A little over a week ago I spoke at the first F5-Refreshing meeting for Israeli women in the hi-tech and internet industry. Liat Vardi, the woman behind the group, did such a great job organizing the event, and it really fill a void in the Israeli hi-tech industry. You can see her follow-up post here. Kol hakavod Liat!
I met some inspiring and fantastic women there, and learned about some interesting technologies. It is certainly motivating to see that success is possible for women in the Israeli hi-tech industry.
Here is the presentation that I gave at the meeting on the topic of Blogs and SEO – Why blogs are so great for SEO. Enjoy!
As I wrote a few days ago, SphinnCon came to Israel this week on February 5 in the form of SphinnCon Israel. It turns out that this wasn’t only the first SphinnCon in Israel, but it was the first SphinnCon ever! So, this is yet another example of a first for Israel, kind of like how the first WordPress conference, WordCamp, to take place outside of the US took place in Israel.
I took extensive notes at each session, which I had planned to live-blog but couldn’t due to a minor technical difficulty: no wireless internet. I will post the summaries over the next few days, but in the meantime, here is a summary of the entire event, and some related links:
Sphinn is pronounced Spin
One of the most important lessons from this conference was that Sphinn is actually not pronounced Sfin, but Spin. Go figure.
Google sent greeting video from Dublin
After Barry Schwartz’s introductions, we got to see a video sent specially to us from Google in Dublin. Alon, the Google rep in the video, tells us how excited he is that SphinnCon has come to Israel, and he gave us an SEO tip straight from the Google guidebook: write good content. I can see how that tip is in Google’s interest, since they would love the web to be a big database of useful information that users are searching for, but after this conference it seems that there are a few other things you can do to promote your site too.
Anyways, here’s the video (Hebrew):
The food was delicious
I don’t know who the caterer was, but the food was great and plentiful. Did I hear you scoff? Food is important, excuse me.
This was a test event for something bigger next year
SphinnCon Israel was an attempt to test the waters to get an idea of the potential interest in a bigger SEO conference on the scale of SMX next year in Tel Aviv. From what I could see and from what the organizers told me, SphinnCon Israel was a huge success. The registration for the 165 spots quickly filled up, and they added another 15 seats, and were still getting requests from people to join! They barely advertised, and yet word-of-mouth spread the news quite quickly and widely.
In addition, the event succeeded despite the fact that it took place in Jerusalem. Don’t get me wrong – I love Jerusalem. But most technology-related events take place in Tel Aviv, which is the heart of Israel’s hi-tech sector. Tel Avivians aren’t big fans of coming to Jerusalem, and yet they came in droves, and more would have come if there had been room.
So hopefully this all means that we can look forward to a really great event next year!
The panels were excellent
There were three panels:
- SEO Panel: Paid Links & Penalties
- PPC Panel: Will the PPC Model Hold Up as Click Prices Rise?
- Social Panel: Should You Social?
I thought that the panels were done really well. Each panel began with a short presentation by one panelist, and then the rest of the session was made up of Q&A. This was a great format since it kept people’s attention, and ensured that the audience learned about issues that really interested them. I learned a lot, and the panels helped me take my jumble of knowledge on SEO and make some order of it, which I appreciated.
I didn’t go to the After Hours Party in Tel Aviv, but I’m sure it was nice too.
We got free t-shirts that said “The First SphinnCon Evar”
Yes, “Evar.” I think someone forgot to do a spell-check.
There were women in the audience…
Yes, the “no women on the panels” issue again. The organizers explained to me that they really tried to get women on the panels. I really don’t blame them for this. It seems to be a global problem: Jeremiah Owyang wrote about it recently on his blog, and the comments reflect the depth of the problem. See, for example, Lena West who says:
I simply DO NOT BUY the story that conference organizers give when they say there are no women available. I know how the game works. These â€˜organizersâ€™ ask the other speakers for recommendations and men refer other men. Thatâ€™s the deal. I just spoke at an event in Miami and I recommended three of the speakers. Heck, it makes a very busy job easier to just go on recommendationsâ€¦why wouldnâ€™t they?
Ok, nuf about that.
Related Links and Resources:
These links will help you get a picture of what the conference was like:
Panel Presentations (available for download in PDF format on the SphinnCon Israel page)
SphinnCon Israel 2008 Recap – this post has links to most of the blogs that wrote about the conference, and most of the flickr photos.
British Yosef’s photos (really professional)
Jerusalem College of Technology
The event organizers:
Third Door Media
Videos (from YBO Interactive):
(Top photo from British Yosef’s photos.)
