Wikipedia and Gender – Where are the Women?

Dear Commons Community,

About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia participation and discovered that only 13 percent of contributors are women.  The study was conducted by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University (Netherlands).  The study was based on a survey of 176, 192 respondents representing 231 countries.  Among other analyses, the study’s authors reported that men dominate both the readership and contributor list of Wikipedia,  and that contributors show a substantially larger percentage of males and that among respondents only 12.64% of contributors are female.

The NY Times has an article examining this issue and quotes Jane Margolis, co-author of a book on sexism in computer science, “Unlocking the Clubhouse,” argues that Wikipedia is experiencing the same problems of the offline world, where women are less willing to assert their opinions in public. “In almost every space, who are the authorities, the politicians, writers for op-ed pages?” said Ms. Margolis, a senior researcher at the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles.”   According to the OpEd Project, an organization based in New York that monitors the gender breakdown of contributors to “public thought-leadership forums,” a participation rate of roughly 85-to-15 percent, men to women, is common — whether members of Congress, or writers on The New York Times and Washington Post Op-Ed pages.

I am sorry but I would never have suspected that a project like Wikipedia – the epitome of a free, open access service – would have such a disparity.


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