There’s an elephant in the room, and we shouldn’t ignore it. All of the contributors to CommunityWiki’s jam-session are male.

Why this is a problem

Women should be involved in this jam session, because they can bring different ways of thinking and communicating. If they’re not actively included, then our work could become less and less appealing to ‘type E brains’ (see EQ-SQ theory [1][2]).

What can be done

Things that deter women

See Also


Any ideas on this? Maybe we should ask a group of women to answer this question. We could contact some university computing departments – they must have lots of women? – If they don’t then it’s always good to remind them.

Hm, …

I think systematizing is a really great thing, and that this is an activity that women can engage in perfectly well. Much of systematizing is: DevelopmentOfThought, TheoryBuilding, articulating and arguing for decisions, grappling over them, – all of which women are thoroughly capable of. When I was at HarveyMudd, I was regularly thoroughly torn apart by women far more capable than I was.

Systematizing is not the highest virtue, but it is something that is very important – A big part of the reason I am here at CommunityWiki is in order to systematize with others, man or woman. Systematizing is my way of “jamming,” per a jam session. If we resemble Hephaestus (roman: Vulcan) smithing in a volcano, I suppose we can clean up a bit. Radomir possesses that kind of virtue.

I would also reference HeatherJames, she may be able to answer questions for us, and make contribution.

That said: Would the Rolling Stones be necessarily improved by adding women? Perhaps someone to take the edge off of MickJagger??

Nothing against women, and there are many bands that do just fine all by their masculine selves. The same true for women-only bands. And male-female bands do as well.

Just a thought.

Sure, but a large community without women is lacking in diversity – I find that lack of diversity ugly. This might be an emotional response – a matter of opinion – but it is important. If we just work in small creative teams with specific goals (like creating music at an instant in time) then I guess it’s OK to be male-only, but I think we’ve come here to talk about broader community. We can’t do that successfully without women.

If there’s a woman on CommunityWiki, she’s here to collaborate. She can be of special value for bringing a different perspective to the mix, but she is valuable first for being a collaborator with us.

I think that a lot of women shy away from the grappling that is a necessary part of theory development, and scientific development, for myriad reasons that we can deconstruct and reconstruct later, but which I don’t think we can reasonably do much about here in our (say, year-based) time-frame.

The women that we are interested in, I don’t think will have any fear whatsoever of coming here. If there are special signals we can put out, we should apply them. HeatherJames should definitely be in the contributors list, if she does not mind being listed there. Whoever comes, though, should be prepared to explain, to argue, to present, and to grapple.

It is not as if we are completely cut off from the perspectives of women, – MadelineLeEngle, JeanHouston, NancyWhite, JoannaMacy, KatKinkade?, these are all women who, while I don’t talk with them (well, I talk with NancyWhite some times, but-) but their voices are present in my thinking – especially MadelineLeEngle and KatKinkade?.

Further, when I was at the EvolutionarySalons, I remember when people brought up gender imbalance – not in terms of who was present, but in terms of who was speaking – and women were by far silent. In a small group we were talking about it, and one of the women said, (from memory:) “I don’t think it’s a problem. If I have something to say, I know all will hear me. But us women here are content for you all to talk.” This wasn’t said facetiously, sardonically, or passive aggressively, but as a matter of fact and careful consideration.

I was surprised by this, and then, at that point, remembered something an author had written about lamenting the elimination of gender. He voiced nostalgia for the different farm implements, that came in different sizes with different curves and different wood – the tools themselves were gendered. They were both for outdoor work, – the work was shared, but different, and complementary.

I think that our dreams, passions, and loves come before our gender – what a person dreams of doing, get out of their way! Only a fool would not recognize the divine guidance of JoanOfArc?. (The story goes that the executioner asked for the forgiveness of God, because he feared his act. This may just be apocryphal.) But I also believe in gender and wisdom and intelligence and the grace and the power of gender. Not to speak dogmatically or assertively about it, but to speak what I have seen in my life.

To make my position for CW clear: If there is something we can do to signal that CommunityWiki is a safe place for women to collaborate with us, (and that may include deleting or repositioning the story I have just recounted,) I want to do that.