Two separate studies conducted on the topic of women’s impact on businesses – one in Europe and one in the US – indicate that having women at the top of a company is good for the bottom line:
McKinsey research released a study showing better-than-average financial performance by European companies with the highest proportion of women in influential leadership roles. The study found that these companies do better than their sector in terms of return on equity, operating result and share price growth.
The management consulting firm also reports that companies around the world where a third or more of the senior team are women score higher, on average, than those with no women on nine criteria of “organisational excellence”. These criteria include accountability, innovation and work environment.
Recent research on the US boardroom indicates that Fortune 500 companies with the highest proportion of female directors are more profitable and efficient, on average, than those with the lowest.
It is not clear why this is the case. But what is clear is that there is one less reason to prevent women from climbing the corporate ladder; we’ve proven that, in Israel at least, women actually miss less work then men. And now, it seems that it can’t be claimed that women damage the bottom line either.
So…who wants to promote me? Nobody? Did I hear someone say to get back in the kitchen? Sigh.
A few months ago, I wrote a post about whether female entrepreneurs should hide the fact that they are mothers, and was lucky to get a comment from Julie Lenzer Kirk, author of “The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business.” She said the following:
Thank you for this post! I had a problem finding successful entrepreneurs who are also parents because, as you say, so many people hide that fact. I agree that they should NOT hide it, and recently published a book for moms and dads that shows WHY you should not hide that fact.
I do like the steps youâ€™ve provided because at the end of the day, parenting should not be an excuse for shoddy workmanship but if you do it right, it can give you an EDGE in business!
I thought this was a really interesting point of view, since while I have always believed that we can succeed in business despite being parents, Julie was basically saying that we can succeed because we are parents!
I contacted Julie, and she agreed to an email “interview.” So here it is, and I think you will find what she says to be an interesting perspective on life and work:
Miriam: I’ve always seen parenthood as something that can be compatible with a career, but not as an asset! How is parenting an asset for business owners?
Julie: The life cycle of being a parent and starting a business are strangely the same. Deciding to get pregnant and start a family is not unlike the decision to start a business. Sometimes it is an accident, sometimes it takes a couple of tries, and other times it works great the first time!
Being a parent gives us skills we can use in working with and managing other people. For example, who better to understand the delicate balance of delegation than parents who have left a babysitter in charge of their children for the first time, or the parent of a pre-teen during their first solo cooking attempt? Likewise, understanding that your teenage daughter oftentimes just wants to know she is being heard mimics many an employeesâ€™ need for airing ideas and grievances.
Additionally, as a parent we appreciate the need to guide the behavior of others (our children) to accomplish goals (grow up healthy and productive in a safe environment), much like the role of growing a business by leveraging the skills and talents of other people to achieve our business goals. And in both cases, we try to do all of that without spanking!
Miriam: Can you describe a few specific skills that parents have that are helpful and business, and explain how they are helpful?
Julie: Resourcefulness: I donâ€™t know a parent that hasnâ€™t, at one time or another, had to learn something about being a parent on-the-fly. We go into it knowing that there is no way we can know everything. We have to be resourceful in reading up on parenting or asking for help from family and neighbors. We canâ€™t wait for someone to sit us down and tell us how to be a parent â€“ we just have to do it. In business, resourceful employees are valued and often a necessary part of a growing company. When our businesses are in their infancy, we need people who can do whatever it takes to get the job done. We donâ€™t have time to oversee and micro-manage them â€“ we need that resourcefulness!
Vision: When our kids are born we canâ€™t help but start to envision their future. We save for college, explore child care options, and make sure we have access to quality schools. For a company, having a vision of a positive future is good, especially when coupled with positive actions that help the company get there. How big do we want to grow? What new markets do we want to enter? How can we best serve our customers?
Creative Persuasion: Anyone who can teach a toddler to pick up or share his toys has mastered the art of persuasion. Those actions just donâ€™t come naturally. Business is all about getting people to work together towards a common goal. Sometimes that requires just a little nudge (or creative persuasion!) from management.
Miriam: How has parenthood helped you in your business career?
Julie: Being a parent has honed my management skills (as described above) and also given me perspective. All too often we get wrapped up in an issue at work and sometimes, such as when we have a deadline, we need to have perspective. For me, however, raising my kids while I grew my business gave me perspective that allowed me to stop sweating the small stuff. I could step back and look at an issue in my business and more objectively determine whether it was really such a big deal – would I even remember this problem in a year?
