RE: This is interesting...

Subject: RE: This is interesting...
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2007 13:44:05 -0600

I tried to check out the Gender Genie yesterday, but my browser hung
trying to load the page. Thanks to Laura Lemay for a good overview of
it. She wrote:

> If you put non-fiction into the Gender Genie -- and put tech writing
> into it specifically -- it should come as no surprise that the
> algorithm comes up with a "male" answer. We write about things in
> tech writing. We don't use personal pronouns. According to the
> algoritm, tech writing is probably going to come out inherently
> "male." That's just the silly algorithm. That's just a game on the
> web. It is not an anti-feminist statement.

Makes sense to me.

Emily Berk asked a whole bunch of questions about successful writers,
and I must admit I can't come up with answers off the top of my head for
most of them. But I think I can answer one pretty confidently:

> Name a category of writing (fiction or non), in which women
> seem to predominate -- is it magazines of the Ladies Home
> Journal variety?

No, it's technical writing. For the nearly 20 years I've been in this
profession, males have been clearly in the minority. The Rocky Mountain
STC chapter 2005 salary survey
( reported female tech
writers outnumbering males by better than two to one. Maybe the
disparity is less in some places, but I'll bet it's not that much less.

(There are also far more female sci-fi and mystery writers than you'd
guess, but many of them use a male nom de plume or, like C.J. Cherrye,
an ambiguous name.)

Emily also wrote:

> SAT scores are all well and good. But I don't think that
> even the ETS claims to be testing for good writing. (Even
> with their newly added essay portion...)

There's no question that, _on average_, males score higher on the math
component and females score higher on the verbal component. There's also
no question that higher verbal scores correlate with better
communication skills. There are actual physical differences (visible in
PET scans) that correlate with these verbal/math score differences; they
don't _determine_ whether you'll become a good communicator, but they
can _predispose_ you to do so.

In the immortal words of Steve Martin, "Some people have a way with
words; some people... not have way." Females are _more likely_ to be
found in the former category; males are _more likely_ to be found in the

Of course, I'm talking averages and percentages, and I hope we all
remember to evaluate individuals as individuals, not as generic group

For instance, despite my estrogen deficiency, I can, like, you know ...
say stuff OK. ;-)


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Re: This is interesting...: From: Laura Lemay

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