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

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 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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Bear, J.B., Collier, B. Where are the Women in Wikipedia? Understanding the Different Psychological Experiences of Men and Women in Wikipedia. Sex Roles 74, 254–265 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0573-y

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Keywords

  • Gender differences in organizations
  • Online organizations
  • Gender stereotypes