Discrimination in Go

    Keywords: Culture & History

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Comment: for obvious reasons, disentangling, less bad statistics, more good statistics, one topic at once

Thesis: Women constitute about 50% of the population. Women are a much smaller portion of professional go players. It is assumed that a desirable outcome would be for the proportion of female professional go players to be closely approximate the proportion of women in the general population. The thesis is the relative absence of women in the population of professional go players is the result of discrimination.
Another thesis: Women constitute about 50% of the population. Women are a much smaller portion of the total go player population. Therefore it is to be expected that the strongest women (top 1%) are on average weaker than the strongest men (top 1%) for statistical reasons. Finding such a difference may therefore tell us nothing about innate strength or ability of either sex provided that the statistics of the self-selected population of rated members of the German Chess Federation are the same as those of the general population.
Conclusion: In professional tournaments and title matches, there is no indication of gender based discrimination against women (see 5 September 2011 update below for a known case of discrimination). Women are free to enter all professional tournaments under the same qualifying conditions as men. There are tournaments reserved for women only. Men are excluded from these tournaments. We have not been able to reach a consensus conclusion why the percentage of go professionals or open title holders that are women is significantly less than the percentage of women in the general population. There are indications that certain national professional go organizations may exclude certain individuals from joining the organization. This may be based upon nationality or age of the individual. (summarized by Velobici)
Another conclusion: It seems likely that another thesis holds. The new research question may be: Why are so many women still not playing Go?
5 September 2011 In the 2nd Qiandeng Cup? (千灯杯), the Taiwan Qiyuan decided to pay the male Taiwanese players but not the female Taiwanese players, including Joanne Missingham. As a result of this discrimination by the Taiwan Qiyuan, several women declined to play in the tournament. ([ext] reference at Go Game Guru.)
16 June 2010: [ext] Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30 year examination to be published in the journal Intelligence investigates the male-female ability ratios from over 1.6 million 7th grade students in the right tail (top 5% in ability) across 30 years (1981-2010) using multiple measures of math, verbal, and writing ability and science reasoning from the SAT and ACT. The paper covers results of gender ability differences over the 30 year period (1981 - 2010) showing that disparities have dropped from a 13:1 male-female ratio for the top 0.01% in mathematics as of 1981 to a 4:1 male-female ratio for the same group as of 1991. That 4:1 ratio has remained substantially unchanged over the last 20 years. By contrast, in the male-female ratio for standard written english, reading and writing has varied from 1.00 to 0.58 (extremal values) over the same 30 year period. The data appears to indicate that there is no male-female difference at the mean, but rather the spread or standard deviation is different between the two genders.
The 18 May 2008 issue of [ext] The Boston Globe contained an article entitled [ext] The freedom to say "no" regarding the comparative scarcity of women in science and engineering: When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else. The article refers [ext] Why are there so few women in Information Technology? Assessing the role of Personality in Career Choice by [ext] Joshua L. Rosenbloom and [ext] Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years by [ext] Camilla Persson Benbow and [ext] David Lubinsky.
We have focused on Japan in the discussion below. Can anyone provide information regarding China and South Korea?

See Also:

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Discussion: This is a page for discussing whether or not women (and others) are discriminated against in the go world. An [ext] article written in 1992 by Samuel H Sloan discusses a particular situation concerming Rui Naiwei.[1] Rui participates in a study group with Go Seigen who has also been the victim of discrimination in Japanese go. See [ext] Top-flight go player slams glass ceiling (The Japan Times, Feb. 15, 2002) [2]

Velobici: Having read the article, it is not at all clear that this is a case of discrimination against women. Rather the Nihon Kiin has decided that Rui Naiwei will not play professionally in Japan. In the intervening years, Rui has become a guest member of the Korean Go Association and in 2002 won all the women's titles in Korea. It appears that Rui's future is bright indeed. Korea has become a very strong go playing country. Her earlier troubles in Japan could be a blessing in disguise for it lead to her travelling to Korea and enjoying great success in that country.

Velobici: The issue may be non-Japanese coming to Japan at a later age or after becoming a professional elsewhere. Kobayashi Izumi played with the men in the [ext] Judan Tournament

Given this information, perhaps the issue is not sexism.

pwaldron: I got the inside scoop from a Westerner in Japan sometime ago. The reason that Rui Naiwei wasn't allowed to play at the Nihon Ki-in had everything to do with her being a woman, but perhaps not in the way you might think. The other Japanese women pros realized that with her around they wouldn't be able to win the women's only titles any more, with their associated prize money. They kicked up a big enough stink that the Nihon Ki-in had to deny Rui Naiwei's request to play in Japan.

Velobici: Ouch! Sounds like the issue is that she is strong and was prohibited from play for that reason, rather than everything to do with her being a woman. Go Seigen did not (was not allowed?) to compete in many Japanese title matches. He did compete in and win the Japan Strongest? Title matches twice, as well as competing in the Oteai. Another example of freezing out a player that is too strong?

pwaldron: The impressions I got from my discussions was that were Naiwei a strong man, she would be welcome. Being strong and being a woman was a combination that wouldn't fly, though.

HolIgor: Actually, all female professional players compete in all tournaments. The example above is of a rare success when Izumi made it to the final stages.

Dieter: There is discrimination in the Go World. There are pro competitions in which men cannot participate. I find that very disturbing, even more for the women than for the discriminated men.

RafaelCaetano: I find it quite natural. Perhaps they exist for the same reason female-only tennis competitions exist, i.e., in general women cannot compete on par with men at tennis. Discrimination is not necessarily evil.

dnerra: And that is exactly the point. Women can compete on par with men in go, and the existence of women-only events encourages the prejudice that they cannot.

