Only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women

Survey shows gaping gender gap at 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit'

You say you don't trust Wikipedia? Well, you can blame men, at least for the most part.

According to a survey of 175,000 Wikipedia users, about a third of respondents reported that they actually help write and edit encyclopedia entries -- as opposed to merely reading them -- and of that group women constitute a paltry 13%.

That more men than women take the time to write, edit and wrangle over Wikipedia entries is not surprising. However, that the disparity between the participation of the sexes is so cavernous may raise eyebrows.

According to a Wall Street Journal blog:

The November survey, which had some 175,000 valid responses, was conducted in multiple languages by the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates the site, and United Nations University's tech-research program MERIT. They presented the initial findings last week at Wikimania, an annual conference held this year in Buenos Aires. A comprehensive report is scheduled for November.

Of the 53,888 respondents who said they contribute to Wikipedia, only 6,814 were women (12.6%). The male/female ratio is closer among those who read entries but don't write or edit them: 69% men to 31% women.

In the "about" page on its Web site, Wikipedia proprietors acknowledges a gender gap among their ranks: "While most articles may be altered by anyone, in practice editing will be performed by a certain demographic (younger rather than older, male rather than female, rich enough to afford a computer rather than poor, et cetera) and may, therefore, show some bias."

Male rather than female in this case apparently means about seven men for every woman. (Note: Math fixed from earlier.)

I've asked Wikipedia for comment about the survey.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia also has announced a new editing scheme that will use color-coded overlays to help guide readers as to which entries and editing changes are deemed to be more reliable than others. If it works as advertised, the tool could be a valuable addition to the site and help alleviate concerns about inaccuracies and vandalism.

According to this PC World story on our site:

In a bid to become a more trustworthy source, Wikipedia will use color codes to indicate the reliability of an article's author. Called "WikiTrust," the optional feature will assign a color code to newly-edited text, based on the author's reputation.

Famous for its vast number of articles, but not for its reliability, Wikipedia is looking to rehabilitate itself. Starting this fall, text from new or questionable sources will be signalled with a bright orange background, while trusted authors will get a lighter shade.

And who knows? Perhaps a splash of color will entice more women to participate.

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