Coffee heat rising

A PF Blogger’s Glass Ceiling?

A group of women bloggers I recently fell in with subscribes to the idea that a blogger’s glass ceiling holds women writers back from the big time in the PF blogging world. How big the  PF “big time” is remains to be seen. We know several male bloggers—Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar and J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly, among others—have built sites that earn enough to free them from their day jobs to write full-time.

On the other hand, we know successful women PF bloggers are holding forth, too: Silicon Valley Blogger’s The Digerati Life is going well enough to excuse her from the day job treadmill.

I don’t know whether Squawkfox earns proprietor Kerry Taylor enough to quit the ratrace, but this very day she posted an announcement that the Globe and Mail has her in the running for its Best of Money Blogs poll. Quite a few of the sites on my blogroll are written by women—most of them, come to think of it—but I’m pretty sure none of us is making a living at this business. MSN Smart Spending supports a couple of long-time women journalists, but they’re freelance contractors with no health insurance and, one might fairly guess, frugal wages. On the other hand, plenty of male bloggers aren’t making a nickel and a dime to rub together, either.

Is there some sort of good ole boys’ club out there for bloggers, a virtual country club where men go to play computer golf games together, every day but Ladies’ Day? It’s one of several issues that have been floating around in my coffee cup as I mull over ways to improve on Funny about Money and build its readership. Having reflected on this for a while, I really don’t think so.

Clive Thompson published a fairly nuanced article in a 2006 issue of New York Magazine, reflecting on the permutations of blogger success. He reports on research showing that one key indicator of a blog’s success is the number of links pointing to it, particularly links on large sites. The “A-list,” as he calls the most successful of the monetized blogs, is extremely small; “most bloggers toil in total obscurity.” This isn’t surprising, and by extension it’s unsurprising that lots of women bloggers are among the totally obscure, along with lots of men bloggers.

If you look at the blogs that men write—the ones that seem to be successfully monetized—and the blogs that women write, you see some fundamental differences. Successful blogs tend to be tightly focused; that is not often true of women’s blogs, which characteristically are rather gestalt. I believe that difference stems from men’s and women’s responses to fundamentally different life experiences. Women’s daily lives are gestalt, scattered among a score of conflicting responsibilities, whereas men’s daily lives are often spent on a job where they focus for long periods on the work at hand.

Consider, for example, Peter Rojas, who in 2006 was supposedly “the best-compensated blogger in history.” When Thompson visited him, we learn,

he’s sitting at an Ikea desk bedecked with three flat-panel screens and looking relatively fresh, considering he’s just come off another eleven-hour blogging jag. Like most A-list bloggers, he hit his keyboard before dawn and posted straight through until dinner. “Anyone can start a blog, and anyone can make it grow,” he says, sipping a glass of water. “But to keep it there? It’s fucking hard work, man. I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Eighty-hour weeks since I started.”

How many of us, whether we’re women or not, have 11 hours a day to spend on a single task? Writing at Work It, Mom, Lylah Alphonse, proprietor of Write. Edit. Repeat, puts it in a nutshell:

It’s about the daily juggle—my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting—and finding the time to get it all done.

The issue for women is that few of us have 11 uninterrupted hours, or even eight, or even six, in which to develop, write, and market a blog. Observing my own work habits, I can say they reflect a lifetime of adaptation to demands on my time that come from every direction: work, friends, parenthood, wifehood, school, housekeeping, yard care, pool care, shopping, money management, pet care, healthcare, bureaucrats, editors, clients, advertisers, neighbors, cops…you name it, and somebody thinks they have a claim on my time that’s more important than anything I imagine I should be doing with my time.

