Wikitrocity: Why Woman Don’t Use Wikipedia


I recently came across a wonderful article by Andreas Kolbe, writing for the site Wikipediocracy. According to their mission statement, Wikipediocracy is devoted to scrutinizing Wikipedia, the online Encyclopedia, and its projects. Before this moment, I’d never heard of Wikipediocracy or any negative criticism of Wikipedia. I’d always been fond of the internet’s largest encyclopedia, but this article did shed some light on a few interesting facts.

In 2010, the United Nations University (UNU) conducted the largest survey so far of Wikipedia’s demographics. According to the survey, of the 176,192 respondents only 12.64% were female. At least 60,000 of the respondents were noted as being active contributors to Wikipedia. Most Wikipedia users were found to be an average of 25.22 years old. On average, readers were 24.79 years old and contributors 26.14 years old.

Wikipedia’s gender gap is astonishing if you aren’t already aware of it. The first question that comes to mind is, why? What is the cause of such a large gap? Are women just too busy for Wikipedia? Or, does Wikipedia hold not enough interest to attract women?

The Wikimedia Foundation is aware of this issue. In the winter of 2011, Wikipedia did their own survey of the gender gap. The survey’s results only emphasized the UNU’s 2010 survey. The Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director at that time, Sue Gardner, made an ambitious goal to increase female usership to 25% by 2015. Unfortunately, two years later the mission was abandoned as Gardner realized that her initiative was going nowhere.
In an interview by South China Morning Post, Sue Gardner said, “I didn’t solve it. We didn’t solve it. The Wikimedia Foundation didn’t solve it. The solution won’t come from the Wikimedia Foundation.”

There are many theories floating around in the internet space as to why more women don’t use Wikipedia. One of the more popular theories is that women simply don’t have time, because of family commitments. According to the UNU’s research, 33.29% of respondents were in a relationship and only 14.72% had children. The analysis found 15.1% of male respondents of male were fathers and 13.7% of females were mothers. It’s true that most of the Wikipedia users aren’t married, but the theory that women are just too busy for to edit the online encyclopedia is incorrect. If it were true, then the differences in parenthood percentages of male and female would be more drastic.

Sue Gardner, former Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, lists several different reasons for women not using Wikipedia on her website. Here is the list below:

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because the editing interface isn’t sufficiently user-friendly.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they are too busy.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they aren’t sufficiently self-confident, and editing Wikipedia requires a lot of self-confidence.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they are conflict-averse and don’t like Wikipedia’s sometimes-fighty culture.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because the information they bring to Wikipedia is too likely to be reverted or deleted.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because they find its overall atmosphere misogynist.

– Some women find Wikipedia culture to be sexual in ways they find off-putting.

– Some women whose primary language has grammatical gender find being addressed by Wikipedia as male off-putting.

– Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because social relationships and a welcoming tone are important to them, and Wikipedia offers fewer opportunities for that than other sites.

In addition to reasons for the Wikipedia gender gap listed above, the difference between women and men published in literary magazines might provide another to clue as to why women don’t spend time editing Wikipedia. According to an article written by Kirsten Tranter for The Wheeler Centre, men greatly outnumber the amount of women published in literary magazines. Last year, 79 women were published in The New York Review of Books whereas 462 men had already been published. This gender imbalance in the literary world might shed some more light on why women don’t edit Wikipedia.

One thought on “Wikitrocity: Why Woman Don’t Use Wikipedia”

  1. The article you mentioned addresses two different things, reading Wikipedia and editing/contributing to it. I myself am an avid female reader of Wikipedia articles, and I have spent hours there as I leap from one fascinating subject to another. As far as editing/contributing, it’s less that I feel a sense of misogyny than that I have too many other things to write, like novels. My husband reads it as avidly as I do, but he can’t be bothered to edit or contribute either. I will say, however, that I am surprised by the demographics, given that I am more than twice the age of the average reader. Then again, I am interested in a great many things for which I am not in the standard demographic, so it’s possible that my experience with Wikipedia is dissimilar to that of most women.


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