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One in three women say they have seen sexism at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2017, 11:47:50 (UTC), Domain Policy

Almost a third of female members of the ICANN community say they have witnessed sexism in the community, according to the results of a recent survey.

Asked “Have you ever experienced or witnessed what you perceive to be sexism or gender bias within the ICANN community?”, 30% of women respondents said “Yes”.

Only 17% of men answered in the affirmative. Overall, 75% of respondents said they had not seen such biases in action.

The broad survey into gender balance at ICANN was carried out over a month in June and July with a web-based tool and got 584 responses.

Participants were self-selecting, and there were slightly more female respondents than male (going against the grain of usual participation data), so the results should probably not be considered completely scientific.

The survey did not offer its own definition of sexism, so respondents were able to use their own judgement.

Of those who said they’d seen sexism in the community, most said they’d seen it at ICANN’s regular public meetings. Over a third said they’d witnessed it on mailing lists.

The older the participant, the more likely it was that they had seen behavior they considered sexist.

ICANN suggests that this could be because behaviors have changed as ICANN has matured, or that younger people have different definitions of sexism than their older peers.

Of those who said they had witnessed sexism, only four people chose to report it through ICANN channels such as the Ombudsman. Three of those people were men.

Almost half said they “chose” not to report the behavior, while 41% said they were unsure how to go about reporting it.

Some people who chose to add additional color to their responses said that they had only heard about the reportable incident second-hand.

The survey also found that almost 60% of respondents believe that there are barriers to participating in the ICANN community.

Those people were given the opportunity to rank factors that could act as barriers. Cost came out in a strong lead, but gender was found to be just as much a barrier as language.

That may be not so much a critique of the community itself, but rather of the backwards attitudes to women in some of the countries in which ICANN hosts its meetings.

Only 9% of women respondents said they have personally experienced a gender-related barrier to participation. Cost, lack of time, knowledge and geography all came out ahead.

When it came to solutions, the survey found that almost three quarters of respondents supported voluntary targets to promote gender balance in the community.

However, fewer than half of respondents — still a rather high 41% — said there should be “mandatory” quotas of women.

Unsurprisingly, support for affirmative action along mandatory lines was much higher among women than men, and much higher among the younger crowd than the old-timers.

The full report and a rather pretty infographic can be downloaded in the UN language of your choosing from here.

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Comments (3)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Is this fundamentally different from sexism observed in our society ? Because while I saw sexism occurring within ICANN, the rate of occurrence doesn’t strike me as being fundamentally different from corporate world as a whole. I believe there is much to evolve and ICANN shouldn’t lag behind, but I don’t think it’s capable of being a bridgehead in that effort.

  2. Brenda says:

    When you turn up at rego for an ICANN meet, the first interaction is always “no, we only have men’s style t-shirts”.

    Consider also, that those who consistently encounter sexism have often already long ago given up and left the community – or have decided to never engage – they don’t get as far as interacting with ICANN because the sexism doesn’t let them in, or dissuades them from participating.

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