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Why women have no time for Wikipedia

Thoughts on the online encyclopedia’s gender imbalance

By Andreas Kolbe, with contributions from Nathalie Collida

Wikipedia is notorious for having a sizeable gender imbalance. As Guardian feature writer Anne Perkins put it – somewhat cattily – in a recent article, the site is dominated by “young white western males with a slight personality defect”. Most of them are single and childless. Indeed, as we shall shortly see, many are still children themselves.

Wikipedia demographics

The 2010 United Nations University survey was the largest survey examining Wikipedia demographics to date. It had a total of 176,192 respondents, of which almost 60,000 identified as current (or former) Wikipedia contributors; the remaining respondents were Wikipedia readers. The survey reported that –


Overall, the average age of the Wikipedians that participated in the survey is 25.22 years. Half of the respondents are younger than 22 years. The most frequent age that can be observed within the respondents is 18 years. Splitting the respondents in four equally large age groups shows that 25% are younger than 18 years old, 25% are between 18 and 22, a further 25% are between 22 and 30 (e.g. half of the respondents are between 18 and 30 years) and the remaining 25% are between 30 and 85 years old. There is a slight age difference between readers and contributors – readers are, on average, 24.79 years old while contributors show an average age of 26.14 years. Finally, female respondents are younger (23.79 years) than male ones (25.69 years). […] 

Contributors show a substantially larger share of males than readers. Among respondents only 12.64% of contributors are female.

This gender imbalance has long vexed the Wikimedia Foundation. In January 2011, in response to a New York Times article by Noam Cohen, the Foundation created a mailing list devoted to discussing the issue. Sue Gardner, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director at the time, set an ambitious and much-publicised goal to increase female participation to 25% by 2015. Yet the results of the very next survey, conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation a few months later in 2011, were anything but encouraging:

Our editing community continues to suffer from a lack of women editors. The survey provided an even starker view of this than previous studies (only 8.5% of editors are women). It is a strategic priority to address this imbalance.

The results of the following year’s survey (July 2012) were never published, for reasons unknown. By 2013, Gardner had to admit that her initiative was going nowhere:

“I didn’t solve it. We didn’t solve it. The Wikimedia Foundation didn’t solve it. The solution won’t come from the Wikimedia Foundation.”

Wikipedia editor surveys: less than 1 in 50 respondents is a mother

Gardner has since left her position as Wikimedia Executive Director, to be succeeded by Lila Tretikov. Media coverage continues to testify to the sometimes dire effects the gender gap has on the curation of the site’s content, the most recent example being a Guardian editorial inviting readers to –

Compare the coverage of female porn stars, where a page that went up first in 2004 has been edited over 3,000 times by more than a hundred volunteers determined to make it as copiously referenced as possible, with that of “Female writers” which has no quality control at all …

It is sometimes argued that women simply have less time to contribute to Wikipedia, due to family commitments. This is a fallacy. Firstly, the United Nations University survey found that only 33.29% of respondents had a partner, and only 14.72% had children. The difference between readers and contributors was negligible here, and the survey report’s analysis indicated only a minor difference in parenthood percentages for male (15.1%) and female (13.7%) respondents. It is patently obvious that girls and women in the age groups that are most strongly represented in Wikipedia’s demographics typically do not yet have families of their own. Their lack of participation is unrelated to their being bogged down by family responsibilities.

Of course, if we accept the data from these two surveys as an accurate reflection of Wikipedia demographics, they also tell us something else: if only 13.7% of female contributors have children, and the percentage of female contributors lies somewhere between 8.5% and 12.64%, then only 1.16%–1.73% of Wikipedia contributors are mothers.

That is less than 1 in 50 (or at best about 1 in 25, assuming the data need to be corrected for sampling bias; see Author’s note below).

“She’s just not that into you.”

