August 18, 2005

Men, women, and crossword competition

A few weeks ago at the small Chicago Cru dinner, I mentioned the small number of women in contention at Stamford. Some of the men present felt that there were plenty of women competing at the tournament, and rattled off the names of the handful of women near the top. (It's a typical reaction, where someone in the majority views a few token minorities as indicative of a healthy representation.) I just took a look at the 2005 ACPT standings, and there were only about 20 women in the top 100, versus almost 60 in the bottom 100. (I say "about" because names like Leigh or Terry could swing either way.) So clearly, women are in fact underrepresented at the elite levels, despite the stereotype that "girls are better than boys in language."

My explanation is that (1) girls and women are more often socialized to "make nice" and please others, rather than compete against the other sex, and (2) women are less likely to have the time and energy for optional pursuits like doing tons of crosswords, since they tend to have more household and child-care responsibilities than men.

I'd like to hear from the other women out there. What do you think is behind the M/F imbalance in crossword competition?