There’s a discussion over at the Secret Blogging Seminar on the following subject: is it just a coincidence that the eight bloggers are all male? If the initial slate of bloggers was put together at a private barbecue party where everybody was male, is that a good enough explanation? Should women have been included, or at least invited? Should we even care?
I’d like to put the whole issue of quota systems aside for the moment – I have commented on that elsewhere, in case anyone is interested. There’s something else here that I think is more important.
Most of us will agree that quota systems have no place in our personal lives. It’s nobody’s business to check attendance at, or otherwise regulate, other people’s barbecue parties. There’s no point in telling anybody who they should or should not socialize with. Our private lives are just that – private.
The problem is that there’s no clear separation between our personal and professional lives. We socialize with other mathematicians. We inevitably talk shop at private gatherings. It can’t be helped, seeing how “the shop” is a big part of who we are. But then there’s, for example, this extra funding opportunity that everyone in the department knew about well in advance, except for the two women who did not go to the barbecue parties. There’s this new set of regulations that will be presented to the department and put up for a vote in a meeting. The vote will be a mere formality, because the regulations have already been discussed in private with everyone, except of course for the two women… etc.
It’s not that we’re so eager to attend those all-male barbecue parties. Especially if those parties revolve around watching baseball and drinking beer.
What we do find objectionable is that, if we don’t hang out with the boys in our personal lives, then a whole lot of professional opportunities will pass us by.
The solution? It’s neither possible nor desirable to regulate people’s social lives. Instead, perhaps that funding opportunity should have been announced through formal channels. A draft of that new set of regulations should have been circulated to everyone by email and the committee in charge should invite – and take into account – input from all faculty. It’s only a partial fix, but it’s better than nothing.
So what about a blog? Is that a private party or a professional opportunity?
My own blog is very clearly a private party. (Number of Tindersticks videos embedded to date: 2. Number of math expositions posted: 0, though this should change soon.)
Group blogs might be somewhere in between. If a blogging group were to be funded or otherwise helped by the department, then I would certainly want to ask some questions, and not only about gender balance. (How come you all guys are algebraists?) But if a few people just get together and set up a blog? Good for them.
And hey, if I don’t like that, then I have my own 100% female blog and I can write what I want.