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Women and Wikipedia

project contact:

Amanda Menking



grantees: Mssemantics

advisors: David McDonald


The purpose of this project is to conduct research to understand better what motivates women to contribute to Wikipedia and how to make community and design decisions to engage and retain editors who self-identify as women.

engagement target:

English Wikipedia

strategic priority:

Increasing Participation

total amount requested:

8,075 USD

2014 round 1

Project idea


What is the problem you're trying to solve?


The English language Wikipedia gender gap has been documented[1][2] and publicized,[3][4][5] but few workable solutions have been identified and implemented. Simply saying, "We already know there's a gap; why research it?" may, in fact, obscure some of the nuances of the factors contributing to the gap and may further alienate and invalidate editors who currently struggle with the effects of the gender gap. Moreover, measures to close the gap have not been carefully studied from an outsider's perspective. During a 2013 gender gap strategy meeting, community members noted that "0.6% of grants have gone to gender gap related proposals"[6] and that context based research may help both the community and the Foundation to make more strategic decisions.[7] Meanwhile, gendered discussions about the appropriateness of certain images for English Wikipedia's main page and how to best encourage new editors continue to take place on Wiki, in the media, and on personal blogs.

What is your solution?


My solution is to collect and then provide the Wikimedia community with aggregate qualitative and quantitative data that can be used to assess existing efforts to address the gender gap. This data may also be used to guide the design of future interventions or technology enhancements that seek to address the gap[8]. The data may include but not be limited to:

  • Stories of active editors who self-identify as women (collected via semi-structured interviews conducted in person, or via VOIP/video services such as Skype or Google Hangout);
  • Interviews with Wikipedians (including those who represent non-English communities) who have been planning and hosting editing events to address the gender gap;
  • Small focus groups with different genders who participate in events such as meet-ups, edit-a-thons, Wikimania, etc.;
  • Observations of co-located editing and mentoring events designed to address the gender gap--both those sponsored by Wikipedia and those not--such as meet-ups, workshops, and edit-a-thons;
  • Participation in and observations of non co-located (e.g., online, virtual) editing and mentoring events designed to address the gender gap;
  • An online survey designed specifically with the gender gap in mind;
  • Longitudinal measures of the success (e.g., the ability to attract and retain new editors who self-identify as women; lasting content created by new editors who self-identify as women; user contribution tracking) of co-located and non co-located events;
  • Content analysis of internal documents (e.g., project pages, talk pages, gender gap mailing list archives, etc.) regarding the gender gap and efforts to address it.

By eliciting stories of established editors who self-identify as women and observing what is and isn't working in the community (including sister projects) and measuring "success" in a quantifiable way, the results of this study will inform a range of Wikimedia efforts. For example the results can help Wikimedia to structure outreach to women and support existing editors who self-identify as women, especially with regards to the costs of the hidden, emotional labor[9] required to participate fully in some parts of the community. While prior work by Sue Gardner and others have studied why women don't edit Wikipedia[10], this work will instead focus on why women do edit Wikipedia and on how the community engages in discourse about the gender gap. Considering why women do edit, what it is that captures their intellectual, technical, and creative interests, and even why they choose to stay in a community that may be hostile to them is, in fact, an innovative approach. Relevant findings may inform communities beyond Wikipedia, such as educators and advocates for women and girls in STEM. Further, prior studies from 2011 may be out-dated given recent efforts to address the gender gap.

Project goals

  1. To elicit and collect the stories of active editors who self-identify as women and identify central themes around their motivations, the kinds of work they do, and their views of the gender gap. (In process.)
  2. To participant in and observe co-located and non co-located editing and mentoring activities.
  3. To measure the success of co-located and non co-located editing and mentoring activities.
  4. To analyze the effectiveness of community outreach (both Wikimedia Foundation sponsored and unsponsored) in the case of the gender gap.
  5. To aggregate data from the community, sharing suggestions for interventions and the design of research kits for exploring the gender gap in non-US, non-English communities. (Note: Although gender differences vary greatly across cultures, a resource such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women may form a good basis for commonality and reproducibility in non-English communities.)

