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CIS-A2K/Research/Bridging gender gap

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Bridging Gender Gap on Wikimedia is a core objective of A2K. The following is a brief concept note on the research to be undertaken on understanding and addressing issues related to the gender gap in Indian language Wikimedia communities .

Bridging the Gender Gap on Indian Language Wikimedia[edit]

Introduction: Gender Gap and Gender Bias on Wikimedia[edit]

Wikimedia characterises ‘gender bias’ on its platforms as “a dominant majority of volunteer editors, particularly on the English language site, being male, as a result of which there is less extensive content by and about women[1]. Studies done over the last several years has shown that ‘this gender gap’ is not only the lesser number of women participants in Wikimedia events or number of edits by women, but also a range of such disparities in the active participation of men and women on various Wikimedia platforms. As per research undertaken by the Wikimedia Foundation and others, the number of editors identifying as female is between between 8.5% and 16%[2]. From this observation it is reiterated that this bias continues to exist and there must be a means of study and better understand the reasons for this persistent gap. The outcomes of these studies might be taken into account to map recommendations to address the gender bias on Wikimedia.

Recent research done by Ting-Yi Chang (2018), on “Bridging the Hidden Gap”[3] supported by the A2K team at CIS, illustrates a similar imbalance in Indian language Wikimedia communities and emphasises that it is very much required to focus on not only representation but also quality of contributions across gender. There were 8 Indian language Wikimedia communities which were focussed on and detailed information was gathered on various debates around what the definition of gender gap is for them, and the challenges and solutions they would suggest for the same. Chang also discusses incentives, possible outcomes and sustainable strategies needed to address this issue. This focussed study on the Indian language communities has helped in suggesting measures to improve community structures for new women contributors and for those who are active editors. An earlier study by Eva Jadine Lannon (2013) also highlights the hurdles faced by current and past women contributors in Indian language communities, and offered a comparative analysis with the experiences of women contributors in the general editor community (predominantly Western women on the English-language Wikimedia)[4]. Lannon has also suggested strategies that can be of help to bridge the gender gap in the Indian Wikimedia communities. In the last few years more work has emerged on this issue in various language communities as well, thus highlighting the need for better documentation and research on this problem in the Indian context.

Research Question and Key Objectives[edit]

In continuation with the work outlined in the previous section, this study will examine challenges in increasing the participation of women contributors in Indian language Wikimedia projects, and its implications for these communities, particularly for new women editors and the growth of women-related content. Three thematic areas of research include:

  • Developing a better understanding of online participation - in terms of content created by women, content about women, and online engagement with communities.
  • Developing a better understanding of women’s offline community participation.
  • Enhancing sustained participation of women contributors - challenges with retention, infrastructural issues, possibilities and strategies for the same, and creating awareness on how women can be involved with all Wikimedia projects

Proposed Methods for the Study[edit]

The methods for this study would comprise of semi-structured interviews with selected Indian language Wikimedians across selected language communities (Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Odia, Kannada, Sanskrit, Malayalam, Santali), based on their contributions and through snowball sampling methods. Apart from trying to understand the prevalence of gender gap in these language communities, with an emphasis on the thematic areas identified above, the interviews will also focus on specific initiatives undertaken to address these, with a discussion on possible solutions to the issues in their communities. Interviews may be conducted in person or over the phone, with written consent from editors. We will identify multiple contact points/resource persons within language communities to help coordinate with interviewees, and address linguistic barriers. We will also look for opportunities to conduct/participate in focussed group discussions (FGDs) with the communities to understand the prevalence of issues related to gender gap. These will be co-located with community events such as TTT, edit-a-thons and other forms of community outreach and engagement.

Research Outputs[edit]

Short report summarising key findings of the study to be circulated among Wikimedia communities and promoted within diverse open knowledge communities.


  • August - September: Finalisation of research methods and concept note, list of interviewees and questionnaire
  • October - December: Interviews
  • January - March: Interviews and FGDs; analysis and drafting of the report
  • April: Finalising the report


July - December 2019[edit]

From July to December 2019, the research questions and methodology for the study were finalised. Interviews were conducted with 11 women who are top contributors in eight Indian and English language Wikimedia communities. The interviewees were selected based on the extent their contributions and engagement with initiatives on bridging the gender gap on Wikimedia.

An early clustering of observations and analysis was also undertaken based on interviews conducted so far, which were categorised as:

  • Project areas of contribution
  • Awareness of gender gap and bias
  • Creating safe community spaces
  • Challenges of access and participation in online and offline spaces
  • Metrics to understand/improve sustainable participation of women
  • Awareness on community health

There were also some logistical challenges with the interviews, such as scheduling interviews with people around their work hours, regular follow-ups and issues with internet access. The next phase of the research will look at consolidating the observations from the fieldwork in the form of a final report.

January - June 2020[edit]

As part of the research for this project, 15 interviews with 11 Indian language women contributors and 2 focussed group discussions were conducted. Observations were clustered and the interviews were mapped according to the structure of the report. A first draft of the final report has also been completed and the first three sections (Introduction, Context/Background and Methodology) of the report have been shared for feedback with the team. The rest of the sections, including observations, analysis and recommendations are under internal review by the research manager. The complete report will be shared for feedback with the team and among persons interviewed, and expected to be published.

June - December 2020[edit]

The draft report was completed and shared with the team for a first round of internal review. An external review was also completed by researchers at CIS, and the report was revised based on the feedback received. The revised draft will now be shared with the respondents, and external reviewers along with the team for a final round of review and comments, followed by publication.

January - February 2021[edit]

The draft report was shared with the respondents, internal team and external reviewers for their feedback. Based on their suggestions, the report was revised, and a final version was published in February 2021. The report is now available on Wikimedia Meta Wiki, and the CIS website. This was shared with the respondents, and with relevant Wikimedia platforms such as mailing lists and social media.

The process of undertaking this research study has been helpful in understanding several aspects of the issue of gender gap/bias in Indian language Wikimedia communities. The study highlights challenges and limitations with respect to the participation of, and content about, women and other underrepresented groups on Wikimedia platforms. It also maps many of the initiatives undertaken by communities to address these issues. These include efforts in building awareness, undertaking training and capacity-building, ensuring more recognition towards the efforts of women editors, and addressing areas of work such as conflict management and community health. The report therefore offers a set of learnings and recommendations, which may be helpful in shaping ongoing and emerging work in this area.