TimBrent: or there are women's only tournaments because someone or some company is willing to put up the prize fund for such a tournament (as in Chess).

dnerra: I just realize that this sounds like the start of a flame-ware. I hope it will not turn out to be one. But I couldn't leave Rafael's statement unanswered, sorry. If someone thinks both our contributions should be deleted from this page, please go ahead.

BobMcGuigan: I'll add to dnerra's remark and say that while there may (I say may) be some physical basis [3] for the existence of women-only tennis or golf, go is a mind sport so there is really no inherent reason why women and men shouldn't compete on an equal basis. There may be societal bias which affects women and their ability or willingness to compete. And there are several women who are very strong pro players, even Rui who won an open title in Korea (the Kuksu).

Tamsin: There are various physical reasons why women might be less disposed toward playing go than men, in fact. Testosterone and oestrogen have radically different effects on a person's temperament and style of thinking. These hormones have profound effects on different structures in the brain.

Velobici: women might be less disposed toward playing go than men what effects might this have? Fewer women studying go with sufficient vigor to reach professional strength? All women that do study go, studying with less intensity and perhaps not reaching the strength of male players?

Rich: I agree, Tamsin; in fact, while the influence of various sex hormones affect temperament, Perhaps the most obvious way they affect people is developmentally. The quote "go is a mind sport so there is really no inherent reason why women and men shouldn't compete on an equal basis" seems idealistic; since sex hormones during development radically affect almost every aspect of the body - muscle, hair growth, skin tone and so on - why should it be a surprise that it affects brain structure? Other individual competitive mind sports, like chess, are equally male-dominated.
I don't know one way or the other, and personally have no clue whether it's nature or nurture; but consider this - if women are generally less physiologically disposed to high-level success in go than men, so what? Go-playing strength should not be the measure of a person's worth, just because we on this board rate it highly as a desirable attribute. I find the suggestion that it should be, and that women must therefore be held to be being discriminated against, at least as worrying as the charge of discrimination.

RafaelCaetano: But no one said that "go-playing strength should be the measure of a person's worth", at least not in this discussion. No strawmen, please. We were talking about go tournaments, where go-playing strength tends to be important.
Rich: Just to clarify; this was only in answer to the perceived proposition that women *must* be as good as men and that it is sexist behaviour to not rule out other possibilities.
Rafael: I see now. I found strange that I could agree with all your paragraph except the last 2 sentences. :-) Still I think it's kind of strawmen, since nobody used that argument.

Tamsin: I feel Rich makes a good point here. In discussions about men and women in various spheres of activity, people make the same mistake time and again, which is that in order for males and females to be equal they must be the same. Men and women are not mentally the same. They are equal but different. I don't think it is accidental that men tend to be better at activities involving visual-spatial ability. After all, historically it is men who have done most of the hunting, fighting and war-mongering. Neither do I think it is only chance that women tend to be better at reading people's feelings than men. After all, women have historically been more involved in caring for the young, sick and elderly. I mean, I've met lots of crashing bores of the male persuasion at chess tournaments and the like, but rather more seldom have I met a woman who did not realise when she was talking about something with which the other person was uncomfortable. Anyway, to get back on track: aside from social reasons, it seems probable to me that men do have intrinsic advantages in games like go, simply because these games emphasise the very types of reasoning at which men have historically excelled.

What I do think is absolutely typical of men is to believe that something like go or chess or driving a car well or similar is a measure of a person's worth. It isn't. If, indeed, women are less good at go for biological reasons, well, so what? Being good at go is not important-it really, really isn't. (With the obvious exception of go professionals.)

The issue of women's-only tournaments is difficult. If the female professionals on the whole were as strong as the men, then there would be no need for them. On the other hand, as dnerra pointed out, they might help perpetuate the falsehood that women can never compete at go on equal terms with men. Perhaps the only "fair" thing to do would be to abolish these events, but that would leave many female pros without titles or significant prize money to aim for.

In my opinion, for the very little it is worth, we should recognise that for social and possibly biological reasons, men tend to be better at go. It should be understood that sometimes female players like Rui Nai Wei will emerge who can compete at any level, and those in official positions who try to block them purely on grounds of sex should be rooted out. Everyone who plays go should be encouraged, no matter what their sex, and talented boys and girls should be treated as their talents merit. Unfortunately, it is probable that sexual discrimination in Asian go exists and will go on existing. We're talking about male-dominated cultures that are historically resistant to external influences and change. What can you do?

Velobici: In Go, the results to date show that only one woman, Rui Naiwei, has won a top Asian tournament, the Kuksu in 1999. Rui may win again or win other tournaments in the future. Kobayashi Izumi created quite a stir recently with a good record in the 39th Judan Tournament. The extent of news coverage of this event is an indication of the rarity of women achieving this level of success. Perhaps this will change significantly in the future. At this time, it is hard to support a contention that discrimination in go against women is preventing more women greater success in the top title tournament in Asia. This is not a popular observation in the current cultural climate. Nonetheless, the truth of the matter (tournament results) is incontestable. Discussion of the reason for this fact is all that is left to us.

Perhaps it would be best to conduct this conversation on the basis of the [ext] scientific method. The first step of which is Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. The phenomenon may be described as:

The percentage of women among the top go players in the world is significantly less than the percentage of women in the population.

RafaelCaetano: I agree. I don't claim that men are smarter. As Rich, I don't know if it's nature or nurture, and it might as well be the case that women reach men's level in the future. It's just that, currently and generally speaking, female pro level is significantly below men's level.

