The Woman’s Guide to Having it All


women-seo-industryA better title would be, “Outspoken Media’s Winter/Spring 2013 Speaking Schedule,” but I decided to do more with this after reading aimClear’s recent study on gender diversity among SEO industry conferences.

The question of female speakers and gender diversity within the SEO industry has always been a hot topic. Even among women it’s been widely debated because many don’t see an issue, simply don’t want to speak for a variety of reasons, or feel the bias against us so strongly that it becomes demoralizing to speak or even unsafe.

To understand whether search marketing conferences were adequately representing gender diversity, aimClear conducted their study and found that on average, only 25.3% of conference speakers/coordinators were women. The last time I checked we have a majority share of the world’s population, so there’s still a lot of work to do if we want to give women an equal voice. This extends to women wanting to speak, which again, many don’t.

As a female in the industry, and arguably a leader in the space, I want it known that I’m comfortably positioned on the side of more diversity is needed (not just gender). However, I’m also of the opinion that we need less empty rants in the blogosphere–we need to actually do something about it! It’s disheartening (and sometimes I contribute) when women are approached to speak or share their professional thoughts and they simply don’t respond. This speaks to one of my favorite quotes that I picked up after watching Miss Representation (it’s excellent—go watch it!):

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” – Marian Wright Edelman

If we don’t like what we’re seeing, we have to actively work to fix it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds though.

My completely anecdotal opinion is that for a woman to have a family and a career, we take on so much that we have less time than our male counterparts, and how we allocate that time becomes a series of sacrifices and prioritization. This isn’t unique from many men with families or other priorities, but let’s get real here–if a woman wants to start a family and run a business (I’m currently five months pregnant, so this is top of mind), there is a huge commitment of time, energy, and physical constraints. This naturally sets women back for a few months, so how we spend our time becomes a precious balancing act. And, the few months we’re “set back” requires a lot of preparation, especially in an SEO agency like Outspoken Media or a startup where everyone is already maxed out. Fortunately, most women have nine months to get ready and have already been setting things in motion long before the actual pregnancy. This has been the silver lining of my pregnancy–forced business planning, process development, team training and empowerment, etc. We still have work to do, but we’re getting there and it’s going to position us for long-term growth, not just a short-term bandaid.

I don’t want to agree with posts like The Myth of Having it All and Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. I want to be the exception, but it’s hard—physically, emotionally, and mentally. While Outspoken Media is thriving more than ever, I’m dropping the ball on incredible personal (and brand) opportunities like starting a column on Search Engine Watch, contributing a post to Smashing Magazine, or getting back to about those interview questions.

We all have the same amount of time in the day and my family, my team, my clients, and then my health comes first (yes, my health has had to be better with the pregnancy, don’t worry about that, baby is fine). Those incredible opportunities may not be there in another six months, but I know that I’m positioning the Outspoken Media brand for growth and that WILL be here in six months. I know where our leads come from and it’s about consistently doing great work for our clients, word of mouth referrals, industry connections (like you!), and speaking opportunities. Those media opportunities drive links and some leads, but they never convert as well as the referrals. Also, we’ve seen an immense amount of new business generation simply by retaining our clients and expanding services. They’re now generating new business for us by selling us to other divisions or properties owned by their parent company. That’s success!

While I’m focused on what’s going to drive long-term success, I’m also speaking aggressively this Winter/Spring along with Sean, because we know that this will drive more leads and authority for the brand. Yes, I’m pregnant (and I’ve spoken to MANY women lately who are terrified to tell a business contact this or even admit to having children–seriously!), but I’m doing what’s right for my business and in the process, I’d like to think that I’m helping increase gender diversity at these conferences.

Want to hear more from Sean and me? I promise I won’t rant about women’s rights (though I will talk endlessly about babies if you ask), but I will be happy to discuss the future of SEO, social media analytics, reputation management, and organic link development. Sexy, huh? I think so, which makes it feel less like a job despite the hours of uncomfortable, pregnant travel to get there. I can’t wait to speak, because it’s building a future for my business, my team, and my family. I hope this helps empower more women to put themselves out there regardless of the industry’s lack of gender diversity and knowledge that women score consistently less favorably than men. We are the change that needs to happen. I’ll see you at:

Upcoming National Events

February 14, 2013 –’s Main Street U Summit

Happy Valentine’s Day! Catch Sean Stahlman speaking on The Misconceptions of SEO and Small Business SEO.

