“A new study conducted by Wikimedia Foundation suggests that only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women.”

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This won’t surprise anybody who actually pays attention to the climate of the editing discussions on many wikipedia pages. This blog post notes:

According to the The Wall Street Journal, the survey took place in November of last year, with results being presented last week at a conference in Buenos Aires. A total of 53,888 respondents indicated that they were Wikipedia contributors, but only 6,814 of them were women.

The research also showed that women are less likely to read articles as well, with 31% of women and 69% of men reading entries, but not writing or editing them.

The linked WSJ article reports: “Among the reasons for not contributing, many respondents cited time constraints, satisfaction with just reading entries or simply not knowing how to edit the pages. One quarter, however, said they’re afraid of making a mistake”and getting ‘in trouble’ for it.” As I have noted before, many entries on feminism have been written or edited by people who are actively hostile toward feminists, but they prevail because they seem to have a lot of free time and the few feminists who challenge their actions experience a lot of targeted hostility. Thanks to Wikipedia, the Google search generated public face of feminism is contrived by misogynists.

And even seeming innocuous information can be controversial in wikiworld. I thought about editing the entry for Siva Vaidhyanathan, because he is important and special to me as a friend as well as a scholar, but take a look at the editing discussion associated with his entry – it’s an argument about whether his sports fandom is relevant to his biography. I think it is, but don’t have any interest in arguing about it. Siva gets no say in the matter, which seems ridiculous to me because he is in the best position to decide how important sports are to his public persona.

–Ann Bartow

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5 Responses to “A new study conducted by Wikimedia Foundation suggests that only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women.”

  1. Kaldari says:

    The study is correct. Women are sorely underrepresented among Wikipedia editors. This has the unfortunate affect of skewing many articles about gender issues. Even worse, there is virtually no representation from women in the academic world. While academic programs at many colleges have sought to engage Wikipedia as an opportunity for students to write and collaborate for a real-world audience, Women’s Studies programs have so far been absent. There are, however, resources ready and waiting on Wikipedia should a program decide to take the initiative:

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    ….there is virtually no representation from women in the academic world.

    And you know this how, exactly?

    Women’s Studies programs have so far been absent.

    Not hard to understand why if you look at what happens on pages about women or feminism.

    You, “Kaldari,” appear to be in charge of the “Wikipedia Feminism Task Force.”

    You seem to have very wide ranging interests and areas of claimed expertise: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Kaldari
    Not clear where your interest or expertise in feminism comes from, though, and some of the other members of your “Task Force” are openly hostile to feminism and to women generally.

    It makes a lot more sense to me to warn people not to rely on Wikipedia then it does to spend hours writing or editing an entry only to have your work undone minutes later.

  3. Kaldari says:

    I don’t claim to be an expert in anything, I’m just a volunteer trying to improve Wikipedia’s content. I understand why you and others would be frustrated with the process of editing Wikipedia. I myself have been though many of the same frustrations. At the same time, however, I’ve enjoyed the satisfaction of improving articles related to feminism that hundreds of thousands of people have read. (See, for example, the excellent articles on Mary Wollstonecraft, Emma Goldman, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Harriet Tubman, all which have been featured on Wikipedia’s main page.)

    I’m sure at first it must seem like Wikipedia is a complete free-for-all, but in actuality there are numerous policies and processes that can be utilized to protect yourself and your writing from less-cooperative editors. As an example, I had a very hard time editing one particular article due to interference from an editor who was obsessed with Steven Goldberg (the author of “The Inevitability of Patriarchy” and “Why Men Rule”). Instead of endlessly bickering with him, I took my complaint to the Arbitration Committee and the editor was completely banned from Wikipedia for 6 months. Regarding your dispute on the Siva Vaidhyanathan article, you may want to look into the policies on verifiability and undue weight (look up “WP:V” or “WP:UNDUE” in the Wikipedia search bar).

    I don’t want to mislead you, however. Becoming a successful Wikipedia editor takes patience and a willingness to learn certain conventions. This is why Wikipedia has developed the Wikipedia Academy – a sort of crash course for academics into the world of Wikipedia editing. We have had numerous successful collaborations with colleges and universities over the last few years as you can see by the list at “Wikipedia:School and university projects”.

    Of course it is your prerogative whether you choose to engage with Wikipedia or simply seek to discredit it (or both). All I can say is that Wikipedia is what you make it. If women, and feminists in particular, choose to write off Wikipedia and fail to challenge the patriarchal culture there, it won’t change on its own.

    Like it or not, Wikipedia is the most widely used reference on the planet and it isn’t going away any time soon. It would be pretty irresponsible of us as feminists if we continue to allow such a resource to to be completely dominated by anti-feminist voices (as it is now). I also think it’s somewhat pointless to treat Wikipedia as if it were one monolithic work. Wikipedia is a huge, sprawling multifaceted project. Complaining that “Wikipedia isn’t reliable” or “Wikipedia is misogynist” is like saying “the internet isn’t reliable” or “the internet is misogynist”. While those statements are largely true, they aren’t going to keep people from using the internet or Wikipedia, nor or they going to improve the situation. Wikipedia, like the internet, is a reflection of the broader culture. We can either be turned off by that and withdraw into safer areas, or we can stick our necks out and fight to be heard amongst the din.

    But enough moralizing. The reason I responded to this post in the first place wasn’t to debunk your criticism of Wikipedia. The criticism is well-deserved. Indeed, it is part of the internal dialog of the project. See for example:
    http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2004/12/30/142458/25 (written by Wikipedia’s co-founder)
    The reason I responded to your post is that I wanted to encourage feminist academics to engage with Wikipedia and gradually work to make the project more inclusive. In fact, I would be happy to set up a Wikipedia Academy for any Women’s Studies or related program that asked. I want to work to bridge the gap between academia and Wikipedia, not make it worse. I hope that your frustration with your initial experiences hasn’t closed the door completely. If you have any interest in such a project or know anyone who might, please let me know.

  4. Kaldari says:

    I took a look at the edits regarding Siva Vaidhyanathan. One important thing to know about Wikipedia editing is that virtually any addition you make to a biography of a living person is likely to be removed unless it is cited to a reliable source (personal knowledge isn’t considered verifiable). If you could find a published source commenting on Vaidhyanathan’s sports fandom, you would have a very strong argument for including that information in the article. I went ahead and re-added a mention of Vaidhyanathan’s love of sports in the lead and cited it to the URL you linked to above. Hopefully it will stay, but I can’t guarantee it without a better source to cite.

    Also, I noticed that a large part of his Wikipedia article was identical to text on his University of Virginia faculty page. Wikipedia takes copyright and plagiarism issues very seriously, so I had to go ahead and remove the identical text from the article. If you or Vaidhyanathan own the copyright to that text and want to include it in the article, please state so on the article’s talk page so that we can sort out the copyright issue. Thanks.

  5. Sis says:


    It otherwise might have taken several posts to get across the misognyistic formalized rape that goes on at Dickipedia.

    Kardari did it in three.

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