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Conflict, confidence, or criticism: An empirical examination of the gender gap in wikipedia



A recent survey of contributors to Wikipedia found that less than 15% of contributors are women. This gender contribution gap has received significant attention from both researchers and the media. A panel of researchers and practitioners has offered several insights and opinions as to why a gender gap exists in contributions despite gender anonymity online. The gender research literature suggests that the difference in contribution rates could be due to three factors: (1) the high levels of conflict in discussions, (2) dislike of critical environments, and (3) lack of confidence in editing other contributors' work. This paper examines these hypotheses regarding the existence of the gender gap in contribution by using data from an international survey of 176,192 readers, contributors, and former contributors to Wikipedia, including measures of demographics, education, motivation, and participation. Implications for improving the design and culture of online communities to be more gender inclusive are discussed.
Conflict, Confidence, or Criticism: An Empirical
Examination of the Gender Gap in Wikipedia
Benjamin Collier
Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Julia Bear
Davidson Faculty of Industrial
Engineering and Management
The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
Haifa, 32000, Israel
A recent survey of contributors to Wikipedia found that less
than 15% of contributors are women. This gender
contribution gap has received significant attention from
both researchers and the media. A panel of researchers and
practitioners has offered several insights and opinions as to
why a gender gap exists in contributions despite gender
anonymity online. The gender research literature suggests
that the difference in contribution rates could be due to
three factors: (1) the high levels of conflict in discussions,
(2) dislike of critical environments, and (3) lack of
confidence in editing other contributors' work.
This paper examines these hypotheses regarding the
existence of the gender gap in contribution by using data
from an international survey of 176,192 readers,
contributors, and former contributors to Wikipedia,
including measures of demographics, education,
motivation, and participation. Implications for improving
the design and culture of online communities to be more
gender inclusive are discussed.
Author Keywords
Wikipedia; Online Communities; Gender; Production
Communities; Survey; Empirical; Conflict; Confidence;
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.3. [Information Interfaces and Presentation]: Group
and Organization InterfacesWeb-based interaction,
Collaborative computing, Computer-supported cooperative
General Terms
A recent survey conducted by the United Nations
University found a somewhat surprising result: less than
15% of contributors to Wikipedia are women [14]. Several
studies of Wikipedia readership would suggest that the
number of men and women reading Wikipedia is roughly
equal: 56% of Wikipedia readers are men, according to a
Pew Survey in 2010 [45]. In a text-only environment
where gender cues are ostensibly removed and often not
outwardly known, why is there such a staggering difference
between the number of male and female contributors? The
problem does not seem to be one of the overall community
readership or awareness, but a problem of making the jump
from readership to contribution.
In other online organizations such as open source software
project, research has found a large number of male
contributors relative to female contributors [30]. However,
it is not entirely obvious that Wikipedia would naturally
have this kind of a gender gap considering it is not a
technical community. The goal of the Wikipedia is to make
the world's knowledge available to everyone for free. Men
and women both share this goal, and women have insight
into the world's knowledge that men may not be fully
representing in Wikipedia.
This paper seeks to delve deeper into the question of what
is hindering women from transitioning from being readers
to being contributors, and what may be causing female
contributors to stop contributing. Drawing on theory from
psychology and gender research, we hypothesize that
gender differences in responses to conflict contribute to the
dearth of female contributors. Similarly, research on
confidence differences in expertise has demonstrated
women may not assert their knowledge and expertise as
worthy to contribute to the community. Previous research
has shown differences in the style of collaboration with
respect to giving and receiving criticism exist. We posit that
this disparity contributes to gender differences in
motivations for contributing. Teasing apart these gender
differences with respect to conflict, confidence, and
criticism would be difficult if not impossible with
behavioral editing data. Using a sample from a large
general user survey of Wikipedia allows us to dive into
gender differences in perceptions and motivations of
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Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
readers, contributors, and former contributors to get a more
complete picture.
Exploring the underlying mechanisms that contribute to the
gender contribution gap is important for three reasons.
First, any time a demographic is underrepresented in an
organization it is imperative to ask what is causing the
demographic to be shifted: personal preference, selection,
retention, attraction, or discrimination. Only by
understanding the root cause of the gender gap can
interventions and organizational programs to recruit and
retain female contributors to Wikipedia be designed. Sue
Gardner, executive director of the Wikipedia Foundation,
has made it a priority to have 25% female contributors by
2015. Having empirical insight as to the cause will aid in
that campaign.
