Sex Roles

, Volume 74, Issue 5–6, pp 254–265 | Cite as

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

  • Julia B. BearEmail author
  • Benjamin Collier
Original Article


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.


Gender differences in organizations Online organizations Gender stereotypes 


  1. Ahlqvist, S., London, B., & Rosenthal, L. (2013). Unstable identity compatibility: How gender rejection sensitivity undermines the success of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Psychological Science, 24, 1644–1652. doi: 10.1177/0956797613476048.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bajdo, L. M., & Dickson, M. W. (2001). Perceptions of organizational culture and women’s advancement in organizations: A cross-cultural examination. Sex Roles, 45, 399–414. doi: 10.1023/A:1014365716222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1173.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bear, J. (2011). Passing the buck”: Incongruence between gender role and topic leads to avoidance of negotiation. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 4, 47–72. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-4716.2010.00072.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bear, J. B., & Babcock, L. (2012). Negotiation topic as a moderator of gender differences in negotiation. Psychological Science, 23, 743–744. doi: 10.1177/0956797612442393.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bear, J. B., Weingart, L. R., & Todorova, G. T. (2014). Gender and the emotional experience of relationship conflict: The differential effectiveness of avoidant conflict management. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 7, 213–231. doi: 10.1111/ncmr.12039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, G. S. (1985). Human capital, effort, and the sexual division labor. Journal of Labor Economics, 3, 533–538. doi: 10.1086/298075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bem, S. L., & Lenney, E. (1976). Sex typing and the avoidance of cross-sex behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 48–54. doi: 10.1037/h0078640.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bianchi, S. M., Milkie, M. A., Sayer, L. C., & Robinson, J. P. (2000). Is anyone doing the housework? Trends in the gender division of household labor. Social Forces, 79, 191–228. doi: 10.1093/sf/79.1.191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Biernat, M., & Danaher, K. (2012). Interpreting and reacting to feedback in stereotype-relevant performance domains. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 271–276. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.08.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bittman, M., England, P., Sayer, L., Folbre, N., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109, 186–214. doi: 10.1086/378341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bosson, J. K., Taylor, J. N., & Prewitt-Freilino, J. L. (2006). Gender role violations and identity misclassification: The roles of audience and actor variables. Sex Roles, 55, 13–24. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9056-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bowles, H. R., Babcock, L., & McGinn, K. L. (2005). Constraints and triggers: Situational mechanics of gender in negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 951–965. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.951.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Bowles, H. R., Babcock, L., & Lai, L. (2007). Social incentives for gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations: Sometimes it does hurt to ask. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 103, 84–103. doi: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2006.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brescoll, V. L., & Uhlmann, E. L. (2008). Can an angry woman get ahead? Status conferral, gender, and expression of emotion in the workplace. Psychological Science, 19, 268–275. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02079.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Brewer, N., Mitchell, P., & Weber, N. (2002). Gender role, organizational status, and conflict management styles. International Journal of Conflict Management, 13, 78–94. doi: 10.1108/eb022868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. (2013). Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex. Retrieved from
  18. Buriol, L. S., Castillo, C., Donato, D., Leonardi, S., & Millozzi, S. (2006). Temporal analysis of the Wikigraph. In Proceedings of Web Intelligence Conference (pp. 45–51). Hong Kong. doi: 10.1109/WI.2006.164.
  19. Burke, M. & Kraut, R. (2008, November). Mopping up: Modeling Wikipedia promotion decisions. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (pp. 27–36). San Diego: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1460563.1460571.
  20. Campbell, N. D., & Hackett, G. (1986). The effects of mathematics task performance on math self-efficacy and task interest. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 28, 149–162. doi: 10.1016/0001-8791(86)90048-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cassell, J. (2011, February 4). Edit wars behind the scene. Retrieved from
  22. Catalyst. (2012). Statistical overview of women in the workplace. Retrieved from
  23. Cohen, N. (2011, January 30). Define gender gap? Look up Wikipedia’s contributor list. New York Times. Retrieved from
  24. Cook, J. E., Arrow, H., & Malle, B. F. (2011). The effect of feeling stereotyped on social power and inhibition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 165–180. doi: 10.1177/0146167210390389.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Beninger, A. (2011). The dynamics of warmth and competence judgments, and their outcomes in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 31, 73–98. doi: 10.1016/j.riob.2011.10.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Deaux, K., & Major, B. (1987). Putting gender into context: An interactive model of gender related behavior. Psychological Review, 9, 369–389. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.94.3.369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale: Erlbaum. doi: 10.4324/9780203781906.Google Scholar
  28. Eagly, A. H., & Carli, L. L. (2007). Through the labyrinth. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. doi: 10.1108/01437730910935800.Google Scholar
