Wikipedia is geared much more to a male audience than to females, a new study published by the University of Minnesota suggests.
Computer science researchers found that only 16 percent of the editors who joined Wikipedia in 2009 were female and only 9 percent of the edits came from female editors during that year. Women apparently also have a tendency to leave Wikipedia again when their edits are reverted.
The researchers also claim that a gender bias within Wikipedia has an impact on the quality of the content published at the online encyclopedia as articles that appeal to women are generally shorter and less detailed. Descriptions of movies that are more likely to attract women have a lower quality level than descriptions of movies that may be seen primarily by males. "Overall, Wikipedia seems to be growing in a way that is biased toward topics of interest to males," the researchers concluded.
So, what could be the problem? The findings suggest that Wikipedia has a "culture that may be resistant to female participation." Articles edited by females are twice as likely to be about controversial or contentious topics; female editors are significantly more likely to have their early contributions undone by their fellow editors; and females are more likely to be indefinitely blocked by fellow editors, the researchers said.
“We expected to find that females would avoid conflict, but to our surprise we found just the opposite,” John Riedl, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering and a member of the research team, said. “We’re not sure exactly what this means, but it may give us more insights into the Wikipedia culture that could be one of the contributing factors to the gender gap.”