Whilst I have always been active on social media, I particularly enjoy engaging on Twitter. I tend to tweet on issues relating to women in leadership, leadership and business, or specific topics I find of interest such as women on boards, women in sport, digital trends… you get the idea.
I have been fortunate to have had a very positive experience on Twitter and value many of the people, including so many incredible women, I have met online. And regular users of Twitter also understand the genuine connection that develops with people you regularly tweet with online, so when you meet a Twitter ‘friend’ in person it can often feel like meeting a long-lost friend.
However, it is impossible to be on Twitter and not notice the everyday denigration of women. This includes comments, jokes, abuse and targeted harassment that would simply not be tolerated in person. Often the threatening or offensive comments can be directed at women for doing nothing more than offering a view to which someone does not agree. Sadly, women do not need to do much at all to receive ongoing harassment and vilification online.
In 2016 the digital security firm, Norton, interviewed 1053 women and found that nearly half had experienced abuse or harassment online. The prevalence of online harassment is even worse if you are aged under 30, with 76% of women experiencing some form of harassment. These figures are, as we all know, completely unacceptable.
I am certainly not so naïve as to think any single initiative is going to change this experience for women online. Twitter itself seems to be struggling to address the issue and as recently as this week suspended Martin Shrkeli for harassment of journalist Lauren Duca. In her tweet requesting action be taken, Lauren Duca asked Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, “Why is harassment an automatic career hazard for a woman receiving any amount of professional attention?”
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 8, 2017