As a regular
contributor to osOpinion I get dozens of responses to my editorial
pieces. But, as of late, I cannot help but notice that virtually all
of them are coming from guys.
Although there are many women who work in computer-related
fields, it seems that technical matters that are being actively
discussed here are of little interest to them. I am sincerely
puzzled as to why this is the case.
It's not like there is a sign anywhere on this site that states
that this is a "Men Only" club. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
While there are still some entry barriers for women elsewhere, I
cannot think of anything that could possibly prevent anybody,
regardless of gender, from becoming an active participant on
osOpinion. What is commonly referred to as "the glass ceiling" is
pretty much non-existent in virtual communities, such as this one.
I have asked Kelly McNeill, the site's managing editor, if any
female enthusiasts have ever approached him with an editorial
submission. His response was that only a tiny percentage, somewhere
on the order of 2 percent of all the contributors, were indeed
What's more, even those that have contributed tended to deal
primarily with emotional aspects of working in the computer
industry, rather than with hard core technological issues per se.
Incidentally, the huge ratio of men to women is not unique to
osOpinion. For example, a couple of years ago, I was personally
conducting a survey of BeOS users and was surprised to discover that
less than 1 percent of those who responded were female. Once again,
I fail to see what could possibly discourage women from being
interested in BeOS.
There are, obviously, exceptions to every rule, and it was indeed
a female who recently won the top Guru Award as an Outstanding BeOS
The situation is roughly the same with other alternative
operating systems. For instance, this
report from a Linux Install Fest at the French University
mentions that only two women were participating. Yet, not everything
is lost, and I personally know a girl who writes for Maximum Linux.
However, any way you look at it, there is an enormous discrepancy
between the percentage of women in technical fields, which has been
in double digits for many years, and their willingness to
participate in technology-related discussions, which rarely goes
beyond single percentage points.
While the ratio
of men to women obtaining a bachelor's degree in computer and
information sciences is less than 3:1, the ratio among those who are
inclined to make themselves heard in public forums is more like
50:1. Any logical explanation for this phenomenon simply eludes me.
On the other hand, once we move away from the front lines of
computing, it becomes a little easier to find women in cyberspace.
But, even there the "Girl Power" is not absolute.
There is, for instance, a site called GirlGeeks.com which was,
surprisingly, co-founded by a guy. Or take a women's portal,
iVillage.com, where more than half of the management team is
comprised of guys. Furthermore, it's hard to imagine what
self-respecting man would work for Women.com, yet the company's
board of directors is predominantly male.
So, is it a Man's World after all, or are women simply not
interested in technology? I will leave this question open, and would
like to hear your opinions on this matter. And, hopefully, it won't
be just guys writing to me this time around…