Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life











{August 22, 2009}   Masa crítica en colectivos minoritarios

Hace un par de años conocí a través de unos amigos (gracias, Javier y Helen) el concepto de masa crítica en el análisis de grupos minoritarios. Éste implica el número mínimo de personas que tiene que haber en un grupo para constituir una parte integral del mismo y poder tener alguna influencia sobre él. Para ello tienen que ser también capaces, por tanto, de mantener al menos esa proporción en el tiempo, sin que exista la necesidad de realizar una estrategia basada en acciones afirmativas. El concepto de masa crítica se puede aplicar a mujeres u hombres que trabajan en áreas no tradicionales para su género, en minorías raciales o religiosas, grupos minoritarios en parlamentos, y en otros muchos.

La escala Byrne de no tradicionalismo (1993) sugiere que es necesario superar la barrera del 30% del grupo por parte del grupo minoritario para que sean consideradas o considerados “normales” dentro del mismo. Aquellas personas que lleven bien el ser vistas como “no normales”, pueden participar en una actividad en la que supongan menos de un 15%, mientras que sólo quienes no tengan problema en ser considerados “bichos raros” participarán en contextos donde estén por debajo del 8%. Cuando se anda sobre estas cantidades, ni siquiera se puede hablar ya de que las personas puedan servir como modelos de referencia. En el Software Libre, las desarrolladoras -hasta donde yo sé- seguimos estando en proporciones inferiores al 2%.

Porcentaje Cómo es considerado el grupo minoritario
Por encima del 30% La disciplina es agnóstica respecto al género, y se considera normal para cualquiera de ellos.
Entre el 15% y el 30% Se considera una disciplina atípica para el colectivo en minoría.
Entre el 8% y el 15% Se ve como algo no normal para el grupo minoritario
Hasta el 8% Se considera a las personas del colectivo minoritario como algo extraordinario y totalmente excepcional, y no cuentan como modelo representativo para conseguir que se incorporen más personas del mismo.


alberto says:

muy interesante el tema de la masa crítica, además de enormes aplicaciones prácticas, podríamos decir que firefox ha superado ya el estadio de ‘raro’ mientras que linux todavía esta todavía en el primer estadio de ‘extraordinario’ por eso toda desunión en materia de tecnologías abiertas nos condena a ser outsiders.



Miry says:

I’m copying and pasting something that I think might be of interest regarding this (from Susan Feteris “Student learning in undergraduate laboratories”):

About thinking and learning:

Belenky et al. (1997) have shown that men’s and women’s ways of thinking and the developmental stages through which they pass as they mature tend to differ. While many men are at ease as ‘separate knowers’, women are more likely to feel comfortable as ‘connected knowers’.

Separate knowers try to subtract the personality of the perceiver from the perception, because they see personality as slanting the perception or adding ‘noise’ that must be filtered out. Connected knowers see personality as adding to the perception, and so the personality of each member of the group enriches the group’s understanding. . . . Through mutual stretching and sharing the group achieves a vision richer than any individual could achieve alone. (Belenky et al., 1997, p 119)

About Role Models:

In a U.S. study, Yancey et al. (2002) report that a majority of adolescents aged 12 to 17 have a role model, and that the influence of role models is constructive by a number of measures.

people you admire or look up to . . . are there any people or individuals you really want to be like? (excerpt from question, Yancey et al., 2002)

Having a role model, particularly an individual known to the adolescent, was . . . associated with higher self-esteem . . . and higher grades. (researchers’ finding, Yancey et al., 2002)

About Critical Mass:

Critical mass is variously defined as the proportion of a minority group required for that group to be accepted as an integral part of the larger group, as the proportion required for a minority group to be retained at the same rate as other groups, as the proportion required for new participation rates to be maintained without the need for affirmative action strategies. Critical mass applies to women or men working in non-traditional areas, to racial or religious minorities breaking into educational and professional fields, and to minority groups in parliaments.

The Byrne (1993) scale of non-traditionality is shown in Table 3.4. While numerical critical mass cut-off points vary in a number of studies, the descriptors here are useful. Byrne suggests that student enrolments above 30% of the whole cohort are necessary for women (or men) to be seen as normal by the rest of their cohort. Only those comfortable with being seen as abnormal will survive in a discipline where they comprise less than 15%, and where they comprise 8% or less they “do not count as in any way representative or as transferable role models” for other women (or men).

Table 3.4: The Byrne scale of non-traditionality, after Byrne (1993)

Voluntary seating patterns can be used to establish whether a minority group is above or below critical mass. Gender-related social choices and pressures are part of students’ university experience. Both men and women preferentially sit with a same-sex laboratory partner. Why would behaviour change at some threshold? Perhaps when the numbers of the minority group are very small, some members of that minority group feel the need to group together to attain some feeling of normalcy. It is suggested that the slight increase in the deviation from random seating choices as the proportion of the minority group decreases, and the sudden change at around 20% of the cohort, may be an indicator of the stress in the learning environment of some members of the minority group.

The availability of other women with whom to work and bond may be a factor that supports women in staying in male-dominated disciplines. It is suggested that the proportion of women in each laboratory group should be at least 25%, resulting, necessarily, in some all-male groups. This would ensure that laboratory classes exceeded critical mass and provide women the opportunity to choose a same-sex laboratory partner. This simple strategy may have significant impact on the retention of women in male-dominated disciplines.

Some more references:

References cited:

See Also:



Las mujeres líderes: Julia Gillard primera mujer jefa de gobierno en Australia « igualdad y conciliación says:

[...] las mujeres que lideran organizaciones y empresas, pero aún falta mucho para que se alcance la “masa crítica” necesaria para equilibrar la representatividad de mujeres y hombres, para potenciar el liderazgo [...]



Miry says:

De una pequeña a una gran minoría: Una teoría de la “masa crítica” aplicada al caso de las mujeres en la política escandinava – http://www.redfeminista.org/nueva/uploads/masa%20critica.pdf



Miry says:

Masa crítica e igualdad de género – http://www.imf-formacion.com/blog/corporativo/igualdad-2/masa-critica-e-igualdad-de-genero/



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