Why Women Users Are Important for Google Plus

July 21, 2011

Since writing an article a week ago entitled, “Where are all the Women on Google Plus?,” I have seen an explosion of similar articles on many tech websites and a few mainstream media sites all with speculation about the number of female Google Plus users.

Unfortunately, I have found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as journalist, bloggers, and pundits are all regurgitating the same unreliable statistics but no one is actually discussing why adding more women on Google Plus could make it or break it.

Google reported that there are over 10 million Plus users, Paul Allen is saying there are now 18 million. At this point most people agree the early, popular sources for the G+ male to female ratio– Socialstatistics.com and Findpeopleonplus.com/statistics — are unreliable. Paul Allen has some interesting things to say here  and has probably the best estimate as of July 14th — 66.4% Male, 33.6% Female. (To clarify, this is Paul Allen founder of Ancestry.com, NOT the same that co-founded Microsoft.)

Both the media, bloggers, and commenters seem to agree on one thing — the reason there are so few women on Google Plus is because there are so few women working in technology related fields.  Despite all the progress women have made in the workforce over the past 50 years, we are still playing catch-up in most of the technology markets.

Women, as noted in this NY Times article,  “now out number men at elite colleges, law schools, medical schools and in the overall work force. Yet a stark imbalance of the sexes persists in the high-tech world, where change typically happens at breakneck speed.”

While I can’t find figures of how many women are officially working on the Google Plus project (or even the amount of women who work for Google) overall, I think Google does a better job than average at encouraging diversity in the workplace. Google forms networks like Google Women Engineers Network (GWE) and Women’s Leadership Community (WLC) within company ranks. They regularly offer lectures of leading women (just search youtube.com for women@google). Google certainly gives the appearance, if nothing else, of trying to make women’s voices be heard.

Research published on catalyst.org shows companies with women board members do +42% better in sales. Google, unlike many of their competitors, is doing well with two of their nine board of directors being women. And, the end of the day,  isn’t it all about the money? Google is a for profit company.  The Google work “culture” exists to encourage more productive workers. Jean Xiam Sun points out on the blog http://www.popherald.com/:

Google could generate more revenue from new products like Chrome, Chrome Web Store and including the Google Plus because the company can obviously deliver more advertisements, bundled with more ad revenue. [Larry] Page explained, “(Google’s) emerging high usage products can generate huge new businesses for Google in the long run, just like search, and we have tons of experience monetizing successful products over time.”

Why Are Female and Male User Ratios Important for Google Plus?

To clarify a bit, I don’t think Google Plus’s problem is with the amount of female developers (although it may be) or with Google’s male/female employee ratio (which would be interesting to know); I think the problem is getting enough of a user base to make Google Plus financially worth while. Right now, in the early stages, what would help Google Plus most is feedback from female users — ones in both tech and non-tech arenas.

Based on statistics published last month in a series called “The Social Impact of Technology“,

as with the use of most social media, SNS [social network site] users are disproportionately female (56%). Women also comprise the majority of email users (52% women), users of instant message (55%), bloggers (54%), and those who use a photo sharing service (58%).

Logically, with a smaller-than-average female presence on Google Plus more men than women are offering feedback. As Google makes adjustments to G-Plus they are making changes based on that feedback. If Google wants to compete with Facebook, and I think their design of Google Plus clearly indicates they do, they are going to need the insight of more women. Tailoring a product based on predominately male feedback is just not smart if the market mostly utilized by women.

Sadly, there is really no way to determine how many women versus men are offering feedback. If we look at Facebook as an example (from the same study above), “20% of women Facebook users click “like” several times a day, while only 9% men”. If women are apt to click “like” twice as much as men and there is a 33%  female user base — this may balance out the lack of female presence, but that is only assuming that women would provide feedback at the same rate as they click “like”. Feedback is more involved than a simple click of a “like” button.

Men Versus Women, What’s New?

We all have ways we assume men and women to be different….after all men are from Mars and women are from Venus. I have heard myself grunt, “ugh, men,” more times than I’d want to admit.  Yes, a great deal of the differences between men and women are stereotypes. Google even recognizes gender as a complex and confusing topic as they are no longer requiring users to declare themselves male or female.

I appreciate Google’s forward and modern thinking. But (without getting into the gender debate), when a product still in a field trial — used by women more than men –shouldn’t you make certain you know how women are responding?

According to David Gefen and Detmar Straub in an article in MIS Quarterly, “socio-linguistic research has shown that men tend to focus discourse on hierarchy and independence, while women focus on intimacy and solidarity.” One of Google Plus’s selling points is that there is an increased control over privacy features. Considering privacy directly impacts users intimacy and even more so their solidarity, female feedback would likely look very different from male feedback.