  29. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2013). The nature–nurture debates: 25 years of challenges in understanding the psychology of gender. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 340–357. doi: 10.1177/1745691613484767.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Eagly, A. H., Makhijani, M. G., & Klonsky, B. G. (1992). Gender and the evaluation of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 3–22. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.111.1.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Diekman, A. B. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes & H. M. Trautner (Eds.), The developmental psychology of gender (pp. 123–174). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  32. Ely, R., & Padavic, I. (2007). A feminist analysis of organizational research on sex differences. Academy of Management Review, 32, 1121–1143. doi: 10.5465/AMR.2007.26585842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Frieze, I. H., Sales, E., & Smith, C. (1991). Considering the social context in gender research. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 371–392. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00414.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Galinsky, A. D., Gruenfeld, D. H., & Magee, J. C. (2003). From power to action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 453–466. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.3.453.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Glott, R. & Ghosh, R. (2010). Analysis of Wikipedia survey data: Age and gender differences. 2010. Retrieved from
  36. Good, C., Rattan, A., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Why do women opt out? Sense of belonging and women’s representation in mathematics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 700–717. doi: 10.1037/a0026659.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (1992). Marital processes predictive of later dissolution: Behavior, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 221–233. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.63.2.221.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Hargittai, E., & Shafer, S. (2006). Differences in actual and perceived online skills: The role of gender. Social Science Quarterly, 87, 432–448. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2006.00389.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hargittai, E., & Shaw, A. (2015). Mind the skills gap: The role of Internet know-how and gender in differentiated contributions to Wikipedia. Information, Communication & Society, 18, 424–442. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2014.957711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Harrington, E. (2014). Government-funded study: why is Wikipedia sexist? The Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved from
  41. Heilman, M. E., & Okimoto, T. G. (2007). Why are women penalized for success at male tasks?: The implied communality deficit. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 81–92. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.81.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Heilman, M. E., Wallen, A. S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M. M. (2004). Penalties for success: Reactions to women who succeed at male gender-typed tasks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 416–427. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.416.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Herring, S. C. (2008). Gender and power in online communication. In J. Holmes & M. Meyerhoff (Eds.), The handbook of language and gender (pp. 202–228). New York: Wiley. doi: 10.1002/9780470756942.ch9.Google Scholar
  44. Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (1988). Gender differences in verbal ability: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 104, 53–69. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.104.1.53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hyde, J. S., Fennema, E., Ryan, M., Frost, L. A., & Hopp, C. (1990). Gender comparisons of mathematics attitudes and affect: A meta- analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 14, 299–324. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1990.tb00022.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Johnson, M., & Helgeson, V. S. (2002). Sex differences in response to evaluative feedback: A field study. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 242–251. doi: 10.1111/1471-6402.00063.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kapidzic, S., & Herring, S. C. (2011). Gender, communication, and self-presentation in teen chatrooms revisited: Have patterns changed? Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17, 39–59. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01561.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Newton, T., Cacioppo, J. T., MacCallum, R. C., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. B. (1996). Marital conflict and endocrine function: Are men really more physiologically affected than women? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 324–332. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.64.2.324.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Kiesler, S., Siegel, J., & McGuire, T. W. (1984). Social psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication. American Psychologist, 39, 1123–1134. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.39.10.1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kittur, A., Chi, E., Pendleton, B. A., Suh, B., & Mytkowicz, T. (2007). Power of the few vs. wisdom of the crowd: Wikipedia and the rise of the bourgeoisie. In Proceedings of Alt. CHI. San Jose, CA: ACM.Google Scholar
  51. Kittur, A., Suh, B., Pendleton, B. A., & Chi, E. H. (2007). He says, she says: Conflict and coordination in Wikipedia. In Proceedings of Alt. CHI. San Jose, CA: ACM.Google Scholar
  52. Kittur, A., Chi, E. H., & Suh, B. (2009). What’s in Wikipedia? Mapping topics and conflict using socially annotated category structure. In Proceedings of Alt. CHI. Boston, MA: ACM.Google Scholar
  53. Koh, A. (2013). How to organize your own Wikipedia edit-a-thon. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
