Why Wikipedia Has Insufficient Content on Women in History

Movements that bring attention to systemic discrimination against women in various professional fields have been gaining more and more attention recently, such as the #MeToo movement. Bias is also noticed to be a problem on user-driven websites like Wikipedia.

Why Wikipedia Has Insufficient Content on Women in History

While Wikipedia is ranked as the 5th most popular site in the world with 8.2 billion page views on the English-language version in January, studies show that the site is underrepresenting content on women.

Signs of Bias Against Women

Wikipedia’s content can change almost in real-time, which is what makes it a primary source for current events, sports, popular culture, and other evolving topics.

Wikipedia relies heavily on a cohort of over 33 million volunteer editors for content creation and improvement. A study conducted in 2013 showed that only 16.1% of the organization’s editor base were women, and according to the co-founder of the website, Jimmy Wales, the number hasn’t changed much since.

If women don’t consistently edit Wikipedia at the same rate as men, the topics that are of interest to women will be at risk of receiving low coverage. According to Wikipedia’s own policies, all content must be attributed to a reliable and published source. Still, since throughout history, women have been less represented in published literature compared to men, it can be challenging to find reliable and published sources on women.

What Can Be Done

While there is no clear solution to systemic biases on the web, museums, libraries, individual editors, along with the Wikimedia Foundation, are making efforts to improve gender representation online.

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Why Wikipedia Has Insufficient Content on Women in History

There are organized edit-a-thons that create a community around editing as well as developing underrepresented content. They can start to increase the number of active female editors on Wikipedia and also empower participants to edit entries on women both during the event and in the future.