Women and Wikimedia Survey 2011

This is a report by Sarah Stierch about a survey conducted in 2011. This was an unofficial survey, not affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation.
For press and reviews about the survey visit here.

In January of 2011 the New York Times reported that Wikipedia was suffering from a gender gap, based on a Wikimedia Foundation survey from 2010, which stated that female contributors made up less than 13% of editors.[1] The news only got worse, as the Wikimedia Foundation released their 2011 Editor's Survey, which reported that 9% of editors were female on Wikipedia, less than the already low percentage.

Yes, there was a time before Wikipedia. United States, 1972

These statistics only made women within the Wikimedia movement more aware of their roles as contributors. Female and male contributors alike saw the effects of gender imbalance within the world's largest free encyclopedia and by bringing collective experiences together have started to develop proposals and goals to help improve diversity on Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia Foundation has made it a goal by 2015 to increase participation, including the participation of women within projects. Inspired by the frustrating statistics, my experiences and interactions with female Wikimedians, and the simple fact of knowing that the Wikimedia Foundation was seeking to improve and attract contributors, I decided to develop a non-scientific survey for women in Wikimedia.

I supplied 22 "questions", some multiple choice, some not. I solicited upwards of 500+ editors on English Wikipedia by leaving an invitation for the survey on their talk pages or through the "E-mail this user" link. The determining factor for me knowing a users gender were one or a mix of the following:

  • If they displayed an infobox on their userpage stating they were female, transgender (MtF), a mother, or a sister.
  • I utilized this tool which determines the activity levels and gender of project contributors. I tried to focus on contributors who have made edits within the past year, at least.
  • Some users identify their names on their userpages, if the name was decidedly female I also contacted them. For examples, see here.

I had only 3 male contributors inform me that I mistakenly emailed them.

I chose to focus on English language contributors specifically rather than have the survey transcribed and then the answers transcribed, especially due to the sensitive nature of some responses. I do of course encourage others to take my survey, find influence, and translate something similar (or the same!) into their own language. Women informed their contributing colleagues about the survey and in total 333 people replied. Out of those 333, 4 responses were tossed due to questionable sincerity in their responses, so the data below represents 329 responses.

I have never done a survey before, I just felt that it was really important that female contributors have an anonymous way to have their voices heard.

Thank you Kevin Gorman for your trusted assistance in reviewing the survey and breaking down the statistical data and Pete Forsyth for the proofing of this report and the solid advice as a colleague and friend.



Although this study is not scientific and has not undergone peer review, I believe it offers valuable insight into the gender dynamics on English Wikipedia. First, it offers immediacy: it was possible to complete this report in a matter of months, not years, and since information about gender and Wikipedia is scarce, the hope is that this study will move important discussions forward. Second, for those who are inclined and able to undertake a scientific survey, the kind of experiential information collected in this study may prove useful, by surfacing interesting research questions or important community dynamics.

Some readers may wonder about the choice not to use scientific methodology in this study; after all, academic rigor is something we value highly in the Wikipedia community.

The answer is simple: to conduct a rigorous and useful study that adheres to scientific standards would be very costly, and require a high level of academic expertise. The main obstacle to conducting a scientific study of gender on Wikipedia is ensuring that the individuals responding to the survey are a representative sample of all women working on Wikipedia. Sampling is challenging in any study, but it is especially challenging in this case, since it is uncommon for Wikipedians to disclose their identity or their gender, and since such disclosures, where they exist, are often impossible to verify. For more on sampling, see en:Survey sampling.

A brief review about what we've learned


The average respondent is 31 years old, white, straight, single and has a degree in higher education. The majority are hard workers - going to school and/or working full time - which often can take time away from their contributions. Respondents live in over 40 countries or places and contribute to over 20 different language Wikipedias, with English being the most popular. The majority of survey participants are from the United States and 96% of participants contribute to Wikipedia the most.

The majority of respondents began participating between 2006–2007 and 2010–2011. Most started participating because they feel that volunteering to share their knowledge with a larger audience is empowering. The majority of respondents keep participating because of the empowering feeling they receive. They also enjoy finding mistakes and cleaning up articles. They also think that contributing is fun! Topics that respondents contribute to vary, with the most popular subjects being music, history, art, literature, sports, politics, science and TV - with biographies about related subjects (male and female) being the most popular.

The majority of respondents edit existing content on projects, followed by many who research and write new content. Over half of respondents also patrol for copyright violations, vandalism and related problems, and/or participate in discussions about content on wiki. 14% of respondents serve as administrators or in similar positions, but only 3% are OTRS agents. The majority of survey participants are not active in outreach, local chapters or social activities off wiki. Only 3% of respondents are active in the tech side of Wikimedia.

