On Playing the Woman Card

Today, Rick Calvert and I are giving a webinar with MomImpact’s Kim Modolfsky to discuss how women can land speaking engagements with BlogWorld and other conferences. Though some people are using the word “empower” as in “we need to empower women,” I’m not playing that card anymore. I don’t think it’s about empowerment as much as I believe we’re sharing information and resources.

I have stated in the past that if there are more men speaking at conferences than women, it’s because the women aren’t submitting strong proposals. That has nothing to do with empowerment, it has to do with taking the time to learn how to do things the right way.

Here’s the thing…

To say women need to become empowered to get ahead is kind of insulting. It’s hinting that we’re meek, uneducated, afraid, and hiding in our shells, and this simply isn’t true. If women aren’t speaking at conferences or aren’t advancing, I don’t think it’s because we’re naive or because men won’t let us. Rather, it’s like anything else, it wasn’t something we cared to take time to learn about. I’m not an auto mechanic not because I’m a woman but because I never took the time to learn how to fix cars. However, I know that if I want to do this in the future the resources are in place for me to do what I need to do.

Use the tools to empower yourself, but don’t expect others to come and “empower you.”

I don’t play the “woman” card. I never said, “you better hire me because I’m a woman and if you hire that other guy it’s because you like men better,” because I’m all about finding the right person for a job – even if that person is a man. I also think that if a woman isn’t getting ahead, it’s no one’s fault but her own. I mean, if men are getting all the speaking gigs or good jobs, we have to say “why is that?” Not, “They’re only getting in because they’re men.”

Let me share a story.

My Grandmother, Elizabeth Montgomery, came to America from Hungary with nothing. Her family shared a one bathroom basement tenement apartment with several other families. After her father passed away, Grandma had to leave school in eighth grade to work in a sweat shop and help support her three brothers. Only the boys were to get an education, but Grandma wasn’t buying it. She wanted to learn too. So she read all her brothers school books and practiced their lessons. Eventually she found work as a telephone operator. When she married my Grandfather, she could have quit her job. He did fairly well as an accountant on Wall Street. However, Grandma didn’t think men should be the only ones to work or bring in an income. She read up on the stock market and ended up making some lucrative investments. Grandma even bought herself a store in Elmhurst, Queens and was a popular fixture in that community until she was in her 70′s and sold. She was born poor, but when she passed away in 2000 at the age of 93, she was living a comfortable life.

Grandma didn’t say, “Someone needs to empower me to get ahead.” She said, “I need to learn and put what I learn to use.” She didn’t blame men, because it wasn’t a man’s fault. She empowered herself.

It’s not up to others to empower us

I have never come across a situation where a man won a job or promotion over me because he was a man. I usually put myself in those situations because I didn’t try hard enough.

When the first BlogWorld was announced in 2007, I really wanted to go. For the longest time I played the family card. Without discussing it with my family, I determined that they needed me at home and there was no way I could go. Truthfully, I used them as an excuse because I was shy. I never traveled anywhere by myself in my life and I didn’t want to go to a place where I didn’t know anyone. But, I also knew I wanted to get ahead. I wanted to learn and this was the best place to do it. I wanted to network and this was the best place to do it. I wanted to meet my peers and this was the place to do it. I took a deep breath, stepped out of my comfort zone and attended BlogWorld ’07.

That one brave move set off big, beautiful chain of events and I’m now the Conference Director for BlogWorld. Did anyone hold my hand? No. Did anyone else empower me? No. I did it all myself. I wasn’t oppressed. I wasn’t naive. I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

Education over empowerment

I said it before, I find it extremely insulting, not to mention condescending, to suggest women need to be empowered. I don’t know that we need someone to take us by the hand and say, “here’s what you need to do…” Instead, I think we need to take big, deep breaths and learn on our own. So when I do webinars like this, or when I blog or speak at conferences, it’s not because I want to empower anyone. It’s because I want to be a resource in your own road to success.

I don’t want people to say, “Deb is a woman who got ahead…” I want folks to say, “Deb got ahead by….” I’m proud to be a woman, but when good things happen to me, I don’t want them to happen to me because I’m a woman. I want them to happen to me because I worked hard to get them.

Though the social media world is filled with more men then women, I don’t think the ratio is so great that we’re being oppressed. Rather, I find that women are welcomed and encouraged. I find that the men in social media are helpful, giving and promote women just as much as they do men. Now, I will take this moment to express my disappointment in the men who pitch male only panels at conferences, but I don’t think they’re not choosing women because they’re women. Half the time they’re choosing friends.

If women want to get ahead they need to stop waiting for someone to take them by the hand and empower them. Instead, they need to get out there and do. Read. Network. Learn. Find out why others are so successful and take their own successful steps. However, it’s not up to me to empower other women. We’re big girls, we make our own decisions. There are more resources available to us than ever before, so if we don’t have the knowledge to do something, it’s not a man’s fault. And for us to say we don’t know about these resources or we don’t know how to use these resources because we’re women? Well what does that really say about us?

That’s why I’m happy to be a part of today’s webinar. I’m very excited to help others learn how to take their blogging & social media careers to a whole other level by speaking at conferences. But make no mistake, this isn’t about empowerment, it’s about sharing tips and telling women what the BlogWorld team is looking for in a speaker and speaker proposal.

It’s time for us to stop playing the woman card. It’s time to stop using excuses such as “gender bias” or using our kids as our reasons for not getting ahead. We CAN do this, and if we’re not, it’s no one’s fault but our own.


  1. iconic88 says:

    What a wonderful post!! Thank you for this story Deb ;))))

    Ramon will inspire many.

  2. Thanks for the post, an excellent summary.

  3. Now I want to live in Chicago so I can eat and tweet at those Dominos!

  4. Ramon definitely delivers a powerful, passionate, humor-laden presentation! And you’re right, he makes people feel great and that I think is what we all remember, how someone made us feel. I can’t find the quote that I wanted to share here, but in business (and relationships), how you make someone feel matters big time!