Women in go

As you probably know, I am a woman who loves to play go. And that’s normal, I guess. What I don’t find normal is that there are so few of us. I don’t know the exact numbers worldwide, but between Italian go players women are about 5% (and I would bet that we are in the minority everywhere).

In your opinion, what is this due to? Is it a problem that we must try to solve (therefore mainly cultural) or is it just about individual inclinations?

I have some ideas but I’d rather know what you think, or what your experience is, first :slight_smile:


Yep need more women in Go

need more of everyone tbh


There was a gender poll a while back that gathered some data on forum users

Also, later in that thread, anoek provided some data from Google analytics:

I feel quite unqualified to offer a compelling opinion, as I am not a sociologist, and have not really deeply studied this complex issue. However, I think the imbalance is largely due to cultural issues, and a sort of hangover from a time where many fields of interest, ranging from professions to hobbies/sports, were just so overwhelmingly male-dominated as a consequence of an unapologetically sexist and patriarchal society.

Although current society is still far from ideal on gender issues, things have certainly improved a lot over the decades. However, even in areas where attitudes have remarkably shifted more towards inclusion and even active outreach to encourage diversity, I think there is a cultural lag due to biases being deeply instilled by an older societal condition. In some cases, women might become discouraged to participate in a field due to the current underrepresentation of women, and hence making the process of equalizing participation much more gradual. Of course, a significant amount of sexism does still exist and surely plays a role as well.


26% Nice, didn’t expect so many.


In the pro range, woman Go pros start to gain more ground these days, especially new pros.

The ratio is about 1 to 5 to 1 to 6 (less than 15%) for pros who born in the 20th century. But look at new pros in the 1p and 2p range in Nihon Kiin

Women pros are colored in faded pink (and in majority). Although it is due to the effect of special promotion (like giving extra quota), but at least it is the right idea.

And we are as strong in pro tournaments as new pros. Below is the line-up for the new pro main tournament (limited to pros younger than 25), it’s 8 out of 32.


In the UK I think Go was played mainly by people who discovered it as a computing or mathematical challenge and these were (and still are) male dominated fields.

I think so. I’ve never known anything that is not improved by better diversity in participation.


Probably female players are more qualified than me to talk about the subject. In a French article, one of them describe some bad sexist experiences, and explains the grounds for female competitions: Pourquoi le CDFF ? – Championnat de France Féminin de Go. A few years ago I accompanied a team of 4 teenagers for a go competition in China. One of the players was a girl, I asked her why she thinks so few girls play go and she gave similar explanations.

I am not saying these poor behaviors are very frequent, I didn’t witness them myself but I am not a woman so my perspective is different. I guess that having a bad experience once every few months is enough of a deterrent.

Another factor is that on average, women tend to dislike competition more than men. I read somewhere that although the number of women is comparable to the number of men in Scrabble or in Bridge, men outperform women in competitions. In Scrabble for instance, males tend to spend more time learning lists of words, praticing alone using a computer program, etc. In short, women are on average more interested in the social aspect of the game and men more interested in the competitive aspect.

I am quite certain that cultural reasons explain that fact (society tells women to collaborate and not to compete). However I wonder if hormones also play a role, as testosterone makes people more aggressive.

I am aware that my last sentence may appear as politically incorrect, however I feel it is a legitimate question that should be raised and answered, whether positively or negatively.


As a generally pretty aggressive player, I take offense to these statements. Whether it is lite sexism. It is still sexism. What you are implying is that if I know my opponent are men, I’ll just politely choose to loss to them? Or was I born not wanting to invest more time in learning and practicing?

It’s this kind of attitude makes the statement like “there is chess and there’s woman’s chess”, and it has been like this in the 20th century. It almost certainly due to the organizers for tournaments and people who had powers in the institutions created this mentality (“there is Go, and there is woman’s Go”). Even today, in Nihonkiin, tournaments with the name “woman” on them do NOT count toward their ranking score, although all players in these tournaments are pros and definitely not playing casually. And I am glad there are more people in power in these institutes started to make an effort (for decades now), but it is certainly still not enough.


Sorry I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t say that women can’t be aggressive or competitive, but that they are on average less interested in competitions. Of course a woman who is interested in competitions is as strong as men.

I don’t have the article at hand but this has been measured for Scrabble (time spent learning lists of words among men and among women, etc). The article doesn’t give explanations for this phenomenon, and I admit that trying to come up with explanations may appear as sexist, however it doesn’t mean the phenomenon doesn’t exist.


Please try not to. This is a good faith thread, it’s fine if generalities do not apply to you personally.


I think the first reason is cultural: women “shouldn’t spend time on nerdy stuff”. I know of many parents who would search on Mars’ satellites for extra-curricular activities for their boy but they would just drive the girl to the nearest ballet class.
The second reason maybe that the public is not familiar with Go. So, if I’m looking for a hobby, I’ll probably pick one of the well-known ones, before I even stumble upon a Go suggestion. Try googling (binging, baiduing) “20 hobbies to do during lockdown” and tell me what you find.
Third, have you ever read a sports’ newspaper? They never write “the gorgeous goalkeeper with the golden hair” or “the stunning basketball player with a top-model’s legs” or “the green-eyed beauty who conquered the courts”.
Fourth, there is a general decline in board games in general, because of trends. Today’s trends are competitive cooking, singing or influencing.


I don’t believe jlt meant it to be offensive, but Claire has probably dealt with things like that meant to be offensive, and extensively.

I know you are trying to balance the discussion, but please consider we are so tired of our objections being shut down.

There’s always a “we don’t mean it that way” and it’s exhausting. Even if true, after the millionth time, it’s exhausting.


If we change the subjects to “Asian ancestry” and “non-Asian ancestry” to your statements. The paragraph will be

“Asian ancestry players has been measured to be stronger and more in numbers in Go, and they generally study harder and practice more, and non-Asian ancestry players on average is less interested in Go, these are measured phenomenon existed”

How would you think of it? Racism?


True statement I’d say.


Just because something’s good faith doesn’t mean it’s okay… sexism is sexism even if the offender didn’t mean to offend.


The rest of her arguments are very insightful. Overall it was a great comment about the troubles that women face in male-dominated fields. My concern is simply that when conversations start going down the “offence” path, everyone puts walls up, words become harsher and more defensive, and the conversation devolves and loses most of its potential value.


Also no.

There is no negative derogation in any of the statements. Pointing out differences between groups is not discrimination. Not sexist. Not racist.

Please, seriously, everyone. Let’s have a good discussion here. I believe we can.


Forget about men and women. The population consists of two groups, A and B. Consider two activities C and D. People in A are more interested in C than in D, and people in B are more interested in D than in C. As a consequence, people in A outperform people in B in activity C. Is it discriminatory against B to say that?


I agree with all your statements but one: social influence. If society is repeatedly told that “it is so”, then it becomes so and then the data can prove it and make it last. Unfortunately, women need to re-invent the wheel every few years as far as rights go.


It’s all true, except when people jump straight for “race” to be the explanation.

What I am “strongly disagree” with is not the observed phenomenon, but the conclusion part and jump straight into sex as the added possible explanation.

Why even bother added this? And I find this lack of awareness and mentality being the most troublesome in my time when my peers and organizers looked down on us, and claim to be unbias.