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While the construction trades are still horribly misogynistic, home improvement as an individual activity isn't so much. Many women undertake upgrade, repair, and remodeling tasks in their homes with success and enthusiasm.

Why, then, do I have to arrive at page 5 of the member list before I encounter a user who is apparently a woman--that is, willing to identify herself as female to us via her profile and/or username?

In some ways the question is rhetorical--a forum populated by tradesmen will tend to be as unwelcoming to women as the trades themselves. However, I'd hope we would be able to overcome that to some extent. The evidence seems to indicate that we're failing.

  • Why are so few women among the top contributors?
  • What are we doing to discourage participation by women?
  • What should we actively seek to change to be more welcoming to female members?

I hope to hear from the women of the network here. Mansplaining will be met with rolling eyes and downvotes.


Update: As evidence of the validity of the question (not that it should be needed), see this article.

  • Are there any cases where the community has been unwelcoming to women? – Tester101 Aug 1 '18 at 21:55
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    My own view, we get a lot of our audience crossing over from stackoverflow: insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2018/#demographics . If there's something we can do to make the site more welcoming to underrepresented groups, I'm all for it. – BMitch Aug 2 '18 at 23:05
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    Small step in the right direction to make the community more welcoming by SO/SE: diy.stackexchange.com/conduct – BMitch Aug 7 '18 at 17:43
  • I don't think that guide will change anything with respect to this topic. It's more or less boilerplate, and most users haven't read it (and won't). Even if they do, it probably doesn't have the teeth to deal with mildly chauvinistic behavior, nor does it attempt to actively welcome women to the network. – isherwood Aug 7 '18 at 22:11
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    I don't understand what you're hoping to get out of this post: you're asking the people who aren't active on Home Improvement why they're not active on Home Improvement? – Niall C. Aug 9 '18 at 14:48
  • The question strikes me as evasion of an important discussion. There are some women active on the network, so the question is primarily for them. However, it's also to encourage discussion among the men who largely define the culture. If you don't think there's a problem, you're probably the problem. Stats don't lie. – isherwood Aug 9 '18 at 14:52
  • Well yeah, because we're a bunch of (mostly men) who mansplain to each other, regardless of sex. ~90% of trade jobs are held by men, so the presumably 1 out of 180 (5 pages of names) is .5%. Your question is where is the other 9.5%? 10% is pretty low odds of finding anything in 1347 pages of user names. It might be easier to ask the reverse; my guess would be passion. The only real insight I can offer here is that perhaps it doesn't seem worth it; if it ain't a HNQ you're lucky to get a single UV... DiY is where I got tenacious (5? zero score accepted answers). – Mazura Aug 17 '18 at 23:55
  • This belongs on IPS in reverse and should be about IPS ;) – Mazura Aug 17 '18 at 23:59
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The same question is asked by engineering and physics departments in universities, people seeking to diversify air traffic controllers, and a number of other areas. My wife did her PhD dissertation on a closely related topic.

As a population, women are simply less interested in certain fields (and as a population, men are less interested in some other fields). Much of it originates in biology (brain wiring). Organizations jump through hoops to attract under-represented groups, including women, by trying to modify the field to make it more "interesting" for those people, but it doesn't work.

Focusing on women, many are encouraged through various incentives to get into fields like engineering and other fields as mentioned above. High percentages drop out because they find that it isn't interesting for them and they don't do well in it. If they complete the program, only a small percentage work in the field in a "technical capacity". They tend to switch to other occupations or move into administrative/management functions.

Unfortunately, this is all very politically incorrect. It's virtually impossible to even research this anymore because it runs counter to the meme and agenda in academia, the government agencies that push this type of social engineering, and employers who are pressured to fall into line. This question is an indication of how endemic the narrative has become without being challenged.

But the bottom line is that there are certain things that relatively few women are interested in relative to the percentage of men interested in it.

The same applies here. It isn't a hostile environment; we aren't discouraging involvement by women or making women feel unwelcome. I asked my wife to read this question and share her thoughts. I would classify her as an expert (both as a woman with a science background and a researcher in this area). Her response was that relatively few women are interested in the site's subject matter, and most of the ones who are have better things to do than hang around the site and be top contributors (it's just not on their priority list).