Miriam: What advice can you give to parents as to how they can maximize their parenting skills in business?
Julie: First, recognize the similarities. Once you see the parallels, youâ€™ll feel freer to use skills from one aspect of your life in another, though I would stop before you get to feeding a colleague and saying â€œOpen your mouth, here comes the choo-choo!â€ Really look at the challenges you face with your children and how you solve them and donâ€™t be afraid to apply an adult-version of that to how you relate to folks at work. After all, underneath it all weâ€™re all just a bunch of kids in grown-up clothes! We still need attention, love, care, and feeding.
Miriam: Would you say that mothers develop different business-related parenting skills than fathers? If so, are they at an advantage or disadvantage?
Julie: That depends on the household. In my house, my husband and I are equal partners in raising our children. We share household and parenting duties. In general, the primary care giver will develop a better sense of the parallels.
Miriam: The time element: both parenting and entrepreneurship demand a huge amount of time. Do you have any advice for managing time so that we can give sufficient attention to both aspects of our lives?
Julie: First, if youâ€™re an entrepreneur, you should be doing something youâ€™re passionate about. Both starting a business and raising children are the toughest jobs youâ€™ll ever love, and if you donâ€™t love what youâ€™re doing it is next to impossible to be successful at it. When you love what you do, it stops feeling like work. OK â€“ sometimes there is that drudgery that has to come with it, but MOST OF THE TIME it is fun.
Also, most people miss the fact that balance should be evaluated over time. Trying to live each and every day in balance could lead to insanity. It is important, at some point, to devote 100% of your attention to the task at hand â€“ whether it be your children or your work. You can not live your life totally multitasking every minute or youâ€™ll never feel like you accomplish anything. Some days are all about kids, such as when they are sick, and other days work must take priority because of deadlines and due dates. You have to look at your balance over a period of time and make adjustments when things get too out of whack.
Miriam: Thanks Julie for taking the time to participate in this interview!
So it seems that there is quite a bit of overlap between the skills we use as parents and as entrepreneurs. It’s an interesting idea, and definitely worth thinking about.
Julie Lenzer Kirk (Washington, DC) is a successful entrepreneur and passionate about empowering others into entrepreneurship. She is a business owner, mentor, author, international speaker, community volunteer, and parent. It has been her ability to balance all of these roles and transfer that capability into a profitable work place that has won her and her company – Applied Creative Technologies, Inc. – national acclaim.
Learn more about Julie Lenzer Kirk on her site (she also has a blog), and check out her book, “The ParentPreneur Edge: What Parenting Teaches About Building a Successful Business.“
Now there is one less excuse for not hiring women: according to a survey conducted by business data firm HSP Hashavim of the Hilan Tech and the Trendline group, women are absent from work less than men. This phenomenon is apparently unique to Israel, while everywhere else in the Western world women miss more work than men.
HSP Hashavim attributes this statistic to the fact that women take less vacation than men, since they feel that they have less job security.
“HPS Hashavim CEO Abie Meir says that the current trend in terms of absenteeism among women in Israel began in 2002, when the country sank into recession.
‘Women were more concerned than men about losing their jobs in light of the slowdown in business, and, as a natural response, they began to be more meticulous about absences’ Meir said.
Men, on the other hand, experienced greater job security despite the recession, and there was ‘no change in their behavior patterns,’ Meir said.
The survey indicates that the main difference between men and women is in vacation absences (holiday, travel and the like): Women are substantially less likely to take vacation from work than men.
On the other hand, women are absent slightly more often than men for health reasons, either because of their own health or that of their families. This is similar to trends worldwide. (Haim Bior, “Only in Israel: Women miss work less than men,” Haaretz.com, June 14, 2007.)
Meir did not mention the fact that many men in this country serve in reserve duty which can be up to 30 days of service per year, which I’m assuming impacts on the number of days they are absent as well.
In any case, business owners take heed, and bolster your staff with women if you want to be assured that they will show up to work!
It is apparent that many women find the work environment to be a hostile place. Stories abound about women being asked all manners of inappropriate questions in interviews, such as if they have children, do they plan on having children, what does their husband think of their career, etc. Employers want assurance that work will come above all else, and an employee must commit to that work ethic or else.
For mothers of small children, this approach is particularly problematic. As we know, children are unpredictable. They can get sick, they can have vacations, and they may just want and need attention. All of this demands time and understanding, something rare in the workplace.
Many newspapers have reported about the high-power career women who have left their jobs to pursue a career in caring for their children. But do they do this out of will, or because they feel that they are forced out?
