Learning and Evaluation/Inspire Campaigns/Gender gap/Content

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Inspire campaign for gender diversity

Addressing the gender gap through...

Statistics at a glance

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New or Improved Articles
Biographies, created or improved
Biographies about women,
created or improved

Addressing content gaps
Adding missing content about women is a common strategy to address the gender gap, such as adding historic photos on Commons or creating new biographies on Wikipedia. As the the later section on female biographies shows, there is a clear disparity in the number of biographies about women versus men on most Wikipedias, and this disparity has a relatively straightforward solution. A volunteer project called WikiProject Women in Red is a great example of a content gap initiative that has made steady progress in adding more female biographies.

However, some content gaps are less obvious.

Full Circle Gap Protocol: Addressing the Unknown Unknowns is a Gender Gap Inspire grant based on the premise that there is “a lacunae[sic] about what *is* missing on Wikipedia: we don’t know what we don’t know… [And furthermore] we don’t know enough about systemic bias… to effectively address content gaps.”[1] To discover these “unknown unknowns”, these grantees piloted a method for engaging feminist scholars from the University of Washington, in unearthing gendered blind spots in existing English Wikipedia content. The result was multifold.

The group created a list of 21 articles related to gender that either lack an article or are insufficiently covered. For example, “[a] search for 'women of color' or 'woman of color' points to a page on 'Person of Color'. While this page seems to offer a reasonable overview of the use of the term... it fails to capture the unique experience of women of color at the intersection of racial, gender and often economic structural disadvantage.”[2] The group also looked beyond specific content gaps alone to identify social and structural barriers, producing a “Bestiary of Gaps” in which they outline six “gaps that hurt”, such as emotional work.

Learn more about the social and structural barriers that were identified:
“Bestiary of Gaps”

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Addressing content bias
Addressing the gender gap goes beyond addressing gaps in content. It includes igniting conversations and addressing bias in content, bias might be more subtle or even unseen to casual readers.

An analysis of almost 200 redirects on English Wikipedia illuminated that ~100 direct from male/female terms to gender-neutral terms, and ~100 from female to male terms
For example, “Ballerina” redirects to “Ballet dancer” and “Queen-Empress” redirects to “King-Emperor”.

Just for the record is an ongoing Gender Gap Inspire grant that focuses on these more subtle forms of content bias on English Wikipedia. In January, they hosted a workshop on the disambiguation of “Heroine” from “Hero”, as currently, a search for “Heroine” automatically directs readers to the article on “Hero”. They identified that this article on “Hero” used mostly male examples in the text and had no photos of heroines. The workshop culminated in significant changes to the article on “Hero” and discussion around the need for a separate article for “Heroine”.

Another event by Just for the record called Gender Redirect analyzed the process of Wikipedia editing[3] to investigate the possibilities and challenges of gender-neutral writing. They specifically looked at how pages are automatically re-directed to others (e.g. “Heroine” automatically re-directs to “Hero”) and the direction of those redirects: female to gender-neutral, male to gender-neutral, female to male, male to female. An analysis of almost 200 redirects on English Wikipedia illuminated that ~100 direct from male/female terms to gender-neutral terms, and ~100 from female to male terms.
For example, “Ballerina” redirects to “Ballet dancer” and “Queen-Empress” redirects to “King-Emperor".

These redirections may seem like minor technical issues, but they result in an encyclopedia that is rife with systemic bias. Raising awareness of these types of bias, starting discussions on and off wiki, and directly editing language can have a significant impact over time.

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Writing or improving biographies about women
Biographies about women represent only one facet of gendered content on Wikipedia. But it remains a place of obvious disparity. Looking across different language Wikipedias, women usually represent between 10% - 20% of all biographies on a given language project. For instance, women make up about ~17% (just over 22,000 articles) of all biographies on Finnish Wikipedia. [4]

Using data from the Wikipedia Human Gender Indicators gathered between September 2014 - July 2016, our team evaluated new biographies created on Wikipedia projects between Sept. 2014 - Sept. 2015, and July 2015 - July 2016 to see what proportion of those biographies were about women. We also took into the consideration of the size of the project, looking at large projects (with over 1 million articles), medium projects (between 100 thousand and 1 million articles), and small projects (between ten thousand and 100 thousand articles).

From 2014 - 2015, across all Wikipedia projects regardless of size, there were virtually no changes in the proportion of new biographies about women. On average, for large projects 16.56% of all new biographies were about women; for medium projects, 15.65%, and for small projects, 16.11%.

However, from 2015 - 2016, improvements were observed across Wikipedia projects. On average, the number of biographies about women increased by 0.39% across all Wikipedia projects, which amounts to 126,194 new biographies being written about women across all Wikipedia projects.[5] Based on the same data, we know the following breakdown:

Size of Wikipedia Project July 2015 baseline:
Female biographies, as % of total biographies (Average)
July 2015 to July 2016:
Average increase in female biographies
Large projects

(Over 1 milllion articles)

16.56% +0.27% or 1100 new bios per project
Medium projects

(100K to 1M articles)

15.65% +0.33% or 167 new bios per project
Small projects

(less than 100K articles)

16.11% +0.44% or 21 new bios per project

Through the 12 Gender Gap Inspire grants completed to date, 166 biographies were either created or improved, of which at least 126 were of women. These biographies spanned many topics, such as:

  • Biographies about early modern women writers, through the edit-a-thon for the Aphra Behn Society. This single day editathon created or improved 15 biographies about women, thereby increasing coverage of authors in the Women Writers Project[6]
  • Biographies on notable Ghanaian women, through the activities of Wikineedsgirls and the efforts of (primarily new) female contributors in Ghana.
  • Biographies on female linguists, through a series of editathons focused on linguistics.
  • Biographies about female architects, through the activities of Women Wikipedia Design. Writing workshops and editathons held over three months significantly increased the coverage of female architects in Wikipedia, creating or improving 71 biographies on notable female architects.

We achieved our principal goal of increasing both editor numbers and content, as is demonstrated in… the significant increase in Wikipedia entries on women in architecture. This has occurred directly through our writing workshops, and indirectly as a result of the increased profile that the issue received through our initiative. For example, In March 2015, the list of Australian women architects included only 10 names. As of January 2016, it has grown to 65... [Through our] Guggenheim collaboration, women in architecture content on Wikipedia increased by 38% by the end of October.

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Notes & References

  1. Individual Engagement Grant proposal for Full Circle Gap Protocal
  2. Gap Finding Project on English Wikipedia
  3. They focused on specific functions such as ‘view history’ and ‘talk page’, analysis tools like metrics and operations like re-direction and disambiguation
  4. These figures represent proportions of biographies as captured by Wikidata, to which there is a corresponding Wikipedia article. As of January 2016, 98% of biographic entries had a corresponding article on at least one Wikipedia project.
  5. Data from Wikipedia Human Gender Indicators (WHGI)
  6. Aphra Behn Society Editathon