Melinda Casino points to this longish, well documented essay, Why are there so few women on Digg by Academic Pointillism. The author is a Digg subscriber who wonders at the lack of women participating in the site.
One of the possible reasons given for the lack of women is that many of the stories are male centric. I checked today, and found about half the stories interesting and only one really being male centric. The one I found most interesting is the site with the babies swimming and not because I’m into the maternal thing, but because I found the photography to be really excellent (the site has since been taken down–see below). There was also a fun Google images game that reminds me of a Flickr game that Scott Reynen created.
Other reasons the author gives have to do with sexism, racism, and homophobia in the comments, as well as objectification of women. She has a couple of suggestions, one of which–get more women involved in the development of the site and how it’s architected–I can get behind completely. By women, I mean women in technology–not marketing, not human resources.
What was said about Digg could be same about Slashdot, as well as the sites like Techmeme, Tailrank, and Megite: it’s rare for a female voice to be heard in any of these environments.
I can agree with some of the author’s opinions, but not all. Objectification of women is an issue, but I think the idea that women can’t go online and express a strong opinion without getting sexual and violent threats has been badly overplayed lately. Is it a problem? Yes, but not as pervasive as others. I think women’s biggest problem is we’re not heard, or when we are, not always given equal respect. There’s few things that will discourage a person more than feeling like we’re not heard, and I include getting dismissive and demeaning responses in the ‘not being heard’ category.
Then there is the question: are women as interested? I find sites like Digg and Slashdot to be occasionally interesting, I tip into Metafilter from time to time, I rarely read mailing lists, and only read the tech sheets once a day to see what the artificially inflated stories are. I just have better uses of my time. Now, I don’t know if I’m representative of women (or older techs) or not–all I can do is give anecdotal data.
Regardless, it’s a thoughtful, well researched, and objectively detailed writing and I’ll do my little bit to try and get this on to the tech sheets.
The Academic Pointillism post has been dugg.
The item with the swimming babies does provide a good demonstration for Academic Pointillism’s point: in the comment thread, cries of child porn soon rang out. These were no more porn than the pictures of my cat. They were beautiful photographs.