Have women got Twitter clout?

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Twitter has cemented its place in global society and has become an influential vehicle for exposing all aspects of our society. In the past 12 months, it played a pivotal role in the Arab Spring uprisings, made a mockery of the British libel laws by outing Ryan Giggs in the super injunction affair, and provided revealing updates by Parliamentary Select Committee Members on the phone-hacking scandal.

Its beauty lies in its simplicity. Those 140 characters have provided access for all - a level playing field. The conventional barriers of entry, social addages such as wealth, race, ethnicity gender etc. have been removed providing a platform for the wittiest, most informative and astute users of Twitter, not necessarily those who are famous, to share their gift for insightful commentary.

Curiously, this innovative and socially levelling tool, also exposes some of the more negative aspects of our society. England player Micah Richards, was forced to quit his Twitter account over the racist abuse he had received. Similarly, women and the Twittersphere are hitting the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. Women who now use the social medium of our age, and shaping online conversations, are being rejected from the club of social media influencers. According to the Independent's Twitter 100 list published earlier this year, only 18 of the top Tweeters are women.

The Twitter 100, compiled by PeerIndex, was measured by assessing not only how many followers a person has, but by how much impact they have on their followers. That is to say what level of engagement their tweets attract.

Many have complained about the shortage of women on such lists, but no matter how influential women are on Twitter - and some statistics have shown that women hold a higher level of influence within the general Twitter population, we have been socialised to either consciously or subconsciously include, but a few token women in these power lists.

Minna Salami, a blogger, writer and social commentator on African feminism said

The Twitter 100 list is not an anomaly, however. As far as power lists go, in my opinion it reinforces the norm; an unapologetic dominance by white, heterosexual, well-to-do-males.

Media campaigners are calling on broadcasters to sign a pledge to ensure that 30 per cent of guest pundits are female - and not just when they need case studies or 'victim' comments. Why are so few women considered authoritative or influential in social media beyond 'niche' topics? And why are so many women still being excluded from the media, despite making up around 50 per cent of its workforce?

Words of Colour Productions have organised an exciting panel of female social media experts to discuss the real stories behind the headlines entitled Have Women Got Twitter Clout?

The panellists for the event are Sanam Dolatshahi, the first Iranian woman to start blogging in Iran in 2001, Lis Howell, Director of Broadcasting at City University London, Hana Riaz, a Muslim feminist, writer, blogger and columnist for Ceasefire Magazine and Minna Salami, founder/editor of the multiple award-nominated blog MsAfropolitan.com.

The panel debate will be facilitated by Julie Tomlin, Words of Colour's creative programmes manager, and chaired by Words of Colour's executive director Joy Francis, and the event is being hosted with support from English PEN.

Have women got Twitter clout? will take place on Wednesday 30 May 2012 6.30pm-8pm, Free Word Centre, Farringdon, London.

To book visit: http://www.freewordonline.com/

Francine Fernandes

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