The Image of Female Google Plus Users

In the Media’s haste to discuss Google Plus’ lack of women, they may have also inadvertently caused some tension. A week or so ago the general vibe in Google Plus, the Blogosphere, and Media-land  seemed to be enthusiastic about adding women to the network;  this week there is a tone that reeks of sexism.

Google Plus-ers (and bloggers and the media) are now dividing themselves into “early adopters” and “late adopters”. It seems the underlying implication being that the “late adopters” are simply not as smart technically as the early adopters. If more men were “early adopters”  and women were “late adopters” and the assumption is that early adopters are smarter than late adopters regarding technology, then are women not as smart as men?  Perhaps I reading into things. Perhaps.

I noticed a lot of .GIFs this week in the comments of popular articles discussing G-Plus’s women, many of them offensive.  While I will admit I do find some of the .GIFs rather amusing, putting up memes of a bunch of men in a hot tub trivializes what women have to offer to Google in terms of feedback.

Don’t get me wrong, I think people posting these things have good intentions — they are simply making fun of a situation that really did start out innocently. I have never doubted Google’s intent to put smart people — nerds — to work testing Google Plus. Google sent invites for the new Plus project to major players in the technical arena — most of those people happened to be men. They invited their friends — also male — and so on and so forth.

Not to ram a point into the ground, but this method of invitations was flawed because women dominate most social media networks. Sure geeks will probably be more forgiving of errors in coding as they understand the level of work involved, and sure they may have more realistic feedback to offer but, what they can’t give is insight into how an average user, one who is not always the most technically proficient, will adapt to the new interface.

Marissa Mayer, a Google executive,  “argues that growing up, girls are offered a narrow stereotype of what it means to be a “geek” — something akin to the bespectacled loner who spends hours typing away at a screen. ” The image is clear, women simply aren’t “supposed” to like that which isn’t typically considered feminine.  Aileen Lee points out on a guest post on Techcrunch.com, “the titan of social gaming, Zynga, says 60% of [Zynga's] players are female”. Interesting considering Google has recently secretly invested 100 million in the company.

And. while the stereotype may be true, that more women like Farmville (a Zynga game), the comments got under my skin this week as people spouted over and over that Farmville’s addition to Google Plus will ruin it — claiming streams will be clogged with “Jane just won a cow. Click to get a Free Cow”.

If these people’s Facebook news feeds are full of Farmville updates, all they have to do is select “hide Farmville” from a drop down menu….simple. I find it frustrating that someone else’s lack of setting-knowledge means women aren’t supposed to enjoy a game if she chooses to do so.

Besides, isn’t it sexist and shortsighted to assume the only reason why women aren’t on G+ has to do with trivial novelties such as games. I find it even more revolting that people assume women are “silly” in some way for playing games. Sure many women enjoy spending time gaming, so do men. In fact, 60 % of men game, while only 40% of women game. Certainly women have more to offer than annoying status updates.

Furthermore, although making a joke here or there, posting a somewhat mysogynist photo, or remarking on women’s love of Farmville may seem harmless enough, I think we need to recognize there is a larger picture. What I am speaking of is a collective conscience that forms when people are bombarded with the same images and messages over and over and over. The message for the past week has been ramping up and it seems to be suggesting that we are simply are not as “ready” for Google’s latest social media network. It reminds us, as women, we are in the “wrong place” at Google Plus.

We can only hope, sites like Women of Google Plus, will encourage more women to join Google’s social network, put their heads together, and push Google Plus to the next level. And, while I do love the third-wave feminist sentiment that we shouldn’t have, as Lynette Radio puts it, an “us versus them” attitude, I do think Google Plus needs a larger female presence and certainly more female feedback.  After all, didn’t Google demonstrate this week that Women will change the future?

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38 Responses to Why Women Users Are Important for Google Plus

  1. yo on July 21, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    it’s “number” not “amount” and also, are women interested that much in technology? it seems like most businesses where if women were more prevalent, there would be more of them. a lot of women i know don’t understand/care for technology. i am a woman but i guess i got some geeky genes somewhere.

  2. Arvind on July 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    As sign (+) of both women and Google plus is similar they are bound to find each other.
    Jokes apart, excellent and well researched article. Good job.
    Besides above points, any geeky thing gives a “cool” attitude to the male ego and this is why the first adopters of technology is always male. Any if you random search of profile of these early adopters on G+ , you will nothing but sharing and sharing. And my belief is that a women don’t use any technogy unless it do something creative or do some value addtion in their creativness.

