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What makes an expert?

So over the weekend I had a tweet from the Women’s Room, a really cool project that is trying to do something about the very important problem of the lack of female faces and voices in the public realm.

Why have I hesitated to sign up?

I’m don’t feel like I’m an expert. While initially quite flattered, I’m started wondering how I was targeted. I’m not a regular blogger, I don’t think I stand out in any particular field. I’m a very active tweeter, usually just a stream of consciousness of unimportant nonsense, mostly not work related. I don’t get invited to speak at conferences.

Maybe this is just a lack of self-confidence or a poor view of how I’m viewed by the external world. Maybe it’s a woman thing, I think many of us have a hard time putting ourselves in the public sphere because of the backlash we often get and our general tendency not to be as showy and vocal as men (yes I *know* this is a massive overgeneralisation before you rip me to pieces).

But it poses the question, what actually makes someone an expert?

Can you self appoint yourself as one in a given subject? What makes anyone take you seriously as an expert in something? Look at a lot of self-appointed ‘experts’ you see in the media, pontificating away without any actual knowledge and experience in an area, they are just paid to voice their opinions. How are they valid as experts? Why do people listen to them?

Do you have to have formal qualifications in a given area? I have a masters degree in Environmental Politics. Never done anything with it. I do comms, mainly digital comms, but I don’t have a single qualification in this area, nor do I belong to any organisations in my field. But if there is any area I am an ‘expert’ in, it is digital comms, social media and building/maintaining online communities and building professional networks. But how do I claim this expert status?

Is it knowledge or actions? Both? Neither?

Or have I just answered my own question?

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