Why is iNat male-dominated?

Around 80% of the top observers are male and it’s even higher looking at the top identifiers. I haven’t come up with a satisfying explanation, but maybe someone else can?


Hm.How do you know for sure (around 80%)? I must admit I never really paid that much attention, but my superficial impression is that most profiles do not even tell anything about the person’s age/gender/etc. I might be wrong though.


We males are more competitive. So, every time we open iNat we see who has been the “best” identifier, that hits hard.

This is seen clearly in some fields where the whole thing is male-dominated: birds, moths&butterflies…

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I don’t think it is an iNat specific thing, it seems to be more a general trend among field naturalists. The same pattern holds true on many other nature sites such as Ebird, OdonataCentral,BugGuide, Mushroom Observer etc. I cant comment on Facebook natuire groups as I dont have an account.

If anything based on my experience on other sites the male/female ratio is more balanced on iNat than other similar sites.


Why does it matter and who cares?


Being a “nature nerd” and doing nature photography has probably been male-biased for much longer than iNat has been around. Therefore, many of these top submitters probably were already poised to contribute a lot of photo records to iNat when it came online. Some of those folks were actively collecting records back in the pre-digital slide photo days.

However, there is no particular reason why it should remain male-biased. It wasn’t that many years ago when you had to invest in camera equipment and no one had a cellphone capable of decent pics … now everyone can take nature photos and there’s probably no gender bias. We’re all photographers now. There are many iNatters who are just getting started in submitting records and might be top contributors in the future and I suspect that cohort is more evenly divided between male and female.


The mega-observers and mega-identifiers are mostly male, but this is a small fraction of iNat users. Beyond that, I’m not convinced that there is much if any real imbalance. When I look at people with around ~500 or less observations in my province, I’m seeing a lot of women.
I don’t think it should be surprising that the personality type that will upload 10000 photos of bugs or confirm thousands of photos of the same grass is much more common in men, any more than it is surprising that nearly all veterinarians are women.


Here’s a survey so we can at least find out what the gender split is among people in the forums specifically who like filling in surveys. :D


Edit: Survey closed, results posted.


im sure theres a huge confidence gap between men and women that would account for a lot of it (and wonder how many women dont disclose their gender to avoid bias). and confidence it is indeed, because they are by no means always right and ive seen some bewildering IDs sometimes. not only that, but i think the sorts of interests that draw someone to inat are often not considered feminine - and id love to know how many of us were “weird” growing up; loving nature too much, being nerds, not doing the whole girl thing right, loving being outdoors/active and not minding or even liking getting dirty, any of that kind of stuff


Part of it is confidence, as was mentioned I think some females hide their gender because some people apparently will attack their identifications solely because they were done by a female (I’ve seen someone’s introduction had a warning about that, more or less).

It’s also that despite all our modernity, women are still the primary nurturers and caretakers for a family. Not just for children, but also for disabled and aging parents. Their time is effectively monopolized caring, cooking, cleaning, shuttling others, thus they have little “free” time to devote to a hobby like this. If I had children, I doubt I would have much time or energy to devote to investigating the natural world around me.

I’m going to hazard a guess that the most active females on this site have grown children, are childless, or have a strong support system at home where they are not expected to not only have a full time job, but also cook and clean for the household (yeah, it’s more common than one would think).

As far as competitiveness, I don’t think there’s much difference in competitiveness between genders, but we were socialized differently, where girls are taught to (or at least I was, growing up in 80s and 90s) not be “too good” at anything, not make others feel inadequate, not be too smart, etc. Regrettably, I dumbed myself down repeatedly throughout the years and avoided certain subjects. My father quite clearly told me as an adult, “you should do something artistic [not coding].” I’ve heard similar stories from other women being dissuaded by their own father as well. If our father doesn’t think we’ll do good at “guy subjects” why should we believe differently?

How many parents are pushing their girls to do well in math and science? And how many of them have their daughters in dance or cheerleading groups? We are shaped by what is expected of us, and until very recently, women were expected to look and act nice above all else, not be intelligent or inquisitive.

Also, see Beatrix Potter’s story. She tried to have a scientific paper published and was rejected (likely due to her gender, not lack of scientific acumen). So she started writing children’s books instead. Multiply that by millions or billions.


The male personality loves to be right, and iNaturalist provides abundant opportunities.

(How’s that for a sexist stereotype… :muscle::wink:)

After this, we’'ll need another survey to find out why surveys asking about gender splits are so (fe)male-dominated.


And any forum provides ample opportunity for man-splaining, which has derailed more discussions than you can count. :-)


My wild-ass guess: autism spectrum disorders (and subclinical features) are much more frequent among men than women – and some of the qualities that make a good identifier (obsessive categorization of details pertaining to a narrow range of phenomena) also makes for an ideal iNat contributor.

That said, it does make me wonder if there are straightforward things we could do to welcome more female contributors.


male voices dominate science due to sexism and various other factors. Whether that means more males actually use the site or just that we are more visible, I don’t know. Among friends and colleagues using iNat I haven’t noticed this trend, though yes I have seen mansplaining occur. Hopefully I am not inadvertently doing so.


As said above, who cares? I am tired of everything today having to be labeled, male vs. female etc. I look at iNat because of the photos, nature and I learn some new things everyday, whether the person who posted the picture, gave an ID or gave a comment is male or female, I couldn’t give a hoot.

A well rounded person takes interest in many things and is willing to learn from anyone.


There are many questions and topics posted on this forum where another person with no interest in the subject could jump in and ask “who cares?” when the better response might be to simply ignore it. Not every discussion is of interest to all but all are of interest to some, including the original poster.


Because on a website devoted to nature, whether the person is male or female is inconsequential.


You have already made it clear that this is your perspective, and personally I share that perspective. But clearly others here have different perspectives, and those can be respected too.


I think that because people using iNaturalist can have pseudonyms, don’t need to post photos, and don’t have to say if they’re male or female or whatever, iNaturalist actually has the opportunity to help (in a small way) correct the male-domination and misogyny and characterize too much of our social lives. I think that a predominance of males here reflects social expectations, economic realities, and perhaps biological traits like autism, in our larger society. (I say this as a childless woman who probably would have been diagnosed as having Asberger’s syndrome if that diagnosis had been available during my troubled childhood.)

There’s male-dominated, as in “more males than females” and “male-dominated” as in males do the leading and women have a subordinate role. Perhaps it’s just my background in professional botany (where women are common and often forceful leaders) but I think that at most iNaturalist is “male-dominated” in the first sense, which doesn’t bother me personally, though it might bother others.

I think that iNaturalist should keep on welcoming people and insisting on polite interactions, because these things will help women and everyone else (except the occasional jerk) participate here.