Women & Wikipedia
Caroline and I have written so far about the gender gap and its impact on business and politics, but I came across an article by Noam Cohen entitled “Wikipedia Ponders Its Gender Gap” in The New York Times that got me thinking about the spheres I may not have considered when thinking about the impact of gendered culture and stereotypes on participation and representation of men and women.
Cohen reports that the gender gap of Wikipedia contributors is a staggering 85% to 15% split between men and women. Unfortunately, this is a “common” breakdown in “public thought-leadership forums” like the U.S. Congress and columnists in leading newspapers.
What impact does this disparity generally have, no matter what the sphere?
“Her effort is not diversity for diversity’s sake, she says. ‘This is about wanting to ensure that the encyclopedia is as good as it could be,’ Ms. Gardner said in an interview on Thursday. ‘The difference between Wikipedia and other editorially created products is that Wikipedians are not professionals, they are only asked to bring what they know.’
‘Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,’ she said. ‘If they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb.'”
These statements apply to the gender gap in any area. According to Cohen, the gender gap manifests itself on Wikipedia in a disparity between the quantity of content concerning stereotypically “female” and “male” subjects. He points to the brevity of articles about Mexican women writers, “Sex and the City”, and friendship bracelets as compared to “The Simpsons”, “The Sopranos”, and baseball cards.
Wikipedia’s Wikimedia Foundation has committed to a goal of reaching 25% representation for female contributors by 2015. Cohen states that it “is running up against the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women.”
When I look at my friends, I do not see the women as any less comfortable with computers as the men. So, how much of the Wikipedia gender gap is an age-bound phenomenon? Or is it the format of Wikipedia itself that discourages women from contributing? As competent as women are with the internet and computers today, they still are more likely than men to question their own capabilities. Is it possible that female Wikipedia users are just less likely believe that they have anything valuable to contribute?
Question for Readers: Might this apply to the blogosphere? Does anyone have any statistics or insight into how many bloggers are male versus female?