Women in Search: Techie or Tacky?

    April 25, 2007

At Chicago SES, I had the pleasure of attending the first women in search luncheon hosted by Ylayn Meredith Ousley, SEOFan Girl, at a beautiful white table cloth restaurant. It was far and away the most unique event that I attended – a celebration of women in search. It was a chance to enjoy the companionship of other successful women who share a passion for search.

At SES New York, Li Evans, who champions women in search and recently included me in her series on the Women of Internet Marketing took up the cause and arranged for another luncheon for women in search. Rebecca Leib wrote an insightful piece on the event that struck just the right notes. Rebecca opined that search is obviously no longer dominated by the classic stereotypical propeller-headed geeky guys, but now includes a generous measure of women. Danny Sullivan in a follow up post at his personal blog noted that there always has been a strong presence of women in search and at SES.

As a veteran in the industry, I would have to agree with both writers. The shift noted by Rebecca is real. Search is less geeky and more marketing than ever before. As search has moved to the C-level suite, it requires those who can speak to more than technical issues. C-level executives want marketing, many of the best and brightest in search are women marketers.

This being said I was quite taken aback by the comments to Danny’s post and a recent ClickZ column (read rant) by my long-time friend and colleague Shari Thurow; wherein, she inaccurately in my opinion noted:

“most of the women I shared lunch with were heavily involved in search engine advertising. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Search engine advertising is a rather challenging and detail-oriented niche. Kudos to my colleagues with the skills and patience to effectively compete in this arena.

Nevertheless, where were the women like me? Where were the techie women?”

Where were the techie women – the same place many men were – working for the women gathered at the luncheon? Those in attendance were not just “detail-oriented niche” players. They were agency heads, industry thought leaders, and search marketing pioneers. These are women who play large. Many have rich and varied experience bases and solid technical credentials.

Web marketing and in specific search marketing does require technical understanding. It is, as Shari contends, a left-brain/right-brain integrative discipline. Those of us who work in organic search must be able to understand and articulate the technical requirements of the discipline to be successful at what we do. I contend that we are architects of success, not just the carpenters.

I for one personally don’t ever intend to stand in front of the mirror and ask – “mirror, mirror on the wall, am I the geekiest women of them all?” I’ll leave that to others.