Hot on the heels of our two women bloggers sessions at the Brandon Hall conference, Janet Clarey points out that Zaid's list of 25 Great Edublogs features only three women--Cathy Moore (who joined us in our women who blog workshops), Jane Hart and Patricia Donaghy. Janet rightly notes that given the large number of female edubloggers, it is interesting that only three would make Zaid's list.
Zaid's response (in comments on Janet's blog) was also interesting and instructive:
To be honest, when I selected the 25 edubloggers, I didn’t consider race, age, gender, religion, etc.
I simply shared 25 EduBloggers that I follow and recommend to others. Or more specifically, educators that I believe have expertise in different areas of learning, which readers could benefit a lot from.
Perhaps, I like to read thoughts be older educators, but that has nothing to with their gender or skin color. It is probably my attraction to what they say, what they have to share, and how they articulate their ideas and thoughts. I suppose their long experience in the field of education (or learning) plays a role of attraction.
However, perhaps the main reason I have not included more women in the list, is that I have yet to discover that many women edubloggers that have attracted my deep attention and learning.
Though, that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist (surely do!), but I have yet to discover them.
In fairness to Zaid, it isn't just his list that is dominated by men. Just about any list I've seen of "top" edubloggers includes more men than women.
This was one of the big issues we discussed in our Brandon Hall sessions (which also included some other fabulous female bloggers, Christine Martell and Emma King). Frankly, we struggled to understand how in a field that is at least 50% female and where so many women are in fact blogging, that men still seem to dominate any list of edubloggers. (And let's not even get into the lack of racial diversity!)
One factor I suspect plays a role here is the issue of authority and credibility. From my observations, the bloggers who are most linked to (and therefore more noticeable) tend to be those who write with authority and stick primarily to facts and more "logical" discussions. They are making arguments or sharing resources or commenting on someone else's arguments or resources and generally sounding the way we seem to expect experts to sound. These bloggers, from what I see, tend to be primarily men, although some women (like the three on Zaid's list) also blog this way too.
This "voice" or "tone" or whatever you want to call it is different than the one that many women bloggers seem to have. In general, I've observed that women bloggers tend to be more "personal" in their posts, for lack of a better word. They are more likely to mention their children or issues about their home lives. They may relate more personal stories, like about their daughter's driving lessons or experiences in a semester abroad. They are also more likely to express doubt about issues or to wonder if their opinions are "correct" or accurate.They may also be more revealing about their "short-comings."
This does not, in my mind, make these women less authoritative. It's just that they may SOUND less "expert" because we're accustomed to a certain "tone" from experts and many women bloggers don't communicate that same tone. I know that for myself, while I certainly want to communicate credibility and competence, I also believe that a certain amount of humility, uncertainty and "wholeness" should make me more trustworthy, not less so.
Related to this, Janet pointed out in both of our Brandon Hall sessions that men tend to write posts that include more links to other posts, while women tend to write more "original' content--that is, to write more of their own thoughts and observations as opposed to commenting on and pulling together links to other bloggers. This tends to create a higher profile for men in the blogosphere because they're quite literally creating an "old boy's network"--right in front of our eyes!
This is nothing against male bloggers--I personally think that this is just off-line behavior being more visible online--the old "men are more transactional and women are more relational" thing. Let me be clear, too, that I'm talking in general here--you can always find exceptions to the two styles I'm mentioning. And I also think that women probably feed into it. For example, I'd ask how many women bloggers have more males than females in their feed readers? I probably have to plead guilty to that one myself.
I do think that once the issue is raised, though, we need to start asking ourselves some questions about homophily and how we may need to expand our reach by inviting a more diverse set of bloggers into our lives. I would add to this that I don't just mean more female edubloggers, but also more bloggers of color (something Rosetta Thurman continually champions) and bloggers from other countries and who write from different assumptions than our own. If we find ourselves too often saying "I AGREE," then we may need to expand our horizons here.
I also believe we need to do something on a larger scale to more systematically address this issue. At Brandon Hall, we discussed mentoring and encouraging women and minorities to blog more. We also wanted to find ways we could better integrate their voices into the echelons of the experts. Personally I don't want to have separate lists because I think this doesn't address the larger issue. It just creates a two-tier sort of system that doesn't do anyone any favors.
At any rate, these are a few of my thoughts on the subject. I'm curious to hear what you have to say. Do you see this as an issue? If so, why do you think women and minorities don't tend to make the Top Blogger lists in our space? Should we be doing something about that? What do we need to do?
Comments and blog responses most welcome.