Belying the theory that women – especially women with families – do not have enough time to engage online, there are in fact plenty of social media sites where women dominate. The Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Wiley, 2014) notes:

Recently, women have come to outnumber men in some social media domains. They use social network sites such as Facebook more often and more actively than men (Brenner 2012), and female users predominate on the microblogging site Twitter, the consumer review site Yelp, and the online pinboard Pinterest. More males, in contrast, frequent music-sharing sites such as last.fm, as well as Reddit, a social news website known for its sometimes misogynistic content (HuffPost Women 2012; Williams 2012); contributors to Wikipedia are also overwhelmingly male (Lam et al. 2011). Moreover, the professional social network site LinkedIn has attracted almost twice as many males as females. LinkedIn representatives claim that this is because men are better at professional networking than women, at least in some industries (Berkow 2011), whereas women have traditionally focused on maintaining relationships (Fallows 2005; cf. Tannen 1990). Women’s greater concerns about privacy and identity disclosure on social network sites (Fogel and Nehmad 2009) may also predispose them to interact with individuals they already know and trust (Muscanell and Guadagno 2012), which Facebook and other social network sites facilitate through features such as “friending.”

Crocco, Cramer, and Meier (2008) argue that the move toward web-based computing has had an equalizing effect on gendered technology use. If equality is defined as equal in principle access, women in the United States have caught up with men. At the same time, the web is becoming increasingly specialized by gender. Although many sites are male-dominated, women today have more choices of online environments than they did in the past, including social media sites in which they can exercise a degree of control over who reads and comments on their contributions. As discussed further below, users of these social media sites tend to be less anonymous than in earlier text-based forums.

This kind of analysis takes us much closer to the real reasons why women simply go elsewhere online. Women engaging online appear to place more importance than men on spending time with people congenial to them, and prefer to avoid people who are not. They also like to form more meaningful personal relationships than men.

There is anecdotal evidence from Wikipedia to support this. One take-away from my visit to Wikimania 2014 was that two people told me, based on their longstanding experience as members of the English Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee, that women object more strenuously to sockpuppeting than men, and for different reasons: men condemn it because it corrupts the process of arriving at a neutral Wikipedia article, whereas women feel it is a personal breach of trust if the same person uses several identities to talk to them.

Friends? On Wikipedia, they’re known as “meatpuppets”

In general, Wikipedia is quite hostile to social relationships. First of all, anonymity is a paramount value to Wikipedians (as it is to Redditors), and this is not conducive to deeper relationships. In fact, forming relationships is actively frowned upon in some ways on Wikipedia, and a cause for distrust.

Wikipedia has draconian rules against what it calls “canvassing” (telling friends about a discussion that you are engaged in) and “meatpuppetry” (having friends help you edit articles in ways that support your point of view). Of course there are sound reasons for this – there have been many, many cases in Wikipedia’s history of people acting in secret concert in order to bias articles and discussions. But the unfortunate side effect is that it makes people reluctant to be open about their friendships and allegiances on Wikipedia. It makes them susceptible to attacks.

As for avoiding people who aren’t congenial, Wikipedia’s very nature and status as the web’s most prominent reference site make its articles and sociology somewhat comparable to waterholes in the animal world – they attract species of editors with opposing agendas who have to somehow coexist, despite the tensions between them, in order to access the social resource that Wikipedia represents to them. It’s stressful. Writing on any mildly contentious topic in Wikipedia both women and men are practically bound to come up against the very sort of people whom they might most avoid associating with in their private lives. On Facebook or Twitter, it is easy to manage such situations. You block or unfriend them, and not only will you never hear from them again, they will also not be able to keep tabs on what you write.

In short, thanks to its well-established culture of contentiousness, the deck is stacked in many ways against equal gender participation on Wikipedia.

The social dimension

If we look at the various sites mentioned in the above passage from The Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality, it’s worthwhile to note the social component of sites where women predominate.

