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What are the statistics regarding gender of users at this site? I may be mistaken, but I suspect it is possibly more males than females and I am not sure that is typical.

This question came to mind as I was meditating on another question regarding who are professionals that we want to participate and how do we attract them.

If women are the primary participants in other parenting sites, yet are not as involved here, perhaps we can gain insight into:

  1. Why is this site more attractive to men/fathers?
  2. Are there any characteristics that are unattractive to women/mother's about this site?
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No, the gender ratio here is not representative of other parenting websites.

Gender is not part of the user profile page, so we don't have gender statistics. But I think your suspicion is correct: There is an unusually high number of men on this parenting site, compared to other parenting sites. I believe that the main reason for the unusual male majority on this site is the IT-based origin of the Q&A platform on which parenting is built. Let me explain:

Parenting is a site in the StackExchange network, which was originally created for software developers and other computer folks. It quickly became evident that the method of these computer-oriented sites was very effective in general and not exclusively for IT stuff, so Area51 was formed as a place to propose other areas where the same method can be applied.

Naturally, most users who know about this are those people who know about the earliest IT sites, so that is the reason for the male majority. There are now proposals and sites on a wide range of topics, from gardening to fitness to parenting and more. These are showing up in Google searches and getting new non-IT users from all over the Internet. But the first users were IT people.

Once the network grows into more topics, and those topics have many users, then the current IT-bias will fade away. If we look really long-term we might even see a that each site approaches those demographic patterns that are common for other websites on each topic. That could mean a female majority on this parenting site, just as is the case on any other parenting site.

  • Thank you for the clarifying information. I think it wisdom to recognize that the culture of this site is attractive to males and for the same reasons may be less appealing to females. Since there is no format for gathering this data or addressing this topic it is a mute point, but perhaps worthy of considering in our responses and comments. – Marie Hendrix Aug 2 '11 at 10:57
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    @Marie I'd like to understand what is bothering you? Is there anything in particular you can point to? If you could meet me in the chat room it would be most useful. These comments aren't meant for discussions. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 2 '11 at 11:26
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    @Marie You asked "Are there any characteristics that are unattractive to women/mother's about this site?", yet you seem to be answering that question in the comment above. Do you feel that this site is less appealing to females? If so, could you elaborate on why? – user420 Aug 2 '11 at 12:29
  • @Torben interesting choice of words. I am not "bothered". I pursue excellence in all I do and my participation in SE is no exception. I truly was sharing my thoughts about increasing the participation of professionals. After years of teaching marriage seminars, I am keenly aware of the differences in the thinking of males vs. females. That thought led to my comment. – Marie Hendrix Aug 2 '11 at 23:23
  • @ Beofett I was not consciously making an effort to answer the question. I cannot speak for other women. Yet, I was wondering if there is a more competitive, confrontational culture (usually valued by men) and less nurturing chatty atmosphere (often attractive to females). Not that one is better or worse, just different. Perhaps my thoughts are unreasonable. But they were, just a thought. I was hoping other women would give their thoughts. Sorry, I've never participated in a chat room. Unfamiliar territory for me. – Marie Hendrix Aug 2 '11 at 23:30
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    @Marie I think those are certainly good questions. You are absolutely correct that a chatty atmosphere is something that we strive to avoid on the main site (although we more than make up for it in the chat rooms!). That is an aspect of the site design that takes getting used to for both male and female contributors (I definitely fell into this category at first!). We do try to be as nurturing as possible, but that sometimes doesn't come across so well in the question/answer portion of our format. The chat room, by the way, is generally very informal. Feel free to hop in and ask for help! – user420 Aug 3 '11 at 0:31
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    @Torben -- Well said, and I think you hit the nail on the head. The network at large has a male bias which the expansions should help to "correct" / alter over time. That said, I find Parenting.SE interesting because of how many male respondents we have. Fathers' perspectives are equally valid as mothers'. :) – Aarthi Aug 5 '11 at 17:21
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    @Aarthi -- I completely agree. I've glanced at some other advice boards for parenting advice but never felt interested in contributing because to me they seemed to carry a heavy female bias that didn't encourage involvement by fathers. There are plenty of female leaning parenting resources, very few male ones that I'm aware of, but this site seems to make a comfortable environment for askers and answerers of either gender. I for one wandered over here from stackoverflow.com though Area51, so it's less a reflection of a discouraging "culture" than how people are finding their way over here. – sXe Sep 23 '11 at 21:00
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    @MarieHendrix, have you ever looked at Moms4Mom? It is the Yin to parenting's Yang - even though it was also born out of SE (1.0), they managed to get the chatty/cosy/nurturing (and - I believe - predominantly female) culture, which makes it feel a lot 'safer' and friendly. – Benjol Jan 9 '12 at 11:30
  • Eight years later... Did these predictions occur? – David Aug 5 '19 at 13:46
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Speaking as a woman, mother, and Stack Exchange employee:

  1. Why is this site more attractive to men/fathers?

    It isn't.

    It is true that the user base it initially drew from is primarily male, but that's a result of programmers and computer professionals being primarily men. There's nothing SE can do about those particular demographic statistics, sadly. And when the audience you draw from is mostly male, then, all other things taken into account, you're going to get mostly men.

  2. Are there any characteristics that are unattractive to women/mother's about this site?

    No.


However

Your comments, such as

the culture of this site is attractive to males and for the same reasons may be less appealing to females

and

I was wondering if there is a more competitive, confrontational culture (usually valued by men) and less nurturing chatty atmosphere (often attractive to females)

appear to contain some assumptions that not everyone might agree are valid. In particular, I have trouble with the either/or viewpoint they present.

