The (supposed) gender imbalance on the Chinese Weibosphere (updated)

Gender divide on Sina Weibo in Hong Kong

In November, our Hong Kong sample had a larger majority of women than in the mainland sample — the current data more or less shows 72753 women for 27871 men (73% women) is, give or take one percent, the same proportion. I was starting to suspect that this imbalance might be linked to our sampling method, which is based on a sample of posts, for which we grab the users — if women are more frequent updaters, they should appear more frequently, no matter their real distribution in the Weibo population. However, some data that I found may indicate that it is not an accident.

An analysis method that we developed in the past week seems to support this gender imbalance, to my great surprise. I now have a bunch of new scripts that can gather all the reposts of a single post (in Weibo, all reposts/retweets are posts of their own, with a reference to the original) and gather basic information on users. With previous methods, we only had a cross-section of the user base, but this time we have a clearly defined and complete sample of users. We compiled the data for a popular non-entertainment post on the Choi Yuen Chuen (菜園村) issue (login required) in Hong Kong, by a Hong Kong activist and found that it was reposted by 1050 women and 293 men (in Weibo, the gender profile attribute is mandatory and exposed by the API). And 1050 / (1050 + 293) is… 0.782, which means that the reposters are at 78.2% of women.

In the entire sample, Hong Kong and other territories combined, the numbers are 6,211 women and 1,814 men, which is 77.4% [strangely enough for a Hong Kong issue, the majority of reposters were mainland-based, with the most people from Guangzhou (1512) and Shenzhen (411)]. To give more power to these observations on gender, I’d have to look at a larger variety of posts, and actually verify the validity of the gender identification. It would be interesting to see whether these same users who repost are actually people who post a lot of original things, and if they are followed by a comparable number of users. Do women make the user base of Sina Weibo? Does the repost pattern reflect their style of contributions?

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