File:Girl with computer emerging technologies social media.jpgWomen on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp share personal images with friends and engage actively in campaigns for what they feel are worthwhile causes. The growing political influence of Black Twitter, for example, is to a large extent driven by black women (who are doubly underrepresented on mostly-white Wikipedia). Campaigning is something the software of these sites is specifically designed to facilitate, using mechanisms such as hashtags, shares and likes.

The only parallel measures in the Wikipedia world that have had some success in drawing women editors in are women-themed edit-a-thons and “Wikibomb” events that emphasise the communal aspects of contributing (it is surely no coincidence that these are physical meetings of like-minded people acting without the cover of anonymity) and on-wiki projects like the Gender Gap Task Force or WikiProject Feminism.

In these cases the gender gap itself becomes the catalyst that brings women together in a shared social endeavour. But is that enough? It seems unlikely. Needless to say, such initiatives also breed resentment among other editors, and one can find comments from Wikipedians on Reddit such as the following:

If you really wanna see something ‘nasty’, check out the ‘article alerts’ on that page [WikiProject Feminism]. Anytime there is a RfC (Requests for comment during a content dispute, to get wider input) or an AfD (articles for deletion, to discuss whether an article should be deleted) or a CfD (Category for discussion to decide whether a cat should remain or not), they will -always- vote the shit out of the women ones, making sure that they follow a gyrocentric [sic] pov [point of view] on the RfC and to keep the women’s articles. It’s blatant canvassing but nobody will do anything about it.

Looks that matter

Quite apart from anonymity and the patterns of social interaction, the sites where men are most dominant – Wikipedia and Reddit – are on the whole very dry and text-based. Male-dominated sites like Reddit and Wikipedia demonstrate that men don’t seem to care much about visual aesthetics if there is function. The sites where women predominate look quite different from Wikipedia. Pinterest is full of gorgeous, nourishing images uploaded by contributors. So is Yelp. A large part of social activity on Twitter and Facebook revolves around sharing images with friends.

The Wikipedia interface is increasingly coming to be seen as old-fashioned and visually unattractive. This has reached the point where third-party provider WikiWand has been able to raise $600,000 from an investor to create a new site that presents Wikipedia content with a more pleasing interface, a development that seems to be viewed with some concern by the Wikimedia Foundation. Jan-Bart de Vreede, chairman of the Wikimedia Foundation board, recently said,

Truth is, we are at a crossroads, and unfortunately have been for quite some time. Blaming each other for being there does not make much sense, as it would probably result in us spending more time at that crossroads. If you want me to take part of the blame, I will. Other internet projects (not limiting ourselves to websites) are passing us by left and right, and none of them have the non-profit goals that we have. In fact, some of them, with more commercial propositions, are actively undermining us.

When asked which sites he meant, he pointed to Quora, Facebook and – WikiWand. He later attempted to downplay his remark, but it stands to reason that if readers flock to the more attractive interface of third-party mirror sites like WikiWand, this will not just affect wikipedia.org’s pageviews and Alexa ranking – it will also sharply reduce the number of people who will see the Foundation’s fundraising banners, and will turn Wikipedia into a mere consumable with an even smaller reader-editor conversion rate (WikiWand pages do have an “Edit” hyperlink that takes users to wikipedia.org, but it is far less prominent and quite hard to find).

Modernising the Wikipedia interface

The efforts the Wikimedia Foundation has made to date to modernise the Wikipedia interface have been hampered by poor implementation and caused a major crisis in relations between the Foundation’s paid staff and the community of unpaid contributors. Last year’s VisualEditor was full of serious bugs, and unable to handle the precise situations where a WYSIWYG editor might have been most useful. It was received so poorly that a volunteer administrator simply switched it off, relegating it to an opt-in feature that now seems to see little use. The Foundation’s most recent new software feature, the Media Viewer, was so strongly opposed in the two most important language versions of Wikipedia (English and German) that Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Möller was first hauled in front of the English Wikipedia’s arbitration committee (for threatening a volunteer administrator) and then had to introduce a new “superprotect” feature to prevent volunteer administrators on the German Wikipedia from simply switching that new software feature off, too (see our previous coverage). As a result, the community is in uproar, and a petition has been launched on-wiki and on change.org asking the Wikimedia Foundation to undo its move. At the time of writing, it had garnered well over 600 signatures, most of them from long-standing and committed Wikipedians.

