Women in Media & Sports Summit: Data Can and Should Be Used to Empower Women

Another tool to advocate for those underrepresented in the industry

Panels of industry-leading women discussed the process of empowering and advocating for women in the field.
Raquel Beauchamp for Adweek

At Adweek’s Women in Media & Sports summit last night, panels of leading women in the industry talked about how we can continue to better advocates for women and underrepresented minorities in the intersectional field of sports and media.

Along with more conventional strategies of amplifying women’s voices, the data revolution is allowing us to get much more creative than ever before. Michelle Wilson, co-president at WWE, pointed out that in the last four years our ability to collect data has increased so dramatically that more data was collected in that time period than in the previous 20 years altogether. And while we already know we have a lot more work to do around empowering women in the industry, now we can prove it with hard numbers in our data-fixated society.

Providing an example from her own experience, Wilson pointed out how the WWE got onboard early on with digital and social media storytelling and now has over one billion social media followers. Women have always had an ancillary role in the WWE, but social media data was telling the brand that people want to see more women center stage, she explained. Thus, the social media campaign #GiveDivasAChance was launched. Eventually “divas” morphed into “superstars” and women—like Ronda Rousey—became the main event rather than secondary.

For every one data scientist we had four years ago, there are 35 today, Wilson said, adding it’s “hard to argue with data.”

The kind of data we’re getting and using is also evolving—metrics like TV ratings are being replaced by the amount of time spent, according to Wilson. And the ability to cultivate data directly from consumers in real-time makes it more accurate and helpful, added Carolyn Tisch Blodgett, svp, head of global brand marketing for Peloton. This means of data collection also facilitates authentic community-building, like Peloton’s 100,000-plus member Facebook group, which was created by members.

“The community sells more bikes than the company,” Blodgett said.

It’s not enough to just talk about and collect data, though—you have to own your first-party data, said Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of MikMak. “You have to get your hands on the most data firsthand because the person who owns the content owns the readers,” she said. “The barriers to entry are so low but the stakes are so high. These tools are at everyone’s disposal.”

One powerful woman who exemplifies “owning [her] data” is Beyonce, explained Rachel Hislop, editor-in-chief of okayplayer.com and OkayAfrica.com. “Beyonce is in control of editorial decisions,” Hislop said. “A lot of musicians don’t know their audience, they don’t know who is buying their merch.”

While it’s awesome that data can back up what we’ve long known about the importance of women’s voices, the industry leaders agreed that on a micro-level, women need to continue to find ways to advocate for themselves. These interactions are part of a multi-pronged approach to enacting real change and better representation in society.

“Women are the fastest growing consumer group,” said Ramya Murali, strategy and analytics leader, consumer businesses at Deloitte Digital. “Advocate for yourself because your opinion is underrepresented and sought after.” Your position in the industry should be leveraged to advocate for others, too. “Use your power to demand diverse candidates,” added Azania Andrews, vp of marketing at Michelob Ultra, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Advocacy will also involve some radical mindset shifts, according to Sharon Rowlands, president of USA Today Network. “Women look at job specs and say, ‘There’s one thing I can’t do so I won’t apply,'” Rowlands said. “Guys see one thing they can do and apply. People who execute get noticed.”

All the woman echoed the importance of a reexamination of and changes to the overall ecosystem, whether it’s in the hiring process or fundraising. “It’s harder to raise capital as a woman,” Tipograph said. “We need to get more capital into women’s hands.”