The Age of Anger Should Be Cathartic – So Why Is It Destroying Us?

There is one image from the 2016 US presidential election that has stayed with me above all others. It is in the second TV debate and Hillary Clinton is answering a question. From all camera angles, viewers can see Trump looming behind her – he is unnervingly close, radiating anger and hatred in her personal space. It struck a familiar chord with me, as it no doubt did with many women who have experienced that same kind of invasive intimidation.

In her 2017 memoir, ‘What Happened?’, Clinton recalls her response at the time:

“It was one of those moments where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching: ‘Well, what would you do?’ Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space? Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women but you can’t intimidate me.’…I kept my cool, aided by a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off… Maybe I have over-learned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.”

We are told this is the age of female anger – that #MeToo, Trump, Brexit, abortion referendums and the like have brought about a reckoning. Yet female anger is still portrayed as untrustworthy, a kind of uncontrollable hysteria. Too often we respond to those accusations by, like Hillary, swallowing down our indignation in favour of benign composure.

A prize-winning University of Chicago study found, as recently as 2015, that men and women are perceived differently when they express anger. As part of a jury, participants in the study were tested by being confronted with either a male or female ‘holdout’ member (a dissenting member of the jury working against unanimity). Participants were more likely to doubt their initial judgement after hearing what an angry male jury member had to say, whereas they were more confident in their original decision when a female member of the jury expressed anger during her attempt to change their minds.

In recent years women have, rightly, been discovering and accepting their anger in response to injustice; it is a natural response to feeling as if we’re being treated unfairly. At the sight of Hillary biting back her rage, we expressed ours for her. Since then, the tide has been turning in favour of female anger: the Women’s Marches were an example of how our collective rage can be transformed to deal with injustice constructively and cathartically. Yet there are darker sides to anger, too. With the ubiquity of social media, minute-by-minute news coverage and constant cultural analysis, we are at risk of getting fired up more than is healthy.

Aside from the obvious risks it poses for blood pressure and heart problems, anger has far reaching consequences for mental health. It can be a symptom of mental health problems, particularly if it’s passive – that is, when you ruminate internally but do nothing about it. Small daily annoyances can seem all-consuming. To someone with depression or anxiety, a shopper skipping a queue, a co-worker not pulling their weight, or making a small mistake at work can build into an avalanche of internal turmoil. It’s a vicious cycle, too. This kind of anger makes us more anxious and stressed, both as individuals and as a nation. It is, contrary to belief, the opposite of catharsis.

In this age of division, we are primed for anger and outrage all the time. Dipping into social media can be an exercise in outrage, often about things that have very little impact on our daily lives, or the daily lives of others. We can get riled up about almost anything – a joke misinterpreted to be offensive, an article that clashes with our worldview, a snarky reply to a tweet. In his book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson addressed this collective compulsion to use our anger to shame and yell at people on the internet. Discussing the now famous case of Justine Sacco, the PR manager who was fired and exiled from her industry for a year after a badly-worded tweet, he remarked:

“A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama? I think our natural disposition as humans is to plod along until we get old and stop. But with social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people.”

Ten years ago, we had far fewer daily opportunities to get angry. Now, on average, people in the US and UK check their phones between 80 and 150 times a day, often using social media as a distraction from more productive past times and, in some cases, doing real damage to people’s health and livelihoods because of our outrage. The rage we direct online to women like Justine Sacco can take on a particularly nasty misogynistic character, too. We mustn’t forget that the internet can be a hostile atmosphere for women when men are allowed a cloak of anonymity.

Furthermore, our mental health suffers when we’re told our anger isn’t valid, as women so often are. Sometimes it’s a partner or a family member telling us we’re crazy, other times it’s ourselves or a follower on Twitter. It can be even worse when the gaslighting is on such a public scale – the more people tell us we’re crazy, the more we start to think we are. On a macro level, the reality that progress is always followed by counter-revolution makes the fight for justice and equality often seem futile. If Obama is to be followed by Trump, if the recognition of same-sex marriage is to be followed by a wave of anti-trans sentiment, if the #MeToo moment is to be followed by a #NotAllMen one, what’s the point? If our rage is constantly being denied by ourselves, those close to us and civic society then the repercussions on our health are immense.

So how do we deal with it?