Second, the lack of women contributing to Wikipedia has
arguably skewed the information found on the site,
resulting in a male-dominated knowledge base in some
parts of Wikipedia. Because Wikipedia has become widely
used as a knowledge resource, with 42% of Americans
turning to it for information online, the knowledge that this
large portion of society receives should be representative of
both men and women in our society [45]. For example, in
Wikipedia biographies of females are more likely to be
missing than biographies of males [32,33]. Additionally,
media critics have pointed out some qualitative
comparisons on traditionally female topics (fashion
designers, Sex and the City) to male topics (The Sopranos,
The Simpsons) suggest other topics besides biographies
may be lacking due to the skew [8]. As Gardner states it:
“everyone brings their crumb of information to the table, if
they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb”
Third, recent research exploring what makes teams
collectively intelligent (high performing across a variety of
tasks) has shown that groups with a higher proportion of
women outperform more male-dominated groups [44].
Women on average have a greater ability to read
interpersonal cues and the motivations of others. If
Wikipedia projects [47] and committees [48] within
Wikipedia are lacking women, they are not living up to the
full performance potential that having a higher proportion
of women in the organization could bring.
Recently the gender contribution gap was addressed in the
media with a public discussion by gender researchers and
industry experts in online organizations. This paper
synthesizes writings from these experts paired with the
gender research literature from the social sciences on
gender differences to develop hypotheses as to what may be
causing the gender contribution gap. Four empirically
testable hypotheses were found from the research literature.
Supporting quotes from those articles are found below,
along with further development from theory on the
psychological foundations of those hypotheses.
Several authors suggested that the high level of conflict in
the editing and writing process within Wikipedia
contributes to the gender contribution gap. Referring to the
high conflict culture in Wikipedia, Cassell writes that
“rather than seeming like collaborations around the
construction of knowledge, [talk pages] are full of
descriptions of ‘edit-warring’ where successive editors
try to cancel each other’s contributions out and bitter,
contentious arguments about the accuracy of conflicting
points of view” [7]. Known as “the encyclopedia anyone
can edit,” Wikipedia may seem like an easy place to
contribute knowledge, but in reality Cassell suggests that
“to have one’s words listened to on Wikipedia, often one
must have to debate, defend, and insist that one’s point of
view is the only valid one” [7].
Strong evidence in the research literature on gender and
conflict supports the claim that women tend to avoid
conflict more than men [4,12,31,43]. Women tend to react
to high conflict situations with greater levels of anxiety,
increased cardiovascular activity, and stronger negative
immune responses than men [17,23,40]. In developmental
psychology, research suggests that boys and girls manage
conflict in different ways: girls are more likely to
accommodate and compromise while boys are more likely
to react with hostility [36].
The heavy levels of conflict within Wikipedia may lead to a
gender contribution gap for several reasons. From a
cultural and societal view, “debate, contention, and
vigorous defense of one’s position are often still seen as a
male stance” [7]. That is, there may be social pressure,
often implicit, for female contributors to not engage in the
conflict necessary to contribute to Wikipedia. The
literature on gender differences in prescriptive stereotypes
suggests that the expression of anger violates the
prescriptive norm for feminine behavior, and women tend
to be penalized for expressing anger to a greater extent than
men [3]. In addition, research on gender stereotypes shows
that when women assert themselves in a conflict situation,
they are met with significant backlash [38,39]. A previous
study on the gender contribution gap in an online email
distribution list found that “whereas men tended to say that
they found the 'slings and arrows' that list members posted
'entertaining' (as long as they weren’t directed at them),
women reported that the antagonistic exchanges made them
want to unsubscribe from the list. One woman said it made
her want to drop out of the field of linguistics[18,19,20].
Previous research in negotiations has found that women
tend to avoid negotiating and engaging in conflict, even at
significant cost [1]. In some cases women will pay $1,353
to avoid negotiating the price of a car, and as much as 20%
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
of adult women say they never negotiate at all, even when
they recognize the need to negotiate [1]. Since the
Wikipedia model is largely based on considerable amount
of conflict resolution, interpersonal debate, and negotiations
to arrive at a single “neutral” point of view, gender
differences in willingness to engage in these activities could
have a significant impact on contribution.
The amount of conflict within Wikipedia may not even be
due to many editors being contentious. As one author points
out, the nature of Wikipedia is such that “the openness of
such communities means that a minority of high-conflict
members (including, for example, a misogynist or an
internet troll) can have a disproportionate effect on the tone
and dynamics of the community” [33].
Following from expert observations and previous empirical
research, hypothesis 1 suggests the nature of conflict in
Wikipedia in part leads to a gender contribution gap.
H1: Female Wikipedia users are less likely to contribute to
Wikipedia due to the high level of conflict involved in the
editing, debating, and defending process.
Confidence in Expertise
Experts suggested that gender differences in confidence in
perceptions of personal expertise and the value of one's
contribution contribute to the gender gap in Wikipedia.
