Essay:Gender and Sysops
I well understand that most of the numbers cited below are now out of date.
Originally, my purpose in composing this essay was simply to analyze gender ratios among RationalWikians, and I had planned to continually revise the numbers as they changed, rendering a dynamic and relevant analysis. Eventually, I was no longer content with just analysis, and the purpose of this essay changed to one of analyzing and advocating improvements in RationalWiki's gender ratios. As a persuasive essay, I consider it "finished". Consider all numbers cited to be accurate as of 20:31 (UTC), May 22, 2008. Any further updates to this essay will be in the Updates section. —Ed.
On most wikis, the ratio of women to men is very low. Uncyclopedia, which is proportionally slightly better than most other wikis, has approximately a 1:9 ratio of women to men. But the ratio of female administrators is closer to 1:6. Conservapedia, in spite of its distinctly anti-women's rights atmosphere, has a ratio of about 1:8. While these ratios may not sound particularly impressive, consider that the internet has always been a haven for young males, with females more often being the exception and not the rule, and wikis in particular, as they require an obsessive degree of dedication required to climb up in social status, much like in online video games.
On most wikis administrators are equivalent to management in a business. Management requires well-developed interpersonal skills, and in general women tend to have better interpersonal skills. This helps explain the comparatively higher ratio of women to men among sysops. This trend is reflected in real life—low and high-level managers tend to be women.
The "sysops as management" paradigm does not apply to RationalWiki. (Possibly, RationalWiki is too small to really need managers. Per Dunbar's number, with a population under 150, any one RationalWikian can still personally know everyone on the wiki, or at least meet and interact with every person at some point, rendering managers unnecessary. Above 150 contributors, however, managers would soon become necessary for the smooth operation of the wiki.)
RationalWiki's own paradigm is "sysops as janitors". Janitorial work is fundamentally different from management. In this model, sysopship is granted to anyone who demonstrates a certain degree of dedication to the site, often through vandal-fighting or doing tedious yet helpful tasks. As a result, many users who otherwise lack the highly developed interpersonal skills necessary in a managerial model are granted sysop powers as part of a janitorial model. (Icewedge would be the apotheosis of this trend. He is a regular editor, yet works quietly and unobtrusively, and eschews participation in RationalWiki's community.)
The janitorial model, however, erases the higher ratios of women. In this model, the ratio of female sysops more closely reflects the gender ratio among "regulars" on the wiki, which on RationalWiki is 1:12. The ratio of women to men among active sysops is approximately 1:17, worse than the overall user ratio. The ratio of females among bureacrats is 0:6.
Despite a culture that is free of any blatant and most subtle misogyny, we find that few women are drawn into RationalWiki's community. The ratio of females to males among regular (registered and active) users would be generously described as lackluster and the ratio of females to males among active sysops is practically sexist. The ratio of females to males among bureaucrats is outright criminal—there is not even one.
There are several possible reasons for this discrepancy between user and sysop ratios. As stated earlier, the janitorial model places a premium on tedious and otherwise thankless tasks, and it lacks the social value of the managerial model. Males are generally more inclined to excel at these aspects, resulting is a sysop gender ratio skewed against women.
Another possible factor behind these ratios is that many sysopships are granted on a whim by the bureaucrats (seemingly for their own amusement) to less-than-deserving users. Possibly due to a subconscious bias favoring their own gender—to be fair, this bias is present in both males and females—, these "demotions" are invariably given to males. Other people—again, always males—demand sysopship, and receive it (this behavior seems to amuse the bureaucrats, so it overlaps with the preceding example). These demotions implicitly demean all those whose work and devotion to the site actually merits demotion.
We can start to repair these gender ratios, and the behavior behind them, by enacting an informal affirmative action program. (Granted, there are simply not enough females among the regular users to even out the ratio among sysops, even if we "demoted" all of them. But it would still initiate much-needed progress in this area.)
For a start, we should sysop those users whose contributions merit demotion. Lyra Belaqua (for her work on various navboxes) and Eira (for her work on numerous articles) come to mind. Just as significant, if not more so, we should demote SusanG to bureaucrat. By virtue of the number and nature of her contributions, her dedication to the site, her social position in the RationalWiki community, and her excellent grasp of the more complex uses for wikicoding, no one else deserves bureaucratship more than her, and it is a crime that she is not already one.
