Less than 10% of Wikipedia‘s editors are women.

Bishakha Datta serves on the board of the Wikimedia Foundation and spoke about this today in Israel. I occasionally contribute to Wikipedia so was curious to hear why it is so male dominated. The Foundation doesn’t actually know, but it has conducted research and come up with possible explanations:

“Women lack a fundamental sense of self confidence when it comes to producing knowledge,” Datta explained. “Women look at themselves as silent receivers of knowledge.” In addition to low confidence levels, other reasons are the lack of social interaction on the Wikipedia platform and a perceived argumentative culture of Wikipedia’s editing process. This last one is at the core of the problem and important because it’s about the actual experience of participation. The entries I edited have always been countered by others who disagreed with me. Instead of being empowering and collaborative, editing them inevitably became a virtual confrontation. Understandably, most women would rather just avoid it altogether.

Here are a couple of helpful resources I learned about for women to get involved in Wikipedia’s crowd sourced, “combative” knowledge repository:

Bishakha Datta explained that the issue at hand is called androcentrism, which she defined as the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing the masculine point of view at the center of one’s view of the world and its culture and history.

Only 20% of newspaper editorials are written by women, ultimately resulting in androcentrism as well. Click here for a 2011 blog post by Sue Gardner, Wikimedia’s Executive Director, about why women don’t edit Wikipedia.

Bishakha Datta, Wikimedia board member and co-founder of Point of View in Mumbai

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  1. I am so glad to know a woman Wiki contributor and editor. She is currently attending the meeting/conference in Hong Kong. This has now made me more interested in participating. Thanks for sharing. I also see androcentrism a lot in social media. I bore of reading about yet another male digital nomad who has the missing link to solve everyone’s problems who want to quit their job and do the same; this coupled with him on the beach with beautiful women. It is also a challenge to break in to the field when it is male dominated, so women have to begin to pay attention to and create our own audiences.

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