Wikipedia’s gender problem

Livescience has a new piece about Wikipedia’s gender problem.

A 2011 editor survey by the Wikimedia Foundation pegged the number of active female editors at only 9 percent. Other surveys have found slightly different percentages, but none exceed about 15 percent female representation worldwide.

Julia Adams, a sociologist at Yale University, is currently running a study supported by the National Science Foundation on how academia is portrayed on Wikipedia compared with the actual structure and demographics of the academic world. The study came under fire by Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) who listed it in his 2014 “Wastebook,” which questions whether gender is an issue at all, citing a 2011 op-ed by a conservative writer.

Other recent internet gender controversies:

  • Zuleyka Zevallos, a sociologist and head of Social Science Insights in Australia, points to a current online controversy called Gamergate, (article by a female gamer) which has turned ugly, with death and rape threats leveled at female game developers and journalists.
  • Mission scientist Matt Taylor wore a shirt festooned with scantily clad women to make the announcement of a historic landing of the Philae probe on a comet.  Women who spoke out against the shirt on Twitter were harassed with tweets such as “please kill yourself” and “Why is it ugly women gripe about this stuff?”

Adams and her colleague, Hannah Brückner of New York University at Abu Dhabi, are interested in examining how well Wikipedia portrays scientific research and the demographics of the researchers doing the work.

Initial results should be ready soon, with further information coming in throughout next year, Adams said.

Bring it.

Also of interest, a New York-based organization called the OpEd Project  monitors gender gaps.  “The Wikipedia gender gap is similar in degree to that of other ‘public thought-leadership forums.’  A man/woman ratio of 85-to-15 is common in government bodies and in newspaper op-ed columns, for example.”

And by the way, where are the results of Wikipedia’s 2012 editor survey?



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