Occasionally one has to stop editing or chooses to stop participating in projects. Most respondents are in school full time or work and go to school at the same time which takes up a lot of their time, followed by many respondents who devote a large amount of time to their work. Media speculation has led many to believe that many women have home lives that affect their editing - i.e. families, children - only 22% of respondents cited family or home life as a reason why they are unable to participate as much as they like. 12% of survey participants don't feel confident in their contributions, followed by 11% feeling that the environment is not welcoming and that they grow tired of their work being reverted, deleted or challenged. The majority of respondents don't feel the environment is sexualized by ways of content or social interactions, and very few participants stated that they have stopped contributing completely to Wikimedia projects.

Due to the overwhelming number of male contributors to projects, occasionally a female editor might be mistaken as male. 42% of respondents have never been mistaken as male and 34% have been; a small amount not remembering. Respondents are generally aware of the gender gap within Wikimedia. They feel that better outreach on all levels and the use of female spokespeople will help to encourage more female participation.


Germany, 1986

The average age for survey respondents is 31, the majority are straight, single, and have degrees in higher education. The majority contribute to Wikipedia and the majority of English language contributors live in the United States. The respondents in this survey contribute to over 20 different language projects and live in over 40 countries or places. The majority of survey participants are aware of most projects in Wikimedia, with Wikispecies being the least known.

How old are the respondents?

  • 308 survey participants provided their age. The average age for respondents is 31.
    • The 2011 Editor's Survey reported that the average editor was 32 years old.
  • The youngest respondent is 12 years old.
  • The oldest respondent is 65 years young.

Where are respondents from?


Respondents live around the world.

What do they edit and what languages do they edit in?

Writer Nancy A. Collins in 1988-89.

Wikipedia is the most popular project and respondents contribute in over 20 languages.

  • 96% of respondents contribute to Wikipedia the most.
    • 2% of respondents contribute to Commons the most.
  • 63% of respondents are familiar with Wikimedia Commons.
  • 47% are familiar with Wiktionary.
  • 45% are familiar with Wikiquote.
  • 31% are familiar with Wikinews.
  • 23% are familiar with all projects.
  • 20% are familiar with Wikiversity and Media-wiki
  • 16% are familiar with Wikisource
  • 12% are familiar with Wikispecies.

  • The majority of respondents edit in their country's native language, but many also contribute to English Wikipedia.

Survey participants contribute to Wikipedia in the following languages:

Albanian, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Faroese French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Interlingua, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simple English, Spanish, and Welsh.

What race or ethnicity do respondents identify as?


Survey participants could choose multiple races or ethnicity in their responses. Wikimedia is still a white dominated landscape.

  • 77% of respondents identify as white.
  • 6% of respondents preferred not to answer.
  • 5% of respondents identify as Chinese, Hispanic/Latino, or other.
  • 3% of respondents identify as black or African American.
  • Survey participants also identify as American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian Indian, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and/or Middle Eastern.

What type of education do respondents in Wikimedia have?

A satellite systems operator in the US Air Force, 2005

More than half of the survey participants have a bachelors degree or higher.

  • 59% of respondents have a bachelors degree or higher.
  • 21% of respondents are currently attending college or have some college level experience but have not graduated yet.
  • 7% have yet to graduate high school.
  • 6% have a high school diploma or GED.
  • 5% preferred not to answer.
  • 3% have an associate degree.

What type of relationships are the respondents in and how do they identify sexually?


Over half of survey participants are straight and single.

  • 57% of respondents are single.
  • 23% are married or common law.
  • 13% live with their partners but aren't married.
  • 7% preferred not to answer.
  • 69% identify as straight
  • 12% identify as bisexual/pansexual
  • 8% identify as lesbian
  • 8% prefer not to answer
  • 4% identify as other

Why did these respondents start participating in Wikimedia projects?


The majority of survey participants started participating in Wikimedia projects during the years 2006–2007.

When did these respondents start participating?


31% of respondents started participating in 2006 or 2007. 27% started participating in 2010 or 2011. Survey participant numbers about doubled starting in 2006 only to stabilize for at least every two years.

Why did these respondents start participating?


The majority of respondents like the idea of sharing knowledge with the world, which coincides with the mission of the Wikimedia Foundation, and over half were triggered by seeing an error and fixing it - a common first experience for most editors across the board. A large portion of respondents also felt the need to expand on topics that they have interest in; subjects that they noticed were not well covered in Wikipedia.

Participants could choose multiple reasons for their participation reasons.

  • 83% of respondents started participating because they like the idea of volunteering to share their knowledge and/or wanted to share their knowledge with a larger audience.
  • 54% saw an error and wanted to fix it.
  • 45% feel that they know a lot about a subject that isn't well covered in Wikipedia and wanted to improve coverage.
  • 25% of respondents were inspired to start an article that was red linked or contribute an image after noticing there were no images about a subject.
  • 16% wanted to learn a new skill such as Wiki mark-up, better citation, research, or related skills.
  • 12% were inspired by another person they knew or met to contribute.
  • 9% had to start editing because of a school project
  • 6% heard about the gender gap in Wikimedia and decided they would be one of those women to help close the gap by participating.

