Female Readership: Why It's So Low, and How Can We Change That?by Derek Wilson on September 2, 2008 3:00 AM EST
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You know what? We are severely lacking in female perspective here at AnandTech.
Yes we do have some female readers. But we don't have as many as we would like, and no we do not believe the stuff we talk about here is inherently gender biased. While we do provide information that we believe is as accurate and informative as we can, perhaps there is a reason we don't have as many women who are regulars here.
Women are a big part of computing from the ground up. And we aren't just talking about today: look all the way back to the beginning of computational logic and the invention of the transistor and you will find women integral in evolution of all the technology we talk about here. There is no fundamental reason women shouldn't be interested in our articles as both women and men are interested in: getting the most value out of their purchases, living a full and fulfilled life by taking advantage of technology, and understanding why they should care about technology and the issues surrounding it in today's world.
So why is it that our readership is so hugely male?
I utterly reject the idea that women can't understand the material we cover. I happen to know women who are much more intelligent than myself and could either design hardware or code circles around me. While my pride and ego could still probably use a little adjustment, I'm not so diluted as to believe that gender, race or any other broad genetic stoke makes it so that people just can't understand technology or computing.
Again, if it isn't a question of applicability or capability, then why don't more women read our articles?
I think there are a few factors at work: our reliance on a broad knowledge base as a prerequisite to understanding our articles, societal pressures and preconditioning, and the presentation of the material.
Despite the fact that there is no inherent difference that makes women less able to know the math and science behind the hardware we talk about, it is a fact that fewer women currently have the background required to gain any useful information from some of our more technical articles. I'm going to go ahead and point a finger at our failing effort at education in this country and put a good amount of burden there. Partly because I think it's absolutely true and partly because I'm human and tend toward shifting some of the blame away from myself where possible :-)
While we do try to use analogies, metaphors and other tools to relate complicated subject matter in an understandable way, we just can't go back to the beginning for every article and explain everything from the ground up. That would make every article like 2000% longer and would be incredibly boring to our core audience of people who already know many of the basics.
I am looking into trying to write a series of introductions to topics like 3D graphics, CPU architecture, etc. so that we have references we can point people back to and to provide more people with easy access to the information that will help keep their eyes from glazing over when they read our latest GPU architecture article. I'm not sure how much interest there is in this right now, so let me know if you think this is a good or bad idea. It takes a lot of work to put together primers like this, especially if I want to do them well and in as accessible a manner as possible.
Beyond education, we have to look at our culture and society. I'm not a big fan of group identity in any form, but whether we like it or not our culture does play a role in who we are. I'd say that culture has a much larger impact than many genetic properties because it is our society that takes these properties and starts turning them into things they are not.
That doesn't mean that we aren't different and that genetics don't play a role in how we think, how we behave, and who we are. Genetics and environment both have parts to play, but misunderstanding things and then amplifying those misunderstandings causes huge problems.
Some of the reason more women may not be involved in our field is cultural. Like it or not, some places in our country still push men and women in to different roles regardless of the individual's talents and desires. But it goes beyond that. It is a self feeding cycle. Fewer women than men are in technology, and because of this fewer women than might other wise try aren't interested in exploring the field.
Additionally, when we combine this issue with education, it gets even worse. While there is no difference in the potential mental capability of men and women, genetics does seem to play a role in the way people best learn things (even if we don't completely understand that role). Our educational system does not do a good job at all of offering different teaching styles to people who learn in different ways. For whatever reason, math and sciences tend to be taught in ways that are more accessible to men than women. When this causes women to perform less well in general or be less interested in pursuing certain subjects, it tends to be taken out of context in our culture to mean that women aren't as able as men in this area. Which is ridiculous.
It all comes down to our last point: presentation. We need to do a better job of reaching women by refining our approach to presenting the material. Just like in schools, we need to recognize that our audience should not be people who already sort of get what we are talking about but everyone who could potentially want to understand the point of what we are saying. We need to start exploring alternate structures for our articles and alternate types of tests and demonstrations to show the things that we already know both men and women want.
We need to do a better job of showing where the value is in technology and not just that something is a better value than something else, but whether that increase in value is worth the money. We must demonstrate the impact technology can have on people of all interests (rather than just a highly framerate sensitive gamer audience). We have got to help everyone understand why they should care about technology and all the societal and political issues that surround it, because cultivating a desire for knowledge by showing a personal impact is a huge part of what motivates people to learn more about any given subject.
That last bit is key: we need to reach out and show people how much better their lives can be when computers and technology are properly used in order to get them interested in better understanding the current and future capabilities of hardware and technology.
Luckily this is also a sort of differential equation: the more people we get interested in technology, the more people will want to understand it. The more people understand technology, the more they'll be able to gain from reading our articles. And this will hopefully be good for everyone.
But ... I'm not a woman, and we don't have any on staff. Of course, we all know women. We need to start reaching out more and trying to figure out what they want to know about and how we can relate technology and hardware architecture back to that. How do they desire technology to impact their lives. How do we integrate that into what we write about at AnandTech.
So we've identified a problem. Sometimes this is the hardest part (and some times it is not). We know that we need to reach out in different ways to present our articles as relevant not only to women, but to all people with varied interest. But we need to know how.
And we would love your feedback. We need input. We need input from everyone, not just women (though I would love to see a lot of women respond). While it is easy to see the statistics with women, we really want to reach everyone. We need to show everyone why computers and technology are more important than just as ego boosters for people who build the biggest baddest and fastest machine.
The current state and the future of technology will have a huge impact on every life on this planet. The lifestyle and activities the hardware we write about enable are universally engaging. Getting people excited about that and making the science behind the technology interesting and accessible to everyone is where we want to go.
And the best place to go for understanding is to the source. Let us know what helps you learn. Should we add more visuals, audio or other media? Do we need to approach things in ways that aren't just top-down? What kinds of analogies and metaphors really help understanding? What does interest you about technology? What needs to be made easier in your life?
Answers to these questions will go a long way to helping us address the issues we know we have in reaching out to people who could and would be interested in computer hardware but haven't yet had the interest or the tools to start learning about it. We're listening, let us know what you think.