File:Gray paper bag with sad smiley over head.jpgJudging by her comments to date, Executive Director Lila Tretikov intends to stand firm, and would rather lose part of the volunteer community than back down on this issue. The problem is that large parts of the unpaid volunteer community consider the work the Foundation employees have delivered to date to be inept, and historical evidence is on their side. Tretikov will have to improve the performance of her software engineering and product development departments considerably to get the community behind her again. She is new to the job, and while she may well have the background and stamina to pull it off (she was previously Vice-President of Engineering at SugarCRM, Inc.), this will not be achieved without pain. There is little doubt that a more visually enticing and professional interface would go some way towards making Wikipedia a less unappealing site to women.

But for Wikipedia to actually become a platform fully embraced by women, it would have to change its culture in fundamental ways, reducing its emphasis on anonymity and providing more opportunities for meaningful companionship and satisfying social relationships between its contributors. Failing that, women will simply continue to vote with their feet, and find their enjoyment and altruistic fulfilment elsewhere.

Author’s note:

Ms Marielle Volz, a Wikimedia Foundation intern, has advised me that Shaw & Hill (2013) have argued that women and parents are less likely to participate in surveys; on this basis, they have re-interpreted the UNU survey results and estimated that true figures for female contributors and parents would be closer to 16.1% and 25.3% respectively. This would place the percentage of mothers among Wikipedia contributors at around 4.1%, i.e. roughly one 1 in 25. It should be noted that Hill, one of the authors of the study, declared that he was an unpaid member of the advisory board of the Wikimedia Foundation. I am indebted to Ms Volz for bringing the Shaw & Hill paper to my attention, and for pointing me to the gender breakdown of parenthood in the UNU analysis that is now reflected in the text above. Our discussion, which took place on the Wikimedia Gendergap mailing list, can be found here.

Image credits: Flickr/mikeedesign, Wikimedia Commons/Walton LaVonda, Wikimedia Commons/mistermundo/derivative work by Saibo ~ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (image 2 public domain)

45 comments to Why women have no time for Wikipedia

  • Bielle

    Well done, Andreas, as always.

  • Ross McPherson

    Good writing but:

    1. You represent women as a bit over concerned about appearances. Wikipedia is all about appearances yet it is male driven.

    2. The last thing Wikipedia needs is any increase in “meaningful companionship and satisfying social relationships between its contributors.” Gangsterism provides meaningful companionship for many Wikipedians and their social relationships are satisfying to the thugs entrenched there. Providing a coffee shop atmosphere for the girls won’t help. It would just increase the influence of gossip and innuendo. The weapons would be a bit different, that’s all.

    3. I don’t edit Wikipedia – I have been indefinitely blocked. Does this mean I am testosterone rich or effete? It would be nice to see the gender stats for blocked editors.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Minnie

    Thank you for a great post!
    Another thing which prevents more females from entering is that the “power-structure” is set: we have admins for life, and almost all of those admins are presently men. Some stubborn, unable to ever admit they are wrong, completely full of themselves; in short: not untypical 20-something.

    If every admin were elected for a limited time: that would better the gender balance over night, I´m sure.

    • Beth

      So the foundation claims they can’t fix the problem without trying the most obvious solution? Appoint an equal number of women as editors, recruit a few with non-binary identities, and see how the dynamics change.

