Suruchi Gupta

Gender divides Wiki too?

by on Mar.30, 2011, under Uncategorized

An edited version of the underneath report was published on HT City, Hindustan Times, on March 22, 2011. It is interesting to note that the gender gap on Wiki cannot be accurately calculated since the larger percentage of Wikipedia users around the world refuse to share whether they are male or female while and if registering themselves. It is easier to find out which part of the world is a person working from on Wikipedia, since Wikipedia stores the IP address of the user making changes/adding inputs to Wikipedia, but it is certainly not possible to what is the gender of the user. A report I read said that Russians disclose their gender in the largest numbers (about 12.5%) which the range of percentage for other major languages (including English) is between 2-4 percent). In such a scenario, surveys remain the only way to find out what is the gender statistics. One such survey was conducted on English Wikipedia editors, which found what is mentioned below…

The international media is abuzz with the gender gap in Wikipedia contributors around the world. Also, a survey by Wikimedia Foundation shows that the English Wiki has only 13% women editors. As a step to level out this skewed ratio, the Indian Wikipedia community (read: Wikipedia communities in different languages across the country) is holding Women’s Wikipedia Workshops across several cities, including Kolkata. Probably a first of it’s kind initiative, it is experimental in nature, with future course depending on response from the first few ones.

“We are trying to understand what is the cause of this trend – psychological or technological? Although no statistics are there to support it, one can say half the users on Facebook are women. There are women bloggers too. So certainly, there is no computer illiteracy in the scene,” says Cherian Tinu Abraham, administrator in English Wikipedia.

“Our goal is to double the percentage of women by 2015, not specifically in India, but around the world. The big picture for this gender gap is, some reasons are global, while some may be culture specific,” says Bishakha Datta, member, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.

However, there is no denying that the social networking websites have more user-friendly applications than Wikipedia. To edit Wiki, one needs to know syntax, which many say, is no rocket science either. “As per my interaction with women, I have observed that they are more users than contributors,” adds Tinu.

In the Indian context, Bishakha explains, traditionally, Wikipedia has been organising workshops at the premier engineering colleges, as breaking the technological barrier there is the easiest. “It is coincident that men are present in these institutes in larger numbers. But otherwise, Wikipedia follows a very decentralised medium of spread, with the various languages taking it ahead in the way they want to.”

Bishakha thus says the next step could be by taking Wiki workshops to general colleges, art colleges (since more women take up Arts) and to women’s colleges with IT departments. For now, more than two or three women do not attend Wikipedia workshops, says Tinu.

One such workshop has already been organised at a women’s college in Pune recently. “Women think that this is part of ‘geekdom’ and thus not for them. Add to this, women feel marginalized in using public resources, not taking up things which are ‘out there’ for all,” says Prof Rimi Chatterji, author, blogger and Wikipedia contributor.

Reminds Bishakha, “For example, visit the ‘discussion’ section of the topic ‘woman’ on the English Wikipedia and you will know what I am speaking of.” The section is holding a stiff debate on which picture is suitable to represent ‘woman’ – dressed or nude, anatomical or general, etc.

Sanhita Gender Resource Centre has collaborated with the Wikimedia Foundation in order to “explore the use of Bangla Wiki to make information on women’s rights and issues easily accessible to existing & potential users,” says Soma Sen Gupta, director, SGRC.

By this, one is not sure of if any push is being given to divide Wikipedia on gender specific lines, even as experts say that the current scenario is male-oriented.

“It is not a negative step, since everyone can contribute to Wikipedia, as far as it is done from a neutral perspective,” says Jayanta Nath, one of the Bangla Wikipedia administrators.

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