As for discovering the reason, have you read section [ext] V. Are there circumstances in which the Scientific Method is not applicable? item on the page you linked? Maybe this phenomenon is not amenable to the scientific method.

Velobici: It is my understanding that that section applies strongly to the example cited, trying a case before a jury, and other activities where the subject of the study is a group of people that experience shared set of events. These events and the societally accepted meaning of the events change the outlook of the individuals in the group. One can not apply scientific method because the object under investigation is changing a rate that is comparable to the rate of investigation. The need for repeatability in experimentation is missing. In the behavioral sciences, there are areas more closely tied to nature than to nurture, these areas are more suitable for study using the scientific method than those related to nurture, a cultural phenomenon, which may change quite rapidly.
Go ability, most likely, is strongly determined by ones innate ability (nature) which can be fostered or hindered by the environment in which the person lives (nurture). There are families that have produced a statistically anomalous number of professional strength go players: Cho Chikun, his brother Cho Shoen, his uncle Cho Nam-ch'eol. Cho Chikun's natural gift was nurtured in the Kitani dojo. Another example is Kitani Minoru and his family: Kitani Minoru himself, his daughter Kitani Reiko, her husband Kobayashi Koichi, Kitani's granddaughter Kobayashi Izumi who is the finance of Cho U. It seems that one's best hope of being a strong go player is to be the child Cho U and Kobayashi Izumi! Failing that, one can always study harder, though the odds of overcoming the disadvantage of having other parents may be quite steep.
This phenomenon is not particular to go. The Bach family in Europe is quite well known for the number of musicians and composers born into it. Similarly there are families that have a large number of actors (Fairbanks, Barrymore, Douglas), politicians (Kennedy, Bush) and other avocations. Go is much more interesting to this line of inquiry, because go skill (the combination of nature and nurture) can be measured and measured with some reasonable accuracy. By contrast, distinguishing between nature and nurture in political families is particularly difficult.
Many interesting questions remain (NOTE: no disrespect of any kind is intended. These questions are stated purely from a scientific viewpoint and in no way meant to suggest or effect a course of behavior):
Did Kobayashi Koichi and Kitani Reiko have more than one child? If so, what are the go abilities of those offspring?
Will Cho U and Kobayashi Izumi have children and what will be the go abilities of those children?
If Cho U and Kobayashi Izumi have both children adopted very soon after birth and children born to them, will there be a significant difference in go abilities of the two sets of children.
If Cho U was to have a second wife, or Kobayashi Izumi a second husband, of poor go abilities what will be the abilities of children born to that couple.
While we are not free to perform these investigations, we can observe the results of the choices made by these individuals and strengthen or weaken posited hypotheses.
While this smacks of [ext] Eugenics, there is an sigificant scientific element here, the recognition of which should not be discarded. We are all the result of selective adaptation acting upon our forebears. Not all genetic differences are cosmetic. The gene that causes sickle cell anemia has been [ext] linked to resistence to malaria. The gene is recessive, like blue eyes, one copy of the gene confers the benefit of resistance to malaria, two copies of the gene produce sickle cell anemia. One final example is [ext] Lance Armstrong, the only person to win 7 Tours de France in a row. (There are four people who have won the Tour de France 5 times. No six time winners other than Lance.) Medical testing has shown that Lance is particularly endowed with aerobic potential. The man simply can process more oxygen, more efficiently, than any other professional bicyclist. When a race of about 2500 km (about 90 hours) is decided by less than a minute, a small difference in aerobic potential is significant. (NOTE: we are speaking of potenital. Lance is well known for working extremely hard to realize that potential and translate it into results on the bicycle. Reading his [ext] book about testicular cancer, his treatment and his recovery is highly recommended) While we are all endowed with a set of natural abilities, we are not endowed equally, fortunately for some they have the option to choose a path in life that is in accordance with their natural abilities. Hopefully, this freedom can be enjoyed by a growing percentage of the world's population. [2018 Edit: Lance Armstrong is now known to be a drug cheat, is the above puff-piece relevant].

Dieter: I'm willing to continue this interesting off-topic discussion in private e-mail. Dieter underscore Verhofstadt at hotmail dot com.

[1] Bill: Not to diminish the importance of this question, I must add that Sam Sloan is not the most reliable source. I am not going to get into a discussion about him, but people can check out his writings on the Web and in newsgroups and make up their own minds.

PurpleHaze: Sam Sloan has made a spectacle of himself on the US chess scene for more than twenty years, that I am aware of. I do not know if he plays go or not, but he is obsessed with asian women. His home pages should give more than one could care to know about him: [ext] http://www.ishipress.com/ or [ext] http://www.samsloan.com/

[2] Bill: The second link did not work for me.

BobMcGuigan: I found the article by going to the Japan Times web page (first part of URL above) and searching for Go Seigen.

Bill: Thanks, Bob. :-)

Isildur: I've updated that link, as well as the Sloan link, so they should work for now.

[3] Velobici: Even among primarily physical activities, one need to distinguish between those that are endurance based and those that are not. I doubt we will ever see the top womans weightlifter outdo the top mens weightlifter. Among marathon runners, the best mens time is about 10 minutes faster then the best womens time. Perhaps women are genetically favored in endurance events, though the [ext] issue is not crystal clear.

ilan: In general, you see a 10% difference between men and women in sports such as running. In the 100m it's about 10 seconds vs 11 seconds and in the marathon, it's 2h 5m vs 2h 15m, so slightly closer. In that women's record, she finished 15th overall, as she was running with the men, and was also being paced by them for a few miles, which doesn't make it a 'pure' record, I guess. From my observation, in these sports, the very best women are comparable to fairly good men, e.g., in cycling, the world's best women are competitive with strong local riders, but after the top 10 or so, the quality decreases cdrastically. As a third rate amateur 40 year old bike racer, I was at the level of the 20th woman in the US.

