Friday, February 4, 2011

93: The Self Empowered Woman: Wikipedia

Dear Followers,

Today's post, just like #82, is not about a particular woman, but is about an important issue that should be of interest to all of us. Thanks to New York Times contributor Noam Cohen, I learned that out of Wikipedia's hundreds of thousands of contributors only 13% are female.

The Wikipedia Foundation discovered this lopsided statistic thanks to a study by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University, The executive director of the Wikipedia Foundation, Sue Gardner, has set a goal to raise "the share of women contributors to 25% by 2015."

The gender disparity on Wikipedia shows up in the different way that topics are covered. For example, a topic that is of interest to boys (say, baseball cards) will have lengthy posts in numerous categories while a topic like friendship bracelets will only have four brief paragraphs.

"Sex and the City" has brief episode summaries while "The Sopranos" has detailed, lengthy articles about each episode. Jane Margolis, who co-wrote "Unlocking the Clubhouse" (a book about sexism in computer science) says that Wikipedia is merely a reflection of women's reluctance to assert their opinions, on- or off- line.

In the words of Catherine Ornenstein, the founder and director of a New York organization that monitors the gender breakdown of contributors to public forums (The OpEd Project) "When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your competencies."

She says that when it comes to members of Congress as well as contributors to the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post or the New York Times, the 85/15 ratio persists.

Ms. Gardner is hoping to use "subtle persuasion and outreach through her foundation to welcome all newcomers to Wikipedia." Maybe today would be a good time for you to contribute information to Wikipedia about a person, place or thing that would be of interest to female readers. After all, 53% of adults who regularly use the Internet now look for information on Wikipedia.

Looking forward to your comments...

1 comment:

  1. Well since I use wikipedia all the time, I was disappointed to read the disproportionate amount of women contributors. I will keep this in mind the next time I use wiki and encourage every woman writer I know to contribute something towards the cause of equalizing wikipedia.

    Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. Your blog is fabulous- a real support spot for women.