What were the subjects that these respondents first contributed content about?


Survey participants were triggered to contribute on a wide range of topics, many of which they still contribute to, the most popular subjects being music, history, art, women's subjects, literature, sports, politics, science and TV - but most notably, biographies about women and men in these subject areas.

This wordcloud gathers all of the subjects these respondents first edited about:


Why do these respondents continue their participation in Wikimedia projects?


Survey participants feel it's empowering to share their knowledge with the world on a broad level and to a wide audience, and enjoy the idea of volunteering that information. They also think that editing Wikipedia and related projects is fun!

Participants could choose multiple reasons.

  • 100% of participants like volunteering their skills and find it empowering to share their knowledge with the world on a broad level.
  • 71% enjoy fixing and finding mistakes, cleaning up articles, neutralizing content and other related janitorial tasks.
  • 62% think it's fun!
  • 47% believe that information should be free and that by participating in Wikimedia projects they are a part of that movement.
  • 27% think that by contributing to Wikimedia the world will become more aware and educated about a topic that women enjoy.
  • 23% like the transparency and open culture of Wikimedia.
  • 17% enjoy participating because of the relationships they have with others in the community.
  • 14% do it for other reasons
  • 9% edit or contribute for professional reasons: they get paid, it's for school...

What respondents had to say


...why do you continue to contribute to Wikimedia projects?

  • "It's humanitarian to me."
  • "Because I can."
  • "I enjoy maintaining and improving Wikipedia's dispute resolution procedures, and helping people to understand each other."
  • "Honestly, I'm not sure anymore."
  • "It's good practice for my otherwise fading foreign language skills."
  • "I enjoy research and writing articles."
  • "It's like an infinite jigsaw puzzle; always something more to fix or add,".
  • "I'm one of the last speakers of my language and probably would never get to use it otherwise."
  • "I see this as a civic responsibility to balance a gender inequality..."
  • "I want Wikipedia to be a well-written, comprehensive, reliable source of free information."
  • "To improve my language skills."
  • "I feel like I have something to contribute to the community."
  • "I have way too much free time on my hands!"
  • "I like spoiling vandals fun."

What activities are respondents involved in on Wikimedia projects?

A 1983 "work-a-thon" in East Germany

Most respondents participant in editing content and materials that currently exist on projects, but a majority also research and write new content. Many are also active in cleaning up others messes: patrolling for copyright violations, vandalism, or discussing the deletion of content or commenting on disputes. Numbers are disappointing in participation on other levels, however. Only 3% of participants are OTRS agents or participate in technical projects related to Wikimedia. Most also don't participate off-line in outreach or events.

Participants could choose multiple reasons.

  • 90% of participants edit existing articles, quotes, transcriptions or related content.
  • 76% research, write and contribute to new articles or content.
  • 67% of respondents patrol for copyright violations, vandalism and/or participate in discussions about content (i.e. Request for Comment, deletion discussions).
  • 41% upload media to Wikimedia Commons frequently or on occasion.
  • 19% of participants are involved in translating content
  • 16% are active in off-wiki social settings such as mailing lists or internet relay chat.
  • 14% of respondents are administrators or in related positions on Wikipedia or other projects.
  • 11% participate in reviewing articles or content for quality, good, or featured status.
  • 9% of respondents are involved in outreach projects like Campus Ambassadors or GLAM.
  • 8% are active members of their local chapters.
  • 8% plan or organize events like edit-a-thons, parties or meet-ups.
  • 3% are members of the OTRS committee.
  • 3% are active in technical projects i.e. Media Wiki

Why do participants stop contributing?


The reasons vary, but a large portion of participants are busy going to school, working, or dedicating time to friends or family. On the flipside, respondents also find the community confrontational and argumentative, which makes for a not so welcome landscape. Participants were also given options to voice their own reasoning; many cited health problems as stifling their contributions or inequality within projects, among other reasons.

Sometimes editors activity levels fluctuate. What are some of the reasons why respondents don't contribute as much as they usually do or used to?


The majority of respondents are single and have higher educations, and maybe in school still; that reflects in the results showing that just under half of the participants in this survey go to school full time or go to school and work, which takes a lot of their time away from editing. 74 respondents surveyed stated that home life kept them too busy to contribute more frequently; this actually coincides with the 76 respondents who stated they were married/common law. Is there a connection? I'm not sure. However, numbers are all over in why respondents might stop participating in projects permanently or for a time.

Participants could choose multiple reasons.