First, remember that your anger is valid. That’s important. Yet it’s also important to remember that picking our battles will help us fight more effectively for equality in the long run. Staying angry constantly is unhealthy and burns us out faster.

Switching off, using social media more mindfully and finding ways to recognise and stop unproductive anger in its tracks are crucial if we’re to undo the effects of rage on our mental and physical health. It’s not as simple as doing yoga and tuning into the Headspace app every night, but the principles of these activities are important. They force us to take time out for ourselves by mixing up our breathing from short, angry bursts to longer and calmer ones.

Exercise, whether it’s a walk around the block, a boxing class or Pilates, takes us away from screens. If it’s vigorous enough (a term used relatively – one person’s marathon will be someone else’s dance class) it can also distract us from directing anger at ourselves or internalising. By releasing endorphins and narrowing our thought processes to the task in front of us, we are pressing the reset button on our emotions. If you can’t exercise, find another activity that directs your attention. Re-reading a favourite book, gardening or crafting all demand enough energy to keep us focused on the task at hand.

Being mindful of how we use our anger is important, too. If you find yourself getting riled up on social media, force yourself to switch off for at least five minutes. Most of the things we’re responding to aren’t life-changing. At the end of the day you won’t remember half the things that made you angry on Twitter – if you do, go back and respond assertively. Try to remember that anger defies nuance, but it’s nuance that is more important for healing divides and forging understanding, whether it’s with ourselves or other people. While our anger at injustice is perfectly valid, it’s not the most effective tool to fight it.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Written by Ellen Macpherson. 

Photo by roya ann miller on Unsplash

Winging It by Emma Isaacs

Reading about other women achieving their goals is the best source of inspiration a woman can have. Winging It by Emma Isaacs is my current love and I can’t get enough of it. In fact, when I came to the last chapter I was quite resistant to keep turning the pages. I didn’t want the journey to be over!

Author Emma Isaacs is founder and CEO of Business Chicks, a global movement of women coming together to support each other. Winging It is her first book and comes under a mix of genres including business, memoir and motivational. It was only recently released in Australia but is going to make its international debut shortly.

This book draws you in from the first page and won’t let you put it down until you’ve devoured the lot. With five children, Emma Isaacs takes you on her journey and makes you realise you are capable of absolutely anything. One of the main messages from this book is that we’re not alone in making it up as we go along. It wasn’t until I read this that I realised how true it is… Everyone is literally just winging it – whether you have a five-year plan or not!

Not believing in a work-life balance and instead preferring to just give it all she has got, Emma’s motivation bursts from the pages and will leave you filled with just as much ‘go’. All for jumping in and getting started, a big take away from this book is learning that time is never going to be just perfect for anything. You have to give it all you’ve got and get started today. The business advice in this book is like gold. Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit within. The wisdom on these pages is magical.

Having spent time with the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Girlboss’ Sophia Amoruso and even Bill Gates, the stories Emma has to share are totally awe-inspiring and truthful. Nothing is sugar coated and you can tell from Emma’s genuine words. She explains how failure is just part of the process and how you can’t wait for the confidence to kick in, you just have to do it. Split into ten, equally brilliant sections, Winging It is perfect for any woman who believes in the power of other women. Coming together to support each other is what Emma Isaacs believes in and by reading her story, you won’t only feel empowered, but you’ll be ready to empower the women around you.

I’ll leave you with the genius words of Emma Isaacs and I know for sure you’ll be wanting more:

“Instead, try new things! Make mistakes! Experiment! Laugh at yourself! Imagine ‘what if?’ Shout ‘pick me!’ Jump in. Help each other. Have a try even when you don’t know how. Be the first one on the dance floor. Smile at strangers. Fail epically. Ask dumb questions. Say no to negativity. Try again. Don’t overthink.”

If that doesn’t leave you inspired, I don’t know what will!

Happy reading + empowering!

Written by Annie Fisher

Find Annie on Instagram @thebookcube

How I Discovered Fulfilling Friendships

One day, I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

When I heard these words, I stopped. I thought about my life and the kind of future my friends represented. I thought about how I felt when I was with my friends. I thought about the things we did together, and how they’d respond when I would come to them with problems. Soon, I realized that none of my answers to these questions made me feel excited about my future. At that moment, I knew that I didn’t want my future to be based on the friends I had.

