Monday, January 31, 2011

Where are the female Wikipedia contributors?

According to this New York Times article, only 13% of the Wikipedia contributor base is women. What's up with that? The article quotes one of my heroes, Jane Margolis, co-author of a book on sexism in computer science, “Unlocking the Clubhouse." Margolis says that Wikipedia is experiencing the same problems as the offline world, where women are less willing to assert their opinions in public. What has happened to us women? Why have we become such wimps?

Is the Wikipedia contribution process so fraught with competitiveness that women are intimidated? Are women less interested in showing off how much they know? Are they too busy in the real world with jobs, families, and social lives? Do they object to writing articles for no pay? I don't know. I'm really baffled.

I admit I don't contribute to Wikipedia either, though I'm an avid user. My excuse? Um, the process actually does intimidate me a bit. Plus I'm not interested in getting into arguments about the typical things that get argued in my field. Who really cares what OSI layer ARP runs at, or whether ping stands for Packet Internet Groper? Also, if I spend a lot of time researching and writing on a topic, I don't want my work to get edited by somebody who likely knows less than me. Sorry if that sounds arrogant. It sounds a little like a man, actually, doesn't it? :-)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you in that " I don't want my work to get edited by somebody who likely knows less than me", specially with no discusion behind that edition. Maybe women would be more likely to "collaborate" if we could really discuss the points in the article, make agreements and then write it. Based on your statement, I think it would be nice to see how many women write articles that are not likely to be edited by someone else like blogs, magazine articles, etc.