  • Angela Kennedy (@AcademicAnge)

    As you most probably know Andreas, I’m a sociologist with specific interest in feminist research methodology/feminist theoretical approach etc. I’m also someone, like Ross here, who has been blocked for ever from Wikipedia (including a personal excommunication from Jimbo himself, and my children, and my children’s children, and anyone connected to me – I’m not actually joking as the emails will testify!)

    I confess to not really having any clear ideas as to the gender imbalance on Wikipedia, or even that it necessarily matters. The latter may well be because I believe everyone in the world needs to take Wikipedia with a big pinch of salt – it’s always a potentially unreliable witness: hence I don’t think it can be ‘rectified’ just by including more females, for example, or at all.

    Women may be taking part in Twitter/facebook etc. more merely because they are not being policed in the way Wikipedians police people: not because they necessarily want more ‘congenial’ relationships. I for example can argue the toss about something on twitter because I won’t be blocked by ‘community’ arbiters with certain agendas. I am therefore a much more political animal on Twitter than some other places.

    I think it’s not just a case of ‘women are different from men’. We could look more at what power structures are in place that might impact more on women in a sexist, or patriarchical social system: who, for example, find themselves under more ‘surveillance’ (as do people of colour) generally by elites in a social structure (See Nirmal Puwar’s work on this). It’s not just a case of sexism or patriarchy however. There are other forms of social stratification going on there, other social structures, other underlying ideologies.

    Like Ross, I would be interested to see the qualities of those who have been blocked. That’s a research study unlikely ever to see the light of day though, I would wager 🙁

  • Anthonyhcole

    The exchange between Jan-Bart and Andreas is worth reading, if you didn’t follow the link in the article.


  • Hi, my experience with Newslines shows that it is actually the wiki software that causes women not to participate. Newslines is a crowdsourced site that aims to supplant Wikipedia’s news and biography pages with better content. Our experience shows that most of the speculation about why women don’t edit Wikipedia is wrong, and frankly, condescending.

    As as ex-Wikipedia editor I saw many of the problems with Wikipedia’s software first hand and made a system that lets people contribute without bullying and harassment. Unlike Wikipedia 1) we pay our writers to contribute 2) we have system that allows people to add information with no conflict — so far over 10,000 posts with no trouble 3) posts are assessed on the quality of the post, not on who made them — no harassment is possible and 4) we don’t allow editors ownership of the page — denying powerful groups the ability to censor people and text.

    As a result 80% of our writers are women and minorities.

    For more discussion about our findings, see these posts:



    • Mike Cleven

      well, who CARES if your site is 80% editing by women and minorities? It’s not an encyclopedia of anything other than pop culture or ‘old news’, as a glance at the results of a simple search for “Canada” on your site shows


      articles on covers of “Elle” magazine? Really?? WHY???

  • Ross McPherson

    Editing an encyclopaedia when you have no expertise requires ‘balls’. That is the real reason why there are more males at Wikipedia. Or we could call it ‘arrogance’, ‘confidence’ or stupidity’. The only way to get women on board is for Wikipedia to stop the pretence that is is a real encyclopaedia. It is a form of social media with an interest in human behaviour generally, including academic behaviour. Women would be interested then. Better still, Wikipedia could start acting like a real encyclopaedia by putting genuine scholars in charge and stamping out the virtual social bonding that somehow gets mis-called ‘community’.

    I read the link provided above by Anthonyhcole. Interesting stuff. If the hell-bitch Wikipedia ends up being swallowed by its own spawn, need we be surprised? Onwards and downwards, Wikipedia.

  • JB

    The biggest problem is the hostility and contentious argument that Wikipedia attracts. There are some extremely unpleasant comments about both the edits and the editors, with personal attacks based on suppositions about the editor’s characteristics. Women (naturally, given 92% male contribution) are at the receiving end of far more hostility than men. Some men exploit this by creating a female persona to draw irrational criticisms based on gender, then ride in as white knight in their male persona to support their own original point against baseless attack. These ‘female’ sock puppets add to the problem.