February 22, 2013 – SearchFest 2013

I’ll be speaking on Social Media Analytics: Discovery and Attribution with Mike Pantoliano.

March 11-13, 2013 – SMX West 2013

I’ll be coordinating and speaking on the Essential SEO Analytics: The Performance Metrics That Truly Count session with Jon Henshaw, Will Scott, and Rob Bucci, and I can’t say this enough times—do not miss this session! It’s going to be an important conversation on the future of SEO performance metrics, and packed with both actionable advice and advanced theory. Don’t believe me? The speakers keep saying how excited they are to not just be on the panel, but how much they wish they could just sit in the back of the room and listen. Um, yeah, it’s going to be epic.

I’ll also be speaking on the How To Groove To The Google Dance (Yes, It’s Back) session with Danny Sullivan, Mitul Gandhi, and Marcus Tober. We’ll be prepping for this panel soon and I expect it to be equally epic with so many Google updates happening and new tools like MozCast launching just to make sense of it all.

March 20-21, 2013 – Internet Marketing Conference

I’ll be speaking on the SEO Panel–SEOs Role in Online Marketing with Jim Hedger, Barbara Coll, and Benj Arriola.

March 26, 2013 – SEOmoz webinar

I’ll be presenting a webinar over at SEOmoz on a topic that is still in development, but we’re honing in on something really unique, compelling, and personal. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out my previous webinar on Online Reputation Management: Branding for SERP Domination.

Upcoming Local Events

April 9, 2013 – Women@Work Connect

I’ll be speaking with two other women from the Capital District on How to Manage Your Personal Brand Through Social Media for their breakfast series.

Date TBD – Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley

I won’t be speaking at the next breakfast, but as an organizer along with Pearl and several other local professionals, I wanted to get this on the radar for March. The topic will be on The Mechanics of Social Media and we’re excited to get technical with local area experts! Stay tuned.

Does that feel like a lot? It does to me, but I’m just a pregnant woman who can’t have it all! For those worried, I’ll be done traveling by the 7-month cut off, so all is good and yes, traveling while pregnant requires a different set of planning (e.g. locating nearby hospitals for worst-case scenarios, packing snacks, finding professional clothes that even fit, planning bathroom breaks, etc.). Regardless, I’ll see you at the conferences and if our paths don’t cross in-person, contact us. I’d love to chat about new business, partnerships, or just how you manage to balance everything.

Are you a woman who has it “all?” I’d love to hear your story, especially if you decided to compromise. Are you a man who has had to sacrifice for your family? Share! Have something that you just need to get off your chest? Go for it. It’s a hot topic, because it’s REAL.

Your Comments

  • Zeph Snapp

    Hi Rhea,

    Glad to see you are planning. You covered a lot of ground, and I’m not sure I’m equipped to address all of it, but can talk about some:
    1) I don’t know about industry wide, but at Not Just SEO there are more women than men. This is simply because we hire the people who are going to be a good fit, regardless of sex. We do tend to go young, but that is a different question.
    2) One of the reasons I got into SEO is because the work is so flexible. I spent the first 2+ years of my son’s live working from home, and wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I know that if I’d moved into a formal office sooner there would have been benefits, but for me it was an easy choice to stay at home.
    I hope that as we grow I’ll be able to give everyone the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with their newborns. In Mexico it is SOP to go back to work 6 weeks after the baby is born, and there is no way that is long enough.
    3) While I’ve only been a business owner for a short time, I feel like the best thing you can do for your business is make yourself obsolete. This empowers your employees, and forces you to let go. This can be hard, but it sounds like you are getting a crash course (and I’m sure you will be better at it than I).
    And yes, it would be great to be able to do those things you talked about (especially the SEW column), but if your company keeps kicking butt, then there is no reason to think that those opportunities won’t continue to appear.