I set out to find better companions. I distanced myself from my old friends. It was lonely, but I soothed my discomfort by reminding myself that I’d rather have no friends than friends who made me unhappy. But, of course, that’s easier said than done. After a few months, I really thought that I was going to be friendless for the rest of my life.

I had a significant amount of time on my hands at that point. So I did a lot of reading and listening to podcasts. One day, I was listening to a sermon, and the pastor was preaching on being single. He told the crowd to, “Pray for your future spouse and become the person that you want to be with.” I already had a strong and healthy romantic relationship, but I thought that I might be able to apply this advice to friendships too.

I decided to pray for my future friend. (At that point, I had given up hope on having multiple friends, so I settled for one). I wanted her to be happy and close to God. I prayed for her heart and that she would be kind, patient, and accepting. I also prayed that I could begin to cultivate those qualities in myself. It all felt a little silly–kind of like I was placing an order for a customized friend. But, loneliness makes you do crazy things. I felt my heart aching for a female companion. While my boyfriend is basically my best friend, there’s something special about having a best girlfriend that no man can fulfill.

Throughout the year, I tried out a couple of new friendships, but nothing ever stuck. Slowly, I became even more discouraged. I felt like God wasn’t listening. I convinced myself that He didn’t care about the fact that I wouldn’t have bridesmaids or anyone to have a “girl’s night” with. Then, one day, I was reading the book Uninvited, by Lysa TerKeurst – a very fitting title for that season in my life. I posted a picture on Facebook that showed the book and my steaming cup of chamomile tea. I didn’t think anything of it, so when I was done reading, I went to bed.

The next morning, there was a comment on my photo. It was from a girl I went to high school with. She was a couple of years older than me, so we were never close when we went to school together, but I always liked her. She said that she loved Uninvited and asked me what I thought of it. I commented back. She commented back. Before I knew it, we were having an entire conversation in the comments section of my photo. Eventually, she invited me to a Bible study that she and a friend were starting. I surprised myself when I said yes. A year before that, I probably wouldn’t have committed to it. But, I was so eager for friends that I was willing to hang out with anyone.

I remember driving up to the house where Bible study was being hosted. I was so nervous. But, at the same time, I had low expectations since I basically didn’t know anyone who would be there. But, as soon as I walked in, I was welcomed with hugs and so many beautiful smiles. After grabbing some snacks, all of us girls gathered in the living room and opened up God’s word. Most of us had just met, but we ended up sharing our hearts for hours. I felt such a genuine sense of connection. It was exactly what I had been longing for.

Now, one year later, I have not one, but an entire group of magnificent best friends. We still do Bible study together on Friday nights. Other days, we’ll grab pizza or have a movie night or head to a baseball game with our boyfriends and husbands. What I love is that my friends are happy. They use that happiness to build me up and show me what real friendship looks like. All of them have a passionate love for God. Most importantly, they help me love God. They give me hope for the future.

What I hope you gain from this story is that it’s okay to be friendless for a while. It’s important to find friends who encourage you. I spent a long time participating in friendships that were not fulfilling and left me feeling drained and soggy. You don’t have to settle for mediocre because you’re afraid that you can’t find anything better. Find friends that set you up for a bright and hopeful future. It’s worth the wait.

Have you had a similar experience with friends? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Alana Chibas

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Things I Wish I Had Known About Working

My name is Charlotte Chandler and I’m the founder of Healthcare and Heels, a career and lifestyle blog for the driven, professional woman. Through high school, college and graduate school, I always felt like I had a clear path with a checklist for how to be successful. Once I joined the working world, I realized there are no longer defined tracks and there is definitely no career playbook. And throw in the unique experiences and challenges of being a professional woman, and you can find yourself feeling lost and in need of guidance and support. I created Healthcare and Heels to be a place where young professional women can find helpful career advice, real and relatable experiences, and work fashion and hacks that you can apply to your everyday life!


I’m excited to be a contributor to the new She online platform. I love what She stands for and I’m thrilled to be a part of the launch!

Today, I’m sharing the top things I wish I had known when starting my first post-graduate job.

Unlike in school, where every test, quiz, homework assignment or paper has a deadline and each semester ends with a very definitive finals week, the workplace is quite different. You may have the occasional big project deadline, but more often than not you will have to be self-driven and create your own mini deadlines to continue working towards long-term goals.

