The Signpost

Women and Wikipedia

New research, WikiChix

Contribute  —  
Share this
By Jorgenev and Tilman Bayer
WikiChix group photo: every year women involved in Wikimedia projects come together for lunch at Wikimania, generating passionate and lively discussion about women's roles within Wikimedia; see "Brief news" below.

New research

A paper titled "WP:Clubhouse? An exploration of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance", to be presented next month at WikiSym 2011 by a team from the University of Minnesota, was posted online on August 11. The team of seven researchers became interested in the imbalance after the January 31 New York Times front-page article on Wikipedia's gender gap (see earlier Signpost coverage: January 31, February 7) and sought a more data-driven analysis of the issue, as opposed to the by now traditional "here is a random 'male'-article, here is a 'female'-article, they are different lengths" approach.

Accompanied by a press release and audio/video summaries from the university, the paper has been widely covered by external media sources—see In the news.

The study confined itself to editors who self-disclosed their gender via a userbox on their user pages or through their user preferences. As the paper notes, this may have introduced a bias, and the gender as self-reported by users (and in particular vandal accounts) may not always reflect the truth.

Area Percentage of women editing
Arts 10.4%

Brief news

+ Add a comment

Discuss this story

These comments are automatically transcluded from this article's talk page. To follow comments, add the page to your watchlist. If your comment has not appeared here, you can try purging the cache.

The "Wiki Trip" tool also provides food for thought on other aspects of possible systemic bias. For example, in both Battle of Iwo Jima [1] and Battle of Midway[2], edits from one of the two countries involved outweigh those from the other by more than 60:1. Regards, HaeB (talk) 10:31, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Oddly enough the disparity is even greater in the other direction if you look at the Japanese Wikipedia article. Hmm. Powers T 20:59, 17 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I'm a woman and have self-identified as such on my userpage for nearly five years, but even after all this time other users still refer to me as "he" or "him" fairly regularly. That might come from an implicit just-us-guys-here assumption without having looked at my userpage, or maybe refering to anyone as "she" or "her" is too easily construed as an insult (!) ... I wonder whether specifying female in my user preference "used for gender-correct addressing by the software" will make next year's projections more accurate by one data point ;P – Athaenara 11:11, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I've gotten the impression that some people think that [correctly] identifying me as a female will be received as an insult. --Orlady (talk) 22:12, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I've been addressed as "sir" (granted, it was not by a native English speaker). LadyofShalott 01:06, 17 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
If you edit woman-centric articles though, you will be assumed a "she" as Kaldari and I can attest to. --Danger (talk) 03:05, 17 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Calling female Wikipedia editors chicken or chix will surely help. To your attention: User_talk:Sue_Gardner#May_I_ask_you_a_courtesy.3F. Regards, Catfisheye (talk) 15:11, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Regarding the comment: "Women are more likely to vandalize as new users", can we trust that vandals are reporting their gender properly? GoingBatty (talk) 16:44, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

No, we sure can not. Probably that whole list should have been phrased something like "Those who identified as female..." LadyofShalott 01:06, 17 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
We tried to do that in the third paragraph of the lead. jorgenev 01:30, 17 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I tried to read Stierch's blog post, but the text was forced off the screen to the right, and there was no scrollbar. Advice? --Orange Mike | Talk 17:10, 16 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Whenever text is forced off-screen, try expanding the window to full-screen size, or else, get the raw markup text by <View><Source> & set format to word-wrap. Then search for the words "invite" or "this epiphany" at the top of the post, where she repeats how simply asking people, directly, can make a big difference in responses. -Wikid77 16:59, 21 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Personal benefit apparently isn't the only driver of edits. I checked Planned Parenthood[3] (an organization that provides services primarily to women) -- 522 edits by men vs. only 11 by women. --Orlady (talk) 22:12, 16 August 2011 (UTC)ǐ[reply]

