Around 85 percent of Wikipedia entries are by men

I learned this somewhat startling fact last week. I was in a group of people – public servants – who clearly thought it was a problem, something to be ‘managed’ or ameliorated in some way. After all, it’s not very balanced is it?  Anyway my guess as to why it’s happening is the same as Frances Woolley’s guess which is this.

One theory is that women don’t edit Wikipedia because it is an “obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and…uncomfortable for women.” A recent blog comment by Jaques Giguere attributed some gender differences in on-line behaviour to lekking – a form of sexual display where males congregate and compete for mates. I like the theory, but it strikes me that posting anonymously on Wikipedia is a pretty ineffectual way of displaying one’s prowess.

My own theory is that women are less interested this kind of intellectual competition – after all, deleting someone else’s entry is kind of the scholarly equivalent of checking someone into the boards and taking the puck off them. I also think that women are conditioned or programmed (take your pick) to be modest and value modesty – it’s not feminine to go to Wikipedia and create a page about yourself, or go through entries and add references to your own work.

Anyway, if anyone else has any ideas, please enlighten us.

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Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

I’m pretty sure that 85% of entries on wikipedia are mind-numbingly pedantic re-ex-corrections to the same 50-100 articles that the same guy keeps correcting.

Maybe the correct inference is that women really are smarter than men?

Stephen Bounds
10 years ago

Hmm. Note that of the 5 people participating in this conversation so far, we are all men.

Try this view for an alternative:
http://geekfeminism.org/2011/02/11/im-a-woman-and-ive-edited-wikipedia/
http://geekfeminism.org/2011/03/05/wikipedia-and-non-mainstream-views/

And specifically:

Based on past experience as a former, obsessive Wikipedia editor several years ago, I felt that Wikipedia’s notability guidelines amplified mainstream views while suppressing non-mainstream views. This works for dealing with quackery, but it also frames white, male worldviews as objective and universal.

derrida derider
derrida derider
10 years ago

Maybe there are simply more men with too much time on their hands.

cbp
cbp
10 years ago

A totally wild, uneducated guess, this, but possibly a contributing factor is that autism is more prevalent in men.

doctorpat
doctorpat
10 years ago

As with low female participation in politics, the only fair solution is to levy fines on women until they start pulling their weight.

Justin Kerr
Justin Kerr
10 years ago

There is this view about why there are different levels of worldly achievement between men and women.

http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

IIRC he says that men have always, generally, preferred wide, shallow networks; while women have preferred small, deep networks. Preferences not ability. If he is correct, I am not sure what a site might do to encourage large scale female participation.

Ren
Ren
10 years ago

Maybe its because women are too busy?

Ren
Ren
10 years ago

Sorry, my three year old needed me, and I hadn’t completed my post. What I meant to say was that maybe women are too busy doing those invisible things that need doing to maintain the household, the admin-things at work, and the admin-things for what ever community group we happen to be helping at the moment.

skepticlawyer
10 years ago

All of the above?

I doubt there’s any one single reason, but if you combine everyone’s suggestions, I suspect you’d come up with something close.

W.G. Grace
10 years ago

Women don’t do IT, generally.

Seriously go to a university. How many IT students are female?

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

My sister is a software engineer at windows mobile…

Stephen Bounds
10 years ago

Oops, my apologies to Frances! When I read the quote you extracted from Frances’ blog I somehow felt the tone was male.

I shall just note the ironies of the situation and stop digging further :)

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
10 years ago

I’ll plump for the networks comment at #7. Women are more interested in relationships between people; men are more interested in relationships between things.

The root cause of these preferences would be a hard-wired tendency, i.e., a survival mechanism evolved over millions of years. They are reinforced culturally – compare the content of women’s magazines with men’s – and countered culturally – consider the encouragement of girls to study hard science.