Women are welcome here: They are valued as contributors first, and they are also valued as people bringing a voice, a perspective, that is presently under-represented here.

But I don’t see what we could would or should do here to attract more women. I am more interested in bringing collaboration partners.

When we get around to the actual acts of assembling communities and societies and such, – then the conversation is very relevant. But this is all theory work right now.

Lastly: I may be wrong about this judgment, and welcome challenge.

I’m not sure we can separate theory from practice so cleanly, and in a sense we are assembling communities as we speak. I wonder if our communities would be better if the theory-side weren’t so male-dominated, and I think there’s only one way to find out.

“I think that a lot of women shy away from the grappling that is a necessary part of theory development, and scientific development, for myriad reasons …”

Hmm… I think there’s a problem with our systems of development, because I know many women are better at ‘grappling’ than me.

”… I don’t think we can reasonably do much about here in our (say, year-based) time-frame … The women that we are interested in, I don’t think will have any fear whatsoever of coming here.”

There is a difference between being open/inviting to women, and actually asking for help. In the second case, we recognise that we need their active involvement to create balanced community theory.

If you think you know someone who would enjoy and perhaps sustain collaboration with us here, then of course, by all means, invite her or him in. She or he will be evaluated like everyone else.

But “no,” I don’t see your point about “need.” You will have to explain, because I am turned off by the suggestion. I would expect that a woman would say the same thing.

“Sir, I’m afraid we need to revoke y’alls thinking license. You see, you haven’t met quota.” (Or “Madam, I’m afraid we need to revoke y’alls thinking license. You see, you haven’t met quota.”) Heck no.

The main place I think where men and women truly need to be collaborating, is in the development of gender identity theories.

Books by women and books by men addressing the topic of gender are almost always focused on the concerns of the particular gender. (There are a few that argue “for the other side,” I am now thinking of PaulKivel? and NorahVincent?.) For truly balanced considerations, I think it requires both men and women be present; We find these conditions, and the desired result, in, for examples, the FederationOfDamanhur (though arguably more male oriented) and the SatyanaInstitute (though arguably more female oriented.)

But I don’t think it’s necessary for the conversation we’re having, at the stage we’re at in the conversation.

Color me silly, but I don’t think we need women specifically. I mean, we need members of community and partners in discussion – any gender. I find the approach of “anyone will do as long as she’s a woman” insulting to both sides. A few points to think about:

  • We don’t know how many men/women lurk here without revealing themselves. We don’t necessarily need to know.
  • There number of men on the Internet is much greater – perhaps it’s a tool with bends and curves more appealing to the male user.
  • The topics we touch are in many cultures the domain of men – so there is a cultural barrier for women to participate. This of course shouldn’t stop anyone from participation, but does make it harder.
  • Would dragging up a random female and forcing her to write here really improve the situation?
  • Would treating any women that appear here in a special way really please them and make them stay? I’d rather feel bad in their shoes.

And of course the obligatory XKCD reference:

One of my German wiki had 40% female contributors (no, I won’t point you to it) over time. Trust me that the best way to get female contributors is to don’t make gender a topic, and to just care for a friendly communciation style and a system that has a lot of space and tolerance for socializing. Women have different communication styles and communication needs.

Whatever you/we do, CommunityWiki (and Meatball) are as attractive to women like a spoiled railway toilet. It is better to forget about women here.

I have the feeling that “women tend to be X” or “have different communication styles” is certain turn-off. What we could do, however, is ask a single female aquaintance of ours – wives, girlfriends, friends – to comment on why they don’t feel like participating. Then we’d get at least an idea of what to work on. I think it would not require emails, phone calls, or letters. Just ask people, face to face. Four data points are better than none.

The report from my end:

I don’t know, I haven’t looked in there.
I can’t find a recipe for carnitas in there, or how to get the stain out of a skirt, or how to resolve conflict with co-workers. When I’ve gone in there, it’s a bunch of people talking about fluff.” – AmberStraub.