Tamsin: It largely comes down to the influence of hormones on the brain and on muscle mass. Testosterone, which men have more of, increases endurance and muscle mass, providing greater power. Testosterone also stimulates the parts of the brain to do with visio-spatial ability, which is why men have an edge in such activities as go. Female hormones, however, have a positive effect on the parts of the brain used for emotional and verbal tasks, which is why women tend to be better at picking up on people's feelings and more adept with words. Yet, there's nothing hard and fast: some women have very high visio-spatial ability (Rui Nai Wei would be a good example), and some men are very gifted with words (Shakespeare, for instance [1]).

ilan: Nothing hard and fast pretty much sums it up. Anyway, the scientific data, if it exists, is probably as skewed by prejudice of the experimenters as former racial data was, so is suspect. My own anecdotal evidence indicates to me that the game which is truly gender dependent is pool, because the natural stroke of the pool cue (firm, yet tender) comes more naturally to men. It just occurred to me that my theory could also explain why men are better at visualisation.

Dieter: That's what you say. I think Shakespeare had better stuck to his visio-spatial abilities. If the world wouldn't be blurred by all the talk about him, they would have the chance to meet someone who was really good with words. Yes, I'm talking about Gertrude Perkins.

DrStraw: This page seems to be misnamed. It is about discrimination against women in Go. There seems to be no mention of any other type of discrimination. I do not have a clue whether there is any other type of discrimination but maybe someone with the appropriate knowledge can contribute. For example, how does the percentage of western professional go players in Japan compare to the percentage of westerners in general? I am sure there are other types of discrimination to consider. I am not trying to promote controversy by this question: merely curious.

Andrew Grant: Sorry, but that's a poor argument. The proportion of westerners playing pro go may well be lower than the proportion of westerners in Japan generally, but we must remember that most westerners were brought up in non-go playing environments and only learnt the game as adults, or at least adolescents. Any professional will tell you that you have to start young to reach the top. The top pros in Japan have typically been playing since the age of six or seven, or even earlier. Hardly any westerners get that chance. I'm sure that accounts for any disparity in numbers. There's no need to invoke discrimination.

DrStraw: I wasn't. It was just the first possibility that popped into my head. I was merely pointing out that this page is more specific than the title and was wondering about other types of possible discrimination. ThorAvaTahr: I think your argument is flawed instead. You refer to the concept of 'being brought up' in a (non-) go playing environment. However, I think the same holds up for women in eastern societies. I think the attitude towards women playing go (starting from very low ages) is much less supporting than for boys. Therefore, women have, albeit in a lesser amount, the same disadvantages as westerners for becoming a professional go player.

ilan: Just compare the number of professionals in Japan with those belonging to the Kansai Ki-in.

DrStraw: It there a point to this statement?

maruseru: There could also be discrimination based on nationality (as was the case against Go Seigen), and there definitely is age discrimination, at least in the amateur ranks. If someone is under 25, say, and about 2-3k, they are labelled as "talented" and "young stars". But if you're over 30 and serious about the game, you are fighting with an additional handicap. Not only is it generally more difficult to learn something new the older you get, but if there are only a fixed number of places in a workshop, team or the like, you're sure to be asked last of all. Then there is the argument that younger people tend to learn faster also because they tend have more time to concentrate on the game (being in school or at university), while over 30 you're generally saddled with a full-time job.

RobAnybody: I don't think there's anything wrong with the fact that the percentage of go professionals or open title holders that are women is significantly less than the percentage of women in the general population, or indeed the fact that just fewer women play go. (As long as there is no additional skewing of these percentages due to real banning women from tournaments and go clubs/schools/etc.) As for what causes this, we should maybe look for analogous gender studies in chess? What I personally believe is true, backed with opinions on differences between sexes by several authors (Malcolm Potts and Roger Short, Allan and Barbara Pease) is that go, being a competitive game requiring high spatial skills, is more natural with men than women. Male brains are evolved to be skilled in competition and spatial relations, while for hunter-gatherer female brains was more important to be skilled in the social and emotional fields. We don't need the man=hunter and woman=childbearer role models anymore, but they are encoded in our nature and there's little we can do about it. This doesn't even mean that women are weaker go players, maybe just fewer of them choose to play go and realise their potential. Where go is concerned, I think we should just concentrate on the moves of the players, not on their genders.

Anonymous: I do remember reading about studies done on this in chess. It turned out that a comparable number of women versus men entered chess at the beginner stage, that they were just as competitive, and that they improved at a comparable rate. It found that the primary reason for the lack of really good women at the very top was that women tend to drop out earlier than men. A smaller talent pool (at the top) causes the bias.

The researchers hypothesized that women might not get as much support from family and friends to aim for playing professionally and therefore less of them reach the top.

There is no evidence that the alleged sex differences in (say) competitiveness or spatial ability play any part.

C.S. Graves: I would like to echo RobAnybody's sentiments above. But I also think, as DrStraw commented, that we could broaden the types of discrimination being discussed. Velobici mentioned problems faced by Wu Qingyuan in his day. Anti-Chinese sentiment was not uncommon in years past, especially around World War II.

Velobici: In the 2006 Samsung Cup, two of the sixteen preliminary tournaments were reserved for women only, thus ensuring that two women play in the final tournament. In an impartial configuration, women would be distributed randomly among the preliminary tournaments. Based upon this one example, and the record of women vs men in other tournament preliminaries, one may conclude that discrimination in go is in favor of women rather than to their detriment. A policy referred to in the United States as affirmative action.

