There’s so much I left out yesterday. So, I feel a letter is in order.

You left Michelle and I completely invigorated and neither one of us could sleep last night in spite of the fact that our bodies are aching from the exhaustion and mental energy spent and invested with care into your inaugural event. We hadn’t known quite what to expect, as you hadn’t either. I know because I watched as you walked in, not knowing what to expect. Could this be just another one of those cliche networking events? What does Women in Digital even mean?

As you sat down and settled in with your breakfast snacks and morning chats, I was struggling to calmly breathe and fighting a the urge to throw up. It happens every time I give my Tell All. Telling that story, putting those pieces together is still so incredibly frightening for me because part of me still believes it’s all my fault. And I know my critics, who I welcome to my table, definitely believe I invite these troubles into my life due to my impulsive and risk-taking nature. The years of endless troll blog comments, for example, constantly telling me that I was a single mother due to my own fault for choosing the man I married. And so, why would the reaction to my story of my professional choices and journey be any different?

But you all showed up. One hundred of you absolutely amazing women in digital marketing, communications and advertising of Cincinnati. You came out in the rain, in the cold and battled parking and the kids and the bosses, your own busy calendars and who knows what else to be there. Telling my story in comparison? Easy. And necessary. Because, unlike most of you who are currently employed and unable to truly say what’s happening or has happened – I can. I’m self-employed, I have been through the emotional wringer for years and years thanks to trolls and nasty radio listeners. I can and I will always armor up for the critics, especially when all of you and your personal and professional growth is on the line. But, I still feel so nervous beforehand. Every single time. My goal is to tell it enough times, to enough women that I no longer have one nervous butterfly.

Telling my story is something I feel absolutely compelled to do. Not for me (I hope that is quite obvious), but for you. Although every time I do stand up there and lay it all out there I feel I am standing up for my 20-something self because she had absolutely no one to talk to about it all, let alone a group like ours.

To break the ice and help my nausea, I walked from table to table. Talking to you always makes me feel better. And you did. Amy Vaughan, Creative Director at POSSIBLE and now your City Champion, also lent me her energy and spirit for a few moments to make me laugh and assure me that all would be just fine. And then I dove in, welcoming you all to your new group and introducing you the stark realities of what women in digital face day after day and year after year as our sisters in other industries do as well.

Alaina Shearer - women in digital

After my talk – what an icebreaker, right? – we enjoyed an incredible day of speakers and panels. From the influencer panel featuring Sarah Dewald, Preeti Chaulk, and Katie Holocher

InfluencerPanel

to the keynote interview by Sarah Dewald of the great Jacquie Denny, co-founder of Everything But The House.

JacquieDenny-SarahDewald

Wasn’t Jacquie fabulous? And so confident and sure of herself without one apology in her entire talk. We have so much to learn from our leaders like Jacquie. And I loved Sarah on the stage. What a presence she has at the start of her magnificent career. You all didn’t know this, because I forgot to tell you, but Jacquie is one of Sarah’s heroines, hence the idea for the match up. And then Margaret Russo of POSSIBLE dropping the Snapchat know-how. And opening up about her own imposter syndrome when asked to give this talk. I could go on and on and can’t thank our speakers enough. Find more information on all of them here if you need Twitter handles or website links.

Super thanks also go out to Kelsey and Rachel of Gild Collective. What would that day have been like without them? Not the same, that’s for sure.

Cincinnati Women in Digital - Gild Collective

We will cherish our business card holders forever.

The magic happened when everything started to click for all of you. The realization set in that this was far from an ordinary conference. Agendas were dropped, we all became women, friends, colleagues. Not competitors or adversaries. And, in my belief, that’s possible in large part because men aren’t allowed in. I just don’t think it would be possible if they were in the room. And it’s nothing against the men, nothing at all against our need for them to be part of the solution – but women who have faced what many of us have faced are far more apt to open up and drop those walls and become truly vulnerable when men aren’t in the room. I know that’s a hard sell to those who have not attended one of our events, so, I’ll say this – to those opposed to the idea, you have every day at the office together with men and women in the same room. Are you all productively working on solutions to sexism within our industry? If not, why not? Do you think women in your office who believe they may be missing key opportunities such as advancements and promotions feel comfortable saying so in front of the men in your office?

