There are a staggering number of women working in the social media industry. In a world where women have historically been underrepresented in many high-growth industries, this fact is as surprising as it is interesting.
How did social media go pink? In this article, we take a look at the various factors that have contributed to this unique development. We also examine its broader implications.
A Young Industry
One of the reasons women have done well in the social media industry may stem simply from the fact that it is a relatively young sector of commerce. The very first recorded social media platform, a site called SixDegrees launched only twenty-five years ago.
Most of today’s prominent sites are even younger still. This means that the social media industry hasn’t had the time slip into the same patterns that are harmful to women that other modes of business have.
Consider the many workplace stereotypes. Women are nurses. Men are doctors. Women are paralegals. Men are lawyers. Women are teachers. Men are principles.
Of course, there is no inherent reason for real life to mimic these stereotypes. Women are just as talented at practicing medicine as men. However, the very existence of said stereotype can make it harder for women to break into the industry. Think of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, being one of the only women in her Harvard law class.
Social media is too young to have these stereotypes. Of course, it’s still a business and therefore may favor men in certain aspects due to broader social biases. However, because social media was born in a relatively progressive era, it makes sense that its hiring trends would be more inclusive than major industries of the past.
Women Use Social Media More
It’s also true that women use social media more. A recent study revealed that 78% of adult age women are active on social media, versus just 65% of adult-aged men. This gender gap plays a big role in why women might find more work within the industry than men.
Depending on the nature of the job, an active social media presence can sometimes be a requisite part of working within the industry. Brand ambassadors, for example, are people who use their existing accounts to generate a buzz around a product or service.
Businesses looking to hire a brand ambassador will naturally gravitate towards people who are already talented at social media. There’s also just the matter of personal interest. Because women tend to be more active on social media than men, it’s natural that they should be more interested in working in the industry.
Several studies have also shown that job listings for positions in the social media industry tend to use language that is more strongly associated with women. This study revealed that a significant position of job advertisements appeals to emotional intelligence and other characteristics that women are typically assumed to be better with than men.
A deliberate decision, or simply a requisite part of the work? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, emotional intelligence is a skill that seems naturally inherent to the social media industry, especially when it comes to the world of digital marketing. If you can’t create social media copy that appeals to people on an emotional level, you probably aren’t a good fit for the job.
On the other hand, to assume that women are good at operating in the social media industry on an emotional level is its own form of stereotype.
Isn’t that a positive stereotype?
Yes and no. On the one hand, it seems that the social media industry has, at least by certain criteria, done a good job of being inclusive with its hiring policies. If this has been accomplished under the relatively harmless assumption that women are more emotionally savvy than men, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
There are, however, implications that aren’t so good. While women do occupy a large portion of jobs within this industry, many of them are entry-level and involve account management. More technical positions, programming, coding, etc, that tend to pay more and benefit from a higher level of upward mobility potential remain sharply dominated by men.
If the unspoken assumption is that men are better at technical work and women are better at emotional work, an inequitable hierarchy will soon emerge that has much in common with those seen in other industries.
It Isn’t All Good
Exciting though the prospect of a thriving woman-dominated industry may be, the news isn’t all good. As alluded to in the last section, many women held positions within the social media industry occur at the entry-level, with a median salary of around $40,000--below even the average American income.
There exists, of course, the potential to change this. The industry remains young enough to avoid establishing bad habits that could shape it for years to come.
Part of the burden resides with women. People who wish to experience the highest possible income within the social media industry will need to consider academic paths that are naturally oriented towards the highest paying jobs.
Women who wish to do so may consider pursuing degrees in programming, or digital marketing. Marketing, especially when coupled with an academic focus on data implementation is a high-paying career path that has ample room for growth within the world of social media.
Women may even consider opening their own social media-driven businesses. Women in business typically generate 10% more revenue in their first five years than men do.
Social awareness is the other key element. We live in an era in which change is crowdsourced. When there is a big enough demand for a social development, it usually begins to take off.
There is already an increased focus on spotlighting female talent in the world of tech. The world of programming has come under fire in recent years for attitudes that have been perceived as sexist. By spotlighting inequalities in the social media industry as well there may be the chance to establish a greater degree of equity.