    • Rhea Drysdale


      Hiring is interesting. In the past we had a lot of theories on what the ideal employee looked like and now I just look for someone who can thrive in an agency environment, loves SEO, and can think strategically. We hire the best person for the job regardless of gender. We’ll keep doing that and see what happens! It’s interesting to see that this invites a rather equal split in applicants. I think we’re fortunate in that the brand proceeds us, but we’ve certainly been know as the “female-owned and operated” company in the past and this is no longer the case.

      Your point of SEO and flexibility is huge. A lot of us are probably attracted to the Internet for this reason. I’ve always been agency or in-house though, so it wasn’t until I started my own agency that flexibility became a real consideration. I’m sure being there for your son was HUGE! It sounds like Mexico has a more lenient period than the states, but I agree that it’s still too short, though I’ll probably be back at it within a few weeks because I have to and will probably want to?

      Love your point about making yourself obsolete. That’s the goal, right? I’m only as good as the team and I want my team to be better than me! That’s the only way to grow and it’s really exciting to see it take shape internally.

      SEW wanted me to talk about something unique and slightly relevant to this conversation. I’m that one day it’ll happen, but the time isn’t now. :)

      Thank you and see you soon at SearchFest!

  • Dana Lookadoo

    I’m exhausted just reading all of your upcoming events! And yes, you have hit the nail on the head about the balancing act.

    And most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS on being pregnant. I knew that was a desire and am giddily excited for you!


  • AK Anderson

    Three quick points. First, I think the number of women in the field is growing quickly. At each conference I attend, I see more women in the audience than the last one. I think we’re at the beginning of the trend.

    Second point I’d like to mention is that just because we’re not pitching and speaking at conferences doesn’t mean women aren’t speaking.

    I’ve spoken about the field at my alma mater (an all women’s college) – and sat next to someone in that audience at SMX the next fall!

    I’ve agreed to give webinars for a local NAWBO chapter, and a Technical High school. I also implemented and provide the introduction to SEO at our company to ensure that new hires understand where their jobs intersect with SEO, and who to call if they have questions. It’s great for an inhouse operation because it gives the ownership to the entire organization.

    These smaller venues and webinar events make it easier for me to speak without massive amounts of preparation, so they are easy to do in my free time.

    Which leads me to my final thought. I actually have it on my 2013 goals to put together a pitch on a funky topic that I’ve been delving into in my free time, but those are the keywords: free time.

    I don’t use work-time to pull this together, and I have never asked whether I’d have support to do this there. It would depend on conference budgets for the year whether I’d have to pay for the trip out of pocket.

    Perhaps that’s a function of gender (unwillingness to negotiate my worth?), but honestly I understand the business goals and priorities. I don’t think a trip to a conference is in the cards this year thanks to our financial situation.

    Once I have my pitch together, I might ask my boss these things. For now, I’ll stick with planting the idea of SEO in the impressionable young minds of high school students and college women.

  • Rhea Drysdale


    Thanks for sharing your insights. Definitely agree on the presence of women growing at conferences as well as your point about women speaking outside of them. I’ve found a lot of local speaking opportunities lately and really love the educational opportunities with local universities. It allows me to tap into where the industry is growing, what the next generation is doing, and help identify new talent. To your point, planting the idea of SEO is important. It amazes me how many marketing and communications students still don’t receive a good education in this area. It’s up to us to get them excited about the opportunity!

    “Free time” — haha. If you need any support, hit me up. Understand what you mean. When I was in-house it was a balancing act with budgets and priorities. I was fortunate that my first in-house position was very giving of those opportunities and it’s due to them that I had the exposure I did to the community. It gets lonely in-house, but I only went to the conferences when we needed an answer to a problem or some other very specific solution. Hope to meet you soon!


    • AK Anderson

      Thanks for the reply. I might hit you up for support for the pitch :)

      Luckily, I’m actually on a team of three whole SEO folks and in the larger organization the team is closer to 6-8 people. We don’t get lonely, but we sure do like fresh insights from conferences!