What the HuffPost article talks about is the fact that more women are taking on DIY projects. But women do it to to get stuff done. They don't do it because they like playing with power tools, and they don't invent projects just so they can use their power tools, or to procrastinate doing stuff they need to do but isn't as fun. They fit it into their other responsibilities. So the fact that women are doing a lot of DIY projects has no bearing on their desire to invest time on the site being a serious contributor. And nothing we do to alter the site experience will affect that.


This answer was intended only as a summary explanation, but the lack of references has been challenged. This is a broad field of study, but if anyone is interested in delving into it, here are some places to start:

Differences in "brain wiring" are measured by tests for interest, aptitude, and personality characteristics. People who do well in, and enjoy, fields like engineering score highly on measures of "mechanical reasoning", things like spacial visualization ability as measured by mental rotation tasks and the like (on average, men score one standard deviation higher than women, which correlates with why so many more men are attracted to, do well in, and enjoy these fields than women).

There are other measures that correlate highly with the abstract sciences, like "theoretical thinking". Some of the characteristics are measured by tests of ability, some are personality assessment tools, some are personality assessment tools where the results are compared to the profiles of people who report enjoying their occupations in different fields or are successful in different fields.

Analysis is done on huge statistical databases that are compiled from various tests, such as ASVAB, NLSY, Stufy of Values, The Strong Interest Inventory, and numerous others.

If you Google "sex differences in interests" or "gender differences in interests", you will find endless reading. But a few specific places to start: "Biology at Work; Rethinking Sexual Equality" by Kingsley R. Browne, Rutgers University Press, "Sex and Cognition" by Doreen Kimura, The MIT Press, "Gender and Fair Assessment" by Warren W. Willingham and Nancy S. Cole (Educational Testing Service), or pick from the research of Dr. Richard Lippa (CSU Fullerton, et. al.)

  • Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response. I'd have appreciated references, since the first portion seems to be your opinion, but at least someone took the question seriously. The two downvotes are puzzling. – isherwood Aug 13 '18 at 1:44
  • Without references, this is just mansplaining and blatant stereotyping / generalizing - "women don't like technical fields and would rather be secretaries"... Seriously? – mmathis Aug 13 '18 at 15:57
  • @mmathis, "women don't like technical fields and would rather be secretaries" isn't what I wrote. Excluding constraints like glass ceilings. access, and availability, people choose or gravitate to areas they are interested in. The reason certain fields like engineering have way more men than women is because way more men than women are interested in it. The idea that it is because the system is rigged to hold women down, and the statistics must mean that this is true, is reverse logic. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Aug 13 '18 at 19:20
  • Re: references, this was an explanation, not a technical paper, and I just related what my wife explained to me based on her years of research. So it's "womansplaining". Both she and I have given up trying to discuss this topic with people because the narrative has become so entrenched that the reaction is like yours. Many of the university researchers from around the world, tops in their field, have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town for heresy. Discussion has been shut down in academia. Anyone who brings it up to counter regulatory actions is labeled a sexist or worse. (cont'd) – fixer1234 Aug 13 '18 at 19:35
  • People are fired from private industry for circulating memos that challenge company actions to be politically correct. It's like the Dark Ages. I wasn't going to post a response, and didn't for almost two weeks, because the typical reaction is like yours and it just isn't worth the time and energy to tilt at windmills. – fixer1234 Aug 13 '18 at 19:36
  • @fixer1234 Yes, I paraphrased what you wrote, but that is the essence of your answer - "High percentages [of women] drop out [of stem fields]...or move into administration...". And while this isn't a technical paper, references are always encouraged (whether they be NEC references or not) - especially for such a claim like "women don't like engineering". – mmathis Aug 13 '18 at 20:10
  • and "excluding constraints like..." - these are huge problems, and can't be easily glossed over! – mmathis Aug 13 '18 at 20:17
  • @mmathis, actually they aren't. There are some examples, but it is not the pervasive problem that has been claimed. It's mostly based on misapplied statistics and false claims that have a logical ring to them but are actually made up. I understand your skepticism; it has become "common knowledge". – fixer1234 Aug 13 '18 at 20:26
  • @mmathis, OK, added some references. – fixer1234 Aug 13 '18 at 22:07

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