    Wikipedia could increase female participation by encouraging civility, punishing hostility and modifying the consensus approach (only very slightly, e.g. by forcing reversions to proceed through the talk page) to minimise agressive oppositions.

    • Tim Davenport

      Well, other than the fact that the percentage of female participants at WP is probably more like 15% than like 8% and the fact that with anonymous user names, nobody on the internet knows you’re a dog, and the fact that your assertion that most unpleasantness is related to “editor characteristics” rather than POV battles, and the fact that the number of “some men” creating alternative female personas so as to white knight in their defense with an alternate account approaches zero, and other than the fact that “punishing hostility” assumes the presence of a caste of politically-correct “punishers,” everything here is right on the mark.


      • Tim Davenport

        read: “…And the fact that your assertion that most unpleasantness is related to “editor characteristics” rather than POV battles IS WRONG…”

  • RadRed

    The real issue is why you need to specify a gender. Just be an editor, not a male editor or female editor. I fail to understand why all these statistics on male/female are of any importance. If there is a case for discrimination then by all means address it, but I don’t think Wikipedia is trying to discourage female contributors. Where are the statistics on sewing classes? Why no article about the odd looks I get in a fabric store?

    • HRIP7

      You don’t have to specify a gender to participate in Wikipedia. The figures quoted here are based on anonymised surveys specifically asking people about their gender, rather than indications of gender made on Wikipedia itself.

      One might add that a number of user accounts who prominently identified as female on Wikipedia have in fact been found to have been operated by men.

    • Beth

      You do not have to intend to be discriminatory to be discriminatory. That is why this is an example of systematic oppression, rather than individual oppression.

      The roads to sexist, misogynistic communities made up almost entirely of men are paved with good intentions. It doesn’t mean the result is fair.

  • shane

    Am I the only person who views WP as an encyclopedia, and in no way a social network? Why does everything have to come down to online relationships? I edit WP not because I have an agenda or to make friends. I edit it because I find it a vital tool, and I want to contribute. I think the fact that it has come this far puts the lie to the charges that the idea can’t work (an idea of which I admit I was skeptical for years). As long as we can continue to police shoddy scholarship and keep the woo merchants at bay, and work to improve editorship, it seems to me the site has a bright future.

    • Radiant Orchid

      WP is an online community (of people who edit WP) with its own rules and social norms. Any online community is a social network. WP editors have interactions with other WP editors and relationships (good and bad) are formed. Those relationships influence the way people deal with each other.

      The skewed demographics of WP editors mean that English WP has more content about things that interest young white North American males. And it means that things that don’t interest young white North American males may get deleted because young white North American males do not understand how they may be “notable”. It is not enough to simply “police shoddy scholarship”. That will never expand the diversity of WP.

      • Tim Davenport

        @RO: “The skewed demographics of WP editors mean that English WP has more content about things that interest young white North American males. And it means that things that don’t interest young white North American males may get deleted because young white North American males do not understand how they may be ‘notable.'”

        While you are right about the first part, I am happy to note that you are wrong about the second. Notability challenges are one of the things that are really RIGHT about WP and I honestly don’t believe there is any cultural skew — certainly not any gender skew — about what is kept or deleted. Articles sourced in languages which are not English have a tougher row to hoe than those sourced in English (which is probably equally true for other language encyclopedias not sourced in those languages). But there really is no cultural skew there beyond that, certainly nothing in the scholarly literature on this topic.


      • Mike Cleven

        ” It is not enough to simply “police shoddy scholarship”. That will never expand the diversity of WP.”

        And expanding the diversity of WP is NOT going to improve content; rather it is going to endorse biased content and evict people such as myself who have been blocked (and repeatedly slandered) for standing up for the truth.

        Gender politics is bullshit.

