Wikipedia is powered by humans, so it is vulnerable to human biases. It is also a reflection of structural and historical inequalities in opportunity and representation experienced by women around the world. For example, Wikipedia depends on the availability of existing published sources to verify the facts in its articles. But in many places around the world, women have been left out of historical narratives and traditional sources of knowledge – an issue that many institutions and publications today are trying to address. As our societies begin to uncover and acknowledge the critical contributions of women past and present, so too must Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
We also know that articles are more comprehensive and neutral when a diversity of different people can contribute to them. Historically, more men than women have edited Wikipedia, which has had a direct result on the kind of information that is covered on Wikipedia and how that information is presented. We believe one of the first steps in solving the gender gap is through understanding the problem. See below for the latest research and data on this issue.
- Fewer than 20 percent of Wikipedia editors identify as women. (The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited: Characterizing Survey Response Bias with Propensity Score Estimation, Benjamin Mako Hill, Aaron Shaw).
- On English Wikipedia, fewer than 18 percent of biographies are about women. (See here for the latest data on Wikipedia biographies by gender.)
- More men than women have tried to edit Wikipedia at least once. Across Wikipedia users in all six of the regions surveyed (the United States, Mexico, Egypt, Nigeria, Germany, and India), 27 percent of male respondents had edited Wikipedia at least once, while only 21 percent of female respondents had (Women and Wikipedia survey, 2019).
- Representation matters: Women read relatively more biographies about women than men do, and relatively fewer biographies about men than men do (Reader Research, 2019).
- Across regions, men tend to read Wikipedia more often than women. Though awareness and usage of Wikipedia are high for both men and women in many regions of the world, based on reader surveys we estimate that one-third (33 percent) of Wikipedia readers over the age of 18 on any given day are women. (Reader Research, 2019).
- When you look at leadership in the free knowledge movement, women are also playing important roles — from editing on the projects, leading events, and actively participating in local chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups that together comprise the Wikimedia movement. Women make up 25.6 percent of movement organizers. Movement organizers lead events, build community identity, direct priorities for the movement, and develop partnerships to amplify and extend the impact of the projects. Women also make up 64 percent of Wikimedia affiliate members (Community Insights, 2019 – full research report will be available in late March 2020).