  3. Sean A on July 21, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    WOW. that is so thoroughly researched and as a guy i can only applaud and hope to see the trend. I must say though, I have only been on Google+ for a few hours and there are more guys I suppose, just noticing at face value.

  4. Gretchen S. on July 21, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    The emerging debate over pseudonyms is actually a major player in women’s continuing presence on Google+. As long as women are disproportionately targeted for harassment in online discourse for no more reason than posting under a feminine-sounding name, the ability to choose a pseudonym if desired is a basic privacy need for women, though is not unique to women by any means[1]. Anyone with a reasonably unique “real name” can have it searched for their home address and telephone number, and this will quite simply have a greater chilling effect on women (and other disproportionately targeted groups) than on men. Allowing ‘Nickname+Initial’ helps some people but not any who need to detach their online and RL identities for many reasons including being in a profession such as law enforcement, health care, teaching, or law, or being an abuse survivor or former stalkee.

    This is aside from all of the people of any gender who legitimately use and are known by pseudonyms more than they are known by their “wallet names” who are also having their accounts suspended for having a name that doesn’t look “real enough.” Because real names are not verified in any way, requiring names to “look real” is security theater, pure and simple.

    [1] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F

  5. Moria on July 22, 2011 at 3:19 AM

    Gretchen S. said most of it.

    My friends are not clamoring for a Google+ invite because they do not perceive it to be a safe place to network. It’s too open.

    The real names requirement — which, let’s be honest, is just a real-sounding-names requirement does not make anyone feel safer. We can’t tell if anyone’s account is verified, therefore, no names on Google+ are real. In that environment, the privacy controls are woefully inadequate. Fix those, and women will come. Otherwise, they’ll stay where the privacy controls are, ironically, more robust.

    • M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 9:23 AM

      Actually, I believe Facebook requires you to use a real (sounding) name as well. And, with Google Plus you choose the circles (like friends you trust) with which you want to share information. You can also choose extended circles (friends of friends) or make the information public. It is actually very similar to Facebook. (Facebook has allowed you to group friends for a while now and only share with a certain group).

      Facebook however, has a complex system of menus the user has to navigate through to maintain control over privacy settings. And, Facebook has the reputation of auto-selecting settings when they roll out new features. For instance, when they started Facebook Places (not sure if that’s the right name) they auto selected “allow friends to tag me at locations”. I do not want anyone to be able to list my location on my Facebook wall. But, if you don’t maintain a close eye on your settings, or read a lot about Facebook Privacy, you may never even know they rolled out a new feature — at least, not until your friend tags you somewhere.

      Google really isn’t any better as far as auto-selecting is concerned. To get a Plus account, Google automatically makes all your Picasa albums public. I had to spend some time removing albums before joining (and I had a small invite window to work in).

      The truth is, most people, women and men, even if they never look into Facebook’s privacy settings, already know the interface for Facebook (or whatever network they use). Switching would mean learning a new system and even worse, in this case, devoting some time to categorize everyone you know. Plus, why switch when all your friends, family, and “people you trust” are still on the old network? It’s just too much work, plain and simple.

      • A.K. Bean on July 22, 2011 at 6:26 PM

        I’m not sure why your picassa accounts went public. I already had a plethora of albums that were private before I joined G+ and they stayed that way after.

        All my settings on my profile also remained the way I had put them.
        Maybe the process is easier if you already have a significant presence/setup on google apps

        I’m having a difficulty understanding all the hype here. I never noticed a lack of females on G+, I don’t have many female friends, but all the ones I have moved to G+ with me the moment they got an invite. We were all on within 24 hours of each other.

        • M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 9:20 PM

          I had a message when I accepted my invite that G+ would make all my Picasa albums public. I joined on June 29th. Maybe they’ve adjusted it since.

          • JenJen on August 5, 2011 at 5:16 PM

            I got that message when signing up with G+ as well. I had been using Picasa as a sandbox for stuff I didn’t really want in Flickr, so I deleted all of that before jumping on my G+ invite.

  6. mss @ZanthanGardens on July 22, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Among my blog friends and tweeps, the biggest barrier to Google+ is that it does not respect that we are both people and brands. For years bloggers have been told to build their brand identity. Now Google+ wants to strip off our public face and reveal our private face. It’s not just that it’s an assault on our privacy. (It is. Bloggers have been making the choice for years on how much or how little of their private and family lives to reveal.)

    However just as significantly, Google+’s policy undoes years of work on our public reputation.