The natural response to a cacophony of demands like this is to learn to do several things at once. And that is a very inefficient way of working. Yesterday, for example, around trying trying to get my blogging act together I had to…

Walk with a friend at dawn, dragging the dog along by way of getting two things done at once;
Call WellPoint to find out where the bill for Medicare Part D is, necessitating another time-wasting turn through a punch-a-button phone maze;
Check and adjust pool chemicals;
Wash two weeks’ worth of laundry;
Read 80 pages of technical copy for a client;
Rough out a calendar for one of my fall courses;
Dredge up some old university-level course materials, rewrite and reformat 21 single-spaced pages newly targeted for lower-division community college students, and key them to the proposed new course syllabus;
Create another single-spaced page of boilerplate copy-&-pastable comments keyed to this material;
Feed the dog;
Feed myself;
Read page proofs;
Water the plants…

I was in front of my computer more on than off from about 5:30 in the morning to about 11:00 at night. But as you can see, that time was interrupted repeatedly, and relatively little of it was spent focusing on what I thought of as the day’s primary task: learning more about driving traffic to FaM and putting some of those strategies into gear.

You know…if you have a wife who’s doing those household tasks and doing battle with the outside world, you have a lot more space in which to focus on your enterprise. And an enterprise—a business enterprise—is what a blog ultimately is. My guess is that men are socialized in many ways to focus more directly on the job at hand and are better at resisting interruption.

As I write this, I’m also dinking with trying to figure out how to get Alexa‘s code into FaM’s header. And really I do need to get up and drive to the oculist’s shop and find out why those glasses that were supposed to have been done last Wednesday haven’t surfaced. And brush my teeth and take a shower and wash my hair and fertilize the citrus trees and…oh, yeah: I forgot to eat, too.

Compare a few women’s PF sites with a few men’s, and by and large you see the difference I mentioned above. Check out the topics of the last few blogs at these Male-run and Female-run sites:

The Simple Dollar (M)
Walking from your mortgage
Employees’ attitudes
Financial advice to readers
Book review
Frugal tips

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (F)
Monthly household budget
Splurge on bedroom furniture
Yakezie Alexa ranking
Weekly favorites link-love roundup

Bargaineering (M)
Federal legislation re extending tax cuts and unemployment compensation
Increase on FDIC insurance to become permanent
Moving a CD ladder to another bank
Ally Bank’s .25% CD renewal bonus
“Legal ripoffs”

Out of Debt Again (F)
Top referrers
Paperless bank withdrawals?
Plan to pay off Discovery card
Review of 2010 Quicken Deluxe

Darwin’s Finance (M)
Analysis of energy tax credit toward central AC
Gold bubble?
Debt & major financial crises
Saving for college
Greek debt crisis & the markets

A Gai Shan Life (F)
Summer travel costs
Took out a store credit card
Relaxing; blog challenge
Weddings & cost of travel
Freelancing as lifestyle

Five-Cent Nickel (M)
Mortgage strategies
America’s worst banks
Credit card offers
Traditional vs. Roth IRAs
Sallie Mae raises online savings rate

Frugal Scholar (F)
Children’s books
Pantry remodel leads to domestic squabble, food ruminations
Cookbook collection
Pantry project (with literary references)
Gardening & frugality

Get Rich Slowly (M)
Home safety precautions
Personal data collection
The $20 challenge
Learning from Baby Boomer experience
Finishing what you started
(These are all guest posts, since JD has been on vacation)

The Digerati Life (F)
Nintendo Wii games to cut down her gym costs
Credit card review
Carnival of Financial Planning
How to lower homowner’s insurance costs
Rant at annoying “Wall Street trader letter” circulating on Web

Notice how tightly focused the men’s most recent posts are? While the women are not exactly off-topic, they tend to write more personally and they often wander from the topic of personal finance in its strictest sense. Counting a discussion of a financial matter framed in terms of the current events in one’s own life as “personal” posts, I come up with this quantitative comparison of subject matter:

Personal Finance, Economy: 21
Personal commentary: 2
Blogging: 0
Other: 2

Personal finance, Economy: 5
Personal commentary: 13
Blogging: 5
Other: 2

Sooo… Does this have meaning? Should all us girls who just wanna have fun making a living off blogging start copying the boys?

