Online communities are flourishing as social meeting web-spaces for users and peer community members. Different online communities require different levels of competence for participants to join, and scattered evidence suggests that the female gender and minorities can be overly under-represented. Additional anecdotal evidence suggests that women withdraw from unfriendly online communities.
Due to the limited amount of empirical evidence on the matter, this paper provides a quantitative study of the phenomenon, in order to assess the representation and social impact of gender in online communities. This study
positions itself within recent and focused international initiatives, launched by the European Commission in order to encourage women in the field of sciences and technology.
Focusing on technical support networks around web design tools (e.g., Drupal and WordPress) and on questions & answers sites (e.g., StackOverflow), this paper unearths a spectrum of online communities, in which women participate to various degrees.