    • M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM

      I wonder how that will change as Google + adds Google Business pages. Perhaps bloggers will be able to make a business page that allows them to use the name they choose.

      Personally I would hate for a blogger to be forced to use a business page if they would prefer to have a personal page. Some blogs certainly are more personally driven and would be better marketed from a “I’m a person” standpoint. Even better would be for Google Plus to incorporate a Plus account for bloggers — like a business account, but for blogs. It could potentially tie in well with the preexisting Blogger (Google Blogs).

  7. Mary H-B on July 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    I want to try Google+ but can’t get in due to beta testing is full. Can someone please tell how to get the app? My female students are raving about it.

  8. Onur Demirsoy on July 22, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Hello. This is my Google+ link, feel free to add me: gplus.to/onur
    Btw I still have invitations. I can send to you if you want. All you have to do is follow and mention @onurdemirsoy on Twitter. Have a great day.

  9. M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    I just wanted to clarify, as someone said in a comment on G+ (I’m not going to hunt it down :) ), what I was speaking of in the article is a “subtle P.O.V.” shift that occurs between men and women. These differences in P.O.V. can be invaluable when forming a social network where females usually outnumber men. I am *not* saying Google didn’t consider this, only that they may have made a misstep in how they rolled out invites.

    Clearly they can’t go back and change it now. And, I have no doubt that the numbers of male/female users will eventually level off. Until that occurs we are just speculating about where G+ will go.

  10. ian on July 22, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    The majority of the women I know who are using G+ have selected another gender to display, because women are targeted more often for harassement and stalking it is often safer to have a different gender/no gender display to anonymous strangers. Because of this flaw in reporting and the early stage of G+ I’d take the reported # of women with a grain of salt at the moment.

    • Kel on July 23, 2011 at 11:26 PM

      Exactly. I put “no answer” on my profile and so have a couple of my female friends. Men probably do not feel the need to hide their gender, right?

  11. Steve on July 22, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    I would like to clarify that what Farmville junks up are profiles. If I want to find out what a person has been up to lately because I’ve missed some of their recent posts and I go to their profile and all I can see are Farmville posts, well, I guess I assume they haven’t been doing anything recently except playing farmville. And then I think a little less of them. Couldn’t they be doing something even remotely more productive? Hell, even sudoku is more productive. Farmville is plain mindless. Well, I guess if that’s how they want to spend their time. And don’t even read gender assumptions into this. I haven’t said anything at all about which gender is playing Farmville.

    The other problem that will plague them once they open the platform up to games will be security. For pretty much this reason alone I hope they do not allow games on google+.

    I also think it’s extremely demeaning and sexist to suggest that all women really want to do on Facebook or any social network for that matter is to play Farmville. It’s just downright insulting.

    • Able Lawrence on July 23, 2011 at 3:43 AM

      One does not have to be playing farmville to be filled with farmville posts from your friends. I have stopped using facebook because of all this nonsense which drowns out anything meaningful I might be interested in

  12. amelia on July 22, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    This is the most intelligent dialogue I’ve heard since G+ started. The analytics are there, but it takes a trained eye to see what others cannot. S/he who has an eye to see, will see.

  13. dehaul on July 22, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    I understand why you wrote this, but I think you are contributing to a societal problem of “getting all up in other people’s business.”

    I really wish we would just stop with all this comparison tit for tat yadda yadda yadda and just let people do what they want to do no matter what physical and philosophical differences they have.

    Feminists, let women who don’t want to spend their lives as a working stiff and would rather enjoy the challenge of raising a child or even making her husband sandwiches do so in peace. So what if a woman wants to do that? It is her right to do as she pleases with her life without your judgment.

    Traditionalists, shut the fuck up. If woman want to have some career, let them. In my experience they are usually smarter than guys because they had to work to break some glass ceilings. Also, if two guys wanna enjoy the hardships of marriage, stay out of it. It doesn’t hurt you.

    And honestly, why are more women needed in the computer industry? The computer industry is mostly made up of egotistical social retards who has some or all traits of Asperger’s Syndrome (myself included).

    In the end it *really* doesn’t matter what you do with your life. Not too many people will care you ever existed. So do what makes you happy. Stop telling people what to do or what to think. Just tell people why your thoughts are right for you – and let them decide how they feel about it.

    And for god’s sake, how the gender ratio of G+ lies in terms of our lives or the universe doesn’t make a bit of difference – at all. Good christ you would think that there was actually a major problem the way this is yammered on about.

    End of rant.

