Hi All,

These are all really good and complex questions because individual differences, areas of work within Wikipedia, and personal experiences can greatly affect why an editor of any gender chooses to stay or go. From my research thus far, I do, however, think the predominant culture and norms on EN Wikipedia tend to make it more challenging for editors who are more “feminine” (e.g., not more female or only women).

I have done and am continuing to do some work re: these questions. See https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:IEG/Women_and_Wikipedia/Midpoint.

Part of the challenge is that interviews (e.g., scheduling, conducting, transcribing, member checking, coding, analysis) are time intensive, but the provide much richer and deeper information than surveys. Also, participants tend to self-select for both. I’ve spoken with only a few women who don’t like the term “gender gap” and who don’t see a lack of women participating as a problem in and of itself. Also, I’ve found it difficult to recruit men to participate. I would love to interview trolls too, but again—no takers yet.

I’ll be publishing my final IEG report on April 1. If my participants grant permission, I’ll share the anonymized, redacted transcripts as well as the survey results and 9 months of Gendergap mailing list data my students and I have coded and analyzed.

An excerpt from a note (currently in press) I’ve written with Ingrid Erickson (Rutgers) re: early findings:

Wikipedia, perhaps the most successful large-scale, online collaboration in the world, is a storied space of democratic values and meritocracy in action—as many within the CHI and CSCW communities have extensively detailed [e.g.,13,18,19,22,23,24]. Yet underneath its idealized veneer, Wikipedia in practice proves to have a notable gender gap. Unlike user distribution reports on social media platforms, which trend more toward representative parity or even a greater number of female users [7], surveys of Wikipedia users indicate the overwhelming majority of contributors are male [14]. Both the popular media [e.g., 9,21,27] and scholars [e.g., 1,6,20] have begun to explore Wikipedia’s participation disparities, raising questions about editor recruitment and retention, content coverage and bias, and the tension between diversity and territoriality [10].

Recently, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, admitted that the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) has “completely failed” [29] to meet its goal of increasing the number of female participants to 25% by 2015. In February 2011 in response to an article published in The New York Times [5], then Executive Director of WMF, Sue Gardner, asked her Deputy Director Erik Möller to create the Gendergap mailing list, a publicly archived listserv “provided by the Wikimedia Foundation as a communication tool to collectively address the realities of the gender gap” [28]. In September 2014, a male Wikipedian posted the following message to the list: “I think there should be a separate site for the gender gap effort […] where women and men interested in narrowing the gender gap and documenting the existing problems can exchange views in an atmosphere undisturbed by men pretending to be women, men opposed to narrowing the gender gap, men arguing that it's not really proven that the gender gap is a problem.” Even within a dedicated listserv, the topic of gender parity proves to be volatile. Lam et al.[20] confirm this social complexity, noting a “culture that may be resistant to female participation” [20:9].

However, Wikipedia’s gender gap is typically framed as a “woman problem” [8]. It has been attributed to women’s lack of discretionary time [6], sensitivity to conflict and criticism [6], desire to be more social [21], and hesitancy to learn technical skills such as the Wiki mark-up language [11]. In August 2014, Wikimedia Deutschland published a diversity report indicating that, although the picture is complex, “lack of time, technical usability barriers (e.g. navigation, editability), and a variety of sociocultural and communication issues (style of communication, working atmosphere) can […] definitely be identified as reasons for low female participation in Wikipedia” [4].

Despite the perception of the gender gap as a “woman problem,” women do actively contribute to different language Wikipedias across the world. Women lead local chapters, sustain sister projects, and work for and chair the WMF. Women who have similar edit counts to men are more likely to become administrators [21] and make more sizeable revisions [1] than men do. This note reports early findings that suggest there is something to be learned about the possible cause(s) and consequences of Wikipedia’s gender gap by looking more closely at the experiences of women actively engaged in the community. What are their experiences like? What challenges do they face? How do they persevere? We posit that many women Wikipedians engage in a form of ‘emotion work’ [15], also known as emotional labor, that allows them to maintain their participation even as the circumstances in which they engage prove challenging, if not caustic.

I’m happy to share a link to the entire note once it’s available. I’m also happy to collaborate with others re: future research.

Amanda / Mssemantics

From: Andreas Kolbe <jayen466@gmail.com>
Reply-To: "'Addressing gender equity and exploring ways to increase the participation of women within Wikimedia projects.'" <gendergap@lists.wikimedia.org>
Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 5:14 AM
To: Wikimedia Mailing List <wikimedia-l@lists.wikimedia.org>, "'Addressing gender equity and exploring ways to increase the participation of women within Wikimedia projects.'" <gendergap@lists.wikimedia.org>
Subject: Re: [Gendergap] [Wikimedia-l] surveys of active female editors?


Here are some more questions that I would be interested in having answers to:

-- What do women who are presently editing find most demotivating about contributing to Wikipedia? 

-- Have they ever thought of throwing in the towel, and what were the reasons? 

-- Based on past experience, what aspect of Wikimedia/Wikipedia culture would be most likely to cause them to stop editing at some point in the future?

-- What change, if any, would they welcome most to feel good about contributing?

You'd need a male control group for comparative work, to establish whether any of the answers are gender-specific.

Crossposted to gendergap list. (Maybe someone with access to the research mailing list might like to crosspost this thread there as well.)


On Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 12:22 AM, LB <lightbreather2@gmail.com> wrote:
I want to push a "Like" button on this one. How. Why. I would love to know
the answer to these questions. Also, for those who aren't active - why?


On Sun, Jan 18, 2015 at 12:14 PM, James Salsman <jsalsman@gmail.com> wrote:

> Are there any surveys of active female editors which have asked how
> they started editing?
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