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Wikipedia: It's not for girls

Woeful Sex and the City coverage, lady nerditors bullied

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Time-rich computer scientists in America say they have conclusive proof that online encyclopedia/graffiti archive Wikipedia is biased against women. Hardly any of the site's legions of volunteer editors are female, and the few who are get picked on by the male majority: as a result Wikipedia fails to provide quality in-depth information on subjects of interest to women – such as "friendship bracelets or Sex and the City".

The astonishing revelations come to us courtesy of Minnesota uni's College of Science and Engineering. Researchers there found their flabber gasted to its very limit when they discovered that just 16 per cent of Wikipedia editors claim to be female. In general on the internet it's safe to assume that a fair number of people claiming to be female are actually men or teenage boys, so this would suggest that only a tiny proportion of Wikipedians are genuine ladies.

“We were stunned to see such a significant gender gap in Wikipedia,” said professor John Riedl, a member of the research team.

“As Wikipedia continues to be a critical information resource, it is important that all voices be heard. We feel that understanding the challenges caused by Wikipedia's sizable gender gap can be a first step to finding ways to broaden participation.”

It seems that female Wiki-meddlers are given a hard time by the males. According to a Minnesota uni statement:

Female editors are significantly more likely to have their early contributions undone by their fellow editors, and are more likely to be indefinitely blocked by fellow editors. Taken together, these findings hint at a culture that may be resistant to female participation.

And this is a culture which simply doesn't value such things as friendship bracelets and Sex and the City as it ought to:

The researchers found that Wikipedia articles about topics of particular interest to female editors are significantly shorter than "male" articles. Furthermore, they found that Wikipedia's coverage of movies with female-skewed audiences is lower quality than its coverage of male-skewed movies. Overall, Wikipedia seems to be growing in a way that is biased toward topics of interest to males.

"We're not sure exactly what this means," says Riedl, "but it may give us more insights into the Wikipedia culture that could be one of the contributing factors to the gender gap."

You can read the perturbing research in full here. It isn't mentioned on the Wikipedia page on "sexism" as of going to press. ®

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