Claudia says (me paraphrasing & translating & collecting):

  • I don’t have time for this. I have so much other stuff to do. I’d rather read a book.
  • I don’t spend time on websites. I do a little bit of Facebook because I’m curious about other people.
  • Of all the other people in the local oriental dance scene, only S. spends time on forums and what not.
  • If I have a problem with students, classes, or teaching, I just call my friends E. or K. who also teach oriental dancing. Luckily, there are enough real people to talk to – whether I want to or not. There’s no need to rely on the Internet.
  • If I have a problem with computers, my website, turning camera footage into DVDs, copying them, archiving them – I’m just going to ask my husband. Everybody except for S. does that: we just ask our husbands and boyfriends. I need a website and DVDs for my job, but I don’t enjoy doing it. Luckily, it’s my husband’s hobby, so I rely on him to do it.
  • I just care about the results – a website, a class – I don’t care about process – I don’t want to know how to get there.
  • I guess Community Wiki is important. I’d like other people to read it. I just don’t do “chat.” Somebody else should read it, learn about it, and help me out with my problems. I don’t want to use the Internet to solve problems. I prefer to depend on real people I know.
  • Maybe things would be different in a rural area without a lot of people with similar interests. Remember I spent a lot of time on forums regarding Iceland when we planned our trip because we had nobody to talk to. I’d spend time online and “chat” with people online if I had no other recourse. But I have, so I don’t. :)

Here’s what I’ve heard from my etnolinguist/professional comic writer friend. She didn’t know what it is, but I asked her what she thinks about it:

  • margins too small
  • boring colors
  • poor organization of content
  • looks amateurish
  • can’t tell what it is about
  • the content of ‘WelcomeVisitors’ should be on the front page
  • lack of clear communication
  • it’s a web page for people who already know what is going on
  • it’s not clear whether it’s a discussion forum, news service or something else
  • looks like “I have an idea but I don’t know what to do with it”

The page WomenAndMenAndWiki had been an earlier attempt. Such attempts - like spoiled railway toilets - are embarrasing but of good soul, and good women see that. This is an experiment in globally public and completely editable jamming. That’s not everybodys cup of tea. Women will come. Just stir the soup.

Here’s a study of differences in perception and navigation of websites: [3][4]. It reviews evidence for these sex differences:

  • Females use a ‘landmark’ naivgation style, and males use an orientation or ‘internal compass’ navigation style;
  • Females’ superior recall of object locations.
  • Females’ perceptual biases towards form and color;

The authors see these implications:

  • Females are more likely to prefer structure that allows the navigator to stay close to the home page;
  • Males are more likely to prefer deeper navigational structure, but females may prefer to have landmarks/cues that clearly situate their position in relation to other web pages/sections;
  • Females may be able to recall more items and locations within a page;
  • Females may have a greater appreciation for the colours, and greater ability to discriminate graphical objects.

I wonder if changes to wiki organisation have a big affect on how different sexes feel. Perhaps our wikis will be more attractive to browse if we:

  • use the home page as a navigational hub;
  • organise pages and sections around visual landmarks (like icons/relevant images);
  • make it easy to immediately return to landmarks (perhaps with regular ‘back to …’ links); and
  • try to choose colours/margins/etc. that appeal equally to men and women.

You have to be very careful with those kinds of statistical analyzes. The problem is that there is larger variation within the group, than the average differences between the groups. It works when you aim at a very large population and don’t mind excluding a small percentage at the edges of the Gauss curve. CommunityWiki is not a large community, and I get the impression that members of it are not “average” in many senses. Of course, the improvements you suggested are general enough to help everyone, so I can’t wait to see them. Do you want to start with any particular page?

I have a passion for information architecture and navigation systems, and we have a history of talking about them on this wiki.

Can you create some prototype examples of what you have in mind, and then we could talk about them?

I also think a page other than GenderImbalanceHere would be appropriate.

Perhaps CommunityWikiNavigationExperiment? or something like that..?

Define external redirect: MickJagger PaulKivel CommunityWikiNavigationExperiment NorahVincent KatKinkade JoanOfArc