Hi Marielle,

The supplementary report you pointed me to (thanks again) actually has data comparing the proportions of female readers and female contributors in the various age cohorts: it's Figure 5 on page 21. 


Looking at that graphic, the proportion of female contributors vs. female readers takes a dip in the 18-21 age group, but then rises for the 22-29 age group, and rises again for the 30-85 age group. This pattern, too, does not suggest a major influence of family obligations on female contributorship: the proportion of women contributors vs. women readers rises at the precise points in time where you would think mothers of families would have their hands fullest. 

In fact, the pattern is not particularly dissimilar to the pattern observed for males, shown in the same graphic on the right.

Figures 1 and 2 on page 6, which represent figures for readers and contributors combined, are more likely to reflect such an effect (I agree that it will be there to at least some extent), because women's involvement overall, as readers or contributors, is highest for children and then drops up to age 30 – though at that point it then rises again.

But the main point I wanted to make was that the old adage "women are simply too busy to spend time online and edit Wikipedia" just doesn't hit the mark. Women do have time to spend online – they're just spending it elsewhere. 

Facebook use among women for example balloons between 18 and 34 years of age, the precise time when female contributorship in Wikipedia drops:


It's similar for Pinterest, where around 80% of users female:


(Note http://marketingland.com/report-92-percent-pinterest-pins-made-women-83394 which states that over 90 percent of pins are made by women, so women are not just numerically superior in terms of registered accounts, they are also far more active users.)

Pinterest and Reddit are symmetrically opposite poles in the graph shown here:


Note that Wikipedia, if it were included in that graphic, would be an even more extreme outlier than Reddit, whichever of the various survey percentages available to us we were to use. 

Now, just visualise what Reddit looks like and what Pinterest looks like. There's lots to think about here.


On Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 9:18 PM, Marielle Volz <marielle.volz@gmail.com> wrote:
Thanks for the response Andreas. I've updated with the 8.5% source.

I'm not selling Hill as a panacea either; there are actually lots of
techniques to correct biased sampling and using another survey as a
benchmark only works well if the demographic questions are the same or
at least very closely matched. I haven't compared the Pew and UN
surveys in detail but I'm sure it could be done better (that's pretty
much how these things always go)!

One thing I didn't criticise you for yet (but will now!) is to dismiss
the claim of family status's effect on contribution based on the data
you provided.

I agree that the fact that even young women are very unrepresented
means it likely doesn't account for a large portion of the gender gap.
But your argument that the fact that the *bulk* of wikipedians are
younger people means that family status isn't an issue is particularly
erroneous, because it assumes that age demographics and family status
are independent- which they are quite clearly not. It could be, for
instance, that gender gap is smallest in the younger demographic
*because* they don't have families yet, and the proportion of women
drops with age because they drop out to have families. (Not an actual
hypothesis I'm proposing, just an example of how assuming independance
goes wrong fast.)

It's important to keep in mind that the actual reason for the gender
gap is probably a large number of very small things and no particular
one of these things likely accounts for a very large portion of the
gap- if that's the case we'll need much better statistical power to
detect them and more sophisticated analyses.

Anyway, thanks for writing this post- got us talking, and regardless
of how the actual numbers kick up it's still pretty clear there aren't
very many of us.

On Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 8:42 PM, phoebe ayers <phoebe.wiki@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 27, 2014 at 12:22 PM, Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I will have to look into Hill & Shaw, but would note that the Wikimedia
>> Foundation itself reported the figures from the UNU survey as they stood
>> (see e.g. p. 8 of the February 2011 Strategic Plan: "According to the study,
>> over 86% of contributors were male").
> NB., that was before the Hill & Shaw paper was published, which was 2013 :)
> Hill & Shaw is *probably* the best estimate of the gendergap we have so far,
> but everyone -- including the WMF and the researchers involved -- knows that
> the data can be improved. And hopefully it will be, with future editor
> surveys and more research!
> -- phoebe
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