I can't access the file, but I was wondering if there was any more data on the quality of articles on films of more interest to women. If they were rated less highly by WikiProject Film, does that reflect the preferences (in terms of style and content, not subject) of the presumably mostly (being Wikipedians) male respondents? Is there any data on the gender of the respondents, and are these articles rated differently by men and women? Also, how do the quality and length of these articles scale with the total number of contributors compared to gender-neutral articles ? I suppose that articles of little interest to the majority of editors are bound to be of a lower quality simply because of the smaller editor pool they draw on, is this factored in? Rainbowwrasse (talk) 08:55, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I wonder who decide that women must have different interests from men. If I don't have any interest in Sex and the City I count as man?--Dia^ (talk) 16:03, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I cannot state emphatically enough that even if participation at Wikipedia between genders is not equal, that it does not mean anything is wrong with the community or current policies. There are other factors at work (genetic, social, and so forth) that could fully explain the imbalance. Unfortunately, this research (which, upon my quick reading, seemed to throw in occasional unwarranted conclusions extrapolated from their data) is going to be interpreted to spearhead policy changes to combat non-existent gender discrimination. Thanks in large part to careless and reckless press releases and statements by the Wikimedia Foundation, it is now in the public conscious that Wikipedia has a sexist male-exclusive culture. This makes me angry! It is untrue for starters but furthermore it bothers me that the slander comes from vocal but near-sighted people working for the Foundation. As far as I can tell, the policies set forth in WP:CIVIL, WP:HARASS, and WP:PERSONAL make Wikipedia a sex-equal environment. End of story. If women are not choosing to participate — and they clearly aren't at the same rate as men — that is a different issue. I encourage the Foundation to advertise with directed marketing to women... so long as there's equal directed marketing asking men to contribute. I would view it as sexist to preferentially encourage women to participate. [Directed marketing is good because it is more effective.] The idea that women think they "have more important things to do" than contribute to Wikipedia (mentioned again in the video by the paper's authors) comes up again and again. Clearly, this would be a fruitful idea to target in any directed advertising to women. Lastly, as Wikipedia is a volunteer community, you cannot force people to be volunteers. Ultimately, you get who you get. So trying to force a 50/50 ratio is misguided. The role of the Foundation should be to make sure that Wikipedia is not discriminatory. But this job is already done! I see little barrier to participation (except economic, which we have no power to fix). Therefore I find all user studies largely just mere curiosities upon which no action should usually be taken. Jason Quinn (talk) 16:14, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Bleh... lets not pull out the genetics card here, that is just stupid. I do agree though that due to incompetence on the foundations part and certain social elements within Wikipedia the issue has been twisted and news outlets have run away with a completely ridiculous perception of the whole thing. Case in point: Sue Gardener's 'why women don't edit Wikipedia in their own words post', where obviously ridiculous assertions were treated seriously. For perspective, think what would happen if there was a 'why men don't edit Wikipedia in their own words' survey: It would be populated by Wikipedia Review trolls and their insane conspiracy theories. Its no surprise that their female equivalents come out when asked, and I have to say I was not impressed when I saw our cheif executive try to cater to oprions such as

"Administrators will block any woman on wikipedia if they do not reval themselfs as woman. There are too many males who will stick to “there are no women on the internet” phrase. If you want a place where you can make changes with out being forced to reveal your idenity, wikipedia is not the place for it."[4]

And then there was Mr. Wales who in his recent interview at Wikimania was basically like 'we need more women because right now all our editors are pathetic nerds', thanks Jimbo.
extransit (talk) 17:05, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Whether if is politically correct or not, genetics may be a fundamental factor involved in the gender imbalance at Wikipedia. Genetics is a big factor in determining behavior; so I do not consider it rational to turn a blind eye to what is perhaps a major part of the "answer" to the gender imbalance "problem". Jason Quinn (talk) 18:08, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
@Jason Quinn, please leave genetics out of the issue!..or I have to start to thinks that some editors do have a bias against women? Surely is still reality in many countries that women have to care for children, home and earn a living or at least helping with it. That leaves less time to get interested in other things like editing wikipedia (that, by the way, is getting more and more complicated - or I'm growing old...). Still, I think the research, because of the inherent difficulty in determining the gender of the editors, used far too many assumptions to be meaningful. --Dia^ (talk) 17:32, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
You have a confusing question mark in your comment so it's hard to know if you are being serious or sarcastic. I assume you are serious and you wanted a period there. I will not leave genetics out of the issue. See comment above. If you wish to reply to my comments, I ask that you draw conclusions that actually derived from my words. A male mentioning a genetic issue as a possible factor does not imply he has a bias against women. That would be a logical fallacy. The remaining issues you mention were intended to be covered by the word "social" in my reply. I fully agree with the latter half of your message. Jason Quinn (talk) 18:08, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Jason, I wouldn't invoke genetics simply because there are no genetic differences between women and men (except of course for the little Y with only 80-ish genes for testes and suchlike). The only difference is how and when these genes are expressed, but that isn't genetics. If you had started taking drugs to block testosterone early enough you would be a woman, but genetically you would be the same as now (I'm assuming you're a man going by your name...). On everything else I totally agree with you, there are biochemical and psychological differences between women and men (on average!) that influence behaviour. I also agree that there is no need for a gender policy on WP; so men are more likely to edit wikipedia...who cares! I've never perceived WP as a 'boys club', and I'm free to edit as well if I like. Directed advertising would be a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere. But I still don't like being called 'he'! ;-) Rainbowwrasse (talk) 19:34, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I think we agree barring a few minor semantic differences. Jason Quinn (talk) 17:06, 19 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