Not IMHO. But I do think we need to recognize that women have a different blogging style from men’s. Possibly we have different things to say to the world.  Moi, I like reading personal takes on personal finance (isn’t that why we call it “personal,” after all?)—but I have to recognize that may restrict my readership to other women.

The other lesson I take from this observation is some of the men’s blogs show how much focused energy is devoted to those sites. Making one of these things fly pretty clearly requires stretches of uninterrupted concentration. You don’t get the sense of gestalt from, say, The Simple Dollar, where Trent is posting at least two articles a day, often lengthy ones, that you do where authors appear to be writing on the fly, while they’re braiding the threads of their lives and can’t let go of even one.

64 thoughts on “A PF Blogger’s Glass Ceiling?”

  1. Interesting post. I’m glad to hear that as a man, I have nothing better to do all day than blog in 11 hour sessions. Unfortunately, my blogging “shift” doesn’t usually start before 9 pm on any given night.

    As for “women are too busy taking care of their men” – what C & W song are you living in? Give me a break – if a woman is busier than “her man” then she needs to give him something to do.

    • @ Money Smarts: And…uhm…who entertains you in your bed? Or…is that not a form of caring? Who cooks your meals and cleans your house? Do you do all that by yourself?

  2. “The issue for women is that few of us have 11 uninterrupted hours”

    hum…. if I really have 11 unterrupted hours to do something, please let me know when!

    I actually work all week and my wfie stays at home. She definitely have more time than me to blog 😉 While she does a lot of chores at home, it’s not like I don’t do anything either…

    I don’t think modern women have less time than men. we both have 24 hours in our day!

  3. “@ Money Smarts: And…uhm…who entertains you in your bed? Or…is that not a form of caring? Who cooks your meals and cleans your house? Do you do all that by yourself?”

    @ Funny, if you consider that entertaining your husband in bed is a job, than switch for another man 😉

    I think that if someone is away from home 10 hours per day because he is working and paying for everything, the other person should spend just as much time to take care of the home. This would be fair for both of them no matter which role you take

  4. @ Panda Mike: Well… You know, the truth is that if the erotic phase of a marriage is to stand the test of years, both partners do need to work at it. The things that happen between two people and the assaults their partnership takes from outside forces work, over time, against intimacy.

    For a woman, this means she needs to work steadily at three things:

    Maintenance: She must keep up her hair, her skin, her nails, her body, her clothing, her energy, her style. As she ages, this grows more important and more difficult, but from the git-go, she should be working at it daily. It can require upwards of an hour a day to keep oneself looking attractive, plus another hour of daily exercise to keep up her health and figure.

    Sexuality: She needs to grow in the arts and skills of pleasing a man. This is not a static thing, for as the man changes, she must learn how and why he changes and what she can do to continue making him happy. Sometimes this is not so easy, as her own sexuality also changes over time.

    Nurturing of a mutually caring relationship: This also requires daily effort. She must keep the spark of love alive through times that can be very challenging and through times that can be…well, boring. If she takes him for granted, he will take her for granted (he may, anyway), and that will allow the thing that most matters in the marriage to die.

    None of these activities are easy when you’re dealing with children, extended family relationships, work, money, household maintenance, and the many challenges that come to the couple from without.

    So…if it isn’t a job, I’d like to know what it is.

  5. @ Funny, so tell me, you do all this and your husband doesn’t do a thing?

    I don’t think it’s the women responsability alone to take care of the love/sexualty in the couple.

    I actually wake up at 5am 4 times a week to work out 1h30 each time. I make sure I dress well, and I take care of myselft to always be good looking. The only thing I can’t do is taking care of my hair… I’ll let you guess why 😉

    I am also trying different things in bed to make sure my wife has as much fun as I do.

    I write here notes and love letters about once a month.

    I have 2 kids and spend a lot of time with them. I will also coach my boy on his soccer team this summer.

    But all of this, I don’t consider work, I just consider being a good husband/father.

