The world is full of boys clubs. Take, for example, little things like country clubs, Freemasons, CEO positions, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Presidency. Sure, there are some women thrown into those last four, but for the most part they are male dominated. And in an “equal” society, that’s a problem.
Now, researchers from the University of Minnesota have discovered a new “boys only” club that I would bet very few saw coming – Wikipedia.
It may seem like a small issue considering all of the other inequalities previously stated and the many other social problems that don’t involve mere inclusion into a group, but when you think about it, it’s a problem. Wikipedia is where a heck of a lot of people go to get their information. So balanced facts, opinions and articles seem to me to be an important function.
Especially if you’re the creators. You want the most balanced and accurate information as possible.
However, Shyong (Tony) Lam has found that this is not the case in a new paper. The balance of gender using the service is fairly balanced with about 43% of women using it versus 57% of men, but the balanced of authors and content is way off.
For example, of the tens of thousands of individuals who edit and contribute to the site, only 16% of them are women, and that number has not grown at all over the past decade. What’s more, those 16% only account for 9% of the edits made during a typical year, meaning that there are more men contribution plus they contribute more often. And while women are more likely to be promoted to “administrator” positions than males, because they draw from a much smaller pool, only a few make it to the elite ranks.
This disparity shows itself on the website, too. The data show that women tend to edit topics more related to arts and humanities while men skew towards the sciences and geography. And when you get into pop culture, topics like toy soldiers and “The Sopranos” have much longer articles than friendship bracelets and “Sex and the City.” That disparity goes throughout the site, as well. Topics leaning towards femininity, on average, have fewer words than those that lean toward masculinity.
There is one upside, however. Articles on prominent and important women seem to be just as robust, accurate and well-reported than those of men.
But for a site that seeks to be as balanced and knowledgeable as an encyclopedia or dicitonary, Wikipedia needs to do something to fix this imbalance as soon as they can.