Wikipedia Needs Women

Shelley Powers believes that well-known female technologists are less likely to find themselves in Wikipedia than their male counterparts:

Why are there significantly fewer women? I think one reason is that we women are taught not to put ourselves forward. Men are complimented for tooting their own horn; making known their wishes; noting their own accomplishments. Women, however, are expected to be sweet, demure, and most of all, stay ever so slightly in the shadow.

My take on her observation is that men are more strongly rewarded for being assertive, a group dynamic you can see in play often if you look for it. A few years ago I lost a bunch of weight by following Weight Watchers, and the weekly meetings I attended were an intrusion into a world that had as many males in it as an Oprah Winfrey taping. Even in a crowd that was 20-to-1 female, I was amazed at how often male dieters dominated the discussions.

(Personally, I was afraid to speak, fearing that some of the dieters starving themselves for the weekly weigh-in might had sublimated their hunger with inchoate rage.)

I'm fishing around for underrepresented subjects in Wikipedia, so I added a biography this morning for one of those overlooked technologists -- new-media guru and former Netscape exec Susan Mernit:

Susan Mernit.Susan Mernit (b. January 23) is a technology and media consultant based in Palo Alto, California and a former vice president of Netscape and America Online.

As an executive, Mernit launched several corporate media sites since introducing Scholastic Press on America Online in 1992. She developed the childrens educational site Yuckiest Site on the Internet with Jeff Jarvis and served as the editor of New Jersey Online.

She was a vice president of programming, design and production at Netscape from 1999-2001, leading a redesign of the site to coincide with the release of Netscape Navigator 6.0, and was vice president of programming at America Online from 2001-2003.

Today, she's a founding partner of the consulting firm 5ive Corp and a frequent speaker at online media and technology conferences, personally organizing the "social media" gathering BlogOn in 2004. She is a senior fellow at the Media Center, a think tank established by the American Press Institute, and an advisory board member of the the digital media archive Ourmedia.

Mernit originally pursued a career in literature, writing two collections of poetry and serving as writer-in-residence for the Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Her short story "Bella" was adapted into a TV movie in 1982. She has a bachelor of arts in English and writing from Bard College and a master's in creative writing and English literature from Ohio State University.

She was married to musician Spencer Jarrett and has a son, Zack, who attends Michigan State University.


External links

Putting together a biography based only from the information you can find on the web is an interesting literary exercise -- I once frightened people on MetaFilter by compiling one entirely from a member's comments.


Everyone knows a woman's brain is 2/3 the size of a man's. It's science.

Wow! I am very flattered you choose me as your test case for Wikipedia--and thrilled at what a great research job you did! Of course, when I make some (small) corrections, do you think folks will say I pulled a Jimmy Wales?
Best, Susan it asking too much for the New York Times to actually link to a blogger when they write about him or her?

Congrats on the great sleuthing!

A technology and media consultant who originally pursued a career in literature. That is fitting. We need a Balzac for the Nano-Age.

I like her poetry o.k., I was just wondering why the thing with swans?

I blame women. It's not our fault they never speak their minds!

There is nothing worse than having to carry a conversation all the time, figure out what to say, etc. Fortunately I hang around with women who can actually, you know, carry on a conversation.

If I have to sit through another Italian-restaurant date filled with fluff conversation about Brad and Jen, or whoever the earthshattering People magazine cover story was about, I think I'm going to hang myself.

I'll try not to get too deep, since in most of the above I was being faceteous, but I have made the following observation: many women don't really develop assertive skills because they have it very easy. This is especially true of very attractive women, but many males go very far out of their way to make sure they have help doing stuff. This tends to cause certain personality traits to attrophy (like assertiveness, ability to deal with strife, and the afformentioned conversation skills).

This is also one reason why many woman have a rough time with aging. Some women age very well, but others not so much. And if there is a very drastic change in their perceived beauty, the adjustment becomes much harder.

I'm not saying that men are bastions of assertive behaviour either, but it is certainly a skill men are expected to develop BY OTHER MEN. So when women have a complaint, the cause lies not in men's expectations, but rather in their peer group- other women.

Great effort! No birth year, is that just polite or sexist?

No birth year, is that just polite or sexist?

Neither. I would have included the year, but didn't find it trolling Google.

This is cool. I'm going to tag it WebJustice2.0. Check it out and contribute to the tagstream on issues like this.

Well, as a lifelong bachelor for 37 KraLiyet aiLens. thanks

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