  • 41% of respondents are full time students or go to school and work, which takes up a lot of their time.
  • 32% devote a large amount of time to their careers or have other reasons for not being able to contribute as much or cite other reasons for fluctuating participation.
  • 27% of survey participants find the culture of Wikimedia too fighty, confrontational or argumentative which deters them from participating.
  • 22% have a family or home life which they put a lot of time and work into.
  • 18% have had poor experiences with the community that makes them not want to participate as much.
  • 12% of respondents don't feel confident in the contributions they make to Wikimedia and/or have a hard time with the mark-up.
  • 11% feel that the community isn't welcoming and would rather devote their time to blogging or social media communities.
  • 10% of respondents grew tired of their contributions being deleted, reverted or challenged.
  • 10% also feel that the culture within Wikimedia is sexist and that the male dominated environment leads to non-equal treatment of participants.
  • 5% consider themselves highly active editors
  • 5% stated that they have stopped contributing to Wikimedia projects as a whole.
  • 2% felt that the community was oversexualized in the way content is written, the media content on Commons, and the like.

What respondents had to say


...what are some of the reasons why you don't or can't contribute to Wikimedia projects?

  • "Sometimes I take a wikibreak to catch up on overdue real life projects or...holidays."
  • "I've had real life harassment issues related to Wikipedia which forced me to leave the project (or at least drop out of sight)."
  • "Aside from sexism there is also a lot of racist and homophobic bias."
  • "I'm not always clear or confident about what will be misconstrued as conflict of interest content. I don't find the community sexist, but I do think some editors don't know how to treat others equally."
  • "I spoke to a lot of female readers why they don't participate in the project and the answer is more or less the same: "I have family, kids, friends and I am working and there is no time for other activities or they prefer spending their "quality time" with friends."
  • "I find that when I start shouting "Idiots!" it's a good time to take a break."
  • "I find that the combo of the specific rules for "reliable sources" and rules against "original research" make it difficult to cover many topics well."
  • "Health reasons and new interests taking up time I used to spend on Wikimedia projects."
  • "I'm annoyed by Wikipedia's seemingly infinite tolerance for vandals and idiots; if it were up to me, a lot of articles would be permanently semi-protected, for example."
  • "Sometimes I am too lazy to edit..."
  • "I believe women in general still have a lot less free time than men. They have more chores in real life, with home, family, maintaining friendships, etc, as well as a job and/or school."
  • "The user guides are too complicated."
  • "I was too active in my chapter to be able to contribute at the same time."
  • "I loved Wikipedia and its community dearly, but I've grown tired of its culture - argumentative, rude, often very explicitly sexual in behind-the-scene chats and discussions, and it creates an atmosphere where usually the strongest character with the most stubborn stance gets his/her way in the end."
  • "I get tired of....tendentious time-wasting stupid edit wars over ridiculous things."
  • "I encounter a lot of racism and little is done about it. I simply do not feel welcome."
  • "Sometimes I get burnt out on editing, especially after an intensive featured article candidate or good article review."
  • "I have a full time job and have to work extra hours from time to time, so there is not always enough time left to contribute."
  • "I was an admin, I did OTRS, and I was involved in many areas of the project at one point, but the in-fighting and drama of the community became too much."
  • "I have migrated to helping maintain other lesser known/more focused public wikis."

How do respondents feel they are treated?

The bathroom signs at Wikimania 2011

The gender gap has stemmed a lot of discussion that perhaps female contributors are treated differently or view the landscape of Wikimedia differently than their male counterparts.

Have respondents ever been mistaken as a male?


With a male dominated environment, editors can make assumptions that their fellow contributors are male. Users might be called "he" or "him" in discussions on and off Wikimedia. Most respondents appear to have gender neutral usernames and it's a mix between respondents who are comfortable identifying their gender on Wiki and those who do not.

  • 42% of participants have never been referred to as a male.
  • 34% have been referred to as a male.
  • 19% don't remember.
  • 3% have been but believe it was in reference to gender differences in language.
  • 1% preferred not to answer.

Do survey participants feel they have been assaulted, attacked, or treated poorly by colleagues on projects?


Just over half of survey participants have never had a problem on Wikimedia regarding aggressive or poor behavior, while just under half have. Respondents had the option of sharing examples. Name-calling is a common occurrence, by both unregistered and registered users. While many participants do not believe that attacks have to do with gender, some do. Administrators and OTRS agents tend to feel that name-calling and poor behavior by users is expected, as well as those who use huggle and related bots. A number of people discuss off-wiki stalking, outing to employers, and related attacks off wiki.

  • 58% of survey participants said no.
  • 33% of survey participants said yes.
  • 6% said they don't remember
  • 3% preferred not to answer.

What respondents had to say

This word cloud features names that respondents say they have been called. "Bitch" is the most common.

Many participants responded with experiences they have had; a large portion are very sensitive in nature. This data will be retained and not made accessible to the public for the safety and concern of all parties.