Both women, Rui Naiwei and Fan Weiqing?, lost in the first round of the main event, a knockout tournament to determine the winner of the 2006 Samsung Cup.

ThorAvaTahr: The fact that there exists positive discrimination towards women does not exclude the possibility of there being negative discrimination against women. Also I would not like to be the judge of which kind of discrimination weighs more than the other.

ThorAvaTahr: I think too many men on this page have expressed their view of the differences between male and female, and their conclusion that these differences lead to male having a natural advantage at go.

I strongly disagree.

I think that for a number of sports this could hold up, especially for physical sport, where the male body has naturally an advantage. But also chess, which is a game much dominated by tactics.

However, go is not like chess. The complexity and elegance (in my view) by far exceed that of chess. One of the elements that make it elegant is that the game maps the huge size of the game tree (NumberOfPossibleOutcomesOfAGame) to only statespace of possible outcomes of size 361*2+1 (or 0/1 for purists). This has as a consequence that the chance that there exists such a thing as the optimal path is nill. In fact there must be billions of paths that give the same optimal result for both players. Therefore there can exist many different strategies that are equally good.

Anyway, too not dwell off too far, I think that females may develop strategies that can be different than male strategies but still have equally good results. Such strategies may have more focus on shape and positional judgment, instead of having a focus on deeper tactics.

Also, unlike chess, go is a game that requires both the left part and the right part of the brain to work together. Where male have more a more developed left part, used for tactics ([ext] see wikipedia) and the right part for intuition and perhaps positional judgment. Because both skills are very important in go, I think in principle male and female are equal. Although, especially at lower levels the tactics are more important and are more obstructive for improving in level. This may hold many women back.

However, I think at dan levels and above, even though tactics will remain very important, the positional judgement and intuition of shape and urgency become increasingly important.

Therefore I think there is no physical reason why women should be worse at go than men. I think the main reasons that there are less women at the top of the pro-scene are cultural or educational.

Velobici: Any data to support these intuitive statements? It appears that the difference may be due to women's freedom of choice. Simply put, they are less interested in manipulating the tools of go than in working with people per the research cited near the top of the article in the section marked Update:.

ThorAvaTahr: Maybe women are less interested in go, however, I wonder whether a six-year-old boy is so interested in go. Perhaps he would rather play outside. But, that doesn't matter, in eastern countries kids like this are pushed to excel at go by their parents and family. It's all cultural. I would not say that it is the women's freedom of choice, but the men's lack of freedom of choice.

Velobici: Any data to support these statements? Maybe women in eastern countries are better at escaping parental and familial pressure to excel. Maybe, maybe...who knows what. These are speculations regarding possibilities unsupported by data. Good for sharing over drinks in a bar ;)

ThorAvaTahr: Are you trying to contest the notion that parental pressure is an important motivation for eastern children to excel at what they are doing? Because as far as I know this is a well established fact, find any book about eastern culture (that deals with social and relation topics) and it will be confirmed. (For instance, too give you the hard data you requested: "Indigenous and Cultural Psychology: Understanding People in Context" by Uichol Kim, Kuo-Shu Yang and Kwang-Kuo Hwang ISBN:978-0-387-28661-7, especially chapter 19 is interesting. In this chapter the authors try to establish the reasons why young Koreans perform better at mathematics and sciences than young Americans.)

Also a very nice journal paper is: "The Mother/Daughter Relationship as a Resource for Korean Women’s Career Aspirations" by Hyunjoo Song (ISSN:0360-0025, Journal: Sex Roles, Vol 44, No:1/2 pages:79-97). Here the author establishes the relation between the career aspirations and the mother/daughter relationship. Her study shows that, and i quote, "Korean women’s career orientation was determined directly by their nontraditional sex-role attitudes and by a close, continuous, and satisfactory relationship with their mothers" All I say is that the relation that children have with their parents is a dominating factor with respect to carreer choice and motivation. And as stated by Hyunjoo Song, the respect for their parents motivates boys to excel at sciences and education, while the girls are expected to take on their traditional role. Now I would like to see some data on your statement that women are better at escaping their parental pressure. :) I don't think you can support this. Also it seems to me that the literature cited at the top of this article is not specific for eastern cultures.

Velobici: Have not even looked for data to support it. Maybe. Maybe anything. Maybe don't need data. You made several statements without supporting data, so I asked for supporting data. Please note that I have provided supporting data (two published papers) regarding the disproportional male/female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The supposition that I made was to extend this from STEM to Go. The STEM work indicates that the primary determinate is choice, indeed, in those societies that provide women more choice, fewer women pursue careers in STEM. This indicates that the disproportion is aggregate result of the choices made by women rather than a result of discrimination.

ThorAvaTahr: Oki, well this discussion is not going anywhere I think, but just to conclude, you have two published papers indicating that it is women's choice, however these are observations in a western society. I have brought in two papers that say in an eastern society it is not women's choice, but social/relational pressure. I think if we like we can find a dozen papers for both sides, but I think we've both made our point. Thanks for the nice discussion :)

Dieter: It has all appearance to me too that Chess is much more of a male game. There is a hierarchy in the pieces There is a clear goal to be reached and it is directional: checkmate the King. The game has a spatial component, with pieces moving. Also the 3D rendering is very different from the 2D rendering, increasing the spatial component in real life. In Go, all pieces are equal. They derive their purpose and value from their relationships with other pieces. The objective is also clear but not directional. All areas demand a certain degree of attention and often simultaneously. Chess is hunting. Go is farming.

It may be a little superficial, but tempting and analogy!