More specifically, authors argue that men on average have a
stronger belief in their expertise on subjects and they are
more motivated to assert their opinions (often as facts) to
the rest of the world. Referring to previous research on this
area, Herring writes that “men regularly post longer
messages to online discussion forums than women do, and
they rarely apologize for message length, even when they
go on for 20 screens, whereas women apologize even for
short messages. Some women may lack the confidence to
contribute to Wikipedia or feel that it would be
presumptuous of them to do so” [20]. Etzkowitz and Ranga
agree with this take on gender differences in confidence and
suggest that “women have often been reported to have
much less self-confidence than men, which has a negative
impact upon their drive to communicate their opinion to the
wider world” [11].
Gender differences in confidence in personal expertise have
been shown across disciplines and age groups and are most
pronounced in fields such as math, problem solving,
engineering, and science [6,21,22,27]. These findings hold
across age and achievement groups, from the elementary
school level [13] to junior high and high school [37] and
undergraduate and graduate levels [10]. In a meta-analysis,
gender differences in some areas were shown to be even
greater in secondary and post-secondary students than for
younger students [21].
The confidence differences, however, are not an indication
of differences in actual ability and expertise. In some cases,
even when females achieve as well or better than their male
counterparts, they remain under-confident in their
performance [13,46]. The confidence difference may not
result from females being under-confident overall, but may
be caused by males being overconfident even when
incorrect [25]. For example, in one case data from
achievement tests showed that girls are more likely to
choose “I don’t knowas an item response when they are
unsure of the answer than boys, demonstrating male
reluctance to admit when they do not know the answer [24].
It is worth pointing out that this hypothesis, like the others
being suggested, is made with respect to population
averages (general descriptive data) rather than prescriptive
or deterministic outcomes. Of course, as Margolis writes,
while “many women love to argue, debate, and write
provocative books, there are still too many women who
lack sufficient confidence to think that they are expert
enough to define a subject” [26].
H2: Female Wikipedia users are less likely to contribute to
Wikipedia due to gender differences in confidence in
expertise to contribute and lower confidence in the value of
their contribution.
Criticism of Others
While the process of being involved in improving
Wikipedia is widely called “contributing”, often the
“contribution” involves deleting or modifying another
editor's work rather than taking a blank article and
producing an original body of knowledge. Similarly, while
we often use the term “collaboration” in the sense that
many people are collectively producing knowledge. More
often in Wikipedia the collaboration process is not
synchronous interpersonal collaboration, it is asynchronous
individuals writing and editing articles with a technology to
mediate and aggregate the output. A large part of
contributing, then, is one person editing the work of others
that he or she has never met, and competing (rather than
collaborating) for one’s words to cancel out the
contributions of others.
Two major streams of literature in social science can speak
to this phenomenon. The first theorizes that women prefer
cooperative tasks over competitive tasks. As children, girls
are more likely to select activities where there is no winner
while boys select competitive games [5]. The theoretical
reasons for these differences are investigated in several
streams of research, but overall, theories range from an
evolutionary base in which men simply enjoy competing
more than women, to more nuanced reasons such as men’s
overconfidence in their ability to win, and a difference in
how men and women receive and internalize feedback from
winning or losing [28].
The second suggests that men and women respond
differently to criticism. Specifically, experimental work
has shown that men on average do not respond as much to
either positive or negative feedback as women [34,35].
Women tend to respond to positive feedback by increasing
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
their self esteem slightly, while men are relatively
unaffected. When receiving criticism, women’s self esteem
is substantially decreased as a result, while that of men is
again relatively unchanged [22,34].
It follows that gender differences in contribution may result
because “a woman who wishes to share knowledge with
others might not choose to be part of a forum where
engaging in deleting others’ words is key” [7]. Put
differently, while women may be very interested in
participation in “collaborations around the construction of
knowledge”, they are much less interested in the critical
nature of the work in which “successive editors try to
cancel each others’ contributions out” [7].
H3: Female contributors are less likely to contribute to
Wikipedia because they prefer to share and collaborate
rather than delete and change other's work.
Discretionary Time
Lastly, one fairly simple explanation for the gender
differences in contribution is that women may simply have
less discretionary time to commit to contributing to
Wikipedia. Women may be more involved in other
volunteer and community activities, or family and personal
responsibilities and not have as much discretionary time to
be more involved. One expert suggests that “since women
often have less time than their male counterparts, they may
simply have chosen to contribute to other sites instead”
Classic economic research examining human capital posits
that one of the reasons for the pay gap between genders is
that women take on more household responsibility, and thus
have less time available to spend on market work than men
[2]. Empirical research among dual career academic
households, ostensibly a progressive sample of
professionals, finds that among
faculty members who are married
with children, household labor is
distributed in traditional roles,
with wives doing substantially
more domestic labor than their
male counterparts [42].
H4: Female contributors are
less likely to contribute to
Wikipedia because they have less
discretionary time available to
spend contributing.
The Wikimedia Foundation in
collaboration with United
Nations University MERIT
conducted the first worldwide
general user survey of Wikipedia
during the fall of 2008, from
October 18th to November 12th.