  • "I do not reveal much personal information on Wikipedia, so it's an non-issue. If people assume I'm a male, I don't tell them otherwise, if people assume I'm female I don't affirm that...I like being judged on my work alone."
  • "The civility policy is simply not enforced, in fact looking at ANI on any day will demonstrate the admins themselves violate it, defend their friends who violate it, and in some cases actively state that it is bunkum. This is hypocritical and disconcerting, and goes beyond the specific issue of sexism (which I think is way overblown). I suspect most of the editors who insult me can't be bothered to consider the possibility I am female; they just consider insults and hostility to be acceptable modes of interaction within the project."
  • "Our mailing lists are a nightmare. There are no enforced behavioural standards. People are aggressive, snide, unkind, passive-aggressive."
  • "When I used to use Huggle on a frequent basis, I would get the normal "bitch" and other lovely names called for reverting vandalism."
  • "I don't mind being "wrong". I do mind being insulted."
  • "...personally have not encountered hostility due to being a woman on Wikipedia. I have as an editor had my opinion dismissed or made light of on one thing or another, but I don't believe that is gender bias, it seems to be more the result of a few antisocial or "king of the mountain" editors who antagonize both sexes equally. I think Wikipedia overall is considered cliquish and that drives off editors of both sexes."
  • "Very rarely do the personal attacks address my gender; I don't think most of them realize or care that I'm a chick. I've had one or two make some gender specific comments but it was purely from vandals and not regular contributors that I was having a conflict with."
  • "Christ, too many times to list. It's the way things operate on the Internet. Disagreement means the other person's an asshole. I'm guilty of it too....Makes me think I should go online with alcohol more often. It's more amusing that way."
  • "Many various attacks implying that I am stupid. Few with gender-based content, but in a couple of cases, those too."
  • "Insults tend to not be related to my gender, except those from trolls or anonymous vandals."
  • "I have been called many things - but actually never in the sense of sexual harrassment or other gender related assaults, but rather in a "neutral" way, such as idiot or incompetent etc..."
  • "To edit wikipedia, you need to be prepared to accept and ignore the crap that gets flung at you."
  • "Most recently, I nominated an article for deletion and the creator went on to nominate many of my articles for deletion (unfoundedly) and eventually the editor was blocked."
  • "On-wiki, it's not that bad-- mostly vandalism of the vulgar sort. On IRC, there's a lot of sexualization of the few women who participate, and that does get annoying."
  • "At the time I disclosed both my ethnicity and gender on my userpage, so perhaps I was "asking for it"."
  • "Particularly at Did You Know, some editors habitually treat Wikipedia as a debating contest."
  • "I think most people who've had extensive involvement with the Wikimedia projects have been treated badly by other editors. Really, this just stands to reason: it's a big community with lots of people, and there are no enforced standards of behaviour. I will say though that I have never been treated deliberately badly because I'm female (that I know of)."
  • "Another user or users didn't like the content I was adding (despite it being properly sourced and appropriate for Wiki) so it was constantly being disputed by the same editor or editors until someone else came along and stood up for my contributions or I just gave up arguing...."
  • "Well, accounts created to offend, pages created to offend me, stalking in IRC and mails.. and so on. Happened so much I don't care that much anymore."
  • "My contributions being deleted, reverted or challenged. The value of the information I've contributed has been questioned. My expertise has been questioned. The value of the participation of my students has been questioned. "
  • "My areas of interest and expertise are often attacked as uninteresting and trivial, and this has included a threat to AfD any article I write on a particular topic."
  • "I have often been insulted though I don't count it as personal as they have no idea who I am. I can't imagine how someone could be assaulted via a wiki."
  • "I have had people write snide things on my userpage. That's embarrassing, because histories are permanently visible. There's a particular Wikipedia style of being kind of aggressively polite in a very snide and condescending manner: that has bothered me, sometimes."
  • "When I first started editing, 5ish years ago, I added a bunch of URLs (links to archival collections concerning the artist) and I was accused of spamming. Someone else reverted things and put back all the work I'd done but it made me feel that I really had better places to volunteer my time. It made me feel that some of the other editors were haphazard and treating Wikipedia like an "old boys club"...And even though I know things have changed in 5 years, I still hesitate to get more involved because I really don't need a repeat of that sort of interaction."
  • "...I think many women don't feel empowered enough to feel they could really contribute to Wikipedia. As a woman on Wikipedia you do have to be tough and not easily put off or intimidated. You have to be able to defend yourself verbally and see yourself as equal to any man intellectually. I guess a lot of women still don't feel that way."

The gender gap: are respondents aware of it and what do they think can be done about it?

Mathematician Melba Roy at NASA, 1964

Are survey participants aware of the gender gap on Wikimedia?

  • 65% of participants are familiar with the gender gap in Wikimedia.
  • 35% of participants are not.

How do respondents think that the gender gap can shrink or how they feel women can be encouraged to participate more?


