Sign up for the Free eLearning Guild Webinar on eLearning 2.0
The Social Media Game--Remixed and Some Comments

Gender and Blogging and Top 25 Lists, Oh My!

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. 


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I struggle with this idea, not only when it comes to blogging, but also educational technology speakers (or even education speakers in general). Why are women under represented? Are we not putting ourselves out there? I'm not sure if it is tone, or if it really has to do with the "famous factor." I think it goes hand in hand with the blogs to read. So maybe it isn't that they don't exist, it is just that they are not promoting themselves enough?

Promotion is definitely an issue, Bethany--I'm not sure that women are as comfortable with doing it as men may be. And you're right that it also relates to issues like being a speaker at conferences, participating in writing papers, etc.

Question - Globally if we examined K12 sector surely it's more than 50 % of teachers are women? Then if you looked at higher positions within the schools it is mostly dominated by men?

Don't think being personal is the difference since there are highly ranked male and female edubloggers who share personal information with their readers.

But how about this 'food for thought'? Which gender provide the greatest mentoring, assistance to others and runs many of the global projects that connect people? Most the global projects in education I can think of are organised and managed by women. Check out the ratio of classroom 2.0 hosts in terms of gender.

I'm not a fan of lists especially lists that have a really short number on them and are based on one person's preferred writing style. If anything I would rather see a long list of bloggers based on technorati ranking above 100 except that technorati is not well so not sure that would be accurate. Besides how would you truly make sure that you had found all the blogs to list?

Sue, I think your measure of "success" being around mentorship, hosting collaborative projects, etc. is an interesting one that probably deserves more discussion. It gets at the idea that there are obviously different ways of evaluating value that we may not be getting at as much.

The Technorati option isn't a good one to me because Technorati sucks lately in terms of keeping things up to date, etc. Even when I ping manually, I can't get it to update my blog, so I don't trust the stats at all.

I was totally caught off guard last week when you first raised the question of women bloggers as I did not think of there being a difference in Women's writing (blogging) style. In fact, my RSS feeds are split down the middle between men and women (I did a quick review).

Perhaps such things as "top 25" which then propagate more attention, are (as you pointed out) the more traditional way of "marketing" yourself that makes it difficult for those who aren't used doing that self promotion to create a larger readership.

I personally don't like the blogs that just pass on information (I can google search myself), but longer blogs mean more time to read through. It would be interesting to see the length of the top 25 and then take the list (I think it was Cathy Moore) of top female edubloggers and see if they have longer blogs.

I am really surprised that Vicki Davis was not on the list as I still go back to her blog regularly to get technical tips. Also, is it possible that there are less women in elearning (higher ed and corporate learning), because these organizations draw from a technical background? Is it possible, also, that there is a bias towards the K-12 teacher as not being an "expert"?

To be honest, this old, white male rarely thinks about gender in viewing blogs...but I know others do. There may be some correlation between top bloggers and top Twitterer's (if that is a word). Jane Hart's list this weekend of top educators to follow on Twitter was only 32% female. I just reviewed my own Google Reader and it is 38% female for the 45 blogs I follow. Now both of those are better than the 12% you mentioned, but one there time to attack the glass ceiling and blog simultaneously?

I think it'd be interesting to see if any of the lists use a methodology (rather than preference). Do bloggers that may be deserving of 'top' whatever effectively exploit the system? I recall one edublogger trolling for votes for a past list. Others may be exploiting the system through linking, etc. Perhaps we (women and the other under represented) need to learn and play a game if we want to be visible so as to raise our profile for workshops, speeches, quotes, etc.

Virginia, you bring up a lot of interesting questions about the issue that may be contributing to the situation. In particular in the K-12 sector, it seems that most of the women who blog are classroom teachers, while many of the male "experts" are not necessarily down in the trenches--I wonder if this contributes to them being perceived as more expert (assuming that's what's going on).

Britt--I hope there's enough time to both attack the glass ceiling and blog, preferably by using our blogs as a way to discuss and potentially address some of these issues. I think that to first do something about an issue, you have to acknowledge that it exists and then you can formulate potential strategies for making changes. To me, one of the beauties of blogging is that it does open us up for greater collective discussion and action, although we have to figure out the best ways to move constructively through that kind of discussion.

Janet--an excellent point that part of the issue may be related to how well women end up promoting themselves. I know that for me, that's always a challenge and a struggle, in part because of how I was socialized and in part because I'm naturally shy. Every time I do something that feels self-promotional, I do so with an inward cringe. I'm trying to get over that, but it's oh so difficult!

Michele – I agree promotion is an issue. Generally speaking I believe men are far more comfortable with self-promotion than women are. I recall reading a study a few years ago done by isrsurvey that showed that women are far less comfortable with self-promotion and it comes more naturally for men. Women tend to value relationship building, teamwork, and other collaborative efforts where as men are generally more concerned with personal gain and success. Although the study was not related specifically to the blog world I do believe the results do apply.

I liked your point about different writing styles and wonder if, in a blind review, people could tell the gender of the poster. (Does my writing style in this comment tell you I am female?)

I am writing for eLearn Magazine about the top women in e-learning, inspired by Forbes Magazine's top 100 women list - but have yet to receive many suggestions. Clark Quinn suggested Allison Rossett, Ellen Wagner, and Patti Shank. There's Diana Laurillard, of course. And Jane Hart and Gilly Salmon. I have a few others, but please chime in with your suggestions.

Lisa, I'd suggest Ruth Clark for your list. Her research and publications have done a lot to help identify effective instructional techniques for elearning.

I'm way past the due date to comment here, but I wanted to say that lists are useful because they are discoverable. There are many who are only putting their toe in to test the water and lists make it easier.

Also this conversation and the thread on top women in e-learning made me think about online spaces. On one hand I thought I didn't have anything to offer because I'm not "in" the space. On the other hand I read this blog and recommend it, along with Beth's blog, and apophenia, Danah Boyd's blog. What is and isn't in the Edublogosphere isn't really so fixed.

When I first discovered blogs I discovered that categories are hard to pin down when on a list of political blogs I saw so many knitting blogs. Knitting blogs aren't just about knitting or there wouldn't be the millions of them there are.

John, you make a good point that what is and isn't in the edublogosphere isn't fixed and many of us span multiple blogospheres. Not easy to categorize. . .

As a fan of blogging myself my techniques are a little different than most females. I enjoy the coding end of it as much as the posting. When getting stuck on something to post about I will sometimes reorganize my blog to the point where the navigation bars are in new places.

There aren't a large number of females who like coding. Even in College there are maybe only three girls at the most in a c++ class. It gets lonely.

The comments to this entry are closed.