    As an aside my favorite poster on G+ is my work mate’s stay at home wife – she posts nice food pictures.

    • M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      While I agree, it is always a good idea not to take ourselves too seriously, we do need to consider how our actions impact other people. Your irritation with this article is exactly how I felt, as a women, trying to participate in conversations about male/female ratio on other websites. Somehow the topic always came back around to stereo types and jokes about how women play Farmville, etc. As I state in the article, I don’t think the problem is with individuals posting one comment here or there. It’s not with individual moments, but rather with a collective of those moments put together.

      If you don’t understand why more women are needed in Technology, you simply have not worked with enough women. When people get together and share ideas, discuss and debate they are able to expand their own thoughts and ideas. Debate and teamwork are important to help mold and improve ideas — especially where technology is concerned. We would be stagnant without the fore work of others.

      Now here’s my rant: While you personally may not see how the gender debate is important, women have to deal with discrimination on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s overt, but usually it is a tone, a way men respond and treat women’s ideas. (My case and point: you’re entire comment. If we should stay out of everyone’s business, why waste your time commenting and discussing. Why bother?) Women often have to work twice as hard to get their ideas heard and considered. Things are never quite as important until they effect you directly. I think it would do us all good to step outside of our boxed-in worlds and see things from someone else’s perspective.

      If you simply “let people do what they want”, people would be killing each other in the streets. Where your line of reasoning and my line of reasoning ends is always debatable…that’s why we have laws (and why we should always discuss ideas).

      On another note, I hear what you’re saying about the “grand scheme”. But, under this logic we should all go live in the woods and worry about nothing more than food, water, and shelter. We have no way of knowing what our impact is on those around us or how it will live on after our life. That’s a debate for another day.

      My aside: I happen to be a stay at home mom. I just happen to write articles instead of posting food pics. :)

      • dehaul on July 22, 2011 at 5:33 PM

        I like how you take what I am saying and turn it into I am an insane person who thinks we should have no laws and worry about nothing and live in the woods. Nicely done. I didn’t call you a crazy feminazi… actually I half agree with you, I’m just trying to impart a different picture than either you or the rest of the articles I have read gives. so… what gives?

        This means you probably didn’t understand what I was trying to say – that’s OK. Like I said, I really am socially retarded.

        Stereotypical comments are generalities and usually don’t apply to everyone. I am sorry you feel like you didn’t have a voice because some assholes didn’t take you seriously and realize that the stereotype doesn’t apply to you. That is total BS.

        I think people are not good nor evil, simply self interested. And making fun of people who are different than you makes you feel good about yourself – that is where this comes from.

        Personally I am friends with several people who are transgendered and work with a woman writing code every single weekday. This idea that people with different genders or even no gender will have a different way of thinking about things is simply not true in my experience. There are people who think of all sides of things and can think around problems and those that can only see one side and those that cannot. Gender doesn’t seem to be an factor in freeness of thought. I am also a bit involved in the hacker community. Gender is something that might not even be known when you are looking at a piece of code – but the code is still respected if it awesome.

        I personally have been reverse discriminated before in college at the hands of a super-feminist professor. In a way I am glad because I learned something from it. I have two younger sisters who are really smart and this kind of thing happens to them all the time. I was the nerdy kid getting picked on in high school. I know something of how it feels. It is bullshit.

        But the great thing about the world is you don’t have to work with those people. And the smart folks will pick the other smart folks out of the pack, whether they are women or gay, transgendered, hispanic midgets to work with. It is like high school, but the lunch tables are really far apart.

        I do think the gender debate is important… In that in an ideal society it shouldn’t *be* important! That is my point! I also don’t believe the message should be “there should be more women in technology.” The message should be, “if more women want to go into technology, the white guys should not be assholes about it – and even make ‘em feel welcome.” I think you would get what you wanted a lot faster with this argument.

        I really don’t think I live in a boxed in world. I know a lot of different people and have seen a lot of things and had many interesting discussions.

        I think that is the problem is society sees all of us in our boxes. We shouldn’t be in boxes. I think your article perpetuates boxes.

        I’m ignoring your final two paragraphs because I think they aren’t rational and you were pissed at me. That’s OK – I still think you are smart and a good writer :)

        Anyway interesting discussion… I honestly don’t think your post has much to do with G+ numbers as much as it does with the frustration you feel from being treated poorly by assholes. I’m right there with you. Fuck those guys.

        Also, I am also glad you are a stay at home mom who writes. I believe that is a good thing for your kid(s) if you can swing it. My mom was a stay at home mom who was constantly put down by working mothers… it made me sad and angry.

