Women and Wikipedia

Have you ever been really frustrated when trying to research for that paper on an obscure feminist, and Wikipedia has barely three sentences on her entire life? Or maybe, you were annoyed when the Wikipedia page for your favorite TV show has so many factual errors? And why would such a popular show like Gossip Girl have huge gaps or mistakes in the season summaries?  This is probably because the editors of Wikipedia, who are 87 percent male, are experts on neither feminism nor Serena’s new fling.

Hockaday students run drives such as Pennies for Peace, tutor middle school kids in all subjects, are recruited by top college teams and paint their way to first place in art contests.

Those who accomplish these feats are all female, but this doesn’t seem unusual at all in our community.

On the web, statistics differ. Of all Wikipedia’s editors, barely 13 percent are women, according to the Wikimedia Foundation. Considering the executive director of the company, Sue Gardner, is female, this may come as a surprise.

Junior Catherine, however, proudly edits “any page pertaining to Harry Potter” on Wikipedia, “at least three times per month,” as a member of that 13 percent of female editors. She even edits the Rangers page on occasion. But she admits that while she sometimes corrects facts, “for the most part, I just edits grammar and sentence structure.” Junior Leila does the same.  But these girls are the exception.

According to Gardner, the biggest problem is not the issue of diversity, but rather the quality of information. If only men edit, a male view will dominate Wikipedia, ignoring the female perspective.  For example, the entries of shows like “Sex and the City” look pathetic next to those of “The Simpsons” or “Entourage” because of the higher percentage of male editors who prefer shows filled with crude humor over ones about Manolo Blahniks.

“Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,” Gardner told the New York Times. “If they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb.”

Leila did not find the state of women on Wikipedia at all surprising and views it as consistent with behavior on the internet as a whole. She frequents the site Hipster Run Off where “more men comment but women are the main readers,” she says. Simply put, “men are more dominant on the internet.”

History Department Chair Steve Kramer agrees, adding “girls often lack the hubris of boys” and may think things such as “will I be right?” or “will I know enough?” which ultimately results in fewer female editors.

Additionally, many people, when asked about editing on Wikipedia, replied “how do you do that?” or “how does that work exactly?”

Freshman Madison believes it may be due to the way our culture assesses men and women: “men feel as if it’s their job to fix and change things where as women don’t feel the need to do so.”

But, why don’t daisies participate more to a resource they use and add in the facts they know about various topics? Though Kramer dislikes the site as a resource because “there is no reasonable expectation you’ll be an expert” on the topic you edit, Hockaday girls are experts on many subjects. We might not be able to edit the entry on String Theory, but we could certainly contribute to discourse on the Civil War from all those lecture in APUSH or Botticelli from Day Four HAM during Y period.

Wikipedia aims to expand female contribution from 13 percent to 25 percent by 2015. While they do not have steps in place to achieve this goal, fearing  it may alienate regulars  rather than bring in new contributors, it seems Hockaday girls, with all their diverse interests, could help to achieve this goal (in all of our spare time of course). To answer the question “where are all the women on Wikipedia?,” they just might be at Hockaday.