A New York Times article about gender imbalance in Wikipedia contributions prompted us here at Arcade to think about gender dynamics among our contributors and commenters. After compiling some statistics, listed here in a Harper's Index-type format, the results are generally expected though some are surprising.
Number of blog posts by men from 12/1/10-2/1/11: 39
Number of blog posts by women during the same period: 8
Number of comments by men: 116
Number of comments by women: 28
Average number of comments if a post is authored by a man: 2.8
Average number of comments if a post is authored by a woman: 4.3
Ratio of comments by women to comments by men if a post is authored by a man: 1/5
Ratio of comments by women to comments by men if a post is authored by a woman: 2/5
So to expand even more, judging from the limited sample of the last two months, we're at about 75%/25% in terms of the ratio of contributions from men to women and 80%/20% in terms of comments. That's a bit better than Wikipedia's 85%/15%, though not by much. This despite an ongoing effort to invite more women contributors.
One thing that surprises me is that contrary to my own intuition before I compiled the statistics, the average number of comments to female-authored posts is actually higher than to male-authored posts. But this may be seen as a misleading statistic given that women post much less frequently. A more relevant correlation, which is harder to capture in statistics, is that posts dealing with "real world" issues within the humanities such as MLA, the SUNY situation, or the Google Ngram Viewer, seem to provoke more comments.
Also, the fact that women comment more on articles by other women may be an indication that women flock to other women's posts, though it may also just be that the author herself is more likely to comment on her own posts to respond to other people's comments.
So what should we make of all this? I'm interested in your opinions. Why do women contributors post less frequently? Why do women comment less?
I have my own theories, but I hesitate to offer them because I am extremely uncertain of my expertise and only offer my opinion when there is absolutely no risk of a mistake, and even then I always qualify. I would also like to apologize in advance for possible errors in the data, since my brain tends to liquify in the face of numbers.
Finally, a more serious caveat: my determinations of male and female in this context are based on my own assumptions (name, photograph, and other identifiers), and it's definitely possible that I've made mistakes in classification.