        Perhaps this is why I feel so strongly about this too.

        • M. M. Faulkner on July 22, 2011 at 9:15 PM

          Wasn’t that awesome how I turned your words against you? My husband calls that “girling his statement”. I won’t get into that stereotype.
          And, truth be told, I was a little pissed. But, I’m human and you did say people should have the right to do whatever they want — which includes writing inflammatory articles/ responses. ;)

          Back to the serious stuff:
          Stereotypes definitely don’t apply to everyone. (But, sadly everyone didn’t get that memo…) I certainly don’t question that there are amazingly smart people out there working on things where gender in no way comes into play. That is awesome and wonderful when that happens. And, I think you and I can agree on one thing, we would both like to see a world where the “boxes” don’t matter.

          Unfortunately, any discussion of gender, race, and equality categorizes people. It’s a necessary evil. You can’t analyze how a “group” has been wronged with out defining what makes that “group” a “group”. So you are right in the fact that I probably do point out the woman “box”. It is not, however, necessarily a bad thing to be in a box. A person can be part of an identifiable group and have a positive response because of it. I think if Google had paid more attention to gender ratios with initial invites there would have been a positive effect.

          Do I personally want people to have the freedom to choose how their gender is listed on G+? Absolutely. Do I think Google could have been more thoughtful about how they sent out invitations? Yes. Would it have made a difference? Who knows. At this point, it’s neither here nor there. G+ has close to 20 million users and the gender divide will soon enough even out.

      • A.K. Bean on July 22, 2011 at 6:29 PM

        I have an inkling of a notion that maybe women aren’t willing to put up with the crap guys are for tech jobs. They aren’t always fun, they don’t always get any credit or respect, they constantly are being shorted on benefits and overworked on hours, a lot of the high-paying ones have a short lifespan, people are in and out in 5-7 years.

        I think it’s not that women don’t know tech or aren’t interested, but that they know better.

  14. tiffany on July 22, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Let’s be honest: many of the women on Google+ are *ALSO* early adopters. Many are highly competent power users, even if they don’t work in technology for a living. I’m not entirely sure that lady-geek feedback would be more or less valuable than any other early adopter type of feedback. And there are certainly other “outsiders” – LGBTQ people, people of color – who may share some of the concerns around privacy, safety, and identity that we assume women have.

    Mindset – having people who think critically about information, technology, power, and how they are used – is more important to early success than gender.

  15. Priyadarshini Ohol on July 22, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    I’m a female. Early adopter ever. And I honestly don’t want another place to play farmville. Let facebook monolpolize Zynga. I’ve played all those games. But you know I’d like there to be some difference between facebook, plus and twitter. I want to see plus evolving as a day time/at work social network. Much less distracting, useful, social but not very time consuming. The current interface and features help it do just that. That’s why I like how it’s a part of the gmail product package.

    • Prudence on July 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      I’m female and an early adopter too. I may not be a programmer, but I enjoy tekkie stuff. I have never played Farmville, or any of those games (couldn’t even name any others). At the same time, I’d rather have one go-to site as opposed to day and night sites or work and personal. G+’s circles are a great idea – I just wish people couldn’t follow you without your permission. But since there aren’t enough people on for me to even test G+ out properly, I should probably reserve comment until later.

      BTW – Career woman here, no kids, plenty of time to tinker.

  16. Lizbuddie on July 22, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    There’s a gender stereotype that has some truth behind it – women are often saddled with more of the day-to-day responsibilities of our busy families. I can’t help but notice that most of women already on G+ don’t have a house full of kids who expect dinner and need to get to soccer practice. Most of the women who are already on G+ have a job that makes being an early-adopter of the hottest social network either a necessity, an inevitability, or a tactical advantage (such as a tech job or a blogger). The rest of the gals may be too busy to bother with yet another social network until they know it has legs. Just a thought.

    Here’s another thing. Women tend to have more women ‘friends’ and men more men friends. So, did Google start the invites with a lot more men? If so, would that not slant the early gender proportions?

    That being said, I don’t think this will be an issue for much longer. It is already evening out and will continue to do so, I’m sure.

  17. Vivi on July 22, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    I’m female, geeky, computer-literate, and not on Google+. So far, I’m waiting to see what it can do that I don’t already have. Facebook is evil, yeah, but I already have it–and more to the point, so do my entire town and university. I don’t need another place that wants my real name and probably wants me to ‘check in’ somewhere and thus make every movement public. I’m a computer nerd, sure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to have private time. What I would LIKE on the internet is a return to some amount of anonymity, and if somebody gives me that, I will sign right up.