The survey went out to 22 language editions, including
English, German, Spanish, French, and Russian, and
included a total of 176,192 respondents including readers,
occasional contributors, regular contributors,
administrators, and bureaucrats. Survey items were
developed based on previous research on open source
software communities and with modifications and additions
suggested by the Wikimedia community. Participants were
solicited using a banner ad or page header on the top of
Wikipedia sites. More details of the survey including
tabulated data with an overview of results [15], quality
perceptions [16], and age and gender differences [14] can
be found at
For the purpose of this paper, the analysis will focus solely
on the English version of the survey with 40,699
participants. Gender issues can be complicated to
understand and compare when crossing cultural and
language divides. While the English version may still cross
many cultural boundaries, it does give us at least a common
ground in the language to understand the readership and
contribution patterns. Demographic information for the
English participants is shown in Table 1. While only one
survey was given, depending on the first question in which
participants were asked “How do you interact with
Wikipedia” the participants were given different questions.
This was done because the motivational questions are
different if the participant responded “I am a reader of
Wikipedia, but I never edit any content”, “I am an editor”,
or “I was a contributor but stopped contributing”. That is, it
does not make sense to ask a reader “Why do you
contribute?”, nor would it make sense to ask a current
editor “”Why did you stop contributing?” The sample sizes
(shown in Table 1) reflect sub-samples of respondents to
the same survey, but are treated as separate samples since
Tota l
2 2 ,1 70
18,57 3
1 4 ,4 93
15,69 5
2 6 .5 9
3 0 .8 8
1 4 .1 2
1 4 .7 4
11 ,10 2
Tab le 1. E n glish Version of W ikip edi a S u mm ar y S tatis tic s
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
for the purposes of this study they are responding to a
different form of the survey.
Item Selection
Depending on whether the participant indicated they were a
reader, contributor, former contributor, or indicated “no, I
would not like to contribute more”, they were asked
different question stems with respect to their motivation.
The items were taken from the following responses to four
questions, given to readers, contributors and former
Why don't you contribute to Wikipedia?
Why do you not want to be more active in Wikipedia?
Why do you contribute to Wikipedia?
Why did you stop contributing to Wikipedia?
In response to each of these, respondents were given a list
of reasons to rate and the option to select “other.” The
“Why don’t you contribute?” question had possible
responses given as check boxes, and respondents were
allowed to select as many as reasons as apply. Example
responses include “I don’t know how”, “I would never
interact on the internet”, and “I am afraid of making a
mistake and getting into trouble for it.” The Why do you
not want to be more active in Wikipedia” question had
responses that were rated from 1=I disagree fully to 5=I
agree fully and respondents were allowed to rate each
reason independently. Example responses include “I don’t
have time”, “I don’t feel comfortable editing other people’s
work”, and “I am afraid of making a mistake and being
criticized.” The “Why do you contribute to Wikipedia?”
question asked respondents to rate the top four reasons they
contribute to Wikipedia, including “I do it for professional
reasons”, “I like the idea of sharing knowledge and want to
contribute to it”, and “I saw an error and wanted to fix it.”
The question Why did you stop contributing to
Wikipedia?” had the same response systems as the “Why
don’t you contribute?” with check boxes and the option to
select as many as apply. Example responses include “I
didn’t have enough time to go on”, “I became afraid of
making a mistake and being yelled at”, and “I didn’t like
the direction in which Wikipedia developed.”
Items from the survey were selected to reflect the
hypothesis being tested. Since readers, contributors, and
former contributors were given different questions, in the
analysis the same question may have two different
coefficients (e.g. “I don't have time to contribute”) if it were
asked to participants regarding “Why don't you contribute?”
or “Why don't you want to contribute more?”
Survey items matched with their stems are given in Table 2
using the numerical superscripts. Survey items matched
with the hypothesis they are testing are shown in Table 2
along with the coefficients tested and statistical significance
Items for hypothesis 1 were selected to reflect the gender
differences in (1) no longer contributing because of conflict
with other editors, and (2) a dislike for having to defend
one's work and being criticized or yelled at.
Items for hypothesis 2 were selected to reflect gender
differences in confidence of one's own knowledge,
expertise, information, or value of contribution. When
asked “Why don't you contribute?” or “Why do you not
want to be more active? participants may have selected
that they don't posses enough knowledge or expertise, they
don't have enough information, or their edits would be
reverted. Since we can assume from the population of
readers that male and female readers have equal knowledge
and information, these questions do not measure actual
knowledge possessed but perceptions of knowledge
possessed and confidence to assert that knowledge.
Items for hypothesis 3 were selected to reflect gender
differences in (1) perceptions of editing other contributor's
work and (2) preference for collaboration. If female users
prefer not to edit others work, and prefer to collaborate
more on tasks this would show support for hypothesis 3.
