Grants:IdeaLab/Research gender affinity for different subjects on Wikipedia

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
IdeaLab beaker and flask.svg
Research gender affinity for different subjects on Wikipedia
There is a lack of clarity over what subjects women are interested in, what articles they edit, whether more women on Wikipedia would mean more coverage of certain areas, etc. We should research this rather than guessing.
Hex icon with lightning white.svg
idea creator
Skud (WMF)
this project needs...
Hex icon with hand black.svg
Hex icon with hexes black.svg
Hex icon with lightning black.svg
Hex icon with star black.svg
project manager
Hex icon with bee black.svg
community organizer
Hex icon with flask black.svg
created on01:27, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

We're unclear on the relationship between the lack of women editors on Wikipedia, and the lack of content related to women.

There have been several studies that show there is a dearth of women editing Wikipedia/contributing to Wikimedia projects generally. There have also been various studies (including a large number of informal ones) that point out the lack of coverage of "women's subjects".

There are two main problems:

1. What are "women's subjects"? Are there subject areas that women (on average, across the population) care more about, statistically speaking? At present we're using really fudged approximations for this (usually women's biographies).

2. What correlation is there, if any, between the lack of women contributors and the lack of coverage of women's subjects? Is it reasonable to assume that more women would mean more coverage of those subjects? We haven't connected the dots on this at all, yet.

In finding answers to these questions, we could more usefully target efforts towards gender equality on Wikipedia, bringing us closer to "a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge".

What is your solution?[edit]

A research project studying the relationship between women editors, and categories of subject matter on Wikipedia.

I am not sure exactly what form this would take but I have a few ideas, including:

  • A literature review from the fields of media studies, librarianship, education, marketing, gender studies, social psychology, or any other relevant field, looking for studies that illuminate gendered preferences regarding subject matter. For instance, this study of Favorite Films and Film Genres As A Function of Race, Age, and Gender. Surely there are many studies along these lines? IMPORTANT NOTE: this doesn't mean that eg. all women like rom-coms and all men like action films, it's about population averages.
  • Correlate these subject areas with Wikipedia categories. Eg. "Romance" films from the above study would relate to en:Category:Romance_films_by_genre.
  • It would be awesome to be able to get some kind of numeric value to express the gender affinity of a given Wikipedia page based on its categories and related subjects as above, eg. topic X would be rated 0.7 interest to men and 0.9 interest to women, on average. Or maybe just a "male, female, neutral" indication. Even if somewhat flawed for a specific article, across the whole corpus this might help us with statistical analyses (as below).
  • Given the findings from the above studies, analyse Wikipedia coverage of various subjects. For instance, see whether there is a correlation between male/female affinity for a subject and length of article, number of edits, number of inbound links, article quality, etc. (You could use similar methodologies to the studies listed in this FAQ.) As far as I know this would be the first significant attempt to study articles other than biographies in this way.
  • Take samples of Wikimedia editors who have disclosed their gender (eg. through language preferences) and analyse their contribution histories to see if there is a correlation between the editor's gender and the articles they edit (in terms of gender affinity for that article's subject matter). If we had a numeric "gender affinity" measure for each article this would be a simple correlation to run.
  • Examine RfDs, revert histories, edit wars, etc, and see whether there is any correlation based on gender affinity. Eg. are articles related to subjects of interest to women more often put up for deletion?
  • It would be interesting to do a similar gender affinity breakdown within, for instance, health articles, and run similar statistical analyses on them. For instance you could use epidemiology stats for different serious diseases (eg cancer) to find out how much they affect men and women, and then run article quality analyses, editor affinity analyses, etc.


Get Involved[edit]



  • It would help if stub articles by women about themes traditionally of more interest to women didn't just get deleted with an "irrelevant".

You might want to try surveying the readers of articles for their gender, and survey and count readers at search failures, too. 2001:A60:F000:67:0:0:0:2 07:28, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

  • A better understanding of the relationship between contributors and content would be helpful. Good idea for research... Ocaasi (talk) 00:26, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • This idea addresses finding data to determine the basis for the disparity in sex representation of contributors.

Any supposition without this data on what might be the causes for the disparity is simply supposition, and may result in wasted efforts. For this reason I believe this idea should be given high priority. OnHawkspur (talk) 00:38, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

  • The lack of basic and reliable data to analyse is a huge handicap here. One thing that could easily be done is to compare WP's coverage of breast and prostate cancers, though I think that it would quickly and clearly show the former is better covered (in en:wp anyway). Of course that might relate to age-discimination issues also. I have analysed (WMF blog last year) the gender aspects of the coverage of new 2014 Fellows of the Royal Society (the UK's National Academy of the Sciences) & this easy excercise could easily be repeated for the US & other national academies. Johnbod (talk) 16:01, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
  • An important question. I think the project needs scoping in order to be achievable. Worth doing! Jodi.a.schneider (talk) 19:59, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Great idea, but this would require thisGrants:IdeaLab/Face_new_editors_with_the_possibility_of_specifying_their_gender first, I guess? CayceP (talk) 16:14, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Endorse if this also looks at topic areas women have attempted to edit and been driven away from because of hostility from male editors, i.e., "male" areas like sports, politics, economics, sciences, and various gender related topics which some males feel make males in general look bad, or are too encouraging of "feminist" behavior. Carolmooredc (talk) 19:16, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this is an idea worth pursuing. We need some concrete knowledge about what women want if we truly want to increase Wikipedia's appeal and use by women. Libcub (talk) 22:57, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
  • It's a very important point, the first thing to do. I know some women who contribute and they are not want you would call a "typical" woman. In fact, I don't know what female subjects are (beauty, needle work?). To contribute it needs a minimum of technical interest and even some men do not contribute because they don't have it. Newcomers who don't know how to wikify etc. are often received in a very aggressive manner, many women will not come back after such a "welcome". Traumrune (talk) 20:36, 31 March 2015 (UTC)

Expand your idea[edit]

Do you want to submit your idea for funding from the Wikimedia Foundation?

Expand your idea into a grant proposal