  18. Anne on July 23, 2011 at 3:58 AM

    What I don’t understand is why there is a need to distinguish male and female users. Why can’t we all just be users? I honestly want to know why these statistics are so important. I am a feminist in my own way, and I really do hate it when people start man vs woman issues out of… nothing. Perhaps you can help me understand just WHY these statistics are important. To me it’s as if these articles are further encouraging inequality and competition among sexes instead of simply ignoring gender differences in “social media” and “social networking” environments and get on with our lives.

    • M. M. Faulkner on July 23, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      Like I stated in an earlier comment, yes, in an ideal world it would be fantastic for the differences between men and women not to matter. But we don’t live in that world. And, I think it’s important to acknowledge where our differences lie (not necessarily in a negative or positive light) — just differences.

      A lot of women in technology fields (and other male dominated industries) have to work twice as hard to get their ideas heard. I actually think Google probably has a better work environment than this. (I don’t work at Google so I can’t attest to that.) And while I am sure some women have a fantastic work environment there are others that do not.

      In regards to this particular article, as I state in the article: “Although making a joke here or there, posting a somewhat mysogynist photo, or remarking on women’s love of Farmville may seem harmless enough, I think we need to recognize there is a larger picture. What I am speaking of is a collective conscience that forms when people are bombarded with the same images and messages over and over and over. The message for the past week has been ramping up and it seems to be suggesting that we are simply are not as “ready” for Google’s latest social media network. It reminds us, as women, we are in the “wrong place” at Google Plus.”

      In other words, this week, as I read comment after comment on articles reporting on the exact numbers of women on G+ I was seeing the same thing over and over….comments that I felt were degrading to women, that implied women were somehow not as smart as men. That was my interpretation.

      For Google I think this is important because Google was creating a product for a market used mostly by women. It would be like having only three women in a room with 10 men designing bras. What do men know about wearing bras? While men may have great design ideas and input, ultimately women wear bras everyday and are more likely to understand long term perspectives and small idiosyncrasies that men wouldn’t quite be able to pinpoint. It is the subtle P.O.V. shift that occurs between men and women that can make a difference in product design.

  19. Andy Silva on July 23, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    “Not to ram a point into the ground, but this method of invitations was flawed because women dominate most social media networks.”

    I don’t understand your assertion that preference should be given to the already dominant group, simply because they dominate.

    I think it’s also worth clarifying that you assert it was wrong for Google to give its own employees access+invites first because they were predominately male. Should that apply to all of the other benefits they get from working at that company too? Should the employee discounts on paid Google products get extended to an arbitrary group of women because it too heavily favors men?

    My Google+ group of friends is about 60% biological female and 40% biological male. A good deal of them are quite proud to be nerds, though I also live about a mile away from MIT. But…

    I’m having a hard time understanding why you’re turning this on Google because they’ve targeted nerds for their product launch. Because our culture paints nerdiness as being primarily (barely) acceptable by males, does this mean that Google, a technology company shouldn’t be allowed to speak to that audience directly because of the gender imbalance? Google knows that they’re bieng hurt by this imbalance. Considering that they source their R+D collectively from all of their software engineers, I’m positive they would *love* to have more women working for them in that capacity, but very few women go into this field to begin with (see the graph). It’s not like they’re trying to keep women out of the company.

    I do think it’s great that the unfairness of the negative stereotypes about female nerds have gotten some press, but I don’t think it’s legitimate to paint Google as a wrong sided belligerent in the war on negative stereotypes simply because it’s they’re unintentionally bringing a spotlight to the issue. Simply the fact that they removed the gender reporting option so quickly after receiving complaints shows that (unlike Facebook) they’re listening to what people are saying about gender issues, and that deserves praise. The real enemy here is the negative stereotype itself, and I don’t think we should forget that for a second.

    • M. M. Faulkner on July 23, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      I never asserted Google shouldn’t invite their own employees. From what I understand, Google invited people in tech fields, many of those had no affiliation to Google, and also some random chrome/ gmail users. I have no way of knowing who Google sent invites to inside their company. As I stated in the article “While I can’t find figures of how many women are officially working on the Google Plus project (or even the amount of women who work for Google) overall, I think Google does a better job than average at encouraging diversity in the workplace. Google forms networks like Google Women Engineers Network (GWE) and Women’s Leadership Community (WLC) within company ranks. They regularly offer lectures of leading women (just search youtube.com for women@google). Google certainly gives the appearance, if nothing else, of trying to make women’s voices be heard.”