And your comment about

I truly was sharing my thoughts about increasing the participation of professionals.

claims that an increase in the number of users with female names would increase the participation of "professionals." I think it's a very long jump to that conclusion.


Over the years, one of the things we have gotten feedback about is that women like the SE platform because they aren't required/expected to fit into traditional roles here. If they choose, they can use a pseudonym or be completely anonymous. They don't get hit on or harassed, as we don't have the "social" aspect that so many forums and discussion groups require.

They can come in, get their question answered (and maybe answer a question or two), and then leave without being perceived as rude. There's no need to sit and have lengthy heart-to-hearts when there are already too few hours in the day.

Yes, it's a different type of site from 99% of the parenting sites out there—and that's a good thing. The world doesn't need one more copycat. And as all people are unique individuals, there will be men who prefer the more chatty sites, and women that prefer the more "have a question/get an answer" sites. No one site can suit everyone; it's nice to have a site like this for those—regardless of gender—who prefer this platform.

  • thank you for sharing your opinion. Since this is the only parenting site that I participate in, I apparently am drawn to the uniqueness characteristics you have detailed above. I have NEVER voiced dissatisfaction in any of my posts. – Marie Hendrix Aug 4 '11 at 1:10
  • I believe that you are the one that has made "a very long jump" to YOUR conclusion. In my mind mapping process, my thoughts diverged to the many aspects of increasing participation in any site, broadening the original question as I pursed possibilities for ALL individuals not just professionals. I only gave 2 possible thoughts because I was asked for EXAMPLES. I chose to offer ideas as a starting point & never intended for them to be them to be comprehensive. I'm not chatty (don't even do chat rooms). I do appreciate your perspective. (Sorry for the double post. I'm not techy and goofed). – Marie Hendrix Aug 4 '11 at 1:38
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I know this question is, like, a year old, but I felt like responding anyway.

Compared to other parenting message boards I have been a member of, I find Parenting MUCH more laid-back and accepting of others viewpoints. Every "mommy board" I've ever been on I've ultimately wound up leaving because of the backbiting, name-calling, and down-right hatefulness that seems to inevitably permeate the group. Granted that most of these boards are initially comprised of pregnant women, but once the babies are born the arguments begin about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding/vaccinating vs. not vaccinating/co-sleeping vs. not co-sleeping etc., etc. All arguments seem to devolve into an attempt for everyone involved to try to prove what a good mother they are, and what is supposed to be a support group to help new moms (or old ones for that matter) breeds only more dissension.

Reading the comments to questions posted here is more like talking to my husband about something. I enjoy getting the male perspective on some parenting topics (something frequently missing from other parenting boards), I appreciate the ability of the majority of the posters to respect that other people have differing opinions from their own, and the emphasis placed on supporting one's answer with outside resources. It's not that women are incapable of doing these things, but perhaps women who are immediately postpartum find it slightly more difficult. This also doesn't mean that every woman who joins those type of message boards has my experience, but I can tell you that I've used three different boards at three different times and had the same experience at all three.

Having said that, there are some aspects of the mommy boards that I do miss sometimes--primarily the chatty nature of the boards themselves, and the freedom to share with others. I would never find a post on here from a parent whose child was just diagnosed with cancer unless it was to ask a specific question, whereas on other parenting boards you might find a post (or many) that says, "My son was diagnosed with xxx cancer and I just really need some support right now", for example. I do not, however, view the lack of warm-fuzzies as a negative, personally. It is more important to me, at this point in my parenting life, to have a community that doesn't attack people for their opinions/beliefs than it is to have one to act as a support group.

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    These are good insights! I think that the risk of getting downvotes keeps people just a little more objective and less toxic (in sports they say go for the ball and not for the opponent). For the chatty nature one only needs to visit the Parenting Chat - it's used for a lot of off-topic and simply non-question stuff. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 8 '12 at 10:49
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    I've seen the exact same thing on other parenting sites, which is why I rarely frequent them. – Grant Aug 9 '12 at 1:19
  • I agree whole-heartedly. – balanced mama Dec 8 '12 at 5:11
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We don't really have a good way to answer that, as the system doesn't collect that data.

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It's true that there are more men here than on most parenting forums or sites. But this is a bit like going into a library in Ohio and noticing there are hardly any French tourists in it, and wondering what to do that will make the library more Francophone friendly. It's not about the library, right? It's about the paucity of French tourists throughout Ohio. Nothing that library does or doesn't do will do much about the number of French tourists they get. Now, the propotion of women in the stack exchange sites is higher than the proportion of French tourists in Ohio, of course: I was exaggerating to make a point. And the point is there is no evidence to suggest that the women who are part of the overall stack exchange family bump into this site and reel away in disgust, nor that women who know nothing about stack exchange and happen to find this site don't like it. All you have is a bolus of men who are happily contributing and that's a good thing. No-one is being drowned out or pushed away.

The particular infrastructure of the site - answers must be answers, not chitchat, and are displayed in vote order rather than as a conversation - appeals to a certain kind of mind, one that often ends up in IT. I don't think it has a gender affinity. I see nothing about the stack exchange system that repels or discourages women, just a historical fluke that more men than women are in the "heard of it" club. Over time, traffic will come from search engines, not from having heard of stack exchange, and then you should expect to see a demographic shift.

If it's important to you to attract more women here, the best thing to do is promote the site, especially in contexts that are rich in women. Blog about it. Include links to great questions and answers (use the "share" link on each question or answer so you can earn badges.) Tweet questions. Share them on Facebook. Tell your friends at playgroup or in the park. Spread the word!

  • I've seen a lot of older-than-5-years posts expecting the number of females to increase over time. Did that happen? – David Aug 5 '19 at 13:51

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