Items for hypothesis 4 were selected to reflect gender
differences in perceived discretionary time to contribute to
Wikipedia. Participants were given an option of lack of
time as being a reason for (1) not contributing, (2) not
wanting to be more active, and (3) no longer contributing to
Wikipedia. All of these were included as items to support
hypothesis 4.
The survey data were analyzed using each item as a
dependent variable, being predicted from gender, age, years
of education, whether the participant has a partner (binary
yes or no), and whether the participant has children (yes or
no). Descriptive data on all the independent variables are
found in Table 1.
The question stem “Why do you not want to be more active
in Wikipedia?” was asked on a scale from 1 (disagree fully)
to 5 (agree fully), and is predicted using ordinary least
squares. The question stem “Why do you contribute to
Wikipedia?” allowed respondents to select the top 4 reasons
they contribute and was coded as 4=most important reason
and 1=fourth most important reason. Responses from this
question were predicted using ordinary least squares. All
other models were examined using a probit analysis, as
each of the responses was either checked on the survey or
unchecked (binary outcome).
Empirical results by survey item and hypothesis are shown
in Table 2. The coefficient next to each item in Model 1 is
the female coefficient from each model (probit or OLS)
where 1=female and 0=male respondents. Model 1
represents the raw difference in responses between men and
women. This raw difference is important because the
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
difference in editing behaviors between men and women
may be masked by other demographic and lifestyle
differences. For example, if the sample happens to have a
higher proportion of women with children than men with
children, the effects would be confounded. Because of
these types of possibilities, it is important to know both the
raw difference and the controlled difference.
Hypothesis 1 examines the role of conflict in the gender
contribution gap and is strongly supported from the survey
data, having both large effect sizes and statistical
significance. Controlling for other factors females were
26% more likely to select “I got into conflicts with other
Wikipedia contributors” as a reason for no longer
contributing. The coefficients for being afraid of being
“criticized”, “yelled at”, and “getting into trouble” are all
significant, and in the case of citing fear of being criticized
women were 31% more likely to select it as a reason for not
wanting to be more active in Wikipedia. These gender
effect differences are stable in significance across raw and
controlled outcomes.
Hypothesis 2 shows strong statistical significance and large
effect sizes. Women are 43% more likely to select “I don't
have enough knowledge or expertise” and 22% more likely
to select “I don't have enough information” to contribute,
despite presumably equal knowledge, expertise, and
information between genders. Similarly women are 10%
more likely to believe their edits are not valuable (they
would be reverted or overwritten). When controlling for
years of education and partner (both significant) the
response rate to the item “I don’t have enough knowledge
or expertise to contribute” is reduced significantly, but still
has a large effect at 43%.
Hypothesis 3 shows strong support, with women 34% more
likely to select “I felt less and less comfortable editing other
people's work” as their reason for no longer contributing.
Similar findings suggest women are 23% more likely to
select “I don't feel comfortable editing other people's work”
as a reason for not wanting to be more active. Women also
showed a small preference for collaboration and
cooperation as a reason for contributing. Effects for this
H1: F e m ale W ik iped ia u se rs a re le ss like ly to c ontr ibu te to Wikipe dia du e t o th e h i gh lev el o f co n flic t in v o lv ed in th e ed it ing , debating,
an d d efe n d in g p roce s s.
Model 1
Female Only
Model 2
F e m a le w i th C on tr o ls
I a m af raid of m aki n g a m ist ak e a nd being criticized
0 .3 6 6 * **
I becam e a frai d o f making a m istak e and b eing yelled at
0 .3 1 2 * *
I a m af raid of m aki n g a m ist ak e a nd g e tti ng i n tro u b le for it
0 .1 4 9 * **
I g ot into c o n fl ic ts w ith othe r Wi kip e d i a co ntrib utor s
0 .3 27 * *
H2: F e m ale W ik iped ia u se rs a re le ss like ly to c ontr ibu te to Wikipe dia du e t o a lo w e r con fid en ce in th eir ex pertis e a nd lo w e r co nf idence
in th e value of their c on tri bu tio n.
I d on 't t hin k I hav e e n o ugh k n o w ledg e o r expe rtise to con tribute
0 .5 24 * * *
It 's a wa s te of time : m y e d its wo u ld b e r e ve rte d o r ov erwri tte n
0 .1 49 * *
I d on 't t hin k I hav e e n o ugh in form ati on to c ontr ib u te
0 .2 19 * * *
H3: F e m ale co ntri bu to rs a re le ss like ly to c ontr ib u te t o W iki p e d i a be ca us e th ey p refer t o s h a re a nd co llabo rat e rath e r t han dele t e and
chan ge othe r's wo rk.
