A Second Life for a pioneer
: Among the dizzying number of speakers and panels at this weekend’s BlogHer conference in San Francisco (which included sessions titled “ Is MommyBlogging Still a Radical Act?“, Race and Gender: What are the lessons of 2008 and “Funding & Incubation Opportunities and Women Entrepreneurs, among many others) was Aliza Sherman, who was on the Internet about 15 minutes after Al Gore. Her full-service Internet company –
Cybergrrl, Inc., had at its peak
over 30,000 participants in over 100 cities around the world, and Newsweek magazine named her one of the Top 50 People Who Mattered Most on the Internet. But sometimes, she writes this week, you have to discover it all over again:

I used to speak at no less than a conference a month “back in the
day” when I was “in the biz” and was flown all over the world to speak
about the Web, online community, Internet marketing, and women and
technology, to name a few of my topics. The new media industry, that
is. Back when I started Cybergrrl, Inc. and Webgrrls International and
was living in NYC and was single and was considered a “Web Pioneer.”

Fast forward to 2000I left Manhattan in an old RV and drove around the country for over a year, at first aimlessly, and then as the vehicle for two book tours (for “Cybergrrl@Work” and “PowerTools for Women in Business”).
I did a few speaking gigs during that time – like a women’s executive
conference in Orlando for the then Arthur Anderson. But I was fleeing
from the Internet bubble burst and was hard to find.

Fast forward to 2001.
I was on my way back to NYC to start another book tour on September
11th. Put a little wrench in my plans as well as all the conferences we
all held, spoke at or attended. I did end up speaking at a few
including a major Hispanic business conference.

Fast forward to 2004.
I start getting pregnant and losing each pregnancy. Nobody told me
about miscarriage and none of the pregnancy books have more than a page
or two on the topic. I start blogging about it.
I’m also living in Wyoming, having run away from NYC to what I hoped
was the most remote place in the USA that I could find and afford to
get to (which left out Alaska at the time). I took a job and taught
Internet workshops around the state of Wyoming, but that’s a far cry
from being “on the circuit.” Everybody thinks I live in Montana. Nobody
in the industry thinks of calling me for their conference anymore.

Fast forward to 2006,
post-baby, struggling with motherhood and all the things that go along
with it (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) that they don’t tell
you about in the books, and I’m unable to do anything – like attend
conferences much less speak a coherent sentence which makes public
speaking a little impossible.

In 2007, I began putting out the word that I’m trying to get back on the speaking circuit.
I submitted topics, offered to speak on any panel where there was a
slot, groveled, cajoled, begged. The first person to respond after
months was Elisa Camahort at BlogHer. I don’t even know if she realizes how much she saved my life by allowing me to speak at BlogHer last year.

Appropriately enough, Sherman’s Blogher panel this year is on “BlogHer and Second Life,” though mostly
intended in a less metaphorical sense.


Hey WNBA, your mom’s still in the running
; It’s a different world than the one Billie Jean King knew when she founded the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1974.  As it envisions its role in the 21st century, with women’s sports dominating Olympics ratings and the WNBA packing stadiums nationwide, the foundation has appointed a new CEO drawn not from the playing field but from the business world:

“The wonderful benefits of Title IX, by having a WNBA, by having a
soccer league, by having all these incredible opportunities, they’ve
given corporate sponsors other places to put their money if they want
to tap into women,” said Ilana Kloss, chair of the board of the Women’s
Sports Foundation. “So that’s great. At the same time, it’s making
organizations like ours have to rethink our model a little bit.”

All of which makes this a critical juncture for the foundation,
founded in 1974, which opened in June the Billie Jean King
International Women’s Sports Center in the Sports Museum of America in
New York to house the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and launched a new
Web site.

In April it named Karen Durkin, a sports marketing executive from
Stamford, Conn., its chief executive officer. The leadership change
marks a shift from former CEO Donna Lopiano, who left the post in 2007
and had an academic and coaching background….

Durkin, who
competed as a college swimmer and basketball player at the University
of Rochester, wasn’t always focused on marketing. She considered
joining the LPGA Tour after completing graduate school at Northwestern
University. She didn’t believe she had the game for it. So Durkin found a place for herself in sports business instead.

“I’m in many ways a product of women’s sports,” she said. “I was
always playing and competing in sports, which benefited me throughout
my business career as well.”

From untouchable to political superstar. She has a single
name, like Madonna or Bono; both her followers and political observers
call her simply “Mayawati,” or even simply “Maya.”  As India’s national
elections approach, many eyes are on 52-year-old Mayawati Naina Kumari,
the chief minister of state of Uttar Pradesh,  which includes the
capital city of New Delhi. Forget glass ceilings; “Maya” has repeatedly
shattered  the  ‘caste’ ceiling, as a woman drawn from the large,
traditionally downtrodden group known as dalit (once known to the
British as “untouchables”).

While the advance of so-called low-caste, or Dalit, politicians like
Ms. Mayawati has reshaped Indian politics for 20 years, no one from her
social rank has so shaken up the country’s traditional political order.
Dalits represent roughly 16 percent of the population and have
traditionally been shunted to the lowest rungs of Indian society.

Ms. Mayawati leads the government of Uttar Pradesh, a sprawling
northern state with a population of more than 160 million. Her admirers
see the rise and reinvention of this unmarried outcaste woman of 52 as
a triumph of India’s democracy over its deeply conservative and
stratified traditions.

Her detractors see her as a symbol of an increasingly crude and
unprincipled politics. She is accused of being ostentatious and corrupt
and of striking deals with anyone who will advance her political
ambitions.

Even though caste discrimination has been officially banned in
India, politics remains one of caste’s last bastions, with every caste
group looking to its own to advance its interests.

Ms. Mayawati has been especially skillful in forging alliances with
upper castes, and as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, she has promoted
an ambitious agenda devised to appeal across caste and class lines. Her
main rallying cries are for an eight-lane highway, better policing and
private investment as a means to ease poverty.

“I prefer to be known as a leader for all the communities,” a
cheerful and self-assured Ms. Mayawati said in a rare interview with a
pair of American journalists this month. “In every community there are
poor and unemployed people.”

By Chris Lombardi

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