Velobici: You may be right. Any quantitative data to support the idea that there may be a larger female/male ratio in go than in chess?

MikeB?: (Moved from Reference section)

Alfa?: I think Xie Yimin could be the next Rui, if she keep moving like this, he would be able to compete in open tournament, well, just my thought

gogogirl: First of all it is kind of funny how men are discussing women's issues on and on ^^

Second, discrimination in Go, no matter if it exists or not, is always and directly linked to discrimination towards women in general. Especially in Asia the situation of women is grim, they even have to bow to men just because of the gender. They are considered losers when they are "still unmarried at the age of 25". Just look at how women are portrayed and treated in Hikaru No Go: either they are dumb and clueless like Hikaru's mom or Akari, or they are the submissive sweet cutie type. Or they are the "funny ugly dumb type". In most cases they are shown as stupid, not able to compete, weak and insignificant.

Third, what never seems to reach all such discussions is the fact that, according to police statistics, every second woman gets raped at least once in her lifetime[4] and virtually every woman gets sexually assaulted. Rape and sexual attacks are a serious trauma. Especially rape is proven to cause severe trauma. And how do you think the brains of traumatized people work? They are crushed. Most of them forever. It is not a "coincidence" that women are "timid" or "weaker".

It was proven again and again that, in a truly equal environment, without any violence and with truly equal possibilities, women develop the same strong and fighting and mental abilities as men. We actually have to wonder why there are, despite all, so many women who still are able to compete.

Fourth "competing" and "fighting" and being an "high IQ Go monster" are all "uncute" and "unfeminine" and "unsuitable for a woman". Sorry for the irony, but those are things which can kill a woman out of everything. I can still remember how the guys in my job started calling me either "ugly" or "saying "what are you mewing about again kittycat?" as soon as I surpassed them. And then there was not only a glass ceiling but even glass walls all around me. A woman has to literally go undercover to get all her possibilities and spread out her wings.

My own opinion is that those female tournaments are positive and negative discrimination at once. Like saying "well, women, know your place, your are weak and cannot reach us, but see, we are nice and give you some weak level women only tournament". How many female tournaments were written about in Hikaru No Go? Zero. Exactly. It is insignificant. A courtesy to avoid familiar quarrels. So the wife can say "oh, there are some strong female players too", and the husband will mildly smile and say "yeah, but of course they are not as strong as the men". The circle closes. Protect the girls and women against rape and violence, stop the everyday everywhere discrimination, and you will suddenly have tons of strong female players. Go is even especially well suited for women. I can play Go online while feeding my baby at the same time. It is a perfect way to spend your time and increase your brain abilities at once.

Uberdude: I quite enjoy the irony of gogogirl assuming that all the go players talking here are male. Tamsin is certainly female. (Yumm, tasty troll bait)

isd: I'd say sexism was more pertinent to Go rather than discrimination.

tapir Unfortunately the effect is quite the same. We have a summary that tells us about the non-existence of discrimination and of free choice not to be physicist, CEO, go player but the simple fact that sexism may be a major factor in decision making escapes the attention of most hobby (and professional) brain researchers here and everywhere.

Velobici: The summary does not "tell us about the non-existence of discrimination". To do so would be to prove a negative. Much more modestly the summary tells us "there is no indication of gender based discrimination against women".

tapir: Fwiffo posted somewhere on Lifein19x19 that top player performance in chess can be explained by an even strength distribution between sexes given uneven population (less female players). Which produces the effect that at the very top women look weaker, although there is no sex factor in playing strength (just the top 0.001% of the larger population are stronger than the top 0.001% of the smaller population). Let us consider this as true for a second, then we may start to see the problem at the level of player populations. Also you seem to accept as discrimination only open denial of participation (if go clubs would turn away women because of their sex, which i never heard of in go btw). What some people tried in vain to point out is, that whatever practice say in your local go club that is more likely to turn away women than men produces basically the same effect in the long run as the blunt discrimination you are looking for. In short: Less women players -> the strongest men stronger than the strongest women because of the population difference -> reification of the matter by (professional and) hobby brain researchers -> further discouragement of women because they are told they simply can't be competitive because of the wrong hormone cocktail... this is a vicious cycle, but at least I wish this page would try to break it, instead of repeating this again and again.

Velobici: You make several points: 1. Fwiffo posted regarding different population sizes, 2. practices will have the same long run effect as open or blunt discrimination, 3. this will be self-fulfilling. Taking only your first point, for the moment.

Can you point out the post by Fwiffo on Lifein19x19 ? It appears to contradict the article cited at the top of this page Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30 year examination I would like to read it and consider what is written, then re-read Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30 year examination and compare the two. Have you read Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30 year examination''?

isd: It is easier to qualify as a professional for female players than it is for male players. Yet, there are fewer female professional players. Why is this? One can postulate or debate about a number of factors. [1] Pay/Prizemoney differences [2] Male majority environment is offputting [3] Women are genetically disposed/socially conditioned not to find Go as interesting as men do. [4] If there are other relevant factors, please produce them

tapir: I give the link directly: [ext] Why are (the best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains - the other arguments were related to the above, that when we accept that population size of players may be the major factor, then sexism (short of blunt discrimination) may well be among the decisive factors affecting the female/male ratio and thereby the performance of the top players. The topic is different from performance in mathematics e.g. to which all pupils are exposed to somehow.

Or to put it differently, if we see the performance of top players as a result of female/male participation in the whole population, we may stop worrying about hormones, brains etc. but can talk about what is necessary to encourage girls to start playing and continue to do so when growing up.