If the above goals are met, the story provided by this data can help Wikipedia communities to make more strategic decisions regarding how we address the gender gap. Qualitative data (e.g., interviews, focus groups, observations, etc.) is not meant to be generalizable but rather to provide a richer or "thicker" story--a context for the quantitative data (e.g., records of user contributions, survey responses, number of attendees, etc.)--and a background for creating more helpful survey questions and intervention suggestions.

Project plan






Data Collection
Data collection will happen at editing events sponsored by Wikimedia Foundation. Because of the "critical mass" available at Wikimania, this event will be the primary site of data collection.

  • Attend Wikimania 2014
    • Conduct 1:1 semi-structured interviews with women who attend.
    • Conduct semi-structured focus group interviews with different genders who attend.
    • Conduct participant-observation data collection.
  • Physically and virtually attend editing events. At each in-person event:
    • Conduct semi-structured focus group interviews with all genders who attend.
    • Conduct participant-observation data collection.
  • Collect user edit histories using a custom tool and/or Wikimetrics.
  • Aggregate data (e.g., event data, budget data, etc.) and documentation (Gender gap mailing list archives, talk pages, existing kits such as this one, etc.) re: existing efforts to address the gender gap.

Data Analysis
Data from the interviews and focus groups will be transcribed and analyzed using a grounded approach focusing on themes and patterns of activity. Themes from the qualitative results and retrospective timelines of the users will be triangulated with the specific editing histories of the individual participants to understand which interventions in the past have had the most significant impacts.

In an effort to triangulate findings and better understand how the community discusses the gender gap, documentation regarding existing efforts to address the gap will be aggregated and analyzed using content analysis. Event data such as attendance records, lists of articles created, budget allocations (if available) will also be aggregated and analyzed.

June - August 2014

  • Attend Wikimedia sponsored and unsponsored events as available (virtually or in-person if local).
  • Attend Wikimania.
  • Collect documentation regarding existing efforts to address the gender gap and begin content analysis.
  • Request/collect event data.
  • Transcribe interview and focus group data from June - August 2014.
  • Prepare/design online survey.

September - October 2014

  • Provide midpoint report.
  • Conduct online survey.
  • Attend Wikimedia sponsored and unsponsored events as available (virtually or in-person if local).
  • Transcribe any outstanding interview and focus group data from June - August 2014.
  • Transcribe interview and focus group data from September - October 2014.

November - December 2014

  • Analyze data and draft findings to share with Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia community.

January 2015

  • Share data and findings via final report.



Total amount requested


$8,075.00 USD

Budget breakdown

Number Category Item description Unit Number of units Cost per unit Total cost Currency Notes
1 Travel & lodging Travel from Seattle to/from Wikimania 2014 London Travel & lodging 1 $3,500.00 $3,500.00 USD Estimate based on current airfare prices, lodging for 6 days at Thistle City Barbican Hotel, early bird registration, and misc. travel expenses (e.g., food, taxis.). Costs may increase with time.
2 Transcription services Transcription services for audio from 1:1 interviews and focus group discussions Contract 15-20 $60.00 per hour $1,200.00 USD
3 Online survey Cost of designing online survey Stipend/contract 10-15 hours $25.00 per hour $375.00 USD Funds to contract survey development work.
4 Researcher stipend Researcher stipend Stipend 10 hours per week for 3 months $25.00 per hour $3,000.00 USD Stipend to cover summer research work.

Intended impact


Target audience

  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • The Gender Gap research community
  • Current and potential English language Wikipedians of all genders

Community engagement

  • Gender Gap mailing list
  • WikiWomen's Collaborative
  • Wikimedia Diversity Conference
  • Wikipedia Education Program

Fit with strategy

  • Increase participation
    • Although community members debate whether the numbers reported by the UNU Merit study are accurate, the general consensus is that 1) participation is declining 2) 80% or more of contributors are male.[11]



At the completion of this project, I will document my methods, analyses, and findings for the community. I will provide a "kit" for researchers/Wikipedians who are interested in exploring the gender gap in different communities and on other language Wikis. I will also make all raw data available to the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia community. (Interview and focus group data will be anonymized and participants will choose whether and how much they want to share.) The aggregation and sharing of this information will serve as a foundation for more strategic community and decisions. If I secure University of Washington Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for this project, I will also submit the findings to relevant academic journals for publication, thereby sharing the information beyond the Wikipedia community.

