The Rise Of The Social Web And What It Means For Equality



Has social media really had a positive impact on the equality of our society?


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At #SMWLDN, Will Hayward from JOE Media and Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer of MediaCom UK and author of “The Glass Wall: Success Strategies for Women at Work – and Businesses that Mean Business” discussed the rise of the social web and what it means for equality, and how marketers can or should respond.

Here are some of the key takeaways from their talk. You can view the session in its entirety by subscribing to SMW Insider.

In his introduction, Hayward spoke about the impact that the social web has had on gender equality. It has provided a platform for campaigns like “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and has shined a light on issues such as catcalling. Hayward specifically mentioned the viral YouTube video, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” which you can watch below.


When asked what kind of impact social media has had on the country, Unerman said on a positive note it has given the silent majority and it’s also provided a platform for those who want to voice their opinion. But on the negative side is that their are a majority that are using platforms like Twitter to share 9,000 misogynist tweets a day.

“You’d rather those locker room stories stay in the locker room. What the internet and the social web has done for us is given us an open door into what people are saying and doing in that locker room and frankly is that a positive? Doesn’t feel like one.” – Sue Unerman

Hayward followed up with a question asking if it’s better that people are letting out all of these opinions on social media instead of keeping them inside. Unerman said that there is a theory that social media allows people to say what they really feel and that they don’t moderate themselves online the same way they do talking to people in person.

“[With] the internet it feels like you can put all your darkest thoughts out there without a second thought.” – Sue Unerman

How are brands facilitating the conversations online and dealing with trolling? According to Unerman it depends on the brand. She spoke about brands and how some are doing their best to moderate the conversations happening online, but some firmly believe that the conversations moderate themselves. One of the campaigns that Unerman works with,This Girl Can, believes that there are “internet Tinkerbells” out there for when the conversation takes a dark turn or when trolls go on the attack.

In light of recent events where controversy and criticism has led to high profile figures being fired from their jobs and companies getting into trouble with the content they are publishing, Hayward asked if consumers should be lobbying advertisers to take responsibility for the media they are associated with. “In all honesty, I think for any media owner to call itself a tech company and not a publisher, which is what some of them have done in the past, I think is challenging for me”, says Unerman. “If you create an environment and you don’t make sure that people play nicely in it then I think that’s not doing all your job.”

When asked how advertisers should be targeting their ads, Unerman said that 80% of all purchases worldwide are made by women and the majority of those ads are being targeted to women over the age of 40. She also mentioned the Tumblr blog, Too Many Guys One Girl, which features group photos of all the men who win awards for advertising and the severe lack of women on those teams. She believes that the advertising field is the next field that needs to be disrupted and more inclusive towards women.

Further analysis and commentary from “The Great Divide: Exploring the Tensions that Exist in Today’s Modern Media Landscape” session:


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