      I think most Plus users would agree, the women who were “early adopters” were very bright women and many were very technologically advanced. I am not questioning the quality of women, just the quantity and how that will effect product development.

  20. Dennis on July 25, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    I’m going to take a crack at this, because of all the gender/G+ articles I’ve read today, this is the one really commanded my respect.

    It’s also gotten me to ask: When is it OK to say ‘we need more men doing this’?

    I understand this sounds like flame-bait, it’s not intended as such. Rather, it’s a difficult question I would genuinely like to hear your opinion on.

    See, for decades now we have been saying things like: “women are disproportionately represented in the engineering majors, we need to change that,” and “Or only x% of upper management positions here are staffed by women, we need to make the environment more encouraging for their growth.”

    In G+, we have the strange occurrence that its demographics are opposite a sort of “gender-imbalanced status quo.” Does no-one seize this as an opportunity to get feedback on how to include more males in what is generally regarded, and catered to (if all the Farmville snarking is to be believed), as a female oriented domain?

    Instead, we hold up that the majority of SNS users are female as justification for moving G+’s social paradigm to be like the rest. Yet by any stretch of the progressive imagination, saying something like “Entrepreneurship is dominated by men, your entrepreneur magazine and entrepreneur clubs should cater more to men…especially if your membership is majority female,” would be considered backwards.

    Granted, I understand that G+’s current situation is more of a happy accident driven by the way invitations were handed out and how they propagated along old gender-behavior lines. And I get it, women have dealt with this stuff for years. And yes any talk on how to arrive at equality is is bound to become a sort of pendulum-argument (as you’ve already seen here). I’m not here to jump back into those eternally-cyclical goal chases. Heck, I’m not even here to argue against this piece. I love it, and I agree. In the end, G+ needs more women, both as members as movers. That Google recognizes issues of inclusion makes me want to see it grow even more inclusive. And as the company I’ve sold my technological soul to, I want to see it succeed, I want to see it beat Facebook at its own game, and I want to see it triumph where its competitors stumble. In fact, it’s all right by me if G+ becomes 56% to 60% female in doing so.

    I’m here because I admire the way you ask for more women to be involved, and I want to know what you think when a voice inside me reacts to the current media fascination with a “Doesn’t it matter that we (men) are here too?”

  21. Prudence on July 25, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Something I haven’t seen anyone mention (forgive me if it’s been brought up) is that women talk. A lot. A lot more than men. That would mean $$$ for Google. Having a large number of women on board is like having a good repeat customer base and more advertisers will jump on board. I think full-blown Google advertising can’t be far away. (I hope it stays far away!)

  22. Lori Gama on July 30, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    Melissa, what a brilliant post and so thoroughly researched! Google+ is a smarter, more evolved Facebook. I think it is just a matter of time before we see the ratio of men and women start to balance and eventually, there will be more women than men. In hindsight of Google+, Facebook blew it when they changed their friend list tool. It’s basically useless now. But Google+ capitalized on this Facebook weakness by creating Circles, which are great filters for us to be able to share certain things with certain people – just like “In Real Life” (Ha! The Internet IS real life and people who aren’t online a lot are the ones living in a disconnected/tunnel vision world. But I digress…). Once our female Facebook friends realize they can more easily filter whom they share content with over on Google+, I think they’ll start to migrate over to Google+ and spend more time there instead of Facebook. That’s what’s happened to me. Right now I’m finding TONS of smart, talented, intellectual, unique women in Google+ to follow, learn from, and hopefully, eventually, collaborate with. And thanks to Lynette Young’s website: Women of GPlus, we have a great resource to find and connect with hundreds more. Don’t get me wrong: I admire and am a fan of many, many talented, smart men, too. But we need more balance when it comes to gender issues. When the world can collectively start seeing “the content of one’s character” (to paraphrase MLK), then you won’t have to write articles like “Why Women Users Are Important for Google Plus” because it would be like the air we breath – a natural thing: not unusual.

  23. Sherry Nouraini on August 7, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    Google is actively recruiting women to Google plus in a smart and efficient manner:


  24. AgaKorea on September 25, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    Well, I am a G+ user myself. But I may only guess why not many women use it. Because it is full of “look how great photographer I am” “look what I have acheived” “look how big status I have” kind of people. Also all they talk about is rather boring stuff like technology, stock exchange rates and so on. Not many people among them who would be more real. Who would be more truthful, less businesslike/heartless/technological… I would be happy to know that G+ users can unify around something, create pressure for changes, speak truth about what is around in politics or business…I don’t see it. This is why I still keep my FB account where people seem to be more real.

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