  • Courtney Seiter

    First off – Rhea, congrats on the growth of Outspoken and the forthcoming tiny human! Very exciting!

    Since you asked for my thoughts, here goes. I kind of straddle two worlds as a social media strategist at a company primarily known for SEO tools, so I can say that there’s a HUGE difference between the two worlds. I’ve found the social media space to be much gentler for a lady speaker/thought leader to break into. Perhaps because it’s so much larger and more women already have found their niche there?

    SEOs, on the other hand, can be a prickly sort. They’re smart, they’re opinionated, they don’t back down from a fight – all traits I love. :) However, I went through a long period of feeling I had little to contribute to the community because everyone else knew so much more than me. That’s common for women, and something we have to work to get over. I don’t hear from a lot of men who have that concern.

    I have a feeling this new era of content marketing has the potential to bring a lot of women to the forefront, perhaps because I know so many fantastic female writers in this industry.

    I love that the conversation about this seems to be getting stronger – that can only lead to good things.

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Courtney–so sorry for the delay. Since the post was published and today I managed to buy a home, do a ton of work, speak at SearchFest and now I’m finally catching a breath! Quite literally with the tiny human and thank you for the congrats. The actual having a kid part doesn’t seem like a huge thing, but then it happens and it really is. :D

      I definitely agree with the difference between social media and SEO tools. There’s a stronger female voice in the social media space than tool development. Instantly introduces a lower barrier to entry/acceptance though that may not be totally correlated, it’s just indicative of where the women are physically?

      The confidence issue is huge. Women are already prone to lower confidence in their professional careers and less likely to jump at opportunities or be aggressive in their pursuits. However, I know just as many men who don’t put themselves out there in the industry, because they feel like they have nothing new to contribute. The issue of noise vs signal affects us all, but I think you’re right that women instinctually shy away from contributing to the conversation when there isn’t much value to add. For example… me poking you to respond perhaps? I may be off base since I’m sure that’s more about time? :)

      The conversation is absolutely getting stronger. Just read a fantastic article in the New York Times on the subject with two very divergent schools of thought on women in the workplace, but both are spurring a very strong conversation that we should keep going regardless of our individual opinions/experiences:

      Thanks for responding and sharing your thoughts, I’d love to revisit in a few years. ;)

  • Amie

    Congratulations on your pregnancy Rhea!

    I enjoyed reading your post, I am quite defensive when it comes to my place in the working world as a woman and I still hold strong to the fact that yes, we can most certainly have it all. My question though, is it worth having it all? And when you do have it all, are you enjoying it all? I guess at the end of the day it narrows down to each individuals personality, family situation and support structure and so on.

    I think the introduction of SEO and SMM is a blessing to women and men alike – it is a job that is not only serious in this day and age but it is a perfect opportunity for you to find ways of expressing yourself whilst getting the work done.

    As for the events listed, I am all the way in South Africa so I cannot attend – I so wish I could! But I will try catch the Webinars and will look into organising such events in my own area in the future!

    • Rhea Drysdale

      Amie–great points about personal values and thank you for sharing yours. Obviously, I agree with the having it all perspective, but it’s a ton of work and to your point, is it worth it? Great question!

      I think everyone has to answer that for themselves. For me, it is. I have a very supportive/flexible husband who makes it easy for me to be this driven. Without him I’d have to make more sacrifices or simply be more selfish with my time. He is my rock just as I have friends who stay home to care for their children and husbands, because that is their priority and it enables their family to live their values.

      It’s going to be subjective, right? I’ve worked with some incredible women who were very driven and wanted everything. I’ve worked with others who wanted the 9-5 job with lots of time to achieve more personal goals (as opposed to professional). I’ve also met just as many men in both categories and everything in-between. Totally subjective and it’s what gives us all a unique set of experiences and skills.

      Were you able to catch the SEOmoz crew in South Africa for MozCation? It sounded phenomenal and I hear you have a strong community of marketers there. I look forward to meeting eventually. :)