I d on 't fe el c om fo rtab le e ditin g o the r p eopl e's w o rk
0 .2 45 * * *
I fe lt le ss a nd le ss comfortable editing other people's work
0 .3 90 * * *
B eca use I l ik e ma ss co llabo ratio n/c oo p e r atio n
0 .0 35 * *
H4: F e m ale co ntri bu to rs a re le ss like ly to c ontr ib u te t o W iki p e d i a be ca us e th ey h av e less dis cre ti onar y tim e ava ila bl e to sp end
con tribu ting.
I don 't have tim e
I don 't have tim e
0 .0 0 7
I d id n't h a ve t im e to g o o n
-0.305 **
Model 1 co e fficie n ts re p r esen t th e in cre as ed lik eliho od fo r fem al es o f se lecti n g th at s u rv e y ite m as a m o t iva tio n .
Model 2 co efficie nts re pre s en t th e in cr e ased lik eli ho od fo r fe m ale s of se lec ti n g th at s u rv e y ite m as a m ot iv a tio n co ntrolling fo r age, years
o f ed uc ati on , par tne r, a nd c hild ren .
R es pon de nts =R ea d e rs ,
Respondents=Co ntributors,
Respond ents= Fo rm er C o ntrib uto rs ,
Respondents who indicated No to the
question Wou ld yo u l ike to b e m ore ac tiv e in W iki ped ia ?”
* p < .05 ** p < .0 1 * ** p < .0 01
Table 2. Hy p o t heses Ite m s
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
hypothesis are stable across raw differences and controlled
Hypothesis 4 was not supported, and in fact found that men
are 19% more likely to select “I didn't have time to go on”
as a reason for no longer contributing. The other two
measures of perceptions of available time as a reason for
non-contribution were not significantly different between
genders. These differences were stable across the raw
difference and controlled models.
Overall, the gender differences that relate most strongly to
differences in contribution within Wikipedia are dislike of
conflict, differences in confidence in one's knowledge,
expertise, and information available, and differences in
their collaboration approach, namely, women prefer to
collaborate and cooperate rather than edit other people's
Previous research has shown that gender differences in
confidence and avoidance of conflict may interact with age
and education levels [21]. Similarly, research on gender
and domestic labor has shown differences between men and
women in special cases such as child-rearing; that is,
women take on much more responsibility when they have
children [42]. Further analysis was done using interaction
terms for gender*age, gender*years of education, and
gender*children. With the exception of a handful of
models in which the effect sizes were negligible (<0.02)
these interaction terms were all non-significant and did not
materially affect the overall model.
Control variables did not have any systematic significant
impact on the model outcomes. In most cases control
variable effects were non-significant, while in others effects
were small but statistically significant. In a small number of
outcomes they were large and statistically significant, but
not of theoretical interest. They are stated here for
completeness. In H1, respondents that reported having
children were 13% more likely to choose “I am afraid of
making a mistake and being criticized” and were 29% less
likely to stop contributing due to conflicts with other
contributors. In H2, respondents with a partner were 19%
less likely to select “I don’t have enough knowledge or
expertise” as a reason for not contributing. In the H3
model, no control variables that were significant had a
meaningful effect size. In the H4 model, respondents with
a partner were 20% more likely to select “I don’t have
time” as a reason for not contributing more, and 10% more
likely to select the same response as a reason they don’t
contribute at all.
Caution should be taken in interpreting a few aspects of this
research. First, the data in this survey relies on self
reported attitudes and beliefs and, especially in gender
research, these behaviors and attitudes can be below the
conscious surface. Second, this data sample is over-
represented by contributors rather than readers and more
active contributors than less active contributors. However,
this limitation is mitigated to some extent by the inclusion
of readers and ex-contributors who would not otherwise be
in a sample of contributors only. There are only data for
those who chose to respond to the survey. Those with good
associations with Wikipedia may have been more apt to
respond, resulting in a biased sample in that those who had
negative experiences may be under represented in the
sample. Third, while the survey items often speak closely
to the gender difference hypotheses in motivational and
experiential differences, the survey items were designed for
more broad purposes and in some places do not contain
items that would be present if the survey could be designed
specifically to address the gender contribution gap in
Wikipedia. Lastly, a handful of hypotheses from both
gender research and the expert panel were not able to be
tested from the available data; for example, one hypothesis
from Oda suggested that trolling and other assaultive
behaviors accounted for women not contributing to
Wikipedia [29]. While this study sought to empirically test
all the most relevant and theoretically grounded hypotheses
as to what accounts for the gender gap in contribution, like
any study this one is limited to a select few testable
This study found strong support for the hypothesis that the
gender contribution gap is due in part to responses to
conflict. While Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone
can edit, the process of doing so is not without interpersonal
difficulty. Previous research has shown gender differences
in the avoidance of conflict, however, these studies
typically rely on experimental data rather than field data.