    For the record, I have been with my wife for 13 years so it’s not a new relationship.

    As you can see, a man can do as much to please her woman. It’s only a matter of effort. I think we can spend almost as much time as a woman to be at our best. So this is not where I could find 11hours in a row to maintain my blogs…

  6. @ Panda Mike: My husband does all those things, I’m sure, for his current wife, who is not me.

    Neither of us, I’m sure, worked hard enough at the 20-year marriage to matter. Possibly he learned to pay more attention to a woman. I learned to value freedom. 😉

  7. Thank you for mentioning my work, Funny. I feel like I’m *really* late to the dance here, since my site has only been up a little over a month.
    Learning how to promote my work feels uncomfortable because I was a print journalist for 18 years and we were told to keep ourselves OUT of the mix. Just the facts, ma’am. Self-promotion feels vaguely masturbatory to me. Social media are bewildering, too.
    It’s not that I *can’t* learn these things. They just don’t come easily to me.
    As for the gender thang, I hope it’s kosher to quote myself (which also feels masturbatory), from the “Turning invisibility stealth” post:
    “After a lifetime of inculcation you really DO believe that guests will instantly judge the cleanliness of your carpet; that your children’s successes belong to them but that their failures are all yours; that if someone in the room needs something then it’s up to you to provide it.
    “You grow up inside a body that is not your own but instead must be shaped and adorned according to media images. Your feelings don’t belong to you, either; women are trained to be attuned, always, to the desires of others. Your ability to rebel is limited: To buck the system means to risk losing social approval and thus the chance for love, family, advancement at work, the right to exist at all.
    “The philosopher Michel Foucault refers to observation as an integral part of discipline, whether that’s in a boarding school, a factory or a prison. A person who can be seen at all times has two choices: to conform, thereby avoiding punishment, or to act in ways deemed unacceptable by society and thereby risk trouble and/or ostracism.
    “‘The perfect disciplinary apparatus would make it possible for a single gaze to see everything constantly,’ Foucault notes.
    “Women have been subjected to the constant gaze for so long that we’ve become the agents of that power as well as the objects of it. We police OURSELVES. We watch our weight. We watch what we say. We watch TV to see how we’re supposed to look, what drinks we should order, which shoes we should buy, whether our eyelashes are thick enough and our ankles thin enough (hi there, Hillary Clinton!).
    “We also watch what happens to other women when they challenge the status quo.
    “By contrast, we’ll never watch Rush Limbaugh checking the mirror for flaws, or watch Henry Kissinger confess to Larry King that maybe he should have had his hair straightened.”

  8. Oohh, I didn’t know you were a female blogger, FAM- just stumbled on your page from Financial Samurai’s site.

    This is a very interesting topic.

    I don’t feel that there is a glass ceiling for personal finance female bloggers (I do agree that we often don’t have time for consistent blogging) but I do agree that it often seems like this personal finance blogging realm is a boys club.

    The topics that girls and boys blog about are completely different, but I think it’s because our brains are just wired differently. I think it’s alright to have a different blogging voice between men and women.

    On Million Dollar Journey (Canadian PF blog) he often has a female guest post and their posts are quite technical too. I don’t find much of a difference between the female and male guest posts on his site (sometimes I am surprised that it wasn’t written by Frugal Trader- the main blogging guy- himself!)

    I would like to add that the female blogger: The Centsible Life is a popular personal finance mom blog and seems to be doing quite well.

  9. I worked in the investment field for 15 years, and those guys (as you said, most financial professionals are male) do not have a sense of humor (or do not allow it to show at work). Finance is a serious topic, but a little lightheartedness and humor can be found everywhere…I think men are more likely to separate different parts of their life, and not allow crossover. Work is work, home and private life is separate and distinct. Women have more trouble separating their lives – let’s face it, if your kid or their school needs to contact a parent during the day, it is usually Mom that gets the call. Women juggle; men categorize and build walls. Women multitask, men just get confused!

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