Recognition & Feedback
In school, there are always opportunities for feedback from your teachers and coaches, with frequent grades and even annual award ceremonies. In the workplace, recognition and feedback are given less frequently. You have an annual review with your boss, but other than that there is no formal feedback.

It is up to your supervisor’s discretion how much they provide you with feedback or recognize your accomplishments. This has definitely been an adjustment since I crave feedback and am very driven by recognition, but getting positive feedback about a big project always gives me that added boost I need!

Time Management
Time management is a must-have skill that can be a challenge to develop without the frequent deadlines and clean breaks that come with being in school. I shared my favourite time management tips here.

Unlike in every level of education, at work you no longer have a large cohort of people in the same phase of life as you. The lack of built-in friends can make work feel isolating at times. There are people of many different walks of life in the work place and you are often stratified by what department you work in.

I have learned that you can still find camaraderie, team work and friendship in the work place – it just isn’t handed to you in the same way. It also takes time to build the trust of your team members, so although being the new person in your office may feel lonely, it won’t last long! Six months down the line you will feel like you have always been a member of the team.

Making Mistakes
Although it might feel like you have to be perfect in your first job, this simply isn’t the case. People not only expect you to make mistakes, but even encourage some trial and error! Small errors are important to learning your role and if you have ever made a mistake at work, you can recall how those minor blunders solidified your learning. Keep in mind – it is important to not make the same mistakes repeatedly. As long as you own your mistakes and learn from them, no one will ever fault you.

It is also critical to realize you aren’t going to be good at your job, or even productive, right away. I have heard that six months into your job you should be a productive and contributing member of your team, although you may find that you get comfortable with your work sooner than that.

My final takeaway is that you shouldn’t apologize so much when you make day-to-day mistakes. When I first started working I found myself apologizing frequently but began to make a conscious effort not to say I’m sorry unless I had truly made a significant error. You don’t have to apologize for being new and eager to learn!

Sit at the Table
I read this advice in Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and it has always stuck with me. She explains in her book that you should always take a seat at the table (especially as a woman) since many times women will take the seats around the perimeter of the room even when there are seats available at the table. I took this advice to heart and I always sit at the table in the conference room, unless it is full when I walk into the meeting. You are an important contributor to the team, so “lean in” and be a part of the conversation.

I have also learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up in meetings even when you are new to the job or company. Sometimes the most obvious questions help solve big issues and question unproductive and/or deep-rooted cultural norms within an organization.

You also don’t have to be an expert to start contributing to team meetings and conversations. It is important to listen and learn in those first few months, but I have realized after a few years of working that sometimes just stepping up and being willing to put in the hard work can set you apart even if you aren’t the most experienced or knowledgeable person in the room (‘fake it ’til you make it’ as the saying goes!)

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
After a bad day in my first year of working, I found myself questioning…can I really do this whole working thing for the rest of my life? And typically, the next day I would have the best day with some extra kudos or a win on a big project.

You will also experience weeks that aren’t great often followed by productive weeks where you feel like you’re killing it. There are highs and lows, but it’s important to realize that your career can last 40 years! Just because you don’t feel like you are exactly where you want to be for a few weeks, months or even years of your career, doesn’t mean that you are at a dead-end. Every job is a stepping stone where you learn what you like and don’t like in your work. In just two years I’ve already learned a ton about what I enjoy and where my professional strengths lie.

Gut Feelings
Over the past two years (but especially during my first year of working), I have learned to trust my gut instincts. Whether it was finding mentors, getting involved with a big project or deciding to pursue a position with a certain team, my gut has never been wrong. Even if making a decision didn’t result in my desired outcome, I have always ended up stronger and in a better place than I was before.

It is important to trust your gut, especially when your career starts to go in a direction you didn’t expect. For example, in college and grad school I never would have expected to have taken a job with a financial and budgeting component. I chose to trust my gut and align myself with a team that I clicked with regardless of what I thought I would do as a first job, and that decision has served me well so far!

Finally, you must find good mentors and friends along the way. You will be in your career for more than half of your lifetime and it is important to make meaningful connections and have people with whom you can share these experiences. I would have struggled with many of my professional decisions if I hadn’t had great colleagues and mentors supporting and brainstorming with me along the way. You can find my tips on how to find a mentor here.