Survey participants felt that better outreach and female spokespeople could be keys in improving gender diversity in Wikimedia. They also believed that developing relationships with women's organizations could be beneficial. A visual editor is in the works via the Wikimedia Foundation, and 29% of participants believed that this would improve participation. Overall, it appears that respondents feel a variety of tasks, tools and improvements can be done to bring more female participation to projects.

Participants could choose multiple answers.

  • 48% of participants believe that better outreach locally, nationally and globally will improve female participation.
  • 39% of respondents feel that female spokespeople would inspire more women to contribute.
  • 32% of respondents felt that having more women involved as administrators, on-Wiki leaders, OTRS agents and staff would help.
  • 30% believe that developing relationships with women's organizations, in the vein of GLAM or Campus Ambassadors would improve participation.
  • 29% feel that a visual editor would make Wikipedia and related projects easier and more welcoming for people to edit.
  • 27% believe that change has to come from within the environment by educating male editors and volunteers about how to create a healthier and more welcome environment for women and through developing better policies and procedures, as well.
  • 23% of respondents feel that if other projects, like Wikisource, Commons, Wikiquote, etc., were promoted more by Wikimedia that women might find something else to participate in other than Wikipedia.
  • 17% of participants stated that they weren't interested in getting more women to contribute.
  • 15% feel that developing a promotion similar to the fundraiser to encourage contributions would help.
  • 7% believe that Wikimedia customer service and OTRS services need to be improved and better promoted.

What did respondents have to say?

  • "Ask all female editors to "recruit" at least five new Wikipedia editors."
  • "Stop using "This is why women don't edit" as a stick to beat arguments to death!"
  • "Better crackdown on sexist behavior."
  • "I don't think there is anything we can do. If someone wants to edit a wiki they will. It has nothing to do with their gender."
  • "...more short blocks for vulgar, insulting, sexist, double standard behavior."
  • "Greater visibility of female editors and admins, perhaps via case studies published in the Signpost, etc."
  • "Honestly I don't care about it enough to have given it much thought."
  • "I think women need to be less wussy when dealing with worlds that are perceived as male-dominated. My experience with Wikipedia has been welcoming and the fact that I have lady parts hasn't been an issue."
  • "We need to decrease tolerance for fighty-assholism which is currently the culture that rules English Wikipedia."
  • "I think that simply spreading around the fact that 91% of Wikipedia editors are male might help convince other women to start contributing."
  • "Administrators need to be more aware of stalking, harassment and need to take swift action."
  • "People should stop being assholes in general and more women will come."
  • "Stop assuming there is a gender gap!!!! Your data are seriously flawed and the stereotyping is making the problem worse. The education should be in *the fact there is a civility policy* and some of the worst admins are female!"
  • "Friendlier help for newbies."
  • "I don't see how having a majority male editor population has harmed me, or any other women. I don't see how changing it will benefit me. I don't think the lack of equal representation is driven by anything other than failure to show up and help, and if women don't want to work on WP, isn't it somewhat oppressive to go around telling them they should?"
  • "Make Wikipedia a safer place to contribute. Education all about matters of online privacy and safety."
  • "While I think there are certain changes needed to Wikipedia, I don't think these changes are more geared to bringing in women, rather than bringing in and retaining productive editors of both genders."
  • "Better responses to sexism when it occurs. Also racism and sexism are linked. There is a HUGE race gap as well."
  • "The culture needs to be less toxic, and women need to be able to participate at the highest levels without being harassed or cyber-stalked; this has chased off so many prominent female contributors. I find a lot of these reasons quite patronizing/sexist."
  • "Stronger sanctions against confrontational and argumentative behavior on the part of editors."
  • "Wikipedia is pretty technical and will remain so, so I think there will always be a larger percentage of males."
  • "I developed relationships on Wikipedia before my gender became clear; if anything, "coming out" as a woman seemed to make male editors in my main areas of concentration more receptive. I think many biases are unconscious, and that's where education comes in. I don't know what to do about hostile sexists on WP; you can't cure them in real life either. But in enlightened work places, you can either get rid of them or contain their toxic effects. I try to watch WikiProject Feminism and Women's History for notices of discussions in which gendered perspectives might need a balance. I don't always agree with other women (maybe they're much younger than me?), but I think that's good: it shows a truer diversity of opinion. Mainly, women editors need to speak up."

What else did respondents have to share?