P.S. I read the paper about right tail of cognitive abilities as expected it offers many numbers but little explanation. Especially, the obvious changes in the ratio in certain times are mentioned, but then the focus is on the remaining or again increasing sex differences. If they are serious about what they are doing they should do comparative research and look out for the differences between countries/cultures/times and see what that accounts for. There is much difference between the high school kids tested there (probably 50%+ female, but culturally diverse, different interests) and chess / go players (low female ratio, but culturally more similar - they are playing the same game after all)

Velobici: [ext] Why are (the best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains specifically does not address the fundamental question of the relative absence of women in the population of professional go players is the result of discrimination. . The authors state Our study does not deal directly with the reasons why there are so few women in competitive chess.

The paper shows that the ranking of the female chess players that are members of the German Chess Federation ([ext] Deutscher Schachbund) is consistent with their number as a portion of the total population of members of the German Chess Federation and consistent with a common best-fit normal curve (n=120 399, μ=1461, σ=342, 16 : 1 male : female ratio.) The authors then extrapolate from the self-selected group the general population.

The authors suggest an objection to their article: It is possible that there is a self-selection process based on the innate biological differences in intellectual abilities, and that the effects of this self-selection are already observable in the rating list we used.....This argument sounds reasonable but it rests on a controversial assumption. It requires that there should be innate differences between men and women in the intellectual abilities required for success at chess. The authors state that self-selection based upon innate biological differences in intellectual abilities requires that innate intellectual abilities are necessary to for success at chess. Then, the authors cast doubt on a link between intellectual ability and chess skill: Even if such differences exist, it is unclear which, if any, intellectual abilities are associated with chess skill. One is left to wonder what skills are required if intellectual abilities are not associated with chess skill.

The authors do not offer any reasons for the different rates of participation evidenced by the two genders. They do however reject different intellectual abilities as a contributor to different rates of participation. The reason for this is not stated. (Please help me here...can you find a reason in the article?)

This article may have little to add to that of Charness N., Gerchak Y. Participation rates and maximal performance. Psychol. Sci. 1996;7:4651. concerning which Mark Glickman wrote in [ext] Sex Differences in Intellectual Performance rating difference between the world's top male and female players in the mid-1990s (Gary Kasparov of Russia and Judit Polgar of Hungary) could be explained by men and women having equal means but different participation rates. (emphasis added). Glickman goes on to say analysis of extremes in a distribution is a very low-power method of inferring differences in sample means. The difference participation rates and the effect on ratings distribution as known and published in at least two studies in 1996, twelve years before the article [ext] Why are (the best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains

...what is necessary to encourage girls to start playing and continue to do so when growing up. I cannot answer that, so far I have failed to engender sufficient interest in my three older daughters for them to play regularly. They all know how and have played, one of them competitively, but do not choose to play on their own. Still have hope for my youngest daughter. Suggestions welcome.

tapir: Well the main point of the article is that the distribution of women top players suits well to the level of participation of women in chess, with not much difference left to explain (by nature or nurture doesn't matter here). That is: women are not weaker, just fewer in the population!

Velobici: In the self-selected population of members of The German Chess Federation. We do not know about the general population form the study of this self-selected population.

Your initial "thesis" part interestingly ignores this topic (women participation in Go/Chess) altogether and jumps from 50% women in general population to scarce women among top players. Most of the speculations that follow also does not care about participation rates, but seems to assume what is unproven (women are worse players somehow) and is looking for so-called explanations only. Most of those "explanations" are nothing but crude rationalisations for low female participation rates in my opinion.

Velobici: The number of women in the population and the number of women playing go and the marked difference are facts. Not part of a thesis, rather they are observables. The thesis is the relative absence of women in the population of professional go players is the result of discrimination.

That participation rates are something to be considered was absent from this discussion before this article, and yes the article does not give the reasons for participation rates.

Velobici: Please see the sentences following 18 May 2008 near the top of the page which directly address participation rates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)...areas considered akin to participating in chess and go.

It is highly likely that sex differences in leisure activities are not mainly regulated by genetic disposition. (But among others by gender image of leisure activity, gendered spaces of meeting grounds, disposable time, drop out rates, mobility, online affinity, role models...)

Velobici: It is highly likely that sex differences in leisure activities are not mainly regulated by genetic disposition. Why? The two genders frequently self-segregate in leisure activities throughout life. Different leisure activities have difference gender participation rates. But once again we digress from the subject of this page.


I continue to object to your addition of personal opinion as summary on the top of the page, I will reformat this to show it as part of the discussion, which I don't want to participate anymore while failing to stop writing. Thought styles are too far away to bridge that gap.

If the case for the importance of participation rates was made 14 years ago, I wonder why you did not mention it earlier. (You even misrepresent your own contributions, as you wrote not about participation rates in Go but the rate of females among pros, at least the 30 year study is not about women doing something related to STEM - all 7th graders do - but those in the "far right tail" or so, i.e. the top achievers.) If female top player achievement is explained by female overall participation rate, would not that be proof that there is no discrimination - against those who are playing? Would that not make the female participation rate the new interesting topic to labour upon? How many women start playing, stop playing, who much time do they spend for playing and how are these patterns different, and why are they different to those of men?

[4] xela: This statistic prompted some heated discussion. I have deleted the discussion since it didn't seem to be constructive. Even if the "correct" number is different, the validity of the argument is not changed.

this is a very long and old page, but I have to disagree with the conclusions drawn: "Conclusion: In professional tournaments and title matches, there is no indication of gender based discrimination against women. Women are free to enter all professional tournaments under the same qualifying conditions as men."