This paper contributes to this stream of research on
avoidance of conflict by both demonstrating that this
phenomenon occurs even in computer-mediated
environments in which gender is not salient, and that this
effect impacts female engagement with the organization. In
addition, it provides empirical field evidence to support this
While confidence differences between genders with respect
to math, sciences, engineering and technology have been
explored in the fields of psychology and education, the
findings from this paper extend this into the domain of
online knowledge contributions. This striking finding that
controlling for other factors women are 43% more likely to
not contribute because they do not think they have enough
knowledge or expertise informs both theory and practice.
Research on giving and receiving positive and negative
feedback has demonstrated gender differences in affective
outcomes (confidence and self esteem) but much less
attention has been given on the impact giving and receiving
feedback on withdraw from a task or an organization. This
study shows that controlling for other factors women are
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
34% more likely to not contribute because of their comfort
level in editing other’s work. The impact of gender
differences on giving criticism is understudied, and this
paper takes a step in understanding the gender differences
with respect to giving and receiving criticism can have on
an organization that relies on continual improvement and
the criticism from the crowd.
This study takes a stride forward in the research of online
communities to better understand gender differences in the
online experience. Even though interactions in cyberspace
may be largely text based and anonymous, the gender gap
in many areas still exists. The removal of explicit gender
cues does not by itself create equal gender representation in
an online community. As a research community and a
design community examining socio-technical systems,
understanding the gender differences in experiences of
conflict, bolstering willingness to contribute knowledge,
and aiding comfort levels in editing and criticizing other's
work can be crucial to ensuring women are moving towards
being better represented not only in Wikipedia, but in other
communities such as software development, knowledge
support systems, and online educational communities.
Designing online communities to have a more conducive
environment for contributions from anyone makes the final
product better for everyone. In the case of Wikipedia, it is
not known the knowledge that is missing from the articles
yet to be written and in the insights yet to be gained from
the largely missing demographic of female contributors.
Without empirical support to help understand the
underlying “why” question of what is contributing to this
problem, ineffective approaches to solving it may fall well
short. Each of these findings of gender differences
represents a solvable problem that online communities can
begin to address to be more inclusive and welcoming to all
potential contributors.
As Wikipedia becomes more mature and there are fewer
articles that are “low hanging fruit” to edit [41], the editing
behavior of existing articles is likely to become even more
contentious and thus even more of a turn off for female
contributors. Policies such as “Don’t Bite the Newcomer”
[49] are the in the right spirit, but perhaps have not
penetrated the culture. Wikipedia culture can be very rules
driven and one can very quickly find themselves being
reverted and blasted on their user page for stepping over a
rule you were unaware of. Wikipedia Administrators and
editors should be encouraged to take it upon themselves to
moderate conflict more carefully and with greater attention
to human emotions. Other online communities can learn
from these findings with respect to conflict as well. If a
community tolerates a culture of conflict that males
perceived to be simply “competitive” or witty and sarcastic,
they are likely to find themselves losing the many benefits
female contributors can bring to the table.
Two key interventions could potentially narrow the gap in
contributions due to differences in confidence: positive
feedback and active invitations to contribute. One of the
strongest boosters of confidence in expertise is positive
feedback on performance. When women receive positive
feedback they respond with a greater increase in self-
confidence than men do [34]. Online communities should
work to provide positive feedback when a contribution has
an impact on the organization. For example, when
contributors edit a page that later reaches a quality standard
such as “Good” or “Featured”, providing a badge or simply
alerting them on their user page that their contribution was
valued could boost confidence and the likelihood of future
While many contributors may not have the confidence in
their expertise to jump write in editing an article, users have
been found to respond to invitations and suggestions to
participate [9]. Wikis and other contribution systems
should include intelligent task routing and request systems
to ask users for their participation in areas that the use may
have the most confidence in editing. Confidence data could
be mined by simple surveys of interest and expertise or past
editing behavior.
The empirical support finding gender differences in
willingness to edit other's work and willingness to delete
others contributions has implications for many wiki-based
platforms, including Wikibooks, Wiki-news, and
Wikiversity. Even though the premise of these
communities is the acceptance of free and open knowledge,
if these communities do not provide tools or systems that
ameliorate women's dislike of editing others work they will
likely find women underrepresented both in their
communities and in the knowledge that goes into their
Women on average tend to prefer collaboration to
competition and criticism. In Facebook and Twitter and
other more social platforms we find women are heavily
involved. However, Wikipedia and other knowledge
repositories by their culture and policies proclaim to be a
place that is not meant to be social. For example a previous
policy at Wikipedia discouraged users from treating
Wikipedia as a social space by proclaiming “Wikipedia is
not MySpace” [50]. Design improvements to online
contribution sites should allow for collaboration which
involves social interaction rather than mutual criticism. For
example, allowing for social or educational discussion of an
article or subject would allow collaborators to first interact
and get a sense of each other’s interests and abilities and
perhaps provide social motivation to collaborate together on
article editing. Within the existing structure of Wikipedia,
Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
collaboration on WikiProjects [47] may encourage women
to collaborate with other editors they have worked with in
the past and foster a culture of collaboration rather than
We would like to thank Bob Kraut, Denise Rousseau, and
Anita Woolley for feedback and assistance. This project
was supported by NSF IIS-0963451 and NSF OC10943148.
