As Women of Influence magazine prepares for their Young Women of Influence evening event on Wednesday, I can’t help but notice this trend of young women as influencers. It’s especially apparent in social media. According to a recent infograph posted on Mashable, women are more active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Zynga, contributing to 99 million more visits to social media sites per month than men.
“What we’ve seen from social media is young women are taking an active role and becoming leaders. The majority of bloggers and influencers out there are women and they’re leveraging it in many interesting ways. They’re turning it into a profession and a career,” says Lauren Dineen-Duarte is the Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Communications at American Express.
Dineen-Duarte was instrumental in the launch of American Express Canada’s Facebook page, headed the Room For Thought initiative that paired winning ideas with mentors such as Emily Haines, and worked on the Amex Ambassadors program, which uses a few prominent bloggers to showcase and report on the life of an Amex card holder.
She knows first hand how young women are finding not only their voice, but also an audience through social media. Female-driven campaigns such as the Pussy Riot protests, SlutWalk, and the recent Take Back The Block parties contribute to an uprising of young women who are using social media as a catalyst.
Stephanie Guthrie was one of the organizers of the Take Back The Block campaign, a series of public block parties that took place this past weekend in response to Toronto’s recent string of sexual assaults. It was an idea born from a Tweet.
“The problem was generating so much discussion already, that when a potential idea of how to address it was thrown into the mix, it became so much more likely for something to actualize,” she says.
Guthrie initially came on the radar through her Women in Toronto Politics panel discussions designed to get more women talking about municipal issues. Then it was her Twitter campaign against Bendilin Spurr, a game designer who created and posted a video game called “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian.” Her response against the violence landed her in newspapers and broadcasts across the country.
Activism on Twitter has subsequently become her calling. She’s morphed into the go-to person for opinions on gender and online discussion in Toronto. She’s established a reputation that she uses it to influence real world results.
“The ideas I chuck out are not just musings anymore, there’s an expectation that kind of hangs in the air. I feel like if I had thrown that [TBTB] idea out a few months ago it would have fizzled out, but because I’m seen as a person who makes that happen there was an expectation to follow through,” she says. And she did. Along with some help, she organized Take Back the Block parties in Kensington Market and on Ryerson’s campus, two of the areas where sexual assaults have been reported. More than 50 people showed for the first, and more than 100 for the latter.
Dineen-Duarte says the key to being an influential young woman is to use your passion to demonstrate the importance of your ideas. Whether its politics, feminism, fashion, public relations, law or whatever else, chase it and use social media to leverage and engage existing communities.
She leaves with a few pieces of advice. Trust your gut, be creative, don’t be afraid to take chances, and work to make your ideas happen. And while you’re at, don’t forget to be your own PR person. Sell your ideas, sell yourself, and people will listen.
The Young Women of Influence event takes place at the Toronto Board of Trade building located at 77 Adelaide St. West on September 19. It is part of a series of networking events across Canada for emerging women in business. For more information visit www.youngwomenofinfluence.ca.