[Foundation-l] encouraging women's participation

Ziko van Dijk zvandijk at googlemail.com
Fri Jun 18 06:24:20 UTC 2010

Ask any librarian about what men and women are reading. Men prefer non
fictional, women fictional works. Not all of them, of course, but in
large majorities. I doubt that that has no consequences for Wikipedia
editing behavior.
And, as a women once told to a magazine: Women are too polite to
correct someone in public. :-)
Kind regards

2010/6/18 Ryan Kaldari <rkaldari at wikimedia.org>:
> I don't think scapegoating Wikipedia's gender imbalances to biological
> differences is especially helpful. And the suggestion that it may not be
> possible to dumb-down Wikipedia enough to attract women is ridiculous
> (and offensive). Regardless of our genetic predispositions, there are
> very real cultural issues that frequently drive female contributors away
> from Wikimedia projects. Many areas of our projects are downright
> mysogynistic:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk%3APatriarchy&action=historysubmit&diff=290490477&oldid=290436986
> while others are just passively sexist:
> http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Picture_of_the_day/Archive_1#POTD.27s_depiction_of_women
> http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons_talk:Nudity#Standard_regarding_female_vs_male_genitalia
> Not to mention that our trolls seem to favor profiling and harassing
> female editors:
> http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=18616&st=20&p=107254&#entry107254
> As long as disrespectful and sexist behavior flourishes unchecked,
> editing Wikipedia will probably not be an attractive proposition for
> most women. Unfortunately, this problem seems to be self-perpetuating,
> as the more the gender ratio is skewed, the more the culture of
> Wikipedia will tend to tolerate sexist or mysogynistic behavior, and the
> more women will leave the project. I think instead of trying to figure
> out some magic interface pheromone for women, we should just start
> reaching out to more women directly. It would be great if the
> Foundation's new public policy initiative could do outreach to some
> Women's Studies programs or if we could promote Wikipedia to women's
> tech groups like IBM Women in Technology or the Anita Borg Institute for
> Women and Technology. Any other ideas?
> Ryan Kaldari
> On 6/16/10 6:04 PM, Gregory Maxwell wrote:
>> On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 8:26 PM, phoebe ayers<phoebe.wiki at gmail.com>  wrote:
>>> There's been discussion of the gender gap among Wikimedia editors on
>>> and off for many years now, and it's a focus of the strategic planning
>>> process. This is a part of a larger issue of how to get members of
>>> underrepresented groups to edit more, to combat system bias on all
>>> fronts. (Or, simply how to get more people to edit regardless).
>> You may find it interesting that these kind of large imbalances can
>> arise out of a simple but surprising mathematical truth:
>> If you have a mixed population with a skill, say skateboarding, that
>> follows the typical normal distribution and one sub-population (e.g.
>> people with red hair) have an average performance only slight higher
>> than another sub-population (blondes),  and you were to select the
>> best skateboarders out of the group you would end up with a
>> surprisingly high concentration of the red-hair subgroup, so high that
>> it doesn't at all seem justified by the small difference in average
>> performance.
>> This is is because in normal distributions the concentration of people
>> with a particular skill falls off exponentially away from the average,
>> so if you take the two distributions (amount of skateboarding skill
>> for red-hairs and blondes) and shift one a very small amount the ratio
>> between the two becomes increasingly large as you select for higher
>> and higher skill levels.
>> The same kind of results happen when, instead of a difference in
>> average performance, there is simply a difference in the variation. If
>> red-hairs have the same average skate-boarding skill but are less
>> consistent— more klutzes _and_ more superstars this has an even larger
>> impact than differences in the average, again biasing towards the
>> red-hairs.
>> These effects can be combined, and if there are multiple supporting
>> skills for a task they combine multiplicatively.[*]
>> The applicability here is clear: There is a strong biological argument
>> justifying greater variance in genetically linked traits in men (due
>> to the decrease in genetic redundancy) which is supported by many
>> studies which show greater variance in males.  So all things equal any
>> time you select for extremes (high or low performing) you will tend to
>> tend to end up with a male biased group. (There are small also
>> differences in measured averages between men and women in many
>> areas...)
>> And many of the 'skills' that are reasonable predictions of someone's
>> likelihood of being a Wikipedian, if we're even to call them 'skills'
>> as many aren't all that flattering,  are obviously male super-abundant
>> in the greater world.   How many female obsessive stamp collectors do
>> you know? Male?  The kind of obsessive collecting trait is almost so
>> exclusively male that it's a cliché, and it's pretty obvious why that
>> kind of person would find a calling in Wikipedia.
>> One piece of insight that comes out of is that general approaches
>> which make Wikipedia more palatable to "average people", as opposed to
>> uber-obsessive techobibilo walking-fact-machines,  may have a greater
>> impact at reducing gender imbalance than female centric improvements.
>> (and may also reduce other non-gender related imbalances, such as our
>> age imbalance).  So this gives you an extra reason why "more people to
>> edit regardless" is an especially useful approach.
>> Though are limits to the amount of main-streaming you can do of an
>> academic activity such as encyclopaedia writing. :-)
>> In any case, I don't mean to suggest that your work isn't important or
>> can't be worthwhile.  Only that I think you're fighting an uphill
>> battle against a number of _natural_ (not human originated) biases,
>> and I wish you luck!
>> [*] A while back I wrote up a longer and highly technical version of
>> this explanation as part of an argument on gender imbalances in
>> computer science with a mathematician. Anyone into math-wankery may
>> find it interesting:
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Gmaxwell/mf_compsci
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Ziko van Dijk

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