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Session: Scaling our Everest: Wikipedia Studies I
February 11-15, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA
... There are currently 303 active language versions of Wikipedia 14 , though coverage is unevenly distributed. Previous studies have discussed several biases, including gender of the editors (Collier and Bear, 2012), and topic bias, for instance a general lack of information on the Global South (Graham et al., 2014). ...
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Indiana University
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An experiment tested three possible explanations for gender differences in responsiveness to others' evaluations in achievement settings. Results replicated previous studies and showed that women and men perceived the valence of evaluative messages similarly. Further, women's privately made self-evaluations reflected the valence of others' evaluations to a greater extent than men's. Finally, women saw others' evaluations as more accurate assessments of their performance than did men and said they were more influenced by those evaluations than did men. The best explanation for the gender difference in responsiveness to others' evaluations, therefore, seems to lie in women's and men's differing construals of the informational value of those evaluations. The authors propose that different experiences girls and boys have with evaluative feedback may lead to gender differences in beliefs about the informational value of others' evaluations of our competence.
A study was conducted to generate (a) a model of power strategies used in intimate relationships and (b) information regarding the associations between gender, sexual orientation, egalitarianism, and power strategy use. Ss were 200 university students (100 homosexuals and 100 heterosexuals) evenly divided by gender. A 2-dimensional model was devised based on the strategies written in open-ended essays. These 2 dimensions concerned the extent to which the strategies were (a) direct (ranging from direct to indirect) and (b) interactive (ranging from bilateral to unilateral). Gender differences were found only among heterosexuals, with males more likely than females to report using bilateral and direct strategies. The effects of gender among heterosexuals paralleled findings concerning the balance of power in the relationship: Ss who preferred and perceived themselves as having more power than their partner, such as heterosexual men, were also more likely to use bilateral and direct strategies. No differences in power strategy use were found between homosexuals and heterosexuals. These and other results are interpreted in terms of the aforementioned model and general gender differences in power. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
Is there a bias against women's representation in Wikipedia biographies? Thousands of biographical subjects from six sources are compared against the English-language Wikipedia and the online Encyclopaedia Britannica with respect to coverage, gender representation, and article length. We conclude that Wikipedia provides better coverage and longer articles, and that it typically has more articles on women than Britannica in absolute terms, but we also find that Wikipedia articles on women are more likely to be missing than are articles on men relative to Britannica. For both reference works, article length did not consistently differ by gender.
Relationships were investigated between mathematics learning, verbal ability, spatial visualization, and eight affective variables. Subjects were 1320 sixth through eighth graders. No sex-related differences over all schools were found for any cognitive variable. Females were significantly less confident of themselves in mathematics, and males stereotyped mathematics as a male domain higher than did females. Results were synthesized with those obtained at the high school level. Significant sex-related differences found in high school areas were not found in the same middle school areas. Where significant differences in achievement were found at both levels, they were accompanied by significant differences in many affective variables.
When Linda Babcock asked why so many male graduate students were teaching their own courses and most female students were assigned as assistants, her dean said: "More men ask. The women just don't ask." It turns out that whether they want higher salaries or more help at home, women often find it hard to ask. Sometimes they don't know that change is possible--they don't know that they can ask. Sometimes they fear that asking may damage a relationship. And sometimes they don't ask because they've learned that society can react badly to women asserting their own needs and desires. By looking at the barriers holding women back and the social forces constraining them, Women Don't Ask shows women how to reframe their interactions and more accurately evaluate their opportunities. It teaches them how to ask for what they want in ways that feel comfortable and possible, taking into account the impact of asking on their relationships. And it teaches all of us how to recognize the ways in which our institutions, child-rearing practices, and unspoken assumptions perpetuate inequalities--inequalities that are not only fundamentally unfair but also inefficient and economically unsound. © 2003 by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. All Rights Reserved.
This study presents a path analytic model of status expectations that focuses on how sex influences the educational and occupational expectations of a large sample of American adolescents. While female and male expectations can be predicted by the same model variables, the process is by no means identical for both sexes. Exogenous background variables have greater total effects for females, while intervening social-psychological and achievement related variables have substantially lesser effects for females than males. The same-sex parent is found to have a greater effect on adolescent expectations than the opposite-sex parent. No significant sex differences are found in the mean level of either expectation, but the distribution of occupational choices parallel the current sex segregation of the occupational sector. Further, relative to academic achievement, the females have lower expectations than the males. These results are interpreted as consequences of traditional sex role socialization.