The Value of Input from Women on TI Forums
This morning's NY Times has an intriguing article about the gender disparity on Wikipedia. It got me thinking, not for the first time, about a similar disparity on TI Discussion Forum. There seem to be far more men posting. Yet many of those whose posts I've most enjoyed over the years have been women. Some who had a real gift for articulating important ideas in the past are no longer part of the scene and I wondered why that might be.
Some excerpts from the article:
In 10 years, Wikipedia has accomplished remarkable goals. More than 3.5 million articles in English and over 250 total languages. But it appears that less than 15 percent of contributors are women
Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikimedia foundation, wants to raise female contributors to 25 percent by 2015, but is running up against computer world traditions and an ‘obsessive fact-loving realm dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women.’
Examples given: Topic of interest to teenage girls, like friendship bracelets, gets four paragraphs. Articles of interest to boys like baseball cards, includes a detailed chronological history.
Two HBO Series: Section on “Sex and the City” includes only a two or three sentence summary of episodes. Section on “The Sopranos” includes lengthy, detailed articles on each episode. There are 45 articles on the Simpsons.
Ms. Gardner noted a 3-paragraph entry for one of her favorite authors, Pat Barker, an acclaimed writer of psychologically nuanced novels. By contrast, Niko Bellic - a fictional character in the video game Grand Theft Auto -- had an article five times as long.
OpEd Project, an organization that monitors the gender breakdown of contributors to “public thought-leadership forums” says a participation rate of roughly 85-to-15 percent, men to women, is common — including those who comment on The New York Times and Washington Post Op-Ed pages.
Catherine Orenstein, founder and director of the OpEd Project, said many women lack the confidence to put forth their views and that her group urges women to express themselves by shifting focus “away from oneself — ‘do I know enough, am I bragging?’ -- to thinking about the value of your knowledge.”
I couldn't help but think about the latest ‘hot topic’ on the TI Forum, a thread I started to report on new insights I gained into why the Mail Slot entry seems to provide such a satisfying increase in propulsion.
Those insights came from an engineer who attended the first week of our Maho Bay Open Water Camp, and thus were technical in nature. They sparked a flurry of incredibly-spirited discussion – even debate – that at this moment stands at 92 posts. I can’t be precisely sure because screen names are often gender neutral, but my guess is that the gender disparity on that thread is even greater than 85-15.
In contrast, after our the Maho Bay camps, there followed non-public email exchanges among those who attended. The womens’s camp, though it had half as many participants as the ‘regular’ camp a week earlier, has had a far greater flow of post-camp exchange among participants. Several said they would share their thoughts about the camp and how it has affected their swimming - or even altered their lives - on the Forum. I would love to see this happen.
Is there anything we can do to support women TI enthusiasts in sharing their insights for the benefit and enjoyment of the entire community?
The points made should not surprise anyone. I don't want to call it gender bias as it is not directly applicable in this instance. Historically it plays a substantial role in women being recalcitrant to share view points with others. I worked in the fire service industry before women were even allowed to step in the doors.
In todays fire service we are no longer called firemen, but firefighters. Yes there are those last bastions of male dominated firefighters but for the most women are becoming widely accepted. One of the most difficult areas for assimilation of women into the fire service was breaking that fear they had to voice opinions, ask questions and share knowledge and wisdom.
It is a cultural thing which is slowly disappearing, and and there are those who would say I am all wet. Sit in a staff meeting and watch the dynamics, a women can make very valid points which are not recognized, a male counterpart makes the same point and it is a great idea. When one becomes aware of this it is very hard to ignore. Much like getting tuned into obesity in our society, hard to ignore from that point forward.
How do you embrace and encourage the voice of women on this forum? The best solutions will come from women. The woman's clinic put on at Mahoe is a great start. My wife and I were present for the first couple of days and my observation from a distance was a very different dynamic, (way too much laughter and fun), being present than the mixed gender camp.
Coach Helenita and I had a conversation about skill levels of those attending the all woman vs mixed gender clinic and the self evaluation of ones ability. Coach said she was surprised by the lowered expectations of the women vs the true ability. I found this to be almost universally the case when working with women. They will have a tendency to vastly underestimate their ability or potential while men are on the opposite end of the scale. The bigger difference being men will not accept they have overestimated while women are willing to acknowledge.
The all woman's clinic is one means. There needs to be an emphasis put to the attendees how important it is they step forward and participate after they leave. Peer connection and pressure, build that confidence and let participants know the importance of sharing their experiences with others.
Have you thought about putting on some all woman's weekend workshops.
These may help break the patterns you put forth. When doing such clinics, their purpose needs to be explained. Ask why the participant chose a single gender vs mixed. Stress how they can help after leaving and follow through on suggestions.
Again I say you will get the best answers from women.
Swim Silent and Be Well
We were enormously encouraged by the response to our Womens Camp at Maho Bay. From a self-interested point of view because women, unlike men, are inclined to invite friends and loved ones to join them in an activity, making it somewhat easier to fill a camp or workshop. But just as much because some women who would love the OW experience will be galvanized to make it happen if there's an opportunity to experience it in the company of other women.
So we do plan more womens programs, in the pool too. And it will be TI's women coaches who take the lead in planning and conducting them.
One thing I'm pleased about is that, in 2010, 75% of those completing our coach training program were women, and women constitute the majority of those registered thus far for our first 2011 program March 5-11 in San Diego. TI is developing what I am confident is the best prepared group of women teaching professionals in all of swimming and this cannot help but have an effect on our organizational culture.
I went to Maho to celebrate getting my Medicare card. I have paddled around in open water for years, but I was decidedly a smooth water swimmer.