Apparently in some recent events (2011), women pros do not get game fees while their male counterparts do

[ext] http://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=77206#p77206 -- forum post showing image of Joanne Missingham sporting her "protest gender discrimination" fan, with a link to a Chinese news article

tapir: In my opinion the mere existence of a page where a bunch of predominantly men tries hard to convince themselves that there can't possibly be discrimination in go is an indication that things aren't all so beautiful as they look at first sight. if everything is fine, it would be sufficient to state that calmly.

Velobici: Agreed. The if everything is fine, it would be sufficient to state that calmly is reflected in the first sentence of the conclusion, which was the first paragraph of the article: Conclusion: In professional tournaments and title matches, there is no indication of gender based discrimination against women (see 5 September 2011 update below for a known case of discrimination). Shall we remove the Alternate Thesis and Alternate Conclusion sections added in version 149 of the article ?

tapir: It would be a big help if you would stop disguising personal opinion in a pseudoscientific presentation. There are some logical flaws in your thesis/conclusion stuff but I am really tired to point this out all the time. Once more, take the top 10 of a random 80% of the professionals, take the top10 of the remaining 20% of the professionals, it is almost sure that the top10 of the bigger population are much stronger than the top10 of the 20% population for purely statistical reasons. We may end without much of a (nurture/nature debatable) strength difference left to be explained, but there may be a case at the very fundamental level of participation, when children decide to focus on such an activity as Go, where cultural preferences, sexism and outright discrimination may highly affect participation levels. If you prefer not to look at this, fine. But please stop selling "innate ability differences" as scientific truth. That always was the provocation here, not the undisputed fact that female professionals do compete on equal terms for the major titles and usually don't win them. But of course it is hilarious how the "no indication" is still highlighted after adding an obvious case.

Velobici: There may be items that affect the very fundamental level of participation (See the article cited above in the 18 May 2008 update: [ext] https://intra.att.com/execcomp/ECSIA_Login.cfm.) Please indicate where selling "innate ability differences" as scientific truth takes places. That is the provocation that you appear to focus on...don't see any basis for you to make such a claim based upon the contents of the Thesis or Conclusion. To date, after three years, there has been one and only one case of discrimination against women while each there are several cases of discrimination in favor of women (all the women's only tournaments).

tapir: If the point just were that there is little evidence for discrimination against women, while some positive discrimination is in place (reserved places for turning professional and in some tournaments and some women only tournaments), there would have been no problem. You phrase it however as if there is a strength difference to explain, while completely ignoring the now often mentioned point about the fundamental level of participation - that is the sex ratio of the children taking up the game between 3 and say 18 years, which we simply do not know. It is not a very far-fetched thought that cultural preferences - embodied in parents dis-/allowing and dis-/encouraging this activity or different spare time to spend, sexism within the go playing population or as an outgrowth of prevailing attitudes in some cases open discrimination can affect the level of participation towards a higher male ratio in this population. This should be a no-brainer, really. I would try to take this into account before I speculate about inheritance for the simple fact that there may be no strength difference (as opposed to the statistical effect of comparing the top layer of different sized populations) left to explain. Also, it is kind of obvious that you added the "intro" in the middle of controversy to make your point, nobody contesting you ever proposed the thesis in the way you put it.
isd Has there really only been 1 recorded instance? How about the Excuses for losing at EGC 2010, would you class that as discrimination? It seems important, or simply more interesting, to factor in what many may perceive as sexism into the discussion. If you want to look only at purely institutional evidence, then you have quite a dry analysis to perform. Do Pair Go, Female Pro titles, and Female only events represent institutionalised discrimination, or are they examples of affirmative action? Some people believe Female Championships are sexist and degrading. Therefore they would feel discriminated against by institutions which organise them. It seems reasonable to ascertain if some people may also believe Pair Go to be sexist and degrading for the same reasons. By inserting token males into the event, do females feel special, but at the same time equal? These are hot air questions which we can bat around a little, but as I say, I think we'll be missing a point.
Velobici: What does inheritance have to do with Discrimination in Go ? Why mix these two different issues ?

Anonymous: I see a strong parallel between the situation of women in Go and in chess. In both games, female professionals have always performed very poorly in comparison to men. The last statistic I saw about women in chess, there were about 10 - 20 women in the top 500 players. As for Go, I have rarely heard any female professional discussed here on SL or anywhere else on the Internet besides Rui Naiwei (who I suspect is mentioned much more for being a top _female_ Go professional than for just being a top professional.) Meanwhile, people claim that women are equal in ability at these games to men - while at the same time supporting the existence of women-only tournaments in which the winners are never more than 20th in the total player rankings and male professionals have to be banned from entering to allow the women a chance. I suspect even some strong under-18 male professionals in both games could have won women-only tournaments. It strikes me as a bit ridiculous for adult female professionals to be humoured with an exclusive 'kiddie pool' in such a manner, even to the extent of women-only titles ie. 'Female Honinbo' or 'Woman Grandmaster'.

Anonymous2: Just to voice out the most unpopular opinion, seemingly not mentioned so far, it is insensible to exclude gender differences yet. It is known that men perform better in average in spatial reasoning tasks, and there is also indication in the scientific literature that spatial reasoning abilities are useful for playing go. Second, it is believed that men are in average more competitive, which could in turn lead to a stronger motivation to learn how to play go. Note that while the IQ average is the same for men and women, the variance is larger for men, which means that men are more likely to score very high or very low on these scales. This variance is rather small but it predicts that the more a certain IQ score strays from the mean, the smaller becomes the fraction of women achieving said score. Since becoming a top go professional certainly requires a lot of smarts, i.e. a very high IQ, this may also lead to a higher male prevalence upon top professionals.

Discrimination in Go last edited by fool on March 4, 2023 - 02:38
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