Of course, it is not only women that seek a better balance between family and work. Many men also would like to have more time to spend with their families and children.
The ROWE approach – Results Only Work Environment
Self-employment is one option for those seeking greater flexibility in their jobs. But self-employment is not for everyone, and many prefer the security of a monthly paycheck.
The answer (possibly): ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. This is an experiment that has been implemented by Best Buy, whereby bosses have no say in scheduling and can only judge employees by tasks successfully completed. So workers can work when and were they want, as long as they fulfill their responsibilities. This “experiment” has been in place for five years, and Best Buy reports that employee productivity has increased an average of 35% in departments covered by the program.
This plan not only increases productivity, but also saves them money:
“The per-employee cost of turnover is $102,000, and ROWE teams have 3.2 percent less voluntary turnover than non-ROWE teams. So once Best Buy’s 4,000-person headquarters is completely converted to ROWE, the company stands to save about $13 million a year in replacement costs.”
I can personally attest to the ridiculousness of time-based employment. In one of my first jobs, I was employed as an editor for 20 hours a week, and up to 40 depending on the workload. I was completing the editing work in 5 hours. To fill up the remaining 15, I offered to take on other tasks. I ended up reorganizing their library and became their “librarian”, helped the bookkeeper with her backlog, and I even started working for another department doing research and improved their client-communication material. Not to mention that I worked with them on writing their brochure, and managed the project for improving their CRM system. But when the end of the year came, they saw that I was missing many hours because often I would come in a half hour late or leave a bit earlier because of my kids – this adds up over a year. They didn’t care that I was doing three times the amount of work, and made me pay for my missing hours. Some of you may think this is totally fair on their part, but I felt very unappreciated (and soon left to more appreciative pastures).
The conventional time-based work environment penalizes those who are efficient. It may even encourage people to waste time – why should they fulfill a task in one hour if it means they will only get recognition for one hour of work? Better to drag it across three hours, and make the boss happy.
Will companies begin to adopt ROWE? I don’t think so, at least not in the foreseeable future. It’s hard to get executives to wrap their heads around this new way of thinking. But at least there’s hope on the horizon!
Last night I attended my first speed networking event. It was organized by Digital Eve, who has held two such events in Tel Aviv, and last night’s was the first one in Jerusalem.
The venue, the Pera e Mela (Apple and Pear) restaurant in Safra Square, was great â€“ good Italian-style food, nice ambience, and an opera-singing owner who did a short piece for us (I’m not kidding!). The women in attendance were of all types and professions, and it was inspiring to meet such a talented, varied and creative group. About 20 women attended, including a handful that schlepped from Tel Aviv. Most of the women were self-employed and business owners, but we had employees as well.
Women of all types were in attendance; religious, secular and in between; a wide range of ages; and native Israelis and olim from England, the US, Canada (me!), Australia, and probably women from other countries that I missed. Based on the business cards I collected and what I remember, here is a sampling of the professions that were represented: 2 life coaches, an organizing consultant, a whole bunch of women involved in marketing of various kinds (including yours truly), a business and project management consultant, event planner, VIP tour planner, the owner of an executive search firm, graphic artist, training manager, and an expert in translation tools!
How speed-networking works: we all sat down, ate (very important at any Jewish/Israeli event) and schmoozed (also Jewishly important!) with the people around us. Leemor Machnai and Susan Fisher then spoke to us about the importance of networking, and how to overcome barriers that we create in our head to networking. Then came the speed-networking part (which I guess is based on the speed-dating idea, or vice versa): we all stood up, and had a few minutes to talk to another woman about what they do, and what they are looking for. Then the whistles would blow (at first loudly but when the proprietor of the restaurant complained the whistling became almost inaudible) and we would move to the next woman. I didn’t have time to meet everyone, but it was great meeting whomever I could.
So we schlepped, schmoozed, and conspired to take over the world after eating some good pasta. All in all, I had a great time. Of course, I don’t get out much these days due to baby and work-overload, so any opportunity to get dressed and meet other adults gets a high ranking from me. But I think that the fact that the event was supposed to end at 10, and at 10:50 Leemor had to gently point out to our surprise that it was almost 11, shows what a great time we were having.
Kol hakavod to Leemor, Susan, and Susie Kaufman (who played a big role in organizing the event but couldn’t come) for putting together such an interesting, inspiring and enjoyable evening. It was nice putting faces to the names I see on the email list, and I’m looking forward to the next Digital Eve event in Jerusalem!