What I experienced, and did not expect, was the trill of rounding America's Point, hitting chop and waves, and loving it! By dropping my head (where it was supposed to be, but it does tend to wander in traffic), the world below was relatively calm. I was able to keep up my cadence, make progress, and exit the water with a HR just above 100. The same held true on our final 5K swim when most of us felt like we could have gone for the 5 miles (next year we will I am sure).
I have to say, the company of supportive (believe me Celeste is supportive but she does not in any way enable or baby anyone) and competitive women (and yes, it was competitive no matter what you say youngins') made the rounding of that point possible on many levels. Once around, it opened a new swimming world to me.
I stayed a few extra days and took off for a swim around unknown bends every day. I missed my swimming pod, but kept my head down and rode the waves with abandon.
My take away: this TI stuff really works!
Well said Penny and congrats to all.
Swim Silent and Be Well
Swim camp 50% female
I have been blogging about my swim camp experience not because it felt natural but because Terry asked me to. It is awfully silent out there. I know people are reading it because I can see the numbers but I have only had 2 or 3 replies. My reluctance to blogging, I think is more a generation thing rather than a gender issue. Mind you the more I read all the various threads,the more I feel like contributing. Having worked in a female dominated profession and held senior posts I have no problem voicing my views in any company. Is it a privacy thing ? Monica where are you ?
I, too, have wondered about the gender make-up of TI practitioners in general and this forum population specifically.
I've very much enjoyed the thread about the physics of the spearing arm, etc., and it has exercised my mind in a way not usual for me. I don't think that way -- at all -- so I don't have much to contribute there. The part I find most accessible and entertaining is Borate's video. :)
I have the same experience and opinions as what Westy posted here.
I would love to attend the Maho Bay camp! The posts (and blogs) here whet my appetite for it and got me really excited. I'd attend a mixed-gender camp, but given the choice I'd take the women's. There's always a different dynamic in a women-only athletic venture -- not always "better", in my opinion, but usually one where the women are more comfortable and more likely to be taken seriously. Often in a mixed group the women are given less attention or ignored. Or the tenor, pace and emphasis of the group is determined by the men.
I read a report about the camp in another forum from someone I know from another area of my life. Her post clinched the deal for me because she gave details (dietary & schedule, vibe) that would concern me and which would be sort of a pain to find out.
p.s. the reason I don't post more is that I still consider myself a beginner and therefore don't have the insights/suggestions of a more experienced swimmer. Or, someone else has already covered the points I'd make.
I can only speak for myself, but I have a few thoughts on this topic. I personally like a lot of technical subjects that are thought of as typically masculine (at least in the US).
BUT, my values are way toward the feminine end of the spectrum. In no particular order, these are a few of the things I value: humor, encouragement, humility, spirituality, beauty, relationships, good ideas, simplicity, fun.
There are two things about this forum that I think women might find unwelcoming.
1.) There's too much in the way of argument and criticism. It's not nearly as bad here as it is on other forums related to swimming (i.e. http://Active.com, http://USMS.org, or http://BeginnerTriathlete.com), but it's still off-putting. Conflict is a necessary part of life, but I don't seek it out for entertainment.
Sometimes I read things on this forum that turn my stomach. In particular, I am turned off by criticism of regular people who swim poorly. It takes a lot of courage for a person to put on a bathing suit and get him/herself to the pool. When I read anything that I think would make a person feel unwelcome at the pool, I tend to get disgusted and stay away for awhile.
2.) A forum doesn't lend itself very well to building relationships. A thread on the forum is usually meant to address a specific topic or question. I usually wouldn't want to comment unless I felt I had something to add to the discussion. If I have nothing more to say than "Good Job", "HaHaHa", or "I enjoyed your post", I would usually not comment.
And, it feels weird to have a conversation with a person (user?) without even knowing if he/she is male or female.
Groups on Facebook are better for that kind of interaction. Also, some blogs have a more relational feel to them (between the blogger and his/her readers, anyway.) These are a few examples of blogs that feel more personal: http://jenschumacher.com/ (swimming) http://bendoeslife.tumblr.com/ (general fitness) and http://www.indiansimmer.com/ (Indian cooking, plus photography)
Your blog http://www.swimwellblog.com/ is pretty inviting, except that comment moderation takes a long time. The blog format on http://www.totalimmersion.net/blog is less inviting.
In your blog post, you said the following:
The one exception might be your posts about practice sets. I've seen women (and some men) state that their eyes glaze over on your posts about practice sets. I think that has more to do with presentation than content. A person with no background in competitive swimming has to do a lot of math to understand the plot of those stories. In other words, if you say you did 10x100 on 1:10, most people would have to do the following math to follow along:
1.) Maybe I should try timing myself.
2.) I can swim one length in 30 sec (for example)
3.) 30 sec x 4 lengths = 120 sec
4.) 120 sec = 2 minutes
5.) Wow, 10x100 on 1:10 is really fast.
6.) If *I* could swim 100 yds in less than 1:10, I could swim a mile in under 20 minutes. Where do I sign up?
The math for SPL/stroke rate is even more complicated.
I think most intermediate TI practitioners would be interested in these topics if you could find a more visual way to communicate about these things. Almost everyone wants to improve their speed once he/she has achieved a comfortable stroke.
I like your blog posts. I usually don't comment on anything on this site unless I feel I have something to add to the discussion.
In another setting, I'd give you a <3 <3 <3
I enjoy Katie Post but I do get lost when talking about TEMPO TRAINERS & MATH
I agree with you!
A FEMALE FRIENDLY SITE...(would have to have the female insightful!)
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