One of the gender-identification problems is that it is not easy to find out the gender of a user, particularly within a discussion. Rainbowwrasse, I can scroll over your username to find out how long you've been here and how many edits you have, but not your gender. Most of the time, it would be too much of a hassle to go read your userpage in hopes that it might identify your gender. Gender-specific usernames help (like LadyofShalott or my own), but that probably just encourages more stereotyping. I must also agree to never having viewed it as a boys club, or experiencing any type of prejudice against my gender. PrincessofLlyr royal court 20:13, 18 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

  • I went into WTF?!?!? mode when I read this: Women are more likely to vandalize as new users (60% of vandal accounts reporting their gender were women). What does THAT mean? That is about ten times higher than I would have predicted. Starting out with goofy test edits maybe? But why women... There's something really interesting at work here that's causing this gender imbalance and I don't think the sometimes rough-and-tumble deletion and reversion fights fully explain what's going on. Carrite (talk) 04:11, 19 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    • I highly suspect that it's common for male vandals to create female vandal accounts. Unless that could be corrected, the statistics above is probably misleading. Jason Quinn (talk) 17:06, 19 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
      • I used to buy into the argument that vandalism was an almost invariably male thing, like graffiti it is adolescent male misbehaviour. However I've since met a former vandal at one of our meetups, and seen some vandalisms that were probably girl on girl cyberbullying. So it wouldn't now surprise me if the level of female vandalism was as high as 6%, but it won't be 60%, that has to be a skew from women feeling the need to identify as such when almost all vandals are male. I will make enquiries on one of the wikis where it is more normal to declare gender, perhaps we can get a more sensible figure there. ϢereSpielChequers 07:30, 20 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Interesting observations, but I wouldn't sign up to anything that calls me a 'chick', thanks. I wonder whether Wiki Trip is that accurate? I checked out an article I created and to which I have been the major contributor, Batu Lintang camp, (I have made 344 edits; the next highest count is 16 by User:Grant65). Wiki Trip says that 9 registered editors are male and none are female: I have identified as female on my user page since November 2006. It also shows editors as being located solely in North America and the UK, whereas User:Grant65 is in Australia. A lot of my editing has been in military history, a subject area that might be considered more male-oriented, and I have never sensed that I have been treated differently because of my gender. Jasper33 (talk) 17:10, 20 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I bet that WikiTrip bases its judgments on the gender that's listed on the "User profile" under "Preferences". --Orlady (talk) 20:53, 20 August 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Hi! I'm one of WikiTrip developers. Yes, WikiTrip takes information that's listed on the "User profile" under "Preferences". If you have questions or suggestions, I'll be happy to answer them! --phauly (talk) 08:30, 12 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I'm the main WikiTrip devloper. It doesn't count your edits as a female because you didn't set your gender (or maybe you didn't do it on enwiki). It doesn't locate User:Grant65 because it's against Wikipedia privacy policies. We trace only anonymous edits trough geoip. Fox1991 (talk) 15:48, 15 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]


The Signpost · written by many · served by Sinepost V0.9 · 🄯 CC-BY-SA 4.0