Diversity Weblogging

That “Where’s the women” thing again

The folks at Misbehaving noted the lack of women in the photos from the Web 2.0 conference. As Liz Lawley wrote:

Via Anil, I just saw Jeff Veen’s post on “What do these pictures have in common?” Be sure to click on the “See what you’ve won!” button. Like the first commenter, I wish he’d write the whole rant.

And please don’t post any comments about how there aren’t any women to invite; that’s part of what our sidebar’s for. If you ask, you’ll get recommendations. (Look what happened when I posted about the Microsoft event.) Clearly, the people making the invitations see what they want to see–and they don’t see the women. We’re becoming increasingly invisible.

What’s most depressing is that in every other profession in which women have been in a minority, percentages have been gradually climbing–including technical fields like engineering. Only in computing-related professions have the numbers been dropping.

Actually, according to the NSF, women are dropping from engineering, too, and that’s in some ways the problem – a close affiliation between computer technology and engineering.

Returning to the post, I thought the title was interesting: Even the men are starting to notice. The reason why is that among the political weblogs, the running joke is that some highly ranked male political pundit will write a Where are the women post every three months and is soundly trashed for thinking that he’s invented the concept; that he is the first to have noticed. He’ll then be not so gently reminded that if he hadn’t ignored the women that existed right in front of him, he would have seen that this is a topic that’s been brought up, again and again.

And again. Like now, among the technology weblogs. Having toes in both worlds means I get it from both sides. Where are the women.

Liz and Anil may have noticed the lack of women at Web 2.0 but at least there were some women at this conference. What they didn’t notice, or at least not that I’ve seen them notice, is that there were absolutely no women speakers at Gnomedex. Gnomedex that fabulous little meeting that bills itself as the geek heaven.

I examined the speaker list several times, and found that nope, not a woman (unless CJ is a woman…). Barely any women in the audience, in fact. Is it that we only notice the lack of women when the meeting revolves around industry leaders, rather than hands-on geeks?

Odd, regardless.

Joi Ito (who was just appointed to ICANN – sympathies and congrats, Joi) noted today that whatever lack of visibility women have in weblogging doesn’t extend to all online communities. He’s found that women have a strong presence in the Wikipedia and ponders:

I haven’t conducted any scientific analysis or anything, but Wikipedia seems much more gender balanced than the blogging community. I know many people point out that ratio of men at conferences on blogging and ratio of men who have loud blog voices seems to be quite high. I wonder what causes this difference in gender distribution?

I wrote the following in comments:

Participation in the wikipedia isn’t controlled by anything other than the person’s own interests and involvement.

Studies have been made of blogging and have found that 50% or more of all webloggers, journalists or ‘bloggers’ implied categorization aside, are women; however, men are given disproportionate attention. Why? Good question, someone let me know when there’s a good answer.

In blogging, there are many different factors that generate attention, including a person’s name (how well they’re known), wealth, status, etc –above and beyond the quality or amount of participation in the weblogs. In the wikipedia, attention is based on involvement and quality, no other factor.

What we’re seeing is probably the same amount of participation of each sex in both activities, but women are getting proportionate attention in Wikipedia.

Joi asked an interesting question in his post: …is it something about Wikipedia that attracts powerful women?

I think what’s more likely is that a powerful woman can’t be shut down in the Wikipedia community, but can be effectively ignored (or dismissed as ‘bitch’) in the weblogging community.

Not good, but I will say this: this isn’t just a ‘guy’ thing. If women didn’t work against other women in this community, and actively supported each other more, we wouldn’t be as invisible as we are.

Seems to me, we all have a lot of work to do to correct the inequities.

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