For more career and young professional lifestyle content, you can follow along with Charlotte on the Healthcare and Heels blog and on the Healthcare and Heels Instagram.

Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments!

It’s Good To Talk: Dealing With Depression

According to the leading mental health charity in the UK, Mind, ‘approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’. Note: this isn’t 1 in 4 people during someone’s lifetime, this is per year. That’s a lot of people with a lot of problems. Although there is so much good work being done to support people’s mental health, and people are more openly talking about it, there continues to be stigma and a massive lack of education on the subject. Put simply, there’s still a lot of work to do in this field, and people still don’t seem to understand the scariest fundamental truth about mental health: not talking about it could kill you.

I have always had a good life. I’m not saying I don’t have my fair share of problems, but I do have a loving and accepting family and wonderful friends. I went to a good school, a good University, got a decent grade and I never had to worry about money in any real way. Essentially, everything I needed or wanted I had – I had no ‘reason’ to be depressed.

However, something was wrong. Unlike some, I didn’t have a definitive event or moment when I became depressed and I can’t remember when or where it really started, but I do know that I ignored a bunch of signals.  I started having regular panic attacks, to the extent I woke up one morning in the midst of one.  It probably should’ve worried me when I had one whilst picking up my gown on graduation day; on what was meant to mark one of my greatest achievements to date, I felt like an imposter in my own life.

After graduation my mental health got worse, and I was in perpetual state of denial. The thing was, I felt I was just being dramatic. I wasn’t ‘sadder’ than everyone else; to think that would be self-involved and stupid, and why was I thinking about myself this much anyway? I needed to stop being so selfish and arrogant and focus on someone else for a change.

As these thoughts would circulate in my head daily, I was becoming more and more apathetic, hopeless and exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Feeling that kind of emptiness is hard to describe, but for me it was being constantly, utterly, and negatively overwhelmed, while simultaneously, not quite being able to care that I was feeling that way. Doing anything seemed both impossible and pointless; I did (and felt) nothing.

Depression is often cyclical and as my mental health started to deteriorate the unhelpful internal dialogue began to impact my external world. The simple things like taking care of myself – my eating, my sleeping, my exercise, my appearance, my relationships, my flat – became a daily battle; sometimes it’d take me half an hour to put on a pair of tights. It wasn’t until I was actively thinking about whether or not I could successfully hang myself with my laptop power cord, that I realised I had a problem. Even I knew that it was a red flag when I started having suicidal thoughts.

It was then I went to the doctor and I was incredibly lucky, because I found one who immediately believed me. This is really important – if you are going through these problems and you don’t have a doctor who 100% believes you, find another doctor. You’re not crazy and you need someone to help you. Fortunately for me, I had a positive experience and was given excellent advice.

I was put on the anti-depressant, anti-anxiety medication Citalopram and, although my mental state was on the way to improving I made some incredibly hard decisions to maintain my mental and emotional health. At the age of 24, I quit my stable job, moved back to my hometown to live with my parents and, consequently, ended my relationship of four years (a relationship that I was convinced was going to end in marriage, kids, the works).  If my life were a building, it had been systematically torn down until only the foundations were left.

Nevertheless, although this decimation was painful, and I felt I had to re-establish who I was, I began to learn what was good for me. I gained confidence about how I could battle through my toughest days and begin to hope that tomorrow might be better. It gave me perspective: I now know what I want and need to prioritise to make sure I’m as happy and healthy as I can be.

One of the imperative elements of this journey was me actually talking about how I felt, consciously and continuously. Partly to not let negative thoughts fester in my head, and partly to make sure there was no denial in how I felt about anything. It would be a lie to say that ‘the more I talked about it the better I felt’, but it was – and still is – good to share my story with people. Three things consistently surprise me when I do:

  1. You’re never as alone as you think you are.
  2. You’re definitely more loved than you think you are.
  3. Just by talking you can really help others, or be helped by them.

The Mental Health Foundation states that ‘women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders’. I think it’s important to remember, as women, that strength is not defined by soldiering on and pretending that nothing is wrong.  Instead, it should be defined by creating a dialogue, supporting and encouraging each other, and – when we’re ready – sharing our stories. This is how I believe we can move forward.

Written by Rachel Foster

Help us create a dialogue by sharing this article.

How To Achieve Your Goals

One of my favorite questions to ask on consultation calls is this:

What would be an amazing outcome for you in a year?