These measures alone may not completely balance out RationalWiki's gender ratios among sysops and bureaucrats, and they do nothing to increase the ratio of women among the regular users, but it is a nudge in the right direction.
Soon after the above recommendations were issued, Human sysoped Lyra Belaqua and Eira, and bureacratized SusanG and Kels. This brought up the ratio of (self-identified) females to males among sysops toroughly 1:9, approaching Conservapedia's own gender ratio among sysops (as supplied earlier). This improved the female-to-male ratio among bureaucrats to 1:3, the largest improvement in gender ratios in RationalWiki history.
Shortly after this essay, RationalWiki began an unofficial practice of "demoting" anyone who isn't a vandal or troll. This brings the gender ratio among sysops more in line with the gender ratio of the general community. The egalitarian nature of this approach, far from rendering the measurement of sysop gender ratios pointless, now allows us to use gender ratios among sysops as a barometer for gender ratios of the site as a whole.
The ratio of (self-identified) females to males among active bureaucrats is 3:18.
Problems with data
Unfortunately, data for gender ratios among active sysops is incomplete—only 8 of the 14 known female sysops are even listed in the active users list. While manually checking their contributions (in order to ascertain their activity level) is still possible, a ratio of females to males among active sysops can still not be determined. Because the active users list limits itself to the 100 editors with the most edits, it does not accurately reflect the number of more casual users—those who have only a couple hundred edits or less, but are nonetheless "live" editors. Therefore, even if we were to tack on the number of known female sysops not listed, we would still have to ascertain the number of male active sysops in order to get an accurate ratio.
- 62 out of the 644 "active users" on Uncyclopedia are (self-identified as) females. 644 is the total number of "active users" as stated by Wikia. I arrived at the number of females by referencing Uncyclopedia's Category:Female users. 56 users are listed, accounting for redundant and non-userspace pages. I also added 6 users I knew were female but weren't listed, bringing the number up to 62.
- UN sysop list 8 out of the 54 admins on Uncyclopedia are (self-identified as) females.
- CP sysop list 3 of the 28 sysops on Conservapedia are (self-identified as) female.
- And what in exchange, less competence in math and science??? Oh come on. —Human
- oh please, women are just as capable of being competent in math and science... it's the patriarchal society that actively discourages us from pursuing those interests at all. If you want a real trait that men have that women don't due to biological reasons, then go with "men can click a button faster than women"... no, serious, it's true! --Eira
- With many exceptions, of course. Remember, this is only a very generalized trend.
- Icewedge edit rate, as of April 2008, was 1.9 edits per day, placing him in the "Active" category according to the Active users chart.
- Apologies to Icewedge
- Using the RationalWiki:Active users chart, we now the number of "active users" (for the purposes of this essay, "active" includes any member above "comatose") to be 91 (adding one user I know who is not on the list and referencing the list as of May 22, 2008). 7 of those included are (self-identified as) female, making a ratio of 1:12. For convenience, they are: Barbara Shack, Eira, Kels, Lily The Pink, Lyra Belaqua, Marghanita Laski, and SusanG.
- For the purposes of this essay, "active" means any member above "comatose" on the Active users chart. This eliminates 11 of the 46 standing sysops, making 35 active sysops on RationalWiki.
- List of sysops on RationalWiki. 2 out of the 35 active sysops on RationalWiki are (self-identified as) females, making a simplified ratio of 1:17.
- List of bureaucrats on RationalWiki. None of the 6 bureacrats is (self-identified as) female.
- The demotion of 85 25 151 22 is a prototypical case. He demanded and received sysopship despite Bohdan-esque levels of unproductivity.
- Because we seem to be incapable of any formal policies.
- The exact ratio of (self-identified) women to men among sysops being 2:17.
- 7 females out of 72 total sysops. (The seven are Eira, Francine, Kels, Lily The Pink, Proxima Centauri, Toast, and WaitingforGodot.) "Active" here describes any user graded "comatose" or above on RationalWiki:Active users.
- Three females out of a total of 21 active bureaucrats. The specific users are Kels, Toast and WaitingforGodot. "Active" in this sense defined as being graded "comatose" or above on RationalWiki:Active users
- The female sysops known to be active (meaning they have edited in the last two months) but not listed in RationalWiki:Active users are A Writer of Vaudevilles, Fortinbrass, Kallium, and LArron.