2010 April

The Problem With Pink

This weekend, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that my daughter and I “had a discussion about ‘boy colors’ and ‘girl colors’ today. I tried to explain that there are just ‘colors’. She wouldn’t hear of it! While she also admits to liking ‘boy colors’, it still rubs me the wrong way. Our first ideological disagreement!”

The reactions got me thinking. I’m posting it here because, if you stay with me ’til the end, you’ll see how it relates to technology.

Bear with me. I’m a wordy lady.

Boy Colors and Girl Colors

What I wanted to write back to everyone that responded to me on Facebook and Twitter (but instead turned into this blog post), was this: what bothered me about what my daughter said was not that she liked the color pink, but that at four years old she had learned that ALL the other colors (aside from pink and purple) “belonged” to boys. This attitude — that certain things are “for” boys and “for” girls isn’t as innocent or funny as it might seem. It’s a mindset that builds on itself and leads us to treat boys and girls differently, to have different expectations for them, leads them to believe that certain choices are better (read: more appropriate) for them than others and leads us, in adulthood to believe things about women and men that simply aren’t true.

While mulling that over this week, I’ve also been looking for inspiration for decorating the kids’ bedroom. Yep, my son and daughter are going to share a room, at least until they’re old enough to complain about it. (Then, one of them will move to the spare bedroom in the basement.)

In looking for decorating ideas, I was struck by how everything — everything — is divided into stuff for boys, and stuff for girls. Girls’ stuff is pink pink pink pink pink (OMG with the pink!), and maybe some purple or yellow. Theme-wise, it’s animals, flowers, princesses and the like. Overall, it’s all very soft.

Boys’ stuff is every color that isn’t pink or purple. Boys also = robots, trains, cars. Boy stuff is  — in color and subject matter — BOLD.

Boy Toys & Girl Toys

Shopping for kids’ birthday parties over the past year, I’ve noticed that the toy aisles are divided, too. There are boy toys and girl toys. Boy toys are robots, trains, and cars. In other words, things to do. Girl toys are dolls, pets, cooking and cleaning stuff. In other words, things to take care of. (By the way, this really pissed me off when I tried to buy a pack of play food for a boy we know loves cooking in a toy kitchen. The only available containers were pink and purple. What?!)

Now, hey. I’m not begrudging anyone their pink. In fact, I’ve been known to enjoy the color myself. I just don’t want that to be the only option.

My daughter has princess stuff, dolls, and a play kitchen. But, she also has a toolbox and a train set. Last Saturday, she wore a pink dress and glittery shoes to a rocket class at the local science museum.

My son has trucks and loses his mind with glee when he sees a motorcycle drive by, but one of his favorite things to do is to give a bottle to his baby doll and put her to bed. The little kisses he gives that doll make my heart explode.

I’m not saying that like, “Oh, look at me — I’ve figured out how to break gender stereotypes.” But, I have made a conscious effort to create balance in our house. My daughter has a toolbox because I intentionally bought it for her. My son plays with a doll because I offered it as a choice that was equal to anything else he could choose. If all we offer our kids are toys that are prescribed for their gender, that’s all they’ll ever choose. And who could blame them? Their job as children is to learn about the world around them; what are we teaching them with all of this?

Further proof of my point? While working on this blog post, this story about the new Iron Man 2 toys at Burger King came through my Twitter feed. They’re offering “four lifestyle accessories for girls and four action-packed toys for boys.” Awesome.

Where I Get to the Technology Part

A friend gave me some gentle teasing about my Facebook comment above because my current profile photo on Facebook is computer engineer Barbie (hello pink and stereotypes!). But, I LOVE that there is a computer engineer Barbie and that she wears pink. It’s cool because the stereotype that computer engineers can’t be feminine is just as lame as anything else. Get it? You can be both. Nobody “owns” it either way. (Pamela Fox nailed this idea at Ignite Sydney this year.)

Honestly, despite my hand-wringing over my daughter’s color comment, there are lots of positive things going on for girls these days. Adventurous, popular characters like Dora the Explorer give me some hope. But, what about the boys? How long will my son play with a doll before other boys accuse him of acting like a girl? (And — gasp! — is there a bigger insult than to be called a girl?!)

I guess I’m having a moment where I find it striking and bothersome that we divide our boys and girls so early on and then wonder why those stereotypes persist into adulthood — why there aren’t more female computer programmers or male nurses or why women make .77 for every dollar a man earns, even in advanced-degree careers. 

Or how about why companies who appoint women to corporate directorships have unchanged or slightly worse stock peformance, despite the fact that evidence shows that “companies with high numbers of female directors, metrics such as return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital are substantially higher than at companies with very few or no female directors.” (quote from the Harvard Business Review) Translation: investors don’t believe women can lead.

My point is that those ideas start somewhere. They start small, and they start early. We soothe ourselves by saying “Oh, boys and girls are just different,” as a way to justify these strange little boxes we are putting them in at such a young age.

Who knows, maybe boys and girls aren’t as different as we think they are. There’s probably no way to definitively know what is the result of nature and what is the result of nurture. But I believe it’s a mistake for us, as a culture, to teach our children that girls aren’t bold and boys aren’t caregivers by only offering them choices that reflect those ideas. As silly as it may sound, it starts with something as simple as “boy colors” and “girl colors.”

I’d like to see us give our kids more credit than that. We’ll all be better for it in the future.

In the meantime, I still don’t know what to do with my kids’ bedroom.

Podcast #12: Social Graces

In our 12th podcast we answer a question from our Men’s Auxiliary about social media etiquette. Namely, how to approach people in real life when you really only know them through Twitter.

