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Kimberly Blessing Hi, my name is Kimberly Blessing. I'm a computer scientist, Web developer, standards evangelist, feminist, and geek. This is where I write about life, the Web, technology, women's issues, and whatever else comes to mind.

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More thoughts on gender in the Web world

Wow. This whole gender diversity thing really took off, but I wonder if it’ll continue, or if it’s dying. If you haven’t gotten in on it yet, read Virginia DeBolt’s summary at BlogHer. Some opinions I’ve enjoyed on this topic come from:

I also thought more about Eric Meyer’s comment about publishing, and it took me back to the publish or perish concerns that many scientists and researchers have. Am I a woman scientist? pointed to this paper, which, while relating to the biological sciences, reiterates what I’ve learned about academic paper publishing both in general and in the computer science field.

There is a clear difference between men and women in science with regard to the quantity of their research output. On average, males publish more papers than their female counterparts, a trend that is consistent across scientific disciplines and exists even when obvious mitigating factors are taken into consideration. The causes of this difference are mysterious … However, it may also be a consequence of social factors.

I believe that all of the above is true of publishing in the Web world.

The study also goes on to state that while women produce fewer papers, their papers are generally rated as being of better quality than those produced by men, and are more often cited in other research. I don’t want to extrapolate this particular statement and apply it to the Web world, but it’s something to think about.

Getting back to quantity, however… if the bulk of publications are produced by men, one might assume that the tendency to publish is more male than female. And thus arises another concern that I have — that, in order for women to gain more prominence in our field, we’re expecting them to behave like men. Is this fair? Is it right?

Robert Scoble said on Shelley’s blog that one has to learn to beg [for links] via email and/or face-to-face meetings… men do this far far more often than women do. I also took issue with this, because, again, the expectation is that women should do what men do to get noticed.

I know it’s been done already, but I’ll again ask all of the people involved in this ongoing conversation to to stop and think not about what women can do to get noticed or be seen as an expert, but what they can do to help identify, encourage, and support women. The confidence to ask for links or the opportunity to publish or speak may need to be socialized more with women first — you can’t just expect them to be told to do something in order to see change.

And I’ll ask the women out there to think about what we can be doing to help raise awareness of what we do as individuals, about what we contribute to the field, and how we should be promoting these things to the industry. What can we do to promote opportunities to contribute, what opportunities can we create for ourselves, and how do we foster this ongoing dialog?

While it was a man who helped to reignite this discussion, I ultimately think that women need to own it. I don’t want to say that we’ve all been happy to take a back seat and be content with what we’ve got, because I know that’s not true… but unless we continue to fuel this discussion, and unless we take ownership of steering it and educating others, we won’t see many gains made.

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