For those who aren’t already familiar with the WWTBAM contestant search process…
The procedure changed a LITTLE between the first run of the series and the second run. But both times, would-be contestants called a special number, and were given 3 questions. Each question followed the same format: you were given four persons/places/things, and asked to place them in some required order, by pushing the keys of your touchtone phone. The first question is always EXTREMELY easy (suaully something like putting four words in alphabetical order), the second one is tougher, and the third is usually very tough.
For the first run of the show, you called a 900 number; more recently, they had a toll-free number. Moreover, the first time, the people who reached the playoff round were the ones who answered all three questions in the FASTEST time. More recently, EVERYONE who got all 3 questions right (regardless of time) was put into a random, computerized drawing. I can tell you first-hand that they NEVER asked anyone’s race/creed/color. And while you do have to state your name for voice mail, the computer doesn’t know your gender. SO, it’s hard to make a rational case that the process is racist or sexist.
So, why do so few women/minorities appear on the show (or on trivia shows in general)? Part of the reason is that geeky white guys like me are far more interested in trivai than most women and minorities are. Second, it’s rather tough to get through to the contestant hot line. You often have to keep calling for 15 minutes, and endure endless busy signals. My guess is, most casual fans (which includes most women) give up after 2 or 3 tries. Only the fanatics (again, geeky white guys like me) keep on calling!
FInally, even when women DO appear on trivia shows, they tend to do poorly. Why? My hunch is, it comes down to confidence. When I was a teacher, I observed that when I asked questions, boys were quick, indeed EAGER to raise their hands and answer questions, if they had even the SLIGHTEST idea what the answer might be… girls, on the other hand, didn’t raise their hands unless they were almost POSITIVE they were right. And when a boy answered incorrectly, it rarely bothered him- next question, he’d raise his hand again, and try to answer again. WHen a girl answered a question wrong, it embarrassed her to the point where it would be ages before she’d raise her hand again.
Now, I’m NOT saying boys were smarter than girls- on the contrary, their grades showed that my female students were a little SMARTER than the boys. But for whatever reason (genetics, socialization, who knows?), girls aren’t as confident as boys, and don’t like to take chances.
Well, on shows like Jeopardy and WWTBAM, you HAVE to take risks to do well. TO winn on Jeopardy, you have to guess at the difficult 800 and 1000 dollar answers if you’re even 51% sure of the answer. WOmen tend not to answer unless thgey’re positive… and when they blow a pile of money on a wrong answer, they get gun-shy, and don’t ring in as often.