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:
- Wikimedia has a great mailing list about this gender gap in order to engage more women
- WikiWomen’s Collaborative has an informative Facebook page and Twitter feed
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.