I heard from you all at the end of the day. I heard things like, “I came with my co-worker and for the first time ever, felt I could tell her about harassment I’ve been experiencing at work.” Not possible had a male co-worker been with them. Just not. At least not yet. And that’s why we need this meeting to ourselves. With that said, we do invite all men who want to support us and our mission to attend our Annual Conference in October.

Above all, Michelle and I heard many many words of gratitude. We are just your messengers and now, you all have this group. It’s ours to give and yours to take. We can’t wait to see how Cincinnati Women in Digital changes your city like it has already begun to change our industry here in Columbus.

What’s next for Cincinnati?

You were our first city to host a full day conference outside of Columbus, our home base, where the Women in Digital group has been flourishing for nearly one year now. And now, very much just the messenger, I am thrilled to say we have two cities fully ramped up and ready to host quarterly meetings and additional conferences. Yours is coming, my dear Cincy. Most likely in early June. Stay tuned for the date. We have your emails and will be in touch. If you’re not yet on our list and would like to be please email michelle@womenin.digital and she’ll make sure you are. Many of your signed up to volunteer or to sit on the Advisory Board, you will be contacted as soon as you’re needed.

In the meantime, if you’re like Columbus you will also use the hell out of your Cincinnati Facebook Group to connect with each other, to practice those “asks” and “gives” and to create meet ups and mentor/mentee matches. And paying members can go even further and communicate privately on our Women in Digital Forum and Social Network.

Your headshots from Tek Systems will come as soon as Kaylina and Chelsea can get them to us. Stay tuned for that link (it will come via email).

What about memberships?

We all got so excited yesterday and I completely forgot to mention the bracelets for our founding members until the very end of the day. In case you missed it… those gorgeous Aid for Trade bracelets are going to our first 300 founding members.

WID-Bracelets

As a founding member you are investing in yourself and Women in Digital and will always be grandmother’d in from any future rate increases. Additionally, you get to sport your bracelet at future events. And, you can even add Founding Member to your Linkedin profile. Check out Kelsea Wiggins, my awesome podcast co-host here. She can tell you how. Become a member here.

Cincy, you have your promo code (check your email). Keep that safe and unpublished. It is limited to 100 and meant only for those who attended the conference. That gives you a $50.00 discount on either the monthly or annual plan. And with that cost savings if you buy a ticket to the national conference you’re saving the $200.00 instantly on the conference ticket alone. You’ll also receive at least $25.00 off on future quarterly meetings. We promise the membership will pay for itself and so appreciate any investment you can make.

Did I mention the podcast yet? We have one! It’s amazing.

Stay in touch and get your Women in Digital fix between events by tuning into our podcast. It’s meant to keep us all connected. All current and past episodes are here and you can subscribe in iTunes by searching “Slings and Arrows – a Women in Digital Podcast”.

Thanks to our fantastic sponsors.

Thank you so much to our sponsors. Cement Marketing chief among them as our partnering sponsor and source of funding at the moment. My little agency that could is now a full fledged, full service creative agency with digital as a specialty. My incredible partner (and husband), Seth Gray, is leading the charge there while I take on Women in Digital full-time. Please visit Cement’s website, look at our work and consider us for any and all of your marketing and advertising needs. An easy and incredibly valuable way to test us out? Start with a full digital audit or content strategy. Our work is unconventional because we marry creative and branding with major digital nerdiness. You can appreciate that, I’m sure.

Thank you as well to Cincinnati’s founding sponsors POSSIBLE and Tek Systems. POSSIBLE is known the world over for their work and I have been so impressed with the agency’s commitment to supporting women and women in leadership. And as for Tek Systems, Lori and Katie are magnificent. You may have noticed, there were several recruiters attending our event in Cincinnati. And while we are always open to their presence, it’s worth noting that Tek Systems was the only recruiting firm supporting the event with a sponsorship and actually making it all happen.

I can’t say enough about the generosity of our sponsors and their willingness to take a chance on our fledging group. Their support is beyond measure and I know we can send it back to them tenfold. Please support them however you can whenever the opportunity arises.

If you need me I’m always just an email away. (alaina@womenin.digital).

xoxo,

Alaina

Cement Marketing Logopossiblelogoteksystemslogo