Gender bias in Cyberspace (long)

Subject: Gender bias in Cyberspace (long)
From: Gretchen Toth <glt -at- ICONOVEX -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 13:56:11 -0600

I just finished reading an article, 'Cyberspace remains
a masculine environment' in the Mpls Star Trib and was
suprised by some of the comments and rationale in the

This could rapidly spawn a discussion beyond that
of technical communication, so I have tried to focus
my post with some questions after pieces I quoted from
the article.

The first line in the article:
"Cyberspace is inhospitable to women."

Other gems:
"[says a psych professor from St. Olaf College] Even online,
men are typically extroverted and forceful communicators
and women are generally reticent."

Argh. I can't believe the reporter even quoted this next

"[Michael Koppelman, president of Bitstream Underground of
Mpls says] In general, men are more extroverted online.
Because men are horny, women tend to get bombarded...
especially if they use female names."

"Huff's [the St. Olaf prof] research on sex bias in
educational sofware found that designers created 'programs
written...with only boys in mind.' By assuming that girls
will make do with the same programs that boys enjoy, they
make 'the computer more alluring to boys than it is to

"[Sherry Turkle, MIT sociology prof, says] point-
and-click software replaces...Unix and Pascal, it makes
computers more accessible to the many women who are more
comfortable with a tinkering, experimental learning

"[Turkle further says]...But [women] get a lot more
considerate attention than they do when they log on as
men. Women are offered a lot more help in these

1. Do you feel a gender bias exists in the Internet
resources you use a technical communicator?

Are there areas that seem to be directed towards one
gender, somehow, either in the material or in the way
the material is presented?

2. Do differences exist between the way men and women learn
and use [insert your product here, my happens to be
computer software] that we can justify generalization as
this article did? I'd rather look at learning styles
that span both sexes.

I mentioned my surprise to a co-worker and he believes
that much of the argument in the article is based on
whatever study it was that tried to demonstrate that
women did not pursue the science and math areas as
much as men and did not perform as well in these
areas, among other things. (Correct me and elaborate
as needed) When the study was finally evaluated, it
was found that SAT scores were very similar across
sexes, that women had a higher college graduation
rate and more went on to college, etc., etc.
His final point being-- many reports addressing gender
bias still use this study as a base for their arguments.


Gretchen L. Toth
Technical Writer
The Iconovex Corporation
gretchen -dot- toth -at- iconovex -dot- com

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