Submissions/Internet skills and the gender gap

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 1050
Title of the submission

Internet skills and the gender gap: Looking beyond the community to understand who edits and why

Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)


Author of the submission

Aaron Shaw

E-mail address



Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)

Northwestern University, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University

Personal homepage or blog


Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

What factors drive the gender gap and related inequalities in Wikimedia project editorship? This talk presents the results of unpublished scholarly research I have conducted with Professor Eszter Hargittai investigating who edits Wikipedia and, in particular, looking to examine the relationship between the well-documented gender gap and other kinds of participation inequalities.

The gender gap itself presents a troubling puzzle: Although women are just as likely as men to read Wikipedia, they only represent an estimated 16% of global Wikipedia editors and 23% of U.S. adult Wikipedia editors. Previous research, advocacy, and design has focused on analyzing or reforming aspects of current contributors and the existing Wikipedia community in order to understand and redress this phenomenon. While these efforts have given rise to important and valuable projects, they remain inherently limited because they do not look beyond the boundaries of the community to understand who is not showing up to edit in the first place.

In unpublished work, we analyze data about both Wikipedia contributors and non-contributors. We also focus on a previously ignored factor: people’s Internet skills, or their ability to effectively use Internet technologies to access and use online resources effectively. Our data set includes a diverse group of American young adults with detailed information about their background attributes, Internet experiences and skills. We find that the gender gap in editing is exacerbated by a similarly important Internet skills gap. By far the most likely people to contribute to Wikipedia are males with high Internet skills.

Our findings suggest that overcoming the gender gap requires addressing the Web-use skills gap, and implies several important directions for future research and design of wikis and related online platforms that aim to support inclusive participation. Future research needs to look at why high-skilled women do not contribute at comparable rates to highly-skilled men. We must also find new ways to recruit and engage would-be editors who possess lower levels of Internet skills.

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
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