Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Wikipedia Gender Gap, Part I

Wikipedia editing is a men's club. We already talked here about the lack of Wikipedia female editors (barely 13% of the editors are women). However, that survey was self-selecting and most of the participants (75%) used Wikipedia in non-English languages. Now, Lam et al. (2011) present their analysis of the gender imbalance in English Wikipedia. They took most of their data out of the January 2011 data dump, as well as from the Wikipedia API and the January 2008 and 2010 data dumps.

In Wikipedia, editors can specify their gender in their accounts' settings, place a gender user box in their User page, or mention their gender in their User page description and discussion. The authors collected data from the accounts' settings and from the gender user boxes through the Wikipedia's API. They didn't check whether the editors refer to their gender somewhere else as that would have been too progressed for the techniques they used. The final sample included 113,848 users. Only 2.8% of the Wikipedia editors report their gender, but the authors found that dedicated editors tend to state their gender more often: while only 6.5% of the editors who had at least ten edits stated their gender, 14.1% of those who had over a hundred edits and 34.7% of those with at least 1,000 edits did so.

The overall gender gap is still in place
Out of the 38,497 editors who started edited in 2009 and specified their gender, only 16.1% were women. To add to this, 16.1% of those accounts may have belonged to women, but they only did 9.0% of the edits. Male editors make almost double the edits female editors do. Women are only 6% of the editors with over 500 edits.

Life and death of editors
An editors begins her or his life in the first edit date and "dies" after more than six months of inactivity. Women "die" sooner, while men tend to live on.

The gender gap is consistent
The gender identification methods described earlier were introduced to Wikipedia in different times (gender user boxes in December 2005 and gender preference settings in January 2009). Since men usually "live" longer in Wikipedia, the authors could only compare the users who have joined Wikipedia after a gender identification method was introduced (otherwise they would have just carried the survival rate bias on and on in the analysis). The gap has remained more-or-less the same since December 2005.

That's it for this part. Next time: Is there a difference in content areas between women and men? Do women editors tend to avoid confrontations?

Lam, S., Uduwage, A., Dong, Z., Sen, S., Musicant, D. R., Terveen, L., & Terveen, J. (2011). WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender
Imbalance WikiSym’11, October 3–5, Mountain View, California

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