Learning and Evaluation/Inspire Campaigns/Gender gap/Participation

Inspire campaign for gender diversity

Notes & References

Statistics at a glance

Total Individuals Involved
New contributors
Active contributors

Encouraging women to contribute to the projects

One of the most straightforward strategies to decrease the gender gap is to reach out to women and create opportunities for them to contribute in topics that interest them. Many Inspire grantees took this approach, and we've included a few examples to highlight the various trainings and edit-a-thons that allowed women to contribute in their area of expertise or interest.

The Linguistics Editathon series organized by Gretchenmcc did this by organizing six edit-a-thons over the span of four months, focusing on people and topics related to language. Participants at these events were linguists from Chicago and Ottawa, and overall, over half of the series’ participants (59%) identified as women.

Contributors at these events created or improved 103 articles, 15 of which included biographies about women. Some participants worked on an article over multiple events, to significantly improve the quality of the article; others worked to create new articles, such as the biography about Henriette de Swart, a Dutch linguist specializing in French language at Utretch University, and a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Importantly, participants also improved topics that benefited from their expertise, like minority languages (such as Sora Language on the English Wikipedia), and theoretical topics in linguistics (such as Minimalist Program on the Chinese Wikipedia).

Empowering Afrodescendant women in Wikipedia was another project that engaged women, particularly those of African descent, and addressed both multicultural and gender-related content gaps. The project was run by AfroCROWD, a New York based group who "seeks to increase the number of people of African Descent who actively partake in the Wikimedia and free knowledge, culture and software movements."[1] As one AfroCROWD participant Jeanetta Green said, “We need to take control of our own narrative...As a community, we need to take control of our stories, and dig in and get to doing the work of editing.”[2]

AfroCROWD has been successful in building a community of partners, volunteers, and organizers to engage people of African descent, particularly women. During the course of their Inspire grant, approximately 61% their event participants were women, and 50% of articles created were about women or women's issues (due to activities such as an edit-a-thon on “Notable Women of the African Diaspora”).

Wiki Needs Girls was a third project organized by the Wikimedia Ghana User Group, who conducted trainings in Accra, Ghana to 45 high school students (primarily women). Seven of the women who were trained remain active in the movement today, and some served as mentors to other women in the globally run Wiki Loves Women project, which is being locally coordinated in Ghana by the Wiki Needs Girls team.

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Creating tools and analyzing data

Portion of a data snapshot from Wikipedia Human Gender Indicators, showing a the total number of new biographies created across some Wikipedia projects and the proportion of those biographies written about women in a recent week.

In May 2015, a small team of volunteers outlined a project that would “raise awareness of the gender gap using statistical and quantitative means.”[3]

The project aimed to create a resource that enabled people to understand how the gender gap manifests in female biographies, particularly: how the disparity in biographies about women (versus other gender identities) varies by language (e.g. English vs. Japanese Wikipedia), and how that disparity has changed over time. Ultimately, armed with this data, the hypothesis was that communities could plan and implement new or revised approaches to reducing this disparity for themselves.

After almost 9 months of development through a series of phases - coding, design consultation, outreach, and statistical reporting - Wikipedia Human Gender Indicators (WHGI) is now available for anyone to use.  The project uses Wikidata to track the gender of newly-created biographies by language Wikipedia (and other parameters, such as country or date of birth of the article subject), and reports in the form of snapshots are provided weekly.

The project has seen solid evidence of usage since its completion. In February 2016, the site had approximately 4,000 pageviews and over 1,000 downloads of available datasets. The team also received important feedback from users on the tool: participants in WikiProject Women in Red characterized the project as valuable in their editing work, and helpful in identifying areas of need for their events.[4]

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Mentoring new contributors
Mentorship is a common approach to improving new contributor engagement, retention and growth within our projects. There are many examples of formal and informal mentorship models, ranging from larger online systems such as the Teahouse and the Co-op, to smaller, offline community meetups.

The Women of Wikipedia (WOW!) Editing Group piloted a new tiered mentorship model that paired college-aged mentors with high school students interested in editing English Wikipedia. The project focused on creating a supportive social environment where women could learn to research and edit, and included two components: regular offline meetings/socials where mentor and mentees worked together, and online socializing through Facebook and email.

The goal of this project was to understand the impact of structured social support, including mentorship, on a new editor’s motivation to continue editing.

Over the course of the semester, WOW! was successful in creating a core group of participants who remained engaged throughout the program. There was nearly ubiquitous motivation to continue their engagement: eighteen of the nineteen women who participated in the final survey indicated they wanted to continue to be a part of the editing group. Their comments highlighted the significance of social support: “Both my mentor and I are into computer science and I love learning from her. She is so informative and is doing some amazing things. It's great that she mentors me not just on how to edit wiki articles but also on one of my interests.” “I enjoyed meeting new people and delving into material we all collectively shared a passion about.”

This project provides intriguing insight into the impact of coordinated, tiered support on new editor outreach and retention. While WOW!’s approach is dependent on effort-intensive and high-touch support - and may only be appropriate where a dedicated coordinator is available to execute a relatively complex program - it may have applications in compatible high school or college programs that are staffed to execute it.

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  1. "About". AFROCrowd.org.
  2. Allum, Cynthia. "Women leading movements to champion equality on Wikipedia". New York Times. 29 February 2016.
  3. Project goals for the Wikipedia Gender Index (now called Wikipedia Human Gender Indicators)
  4. see [1] archived project discussion page