couldn’t be more important for the future of our industry: Women in Streaming Media. It’s painfully apparent at events like NAB and IBC (and yes, at Streaming Media conferences as well) that women are woefully underrepresented on panels and at vendors’ booths. [Editor's note: IBC made huge strides this year, with 37% of its speakers being women, according to analyst Ben Keen.]
Of course, it’s not just an issue in our industry; check out the All Male Panels Tumblr to see just how pervasive and pernicious the problem is. I say it’s pernicious because even if women are still a minority in our industry, they aren’t such a tiny minority that you can’t find at least one woman to speak on a panel of four or five. If you’re putting together a panel and can’t find at least one woman to join it, you’re not looking hard enough.
Since I’ve been in charge of Streaming Media conference programming, I’ve made an effort to make sure more women speak at our events—two out of the three keynotes at the 2018 Streaming Media East were women—but I know we need to do much more. And some events are already doing a terrific job of making sure that women are better represented not just on the stage but in the audience. In particular, I’m thinking of the Nordic TV Summit (formerly called the Nordic Media Summit), which (surprise!) is programmed by a woman, Brynhild Vinskei of 24i Media. And this year's inaugural Video Marketing Summit, programmed by our own Troy Dreier, also featured a program that was about 30% women.
I first heard about the Women in Streaming Media group from Vinskei, and not long afterward from Diane Strutner, CEO of Datazoom. In just a few years, Strutner has become one of the most recognized people in our industry; a number of us at the group’s first meetup joked that her business card title should read “Powerhouse.” Strutner spearheaded the effort, along with founding members Peggy Dau of MAD Perspectives, Sangeeta Ramakrishnan of Cisco Systems, and Alicia Pritchett of Fastly.
While exclusion from conference speaking was the impetus for the group’s formation, Women in Streaming Media’s goals are much broader. The group’s mission statement, according to Strutner, is "to increase diversity and give more visibility to women leaders within the technology side of the streaming media industry. To do this, Women in Streaming Media (WSM) will create forums and events to connect women, provide mentorship and internship programs to increase and grow women’s participation in the industry and in leadership roles, and promote other opportunities to help accelerate women professionally."
The group’s inaugural meetup, cheekily called "But First … Coffee," drew about 50 women from all sectors of our industry. (A few men, too—I was honored to be asked to join and talk about speaking and writing opportunities at Streaming Media.) That’s a pretty good showing, especially for 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in Amsterdam. The group currently boasts 123 members on its LinkedIn page, and Strutner says the founding members are in the process of selecting a board. Women interested in officially joining the group can fill out this Google form to apply.
As long as streaming media remains male-dominated, men in the industry need to make efforts to be more inclusive. We’ve committed to do that with Streaming Media shows and publications, and my co-hosts on the monthly SM Advanced Forum webcast (SMAF for short) have committed to making sure one of each show’s two guests is a woman. We need to do better, but this is a start.
The Women in Streaming Media group had its first meeting at IBC.
A look at any conference program—including our own—makes it clear: It's long past time for the streaming media industry to take the gender imbalance seriously, and to identify and address the root issues—not just the optics.