Measures of success


Need target-setting tips?

  • Aggregated qualitative and quantitative data re: success of sponsored versus unsponsored events with regard to user edits and longevity of users
    • 10-15 interviews with women who edit Wikipedia
    • 5-6 focus groups with all genders who attend unsponsored editing, meet-up, and/or mentoring events
    • Online survey results
  • Summary of existing efforts to address the gender gap for English language Wikipedia



Amanda Menking: I'm a current PhD student at the University of Washington's Information School. I'm particularly interested in research related to gender and social computing. I've been working on an interview based study of women and Wikipedia since January 2014. This quarter, I'll also be a guest lecturer (with Jonathan Morgan and Dana Bublitz) for two sessions of both a Latina Cultural Studies class and an Indie Rock and Hip Hop class offered at UW. We will be talking about systemic bias, digital scholarship, and information literacy, and guiding the students in Wikipedia based exercises.

David McDonald is a faculty member at the University of Washington. His research focuses on how to make large-scale collaborative systems more effective for users. Dr. McDonald has published numerous papers on different aspects of Wikipedia. One of his Wikipedia research papers features prominently in the description of the Social aspects of academic studies of Wikipedia. Dr. McDonald's main role for this research is to guide and mentor Ms. Menking during data collection and to collaborate during the data analysis.



Community Notification




Do you think this project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project in the list below. Other feedback, questions or concerns from community members are also highly valued, but please post them on the talk page of this proposal.

  • While I worry that this is specifically focused for a USA based audience and does not address issues of systemic bias that address women globally, it seems like a good first step effort towards addressing these issues in a more formalized structure. Given the academic background of the participant, I think she has the potential to do good work towards accomplishing the goals and has spoken to enough female editors to understand some of the real and perceived barriers to female participation. I think this project should be selected. --LauraHale (talk) 20:26, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. I see it as a pilot. If successful, it could be replicated around the world for other communities. This is necessary research if we are intent on closing the gender gap. Raystorm (talk) 23:19, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. This project should be selected for an Individual Engagement Grant because I think it is time for positive stories to form a basis for activities to close the gender gap in Wikimedia projects. While I agree with LauraHale about possible drawbacks of a US-focus, I think it will be worth while to have a pilot project of this shape and kind with a sound academic backdrop. In any case, this is what the idea of a pilot is about: make sure it is adaptable later on. I see good chances that the results of this project will be malleable enough to achieve good pilot functionality. --C.Koltzenburg (talk) 15:16, 5 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Hey, anything that results in more than just vandalism from twelve-year-old boys on my watchlist. I'm kidding...sort of. I see this as potentially helping to contribute more generally to problems of user attrition and article degradation; Wikipedia's userbase has plateaued (or perhaps is decreasing slightly), and is overwhelmingly young men and boys, who often exhibit certain systematic defects in quality control. More edits from women editors means more editors; more high-quality edits from women means more high-quality edits. Chubbles (talk) 07:51, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. I look forward to seeing the results of this research. There has always been more talk than action on the subject of the gender gap, and lately I've even noticed a drop-off in talk. I'm concerned that some members of our movement feel like we've solved the problem, just because the topic got a lot coverage in the mainstream press a few years ago. Jtmorgan (talk) 18:41, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Strong Support This seems like a really good way to help us improve our efforts to attract women to editing. I love the idea of it getting coverage outside of our community, but I would support it even if that falls through. Documenting everything should, as others have mentioned, allow others to reproduce this work for their own communities or to update the results down the road. I have high hopes for this project. Zellfaze (talk) 20:24, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Support -- with the same caveats regarding US bias mentioned above and the hope that it will be a pilot study for a larger initiative. Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 19:34, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Community member: add your name and rationale here.