  • On the gender gap...
    • "I don't think there's a misogynistic or sexist culture on Wikipedia, or that anyone's intentionally discouraging women from editing. It's just a mix of factors: from interest, women have less free time in general, to technical obstacles. I find systematic bias in terms of geography more troubling."
    • "The central reason Wikipedia has the gender gap is because the culture is toxic. Participation in any context out of strict article work involves having a battle to the death with poorly socialized, mostly young, men with nothing better to do. You don't solve a problem on Wikipedia by coming to an amicable solution; you solve a problem by yelling at your opponent until they give up. That's the Wikipedia way. The only people that that doesn't chase off in the end are people who are communicate that way. Beyond that, there's the reality of what happens when women who can tough *that* out advance to any prominence in the community: they get harassed and cyber-stalked until they leave. I struggle to think of a single female contributor I knew from when I was most active who's still on the site....The media will continue to chalk it up to crappy articles on fashion, lack of women-specific recruiting strategies, and such, but the reality of it is the culture is utterly toxic to participation by women, and that will never change unless the demographics of the project does."
    • "Never been a big fan of affirmative action. In the long run it hurts far more than it helps."
    • "Until the survey indicating a gender gap was released, I would have never guessed that only 10% of contributors were female. In nearly every major project or activity I've worked on relating to Wikipedia...the gender ratio has been fairly even or only slightly skewed male." (Comment edited for anonymity.)
    • "I wonder if this claim that 90% of Wiki editors are male is actually true?. Be aware that many females do not disclose their gender or actively conceal it when engaging in internet activities. I understand that since I have been subject to occasional low-level sexual harassment on the internet, although not in Wikipedia."
    • "I never thought about the gender gap and wasn't aware to it. It doesn't bother me as much; I would like the community to be more welcoming and less condescending. I find myself in constant fear that my contributions will be deleted, that someone will question their importance and so on. That's my major concern. I think that welcoming all sorts of knowledge will help welcoming all sorts of people, from all genders, ethnicity etc." (Comment edited for anonymity.)
    • "I'm not sure I trust the 91% number, and would like to see a breakdown between casual editors and more established editors. Among the established members of the community, I'd be (anecdotally) more inclined to put the split at 70/30 instead of 90/10."
  • On content...
    • "The weight the encyclopedia gives to porn, penises and TV shows is enough to turn off any educated woman."
    • "It does seem that less "feminine" topics are brought to FA, but I don't believe in genderizing topics as a whole. There are female editors who concentrate on military and historical topics, fields which are typically dominated by men -- but I don't necessarily think that women editors should band together to bring Jimmy Choo or Juicy Couture to FA-status. People edit what they want to edit, no matter their gender."
    • "The reason why women don't want to get involved? It's because they see Wikipedia's shameless male bias (look at articles like domestic violence, "false accusations" of rape, masculism... Or just look at the coverage of the film Bridesmaids and X-Men:First Class) and they know that it'll take years to right that bias. When I started editing my first gender related article, it felt like such an uphill battle. Where to begin? The male bias was so outrageous that I literally didn't know where to begin."
    • "I think we don't need more females contributors, we need to have neutral and complete content. If we need to have more women to have this good content, ok, we must have more women. But the first problem is the encyclopedia, the content. Not the gender gap."
    • "I think there needs to be more patrol for vandals and people who just like to delete information just for the fun of it. I think more random patrols would help. Maybe there could be an editor or a couple editors for each subject domain, such as couple for sports, a couple for fashion, a couple for politics, etc. It seems like there isn't enough patrolling going on rights now unless the person is in the media spotlight or the subject is well-known."
    • "This problem is a part of a larger problem: systemic bias that makes the content geared towards the way that white straight moderately wealthy males see the world. Other voices are missing or rapidly silenced."
    • "I use Wikipedia a lot but I contribute less and less because it's tiresome to see how easily mine and others' work is vandalised."
    • "The problem is that the women we *do* have in the community are mostly ones like me, who aren't really going to write content about more stereotypically feminine topics (for example, although clothing sizes is in pretty poor shape, I really don't know enough to fix and expand it, and would not be interested in doing so.)...What *should* be done is not "more women", but encouraging the expansion of articles etc about feminine topics, reforming the commons category system (as some of it is, in a subtler way, rather sexist), so that the content itself is improved."
  • On Wikimedia policies and procedures...
    • "Wikipedia policies are too difficult to understand."
    • "Editing Wikipedia is tough because the rules seem too strict at times. A page some people may feel is important might get targeted for speedy deletion because someone with power doesn't feel it is relevant. An encyclopedia should include as much information as it can, not just that which admins feel is important."
    • "Almost every conflict is a "my dick is bigger than yours" approach. Mediation, conciliation are non-existent. The project is too big now for consensus editing. For every pro there will be a con, and many of them are either arguments for argument's sake or, worse, ideological (and thus emotional, not rational.)"
    • "I can say I have personally witnessed a strongly argumentative culture around topics on Wikipedia, especially around topics that are considered "women's issues." Now I can't say with any certainty that it's because of this gender gap, but I do know that every single overly combative editor I've come across has been male and that dispute resolution tends to side with the male or no resolution. I think dispute resolution at its core needs to be less biased toward a combative Wiki culture, by penalizing those who use overly aggressive arguing techniques instead of rewarding them, which I think will go a long way toward reducing this type of behavior, and thus changing the culture at large."