People have great answers. They want to own their own businesses, make partner, find love, make six figures, have great sex, and learn to love themselves.

I bet you have dreams you’ve been thinking about for years but never achieved, too.

Why not? Because you haven’t taken massive action. And that’s the tool I’m going to teach you today.

Massive action means acting consistently until you get what you want, no matter what.

Most of us are willing to take a little action, some minor action, or occasionally some major action. We’re willing to try one thing, or three things, or maybe five things at once.

Often when we think about trying to achieve a goal, we’re already anticipating failure. One of my favorite coaching moments ever was when a client sent me her business plan with the question, “But how do I know when it’s time to give up on this?”

She was entirely serious, and I love the example, because so often that is how we approach our hopes and dreams. We expect they won’t work out, and we plan to fail ahead of time. Even as we try a little bit, we’re assuming we will give-up and trying to figure out when.

Massive action does not allow for the concept of failure. Because you don’t give up. You just keep taking action until you get what you want.

What I love about massive action is that it removes all the pressure of trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do, if you’re doing the right thing, and what you will do if what you try doesn’t work. You don’t ever have to answer those questions, because all you need to do is keep taking one action after another until you have the result.

Massive action removes all doubt and fear. There’s no reason to be afraid, confused, or doubtful. You’re just going to keep taking action until you have what you want.

When you commit to massive action, there’s no room for self-pity. There’s no room for sulking, blaming the universe, feeling sorry for yourself, or bargaining with yourself about how much effort you should have to put forward. The “shoulds” don’t matter. Fair doesn’t matter. What other people do (or don’t do) doesn’t matter.

Do you have what you want? No? Then take more action. That’s all you have to know.

If you commit to this principle, it will change your whole life, no matter what it is you want.

Want a successful business? Massive action.

Want to become an ultra-marathoner? Massive action.

Want to be a Supreme Court Justice? Massive action.

If you want a family, don’t go on five first dates and throw-up your hands. Don’t go on 50 first dates and throw-up your hands. Go on 500 first dates if you must! Massive action.

The beauty of massive action is that it shortcuts all the negotiation and mental drama you have with yourself about whether you have done enough. There’s no point to any of that, because you’re just going to keep taking action until you get what you want. All you must decide is what next action you’re going to take.

When you commit to massive action, keep taking action, and finally create what you want, you’ll feel invincible. It sounds so simple, and yet 99% of people will never do it. Be part of the 1%. I know you can do it, because I did it, and the only difference between you and me is that I took massive action in my self-coaching, my business, and my life.

Kara Loewentheil is a master certified life coach and is behind the hugely popular UnF*ck Your Brain coaching course and podcast. This post was previously featured on her website 

Feeling inspired? Let us know in the comments!

Millennials and Tech – Are We Really Digital Natives?

Reader, I’m a millennial.

I don’t think I’ve ever come up against a term so useless. But of course, that’s what a millennial would say.

Nevertheless, I am a millennial. Moreover, I’m a millennial with tech issues.

We live in a world which often moves at breakneck speed. We have 24-hour news services sending us breaking news alerts round the clock, on subjects as diverse as mass shootings, political sex scandals and Beyonce’s twins. Communications technology has changed so drastically in the last decade that if you’d told me in 2008 Twitter would a) still exist in 2018 and b) become a major platform for political campaigning and analysis, I would have laughed in your face.

Here’s the problem: things have changed so fast that there are vast number of millennials who, like myself, often cannot keep up. There are two very different halves of my generation.

And women are at a particular disadvantage.

We are hailed as the first generation of true ‘digital natives’. This is a bit of a misconception and, of course, it’s largely a Western reality. Most of us in the West can relate to Dolly Alderton’s frankly exasperating story of going on holiday to France only to sit in the B&B for most of it chatting on MSN. I never really got to take a family holiday overseas when I was young, but I do remember a New Year’s Eve exchanging MSN messages with my best friend until my mum shouted at me at 23:45 to spend some time with her.

Most of us have a good grip on online social media, because, during our adolescence, they were marketed to teenagers as cooler, more private alternatives to using the home phone. Akin to the musical and cultural freedom felt by baby boomers who had portable transistor radios, online services like MSN, MySpace and Facebook gave us our own space to experiment, cultivate and express identities largely away from parental influence.

