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Where are the Women in Wikipedia? Understanding the Different Psychological Experiences of Men and Women in Wikipedia

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A comprehensive survey conducted in 2008 found that only 13 % of Wikipedia contributors are women. We proposed that masculine norms for behavior in Wikipedia, which may be further exacerbated by the disinhibiting nature of an online, anonymous environment, lead to different psychological experiences for women and men, which, in turn, explain gender differences in contribution behavior. We hypothesized that, among a sample of individuals who occasionally contribute to Wikipedia, women would report less confidence in their expertise, more discomfort with editing others’ work, and more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men, all of which are crucial aspects of contributing to Wikipedia. We also hypothesized that gender differences in these psychological experiences would explain women’s lower contribution rate compared to men in this sample. We analyzed data from a sample of 1,598 individuals in the United States who completed the English version of an international survey of Wikipedia users and readers conducted in 2008 and who reported being occasional contributors. Significant gender differences were found in confidence in expertise, discomfort with editing, and response to critical feedback. Women reported less confidence in their expertise, expressed greater discomfort with editing (which typically involves conflict) and reported more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men. Mediation analyses revealed that confidence in expertise and discomfort with editing partially mediated the gender difference in number of articles edited, the standard measure for contribution to Wikipedia. Implications for the gender gap in Wikipedia and in organizations more generally are discussed.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Where are the Women in Wikipedia? Understanding the Different
Psychological Experiences of Men and Women in Wikipedia
Julia B. Bear
1
&Benjamin Collier
2
Published online: 4 January 2016
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract A comprehensive survey conducted in 2008 found
that only 13 % of Wikipedia contributors are women. We
proposed that masculine norms for behavior in Wikipedia,
which may be further exacerbated by the disinhibiting nature
of an online, anonymous environment, lead to different psy-
chological experiences for women and men, which, in turn,
explain gender differences in contribution behavior. We hy-
pothesized that, among a sample of individuals who occasion-
ally contribute to Wikipedia, women would report less confi-
dence in their expertise, more discomfort with editing others
work, and more negative responses to critical feedback com-
pared to men, all of which are crucial aspects of contributing
to Wikipedia. We also hypothesized that gender differences in
these psychological experiences would explain womenslow-
er contribution rate compared to men in this sample. We ana-
lyzed data from a sample of 1,598 individuals in the United
States who completed the English version of an international
survey of Wikipedia users and readers conducted in 2008 and
who reported being occasional contributors. Significant gen-
der differences were found in confidence in expertise, discom-
fort with editing, and response to critical feedback. Women
reported less confidence in their expertise, expressed greater
discomfort with editing (which typically involves conflict)
and reported more negative responses to critical feedback
compared to men. Mediation analyses revealed that confi-
dence in expertise and discomfort with editing partially medi-
ated the gender difference in number of articles edited, the
standard measure for contribution to Wikipedia. Implications
for the gender gap in Wikipedia and in organizations more
generally are discussed.
Keywords Gender differences in organizations .
Online organizations .Gender stereotypes
Introduction
Wikipedia, Bthe free encyclopedia that anyone can edit^
(Wikipedia.org 2012), has become widely used as a knowl-
edge resource, with 42 % of individuals in the United States
turning to it for information online (Zickuhr 2011). However,
a comprehensive survey conducted in 2008 revealed that only
a small percentage of Wikipedia contributors are women -
13 % worldwide (Glott and Ghosh 2010), despite the fact that
readership rates are equal between men and women, particu-
larly in the U.S. (Zickuhr 2011). A smaller scale, follow up
survey of Wikipedia contributors conducted in 2011 revealed
similar statistics: 9 % of contributors worldwide and 15 % of
U.S. contributors are women (Wikimedia 2011). Thus, it ap-
pears that men, rather than anyone, do a great deal of the
editing. In addition, and perhaps not surprisingly given this
gender gap in contribution, there is a greater frequency of
articles on topics of interest to men compared to articles on
topics of interest to women (Cohen 2011; Reagle and Rhue
2011; note that all cited studies throughout the paper are based
on U.S. samples unless otherwise noted). Overall, given the
widespread use of Wikipedia, this gender gap has significant
repercussions for both knowledge dissemination and organi-
zations more generally.
*Julia B. Bear
julia.bear@stonybrook.edu
Benjamin Collier
bcollier@qatar.cmu.edu
1
College of Business, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY,
USA
2
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Sex Roles (2016) 74:254265
DOI 10.1007/s11199-015-0573-y
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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