Improving Gender Balance in KM Thought Leadership Recognition

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

November 03, 2022

I have reached the half-way point in my Lucidea’s Lens: Knowledge Management Thought Leaders series. 26 profiles have already been published, and there are 26 more to go. The question came up about why all 26 profiles have featured women.

Why is that, and what about the men? This post answers those questions and provides statistics about gender balance in my KM lists and blog posts.

In my very first blog post in 2006 I included a list of 32 knowledge management thought leaders. Of those in the list, 25 (78%) were men and just 7 (22%) were women, but I didn’t pay any attention to this at the time. When my first book was published in 2007, I expanded this list to 52 and included it in the appendix. It had 44 men (85%) and 8 women (15%), which was even worse, but once again, it went unnoticed.

In 2016 I published a blog post, 100 KM Thought Leaders and 50 KM Consultants, which was later updated to 200 KM Thought Leaders and 100 KM Consultants. These lists have continued to grow over time.

In 2018 Bruce Boyes posted an article in RealKM Magazine, Improving gender equality in knowledge management, in which he wrote:

Today March 8 is International Women’s Day, offering an opportunity to reflect on gender equality in the knowledge management (KM) discipline. Is there a gender imbalance in KM, and if there is, what should we do about it?

While I haven’t been able to locate any robust statistics about the proportion of women in various KM roles, there are some strong indicators that the discipline has a significant gender equality problem. For example, in Stan Garfield’s comprehensive list of KM Thought Leaders, just 16% are women.

Barbara Fillip followed that up with a post in her Insight Mapping blog, Women in Knowledge Management (or any male-dominated field), in which she wrote:

Stan Garfield posted a list of KM Thought Leaders.  I don’t think the list is new, but it circulated recently on LinkedIn, which is where I saw it. The great majority of the thought leaders on that list are men.  I am re-posting here the names of women who were on that list.  The idea is 1) to give the women more visibility with a separate list; 2) to point out that perhaps there are many more women thought leaders in KM who need to be added to this list.

There was also a recent article in RealKM by Bruce Boyes about the issue of gender equity in KM.  The article seemed to point to the fact that the field of KM isn’t immune to broader societal inequalities.  There is nothing surprising about that and I can’t disagree. Having experienced some gender inequality frustrations of my own.  As a woman, I have a good sense of how it has affected my career.  I can’t say I have good answers or solutions other than to become more vocal about it AND take responsibility for some of it as well.

At the end of 2017 I started a new series of LinkedIn articles Profiles in Knowledge: Insights from KM Thought Leaders. At first, I did not consider gender and geographic balance in the people I profiled, but after reading what Bruce and Barbara wrote, I began to think about how I could address that in the series. I replied to Barbara with the following comment:

The issue of possible cultural/geographic bias in the list was raised when I first published it. I encouraged suggested additions, and as a result, the list grew from 50 to 100 to 200. Suggested additions are still welcome.

I became more sensitive to the larger percentage of male thought leaders I had profiled and made a conscious effort to provide better gender balance. Starting in late 2018, one year into the series, I included more women. I also tried to alternate between different regions of the world in which the thought leaders resided.

When I started the Lucidea’s Lens: KM Thought Leaders series earlier this year, I decided to feature 52 women, one each week for a year. I continue to write my Profiles in Knowledge series in which I now feature men each month. By writing about a different woman each week and a different man each month, I am attempting to achieve better balance over time.

Here are details on the current gender breakdowns for the KM Thought Leaders List and the two series. Some of the Lucidea’s Lens series are updated versions of previous Profiles in Knowledge. In the list below, “first-time individual” refers to new profiles of people who were either previously featured in multi-person profiles or who are being featured for the first time.

  • KM Thought Leaders List: 205 men (78%), 57 women (22%)
  • Individual Profiles in Knowledge: 46 men (58%), 33 women (42%)
  • Multi-person Profiles in Knowledge: 48 men (70%), 21 women (30%)
  • Totals of individual and multi-person Profiles in Knowledge: 94 men (64%), 54 women (36%)
  • Lucidea’s Lens Thought Leaders Series: 26 women (11 first-time individual) (100%)
  • Totals of Individual Profiles in Knowledge and Lucidea’s Lens first-time individuals: 46 men (51%), 44 women (49%)

There are many outstanding women who deserve recognition but who are sometimes overshadowed by men, so this is my effort at correcting that. If you know of thought leaders in knowledge management you believe I should include in either series, please write to me at stangarfield@gmail.com so I can consider them.

See also:

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Please enjoy Stan’s blog posts offering advice and insights drawn from many years as a KM practitioner. You may also want to download a free copy of his book, Lucidea’s Lens: Special Librarians & Information Specialists; The Five Cs of KM from Lucidea Press, and its precursor, Proven Practices for Implementing a Knowledge Management Program. And learn about Lucidea’s Presto, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus software with unrivaled KM capabilities that enable successful knowledge curation and sharing.

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