    • "I believe the people who edit regularly are generally less socially adept and too eager to set up a lot of rules. While the project has transparency, the editing and consensus process has gotten increasingly opaque. Deletionism and abuse of speedy deletion are grave threats to the project, as topics of interest to women (biographies, traditionally female occupation, etc.) are much more likely to be challenged and deleted. This has a chilling effect on female editors, and I believe it disproportionally affects retention rates for female editors."
    • "...enforcing WP:CIVIL uniformly would help, as would eliminating hit-and-run speedy tagging, but really, those also are about helping newbies in general and encouraging a positive atmosphere. Not really good to tie them to women in particular. And it's difficult to pin it on the page patrollers or hugglers or whatever, because theirs is an extremely taxing job. We just need more people (who aren't the particular breed of teenager that has an ego bigger than their judgement, as many of them seem to be) to take on this role."
  • On the social aspects of Wikimedia...
    • "I think reliance on threaded comment boards, mailing lists and (especially) IRC is a turn-off to a lot of potential women participants. What year is this, 1991?"
    • "Wikipedia, in general, is far too unfriendly to attract the type of editors they want. It's a fighting culture full of grudges, arguments and pointless debates for the sake of "winning". Thus that is the type of editor they will attract, whilst driving others away."
    • I think that the general style of communication on Wikipedia is difficult for women. Tone and body language are absent. It's difficult to "tend and befriend" in a content dispute, especially since that sort of behavior is likely to be taken as a concession that your argument is weak. The "feminine" communication style is ineffective against, say, the pro-nudism man who has dedicated this month to alternately ridiculing and begging for "acceptance" and "tolerance" from the many people -- including every self-identified medical professional and nearly every self-identified woman who has responded so far -- who think that pregnancy need not lead with an artistic photograph of a naked white woman."
    • "It feels like a lot to take on by yourself, and it feels un-collaborative, like the other editors are your enemies instead of your co-collaborators."
    • "Another core problem related to this is the way Wikipedia works. Odds are you will contribute 1000 good edits and no one will ever notice you. Contribute an edit which upsets someone, and wow you will hear about it. Who on earth wants to contribute to a project where you only ever get attacked for your failings, and never praised for your successes?"
    • "Overall I have to say that being a woman never seemed to matter much in my little corner of the Wikimediaverse, as far as being treated as equal went. I could brush off the sexual remarks, and I actually found that in time many of the male editors treated me like a little sister and were extremely kind and helpful to me once they got to know me as a person (and not just as a female)."
    • "I think the way to encourage any new editors, male or female, to join and stay is to change from a combative culture to a celebratory one. Like many deeply embedded features of the project, it may be too late to change this foundation stone of the model."
  • On outreach...
    • Reaching out and coordinating a WikiProject specifically for stay at home moms that can centralize their community and topics of interest...SAHMs are a huge resource to be tapped into and I believe they are a "if they build it (and promote it) they will come" type of situation."
    • "I think that bringing in feminist men is just as important as bringing in women."
    • "Wikipedia needs as many good contributors as it can get, but there's no reason for them to be women."
    • "As women, we have just as much information to offer to this encyclopedia and can also help mediate to make this a better place for everyone to learn about various topics, cultures, and subjects worldwide. Finding a way to make that equality happen would be beneficial and, hopefully, there will be some sort of campaign or plan to make this a possibility. Appealing to different Universities or Colleges with the distinct direction of campaigning toward female editors could definitely tip the scales. Not only does Wikipedia broaden research skills, but it also sharpens grammar and writing skills. College students are definitely primed for this more than any other group."
    • "Most women, when someone says "come join this group, it's 91% men!" are going to run the other way, fast."
    • "When we plan events like Wikimania or local workshops and meetings we should take care about the portion of women as speakers, invite them personally and tell people that there are women in the projects and that they have reasons to be there. They are not forced to be there and they could start to talk about why it is fun and satisfying to be part of Wikimedia. We are talking about the problems mostly and that is good for the analysis and for creating solutions. If we want to do some self-advertizing especially for woman, talking about the problems is not the best option to make them curious and engage them to join the community. There still are fascinating and wonderful aspects in Wikimedia projects, even for women."
    • "I think we should focus on the women which are already there in the Wikimedia projects, in order to make them feel more comfortable, before we start further outreach."
    • "One way to get more women contributors would to be to do outreach with retirement communities. Retired people in general, but women in particular, as we no longer have husbands of children to look after, would make great wikipedians as they've got more flexible schedules."
    • "An advertorial campaign that hypes up the free sharing of knowledge in a way that is having a positive lasting impact on the world and how women need to be a part of it -- how their voices need to be heard in the development of what is becoming (or already is) the number one source of information for the English-speaking world (and growing rapidly in other languages)."
  • On the idea of a visual editor and the user experience while editing...
    • "