  54. Kray, L. J., Thompson, L., & Galinsky, A. D. (2001). Battle of the sexes: Gender stereotype activation in negotiations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 942–958. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.80.6.942.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Kray, L. J., Galinsky, A. D., & Thompson, L. (2002). Reversing the gender gap in negotiations: An exploration of stereotype regeneration. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 87, 386–409. doi: 10.1006/obhd.2001.2979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lam, S. T. K., Uduwage, A., Dong, Z., Sen, S., Musicant, D.R., Terveen, L., & Riedl, J. (2011, October). WP: Clubhouse?: An exploration of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance. In Proceedings of the 7 th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (pp, 1–10). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  57. Lapidot-Lefler, N., & Barak, A. (2012). Effects of anonymity, invisibility, and lack of eye-contact on toxic online disinhibition. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 434–443. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.10.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. London, B., Downey, G., Romero-Canyas, R., Rattan, A., & Tyson, D. (2011). Gender rejection sensitivity: Implications for women’s well-being and achievement in gender stereotyped contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 961–979. doi: 10.1037/a0026615.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Luhaorg, H., & Zivian, M. T. (1995). Gender role conflict: The interaction of gender, gender role, and occupation. Sex Roles, 33, 607–620. doi: 10.1007/BF01547720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Machin, S., & Pekkarinen, T. (2008). Global sex differences in test score variability. Science, 322, 1331–1332. doi: 10.1126/science.1162573.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Mazei, J., Huffmeier, J., Freund, P. A., Stuhlmacher, A. F., Bilke, L., & Hertel, G. (2015). A meta-analysis on gender differences in negotiation outcomes and their moderators. Psychological Bulletin, 141, 85–104. doi: 10.1037/a0038184.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Mischel, W. (1977). The interaction of person and situation. In D. Magnusson & N. S. Endler (Eds.), Personality at the crossroads: Current issues in interactional psychology (pp. 333–352). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  63. Moore, M. J., Nakano, T., Enomoto, A., & Suda, T. (2012). Anonymity and roles associated with aggressive posts in an online forum. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 861–867. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.12.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Morgan, J.T., Bouterse, S., Walls, H., & Stierch, S. (2013, February). Tea and sympathy: Crafting positive new user experiences on Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 2013 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (pp. 839–848). San Antonio, TX: ACM. doi:  10.1145/2441776.2441871.
  65. National Science Foundation. (2009). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. Division of Science Resources Statistics, NSF 09-305. Arlington, VA:
  66. Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2007). Do women shy away from competition? Do men compete too much? The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122, 1067–1101. doi: 10.1257/jep.24.2.129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2010). Explaining the gender gap in math test scores: The role of competition. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24, 129–144. doi: 10.1257/jep.24.2.129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. O’Mahony, S., & Ferraro, F. (2007). The emergence of governance in an open source community. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 1079–1106. doi: 10.5465/AMJ.2007.27169153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Oped Project. (2015.). Retrieved from
  70. Paling, E. (2015). Wikipedia’s hostility to women. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
  71. Parry, G. (1987). Sex-role beliefs, work attitudes and mental health in employed and non-employed mothers. British Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 47–58. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.1987.tb00760.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891. doi: 10.3758/BRM.40.3.879.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Priedhorsky, R., Chen, J., Lam, S. T. K., Panciera, K., Terveen, L., & Riedl, J. (2007, November). Creating, destroying, and restoring value in Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 2007 International ACM conference on Supporting Group Work (pp. 259–268). Sanibel Island: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1316624.1316663.
  74. Reagle, J., & Rhue, L. (2011). Gender bias in Wikipedia and Britannica. International Journal of Communication, 5, 1138–1158.Google Scholar
  75. Roberts, T. A., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1989). Sex differences in reactions to evaluative feedback. Sex Roles, 21, 725–747. doi: 10.1007/BF00289805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Rudman, L. A. (1998). Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: The costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 629–645. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Small, D. A., Gelfand, M., Babcock, L., & Gettman, H. (2007). Who goes to the bargaining table? The influence of gender and framing on the initiation of negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 600–613. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.93.4.600.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1986). Reducing social context cues: Electronic mail in organizational communication. Management Science, 32, 1492–1512. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.32.11.1492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections: New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  80. Stuhlmacher, A. F., Citera, M., & Willis, T. (2007). Gender differences in virtual negotiation: Theory and research. Sex Roles, 57, 329–339. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9252-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Suh, B., Convertino, G., Chi, E. H., & Pirolli, P. (2009, October). The singularity is not near: Slowing growth of Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 5 th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (p. 8). Orlando: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1641309.1641322.
  82. Suitor, J. J., Mecom, D., & Feld, I. S. (2001). Gender, household labor, and scholarly productivity among university professors. Gender Issues, 19, 50–67. doi: 10.1007/s12147-001-1007-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 7, 321–326. doi: 10.1089/1094931041291295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Viégas, F. B., Wattenberg, M., & Dave, K. (2004, April). Studying cooperation and conflict between authors with history flow visualizations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 575–582). Vienna, Austria: ACM. doi: 10.1145/985692.985765.
  85. Voss, J. (2005). Measuring Wikipedia. Proceedings of 10th International Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  86. Wikimedia. (2011). Wikipedia Editors Survey. Retrieved from
  87. (2012). Retrieved from
  88. Zickuhr, K. (2011). Wikipedia, past and present. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of BusinessStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations