Women need tribes. Need each other.
Two of the first online people to figure that out were Nancy Evans and Candace Carpenter Olson, the co-founders, along with two others, of iVillage. Together they built the best online home women will ever have. Parent Soup, where I worked for four years, was a mommy site before mommy bloggers or Babble or BlogHer. Vibrant, warm and well-led, it served - and listened to - women with inclusiveness and respect.
Well before blogs or social media, iVillage's topical message boards, conceived as support communities like those in AA, engaged the site's visitors and provided a sense of home and ownership that didn't seem to appear anywhere else online. They shared parenting and relationship advice and once, right before my eyes, rescued a woman from a terribly abusive relationship as all the members of the board came together to support her.
Today we learned the site will "be shuttered" and folded into the TODAY SHOW Online under its current owner, NBC News.
It's sad. To get an idea of how wonderful it was to be part of what we created there, consider the deluge of comments that followed a single post earlier today. All of us are, I suspect, as surprised as I am at the depth of emotion this news has evoked. We were all so proud to be part of what we knew was a remarkable creation. And we learned so much.
My own first assignment was to design an education site for parents. (The logo for "Education Central" appears at the top of this post.) I took the initial outline to Nancy, who was Editor-in-Chief. Looking up from her desk, she asked "Have you looked at the message boards?" I shook my head. "Well go read the message boards, use what you find there, and then bring me what you have" she said. She wouldn't even look at it I did that, and she was right.
Rule one: listen to the community. There was so much within those conversations that revealed what should appear on the site. I've been preaching that lesson ever since.
iVillage believed in its communities, in their hearts and minds. It gave countless women voices they would never have otherwise had and paved the way for the powerful women bloggers who have emerged after them.
Its leaders also believed in us, from novices to old hands like me, and in our mission: give women a home online and hear what they say there. Believe, more than anything, in them.