Yet, in terms of actual digital skills – the kind which help through university and career progression – did we really learn that much?

Our teachers were operating in a system which knew it had to change, and fast, if kids were going to have any hope of functioning in a digital, globalised world. Unfortunately, teachers were often ill-equipped to teach us about coding, content creation and online safety because they were learning along with us. My school did not have a class on coding, and since I was at a relatively well-off state school, I doubt very much that less wealthy schools did either.

There is a divide in the millennial generation, even between those born in the early nineties versus the mid-to-late nineties. When I was leaving school, they were just implementing a student laptop system for junior high schoolers and thinking about more productive digital classes.

I am in that unfortunate group of millennials who missed starting my career when it was not necessary to know more than how to use email, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for most jobs, but arrived too early to make use of the educational opportunities to learn new digital skills. This might have been no big deal in any other era aside from the one we live in. Yet those millennials who began their careers before the 2008 global economic crash had a plethora of opportunities which no longer exist, and they got to take them with only a hint of how much the internet would affect the modern job market. Current job listings comprise a vast number of technologically-focused roles which did not exist before 2010.

This is not to remove agency from women who fit into this group. There are plenty of women who do succeed in tech, although not at the rate we should be. Most of the tech women I know are self-taught, or had to make the effort to seek out opportunities to learn beyond school and university because in many institutions we are not taught the value of digital literacy and coding until halfway through our job search.

Only 20% of tech jobs are held by women. One only needs to look at the deluge of sexist behaviour in Silicon Valley to see that tech is a notorious boys club. In an Observer list of gender problems in tech, it was revealed, amongst other eye-opening statistics, that:

  • Women own only 5% of start ups.
  • They earn only 28% of computer science degrees.
  • Only 7% of partners at Top 100 venture capital firms are women.
  • Women under age 25 in the tech industry earn, on average, 29% less than their male counterparts.
  • Women hold only 11% of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies.
  • In the high tech industry, the quit rate is more than twice as high for women (41%) than it is for men (17%).
  • In 2016, venture capitalists invested just $1.46 billion in women-led companies. Male-led companies earned $58.2 billion in investments.
  • Women receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.

74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields, so something is clearly going amiss here. The discussion of that subject has been, and will continue to be, the focus of multiple books and articles, so I won’t discuss it too much here. Yet the combination of a technological learning gap during adolescence and the cultural barriers around the tech industry combine dangerously to keep women out of careers. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that for women of colour, the picture is even worse.

This is not just a Western problem – in fact, in the West we are lucky to now have access to a range of programmes to teach girls how to code, to subsidise digital skills lessons for university students, and to be able to at least know a few people who could teach us the ropes when it comes to coding or other digital skills.

Globally, the divide between the digitally literate and illiterate is finally having an impact on international policy. The UN now has a global framework to measure digital literacy with a list of competencies including the fundamentals of hardware and software, communication, safety, digital content creation and career-related knowledge and skills. While looking at the list, I noticed gaps in my own digital literacy, even in the career space I inhabit as a freelance content creator.

The theme of 2017’s global literacy day was ‘Literacy in the Digital World’. Recent data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) showed that 750 million adults (two-thirds of whom are women), including 102 million young people, cannot read or write a simple sentence. Immediately, this makes the world of digital knowledge and content creation inaccessible to 750 million people. As of July 2017, only 51% of the world’s population has regular access to the internet. Access statistics obviously differ according to geography with African, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asia-Pacific nations at a disadvantage – and yes, women are still worse off since 12% fewer women use the internet than men worldwide, and this rises to a 25% gap in African nations.

In the West, and in a more acute sense globally, access to careers, economic development and social mobility are at risk due to poverty, generational differences and gender barriers. For women, the next step is to empower ourselves as best as we can to make space in an industry which lacks diversity. Where that cannot be done, national, regional and global government services have a responsibility to ensure that people, particularly women, can start to overcome their disadvantages through widespread computer and internet access.

So, looking to start? Girls Who Code, CodeAcademy and Skillshare provide affordable (mostly free) services to improve your digital skills. To donate to the global effort for an inclusive digital world, check out the Good Things Foundation.

It’s time to tell the tech industry the boys club is over.

Written by Ellen Macpherson

Do you code? Do you want to learn more tech skills? Let us know in the comments!