Clarke’s Data, Part II

A few days ago, Neil Clarke released demographic information from a survey he took (which I then used to create this little discussion, along with a few comments). He’s now released the first wave of results. It’s interesting to see what he’s doing–I’m especially intrigued by the break-out of authors’ influences. You should look at it.

But I want to pull out one piece of information that shows up in his charts, but that he hasn’t addressed yet. It’s about gender and age, and I think it speaks to some of the conversations that are inherent in the cultural conversations rolling through the SF community today. It doesn’t cover everything, of course. But I think it’s interesting, and if real, relevant.

Here’s the chart in question. In particular, focus on the Published Writer “Gender by Age” break-out

While the overall split of male/female population (as we learned last week) is 54/44, this chart says this skew is very different in the world of published writers depending on what side of Age 40 you look at. If you look at writers over 40 years old, it’s man’s world. But if you look at the “next gen” you see females are the predominant gender. Again, this is published writers we’re talking about. (though the data is self-reported).

What does this mean?

I dunno.

One could say several things about it—including the idea that this is just one piece of data, and may not mean squat (though, again, 944 responders is pretty solid). But two things go through my mind:

First, the overall male skew in this data set happens because of the overpowering numbers of 40+ year-old writers. Did the 40+ skew roll through the ages, or did 40+ males just start their writing careers late? Like most of this, all I’ve got as an answer here is one big shrug. It would be interesting to see how this changes over time, though.

And second, I think it’s a truism that often (certainly not always) ground-breaking work (danger, danger, Will Robinson!) happens in the earlier years of life. If true (even more danger here, Will Robinson!), one could then take another tenuous step and suggest that Award Quality Work (and even more danger here, Will Robinson!) might skew a little younger. And if that’s the case, then it would be expected that award rosters should skew female.

As a rule, though, they don’t. Especially in the Hugo numbers this year.

Of course, you get to pick your own reason as to why that happens. The main thing I get through thinking about this is that I would love to see more break-downs like this. Data rules, doncha you know?

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