*Note: The audio on this podcast is a little wonky. Meghan tried a new setting on the mic, it’s not a good setting, it won’t happen again. Thanks for sticking it out!

Listen Online


We received a question from a Men’s Auxiliary member about social etiquette and how to cross the line from a digital connection to a face-to-face connection.

I am a college student and an emerging graphic designer. On Twitter I follow several members of the Twin Cities design community and for a number of reasons:  I’ve either met them, found out they are employed at a firm I admire, or just because I want to get to know better the community I am starting to join. Through Twitter I see their faces everyday, know what they’re thinking, doing, what they like, hate etc. The other night at Artcrank I saw and approached one of these members of the design community to talk, and I did so casually using their first name. I guess I struck the person off guard as I instantly knew they had no idea who I was or why I was so friendly. I had initiated a conversation with someone I knew a lot about, but who knew nothing about me, and in that awkward moment it dawned on me that we had never actually met face to face and this person wasn’t one of my twitter followers. So I guess I was a stranger, but only I. 

My question is, have either of you heard of, or experienced yourself, the false sense of camaraderie that Twitter provokes? As a student, not yet employed, I had a jolting awakening that following people on twitter doesn’t mean they see what I am up to, and in regards to potential employers and bosses (people that can throw some weight around) that “first impression experience” has still yet to happen.

Your thoughts?

From the men’s auxiliary,

What do you think? Does that explain it? Hit us up with questions in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.

Social Media After a Layoff, by Laura Wadzinski

A few months ago, I had a conversation with Laura, whom I’ve worked with in the past, about her recent job search experience. She had been part of a layoff, and her description of how social media had played into her job search struck me as something the Geek Girls Guide audience might be interested in. Sure, there’s the requisite “using LinkedIn to network” kind of angle, but what was truly unique to me was how social media (namely the Group feature on both Facebook and LinkedIn) had allowed this group of people to remain connected with each other long after the layoff was over.

In my own past, I’ve worked at a couple of advertising agencies where layoffs are a part of life. Lose a big client, and everyone braces themselves for the axe to fall. After a day of layoffs, both those who were let go and those who weren’t would generally meet at a bar somewhere and commisserate. And that’s about where it would end.

But that was before social media gave us the ability to organize ourselves on the fly. And Laura’s story illustrates how a group of people — like the ones let go from her company — can self-organize to continue to provide support to each other long after the layoff.

One of the books I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about what social media from a sociological (vs. tactical) perspective is Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody.” (Nancy likes to make fun of my for my Shirky fangirl tendencies, but what can I say?! Dude is brilliant.) The subtitle of his book is “The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” and Laura’s story below illustrates that point perfectly.


This fall I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my job when my position as an interactive marketing planner was eliminated as part of a massive layoff.  As you would imagine (or maybe you know) the days immediately following were extremely confusing and humbling.  I know how to maximize every minute of a 50-hour week job and manage a household, but I felt paralyzed and unsure how to prioritize what to do first, next, or not at all after the layoff.

I began telling myself that I was well-equipped to attack the impending job search.  After all, a job search is the equivalent of developing a marketing plan, of which I’ve spent the bulk of my career in practice. Furthermore, in my most recent position, I was responsible for developing online media strategy (including the use of social networks) for executive recruitment at my company.  So I kept telling myself “I know how to work this thing”.  Then I’d freeze up again.

Within a few days I had my resume updated and was ready to start connecting with my network of friends and former colleagues to help me identify job leads.  The support, information and leads I have received from my established networks on Facebook and LinkedIn have been, and continue to be, incredibly beneficial.

As tactically-focused as I tried to be, there were moments when I couldn’t get through checking my pages without being brought to tears.  Somebody I knew well, or even casually would tell me how sorry they were, tell me I was talented, offer up where they had connections, or ask for my resume so they could pass it along.  The thoughts, the kindness, the offers affected me profoundly. The support and validation from my professional and social networks was as important as the job leads themselves.  I expected some of the kind words and support.  My networks are full of my friends.

What I did not expect was the creation and appearance of a unique group on both Facebook and LinkedIn.  The groups were created by, and for, those individuals that were part of the layoff.  I joined the groups, and would describe them as part job lead swap, and part support group.  When a member comes across a job lead that isn’t a fit for them, they post it.  Usually with an accompanying offer of an introduction to their connection and/or a recommendation.

Recruiters and curious outsiders began requesting entrance to the group and it was put to vote. Some people felt that the more accessible and visible our job search content was, the better (really great point).  However, a majority voted for the Facebook group to stay closed so that we had a confidential and mutually understood place to go, so regardless of whether that day we needed a job lead, a place to vent, or a discussion thread about how to best navigate our severance benefits, it was a safe place to be.  If an unrecognized request to join came through, the group administrator sent it out to the group so someone could vouch.  There actually was a recruiter that got in on the first couple of days before the vote and she graciously announced that she would leave and connect with us on Linked In. We did vote to open the Linked In group to anyone who wanted to help with leads and connections.

The most important thing I learned about using social media in my job search is how powerful it is in delivering qualified job leads.  It helped me avoid the atrophy of sifting through hundreds of openings that were not interesting, or that weren’t a good fit or that I didn’t have a connection to help me get in.  When I did pursue leads, I was going in for my interviews with a recommendation from the connection who had posted the lead.

I also was reminded why I love working in the interactive media space.  It is filled with so many smart, supportive, generous, creative people.  Thank you.

Laura Wadzinski is a Client Services Manager at The Lacek Group.  She has led strategic planning and project management both on the agency side and on the corporate side.