    • Ross McPherson

      Wikipedia is about crowd-sourcing and it is not a random sample of opinions. The contributors are self-selected. Of course it is controlled by online relationships. There is no academic authority you can appeal to. The place is ruled by projects and secret alliances. If you are not aware of the ghastly social dynamics, you aren’t doing much as an editor, or else you are so much part of a gang, you are like a fish in water and you simply don’t understand that people are drowning in it. Some day you may have a rude awakening there and then you will hate the place with a passion, like so many others now do.

    • My humble opinion

      agree with shane. WP is an encyclopedia. do not compare it with Facebook, reddit or pinterest, it makes no sense. it is unique, it is a great success and it will still be there when other hype sites will be long dead.

      • Radiant Orchid

        Would you like to bet on that? I will wager that Wikipedia will be gone (or unrecognizable) before Facebook, Reddit, and Pinterest are all gone.

  • Netelf

    Wikipedia is bull. That is why I (a woman) stay away from it. I can not speak for other women. If I need to use an encyclopedia, I refer to Britannica or Americana. Wikipedia is useless as a reliable source of information. That is why, it is a waste of time.

    • Mark Hahn

      I’m curious how you’ve tried to use WP with such unsatisfactory results. Do you think that it’s mainly a function of which topics you were looking for? When I use it, possibly for very different topics, its content very strongly resembles a traditional encyclopedia.

      Or is your point just that crowdsourced content must always be approached skeptically? (But surely that applies to trad sources too…)

      • HRIP7

        It certainly applies to a greater degree to crowdsourced content. See How pranks, hoaxes and manipulation undermine the reliability of Wikipedia for some of the problems Wikipedia has in addition to all those that the traditional sources have that form the basis of Wikipedia’s “good” content.

      • John lilburn

        No encyclopedia that I’ve encountered has a featured article assertions that Richard II was king of England in 1345. I’ve yet to encountered an encyclopedia that bold stated that Thomas Rainsborough was a Ranter. Nor that a Pope tried to reconcile two brothers 13 years after, it said, one of them had died. Encyclopedias also don’t tend to describe crane flies and mosquitoes, nor do they state that penguins keep their feet at ambient temperature in the Antarctic or that the summer temperature in the arctic is 23 degrees.

  • HRIP7

    I guess this page wouldn’t be complete without a reference to WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance, a 2011 paper which contains a large amount of further data, and also examines some of the resulting content biases. Some key findings:

    • Women are more likely to involve themselves in social- and community-oriented areas of Wikipedia.
    • Articles with a high concentration of female editors tend to be more, not less, contentious (a possible indication of male editors defending territory).
    • Female editors have more of their edits undone (“reverted”), especially in the early stages of participation on Wikipedia.
    • Female editors are statistically no more likely to quit when reverted than male editors, but are simply reverted more.
    • Female editors are more likely than males to be indefinitely blocked from participation on Wikipedia.

    • HRIP7

      Another very recently (20 August 2014) published paper:

      Daniela Iosub, David Laniado, Carlos Castillo, Mayo Fuster Morell, Andreas Kaltenbrunner:

      Emotions under Discussion: Gender, Status and Communication in Online Collaboration

      Principal Findings:

      We find that administrators maintain a rather neutral, impersonal tone, while regular editors are more emotional and relationship-oriented, that is, they use language to form and maintain connections to other editors. A persistent gender difference is that female contributors communicate in a manner that promotes social affiliation and emotional connection more than male editors, irrespective of their status in the community. Female regular editors are the most relationship-oriented, whereas male administrators are the least relationship-focused. Finally, emotional and linguistic homophily is prevalent: editors tend to interact with other editors having similar emotional styles (e.g., editors expressing more anger connect more with one another).

    • Nw

      For someone who regularly chides journalists for their errors in interpreting that study on Wikipedia’s accuracy, I’m surprised to see you make a similar mistake. Lam et al. does not say that “Female editors have more of their edits undone (“reverted”), especially in the early stages of participation on Wikipedia”. It says that only the first 7 edits are significantly, in a statistical sense, more likely to be reverted if the editor is female. The revert rate then equalises for both sexes after that.

      • HRIP7

        Well, they did actually say, “we believe there may be a systemic bias against females that cause their edits to be more likely to be reverted (undone) by another editor, particularly early on in their Wikipedia tenure.”

        This is on page 3, near the top, in section RQ3: Gender-Conflict. However, this was their belief prior to the collection of data. As you say, the actual data collected showed that there was a significant difference only for the first 7 edits. For edits 16–254, women actually had a slightly lower revert rate than men. The revert rate for edits 128-255, on the other hand, was again higher for women than for men (2.29% vs. 2.07%), but this difference was not large enough to be statistically significant (they only had 749 edits in their sample, so we are only talking about a difference of one or two reversions more or less).

        Thanks for pointing it out. I shouldn’t have said “especially” in my comment above.

  • WashDC

    Try not to undervalue the lack of desire to hang out in the junior high school boys locker room being exposed to seven-year-olds making dick and cunt jokes.

    Snicker snicker.

    It’s not just Wikipedia.

  • HRIP7

    This blog post was quoted in two press articles:

    Rocío P. Benavente, El Confidencial, ¿Por qué las mujeres no escriben en la Wikipedia? (2 September 2014)

    Paolo Minucci, ProNews.it, Perché Wikipedia non è un posto per donne, almeno per ora (3 September 2014)

  • […] Why women have no time for Wikipedia | WikipediocracyIn short, thanks to its well-established culture of contentiousness, the deck is stacked in many ways against equal gender participation on Wikipedia. […]

  • […] is unclear. Pretending to be a woman on a site where women and transwomen constitute a tiny minority has been used successfully in the past by various sociopathic male participants including Robert […]

  • Utterly Pathetic

    Why women/minorities/homosexuals/disabled/transgender/whatever do not freely participate in (insert technical thing here) and why thats somehow wrong.

    This article should be called : Why I wrote a click-bait cliche-ridden article of opinionated biased drivel devoid of hard facts and research, you won’t believe what happened next!

    Seriously, wikipedia is volunteer driven, if there aren’t enough women volunteering their time then when do we not criticize them rather then the low hanging fruit of the “privileged white male” keeping them out.

  • […] is 25.22 years. Half of the respondents are younger than 22 years.” The online encyclopedia’s gender imbalance and why women have no time for […]

  • […] is 25.22 years. Half of the respondents are younger than 22 years.” The online encyclopedia’s gender imbalance and why women have no time for […]

  • uvgot2bkidding

    What the heck is an average age! If someone can bottle that and sell it on Wikipedia they could make a fortune…as a 55 year old reader / contributor I apparently just got much younger just by participating in Wikipedia. Fab 🙂

    Additionally I would like to point out that this article just proves women don’t participate in surveys…not Wikipedia. Maybe women spend that extra time contributing to Wikipedia!

    • HRIP7

      Of course you didn’t get younger. 🙂 But if you have one 55-year-old like you and three fifteen-year-olds, you arrive at an average contributor age of 25. So, know that for everyone like you, there are three fifteen-year-olds writing Wikipedia! 😉

      That women are less likely to participate in surveys than men was Hill & Shaw’s contention too. However, even that adjustment of the data raised the percentage of women contributors only to 16%. And it should be noted that they took the 2010 UNU figure (12.67%) as a basis for the adjusted figure, not the rather lower figure from the Wikimedia Foundation’s own 2011 editor survey (8.5%).

  • […] Half of the respondents are younger than 22 years.” The online encyclopedia’s gender imbalance and why women have no time for […]

  • […] is no doubt that the Wikipedia user interface could do with updating. Women in particular, who are as underrepresented in Wikipedia as ever (estimates range from 8.5% to 16%), might find a more aesthetic and contemporary user […]