The cubing community is heavily male dominated. While I couldn’t find the official statistics, one subreddit stated there are consistently around 7-12% females in the entire WCA per year, which means that around 90% of the community is male.
Most sports have a separate category for males and females. Does cubing need one too, especially considering the fewer number of females in the community? I don’t really think so, and a lot of females agree.
I wasn’t very sociable as a child. I didn’t have a lot of friends and was not great at talking to people. Being an 11 year old female in a whole room of guys, most of whom were older than me, unsettled me. I wasn’t intimidated by guys, I just couldn’t talk to people in general. So at my second competition when I saw Somya Srivastava - the WCA delegate, I felt an instant relief. Seeing someone like me - albeit much older - cubing, kindled a new fire in me. When I received the title of Fastest Female Cuber at my next competition, I felt recognized and included.
I had always been into things that in our society aren't typically associated with females. I liked legos instead of kitchen sets, I’d never bought a barbie. When I learned about female rankings, I instantly knew I wanted to be on top, especially since I was so close. It was probably my biggest motivating factor, to be the fastest female in the country. But getting that title was the turning point in my journey. It opened me up to the much larger world, of wanting to be on top regardless. The female aspect was just a stepping stone in my cubing journey.
That may sound like a piece on women empowerment, but honestly I was just really happy. I’d finally found a community that accepted me.
And that’s what cubing is about, isn’t it? Finding a community that accepts you and helps you grow, making great friends along the way. That’s what I felt like too. While I joined the community as a “girl cuber”, I stayed on as a Cuber.
(Jessica Friedrich, inventor of CFOP)
So the question arises, why aren’t there that many females in cubing anyway?
I believe it’s based on societal stereotypes, how boys are associated with nerdy hobbies while girls aren’t really. It’s more related to the fact that there aren’t a lot of girls in the cubing community as a whole, and that correlates to the number of females joining in.
Gender norms in our society are sadly still a thing. Historically, girls have been seen to get higher grades in STEM subjects such as math and science, but women make up only 28% of the STEM related workforce. Even with the higher grades, girls tend to relatively underperform on certain high-stake tests.
Research on “stereotype threat” - the risk of conforming negative stereotypes - sheds light on the power of stereotypes to undermine girls’ math test performance and may help explain the puzzle of girls’ strong classroom performance versus their relatively weaker performance on high-stakes tests.
In a way, cubing is tied in very closely with the STEM subjects, and this reflects on the audience it attracts too. So the situation with STEM related jobs is most likely what is happening in the cubing community too. It’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is, and will probably continue to be this way for at least a while.
Another reason could also be that girls didn’t feel that they fit in, which I however don’t think is a significant reason for the most part. Girls are just as likely to find excellent friendships and be a part of the community as guys are, so this just depends on person to person. There have been many females actively involved in the community, such as Dana Yi and Somya Srivastava, who are both WCA Delegates. At a competition, everyone has a similar interest - cubing - that unites them, and so I’ve never heard any female talk about feeling like an “outcast” in the community. Frankly, it feels a little absurd to even think about as I write this.
Explore 3x3 Cubes
Which brings me to the main question - should there be a separate WCA category for females?
While other sports like running do have a separate category for females, it is because of the physical differences between men and women. When it comes to a sport like cubing, the biological differences aren’t very significant. A separate category would imply that there is a difference between both the genders, which is, at least to me, false.
Upon surveying a few other female cubers, I found that most didn’t really feel differentiated from the community as such, except for having a little more attention. While rising up the female ranks was motivating, it definitely wasn’t the sole factor for them.
(Lakshimi Rajaram at the Redbull National Qualifiers)
Most females also didn’t feel the need for a separate category, and believe that it may instill a division in the community, and I agree. It would just further confirm gender norms and societal differences between the two genders, which I don’t believe anyone wants.
The minimal share of females in the community further confirms the redundancy of a separate category for females. It wouldn’t really be fair for a handful of females to be competing with themselves while the males have to rise up the ranks. It would simply be a hassle for competitions too to have a whole other event to organize.
Cubing isn’t based on gender differences. As a female I’ve never been treated differently, and for the most part neither have other females. So while a separate ranking list is definitely a plus for bringing in more females, I certainly don’t think there should be a separate category for females.
Do you think there should be a separate category for females? I’d really like to hear your inputs on this, so please do comment down below!
Also Read- The Evolution Of WCA Competitions
Reddit article referenced: https://www.reddit.com/r/Cubers/comments/oi4wf5/why_do_you_think_there_isnt_a_lot_of_girls_in/
Avani Sood from Bengaluru has won 12 female national records overall and has been competing for the past 4 years. She started cubing when she was 11. Her main event is Megaminx. Apart from cubing, she loves to cook and read. She has participated in 10 competitions and won 1 podium.
I think that there should be one just like chess has separate category for females.
Avani Sood – Thanks for the article. A must read for all.
I totally agree with your thoughts, Avani. You, being a female cuber, are an inspiration to many girls out there. Everyone holds unconscious biases and your article will help break the stereotype and unconscious bias people have about females and kids getting into cubing community.