Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?

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Excerpt from this article:

In 2008, a survey found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide were women. The free online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” was outed as being mostly run by men. A follow up survey in 2011 found similar results: globally, 9% of contributors were women; in the U.S., it was 15%. Meanwhile, there appeared to be no significant gender difference in readership rates.

…Two professors, Julia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, decided to explore the issue from the perspective of women who had been behind the scenes… They found clear differences. Women reported feeling less confident about their expertise, less comfortable with editing others’ work (a process which often involves conflict), and reacting more negatively to critical feedback than men. …

And yet while Bear and Collier’s analysis showed that women reported less confidence in their expertise, greater discomfort with editing, and greater negative response to criticism, their analysis also found that it was the first two (less confidence and greater discomfort) and not the last (negative response to criticism) that was affecting their contributing behavior…

“Wikipedia is a representation of knowledge. If you go there, and you don’t see any female representation or role models, it shows an implicit bias in the way things are ordered and prioritized,” Reagle said. “That can have a significant effect on people.”

Enlisting more women to contribute is the only way to keep women’s interests and needs from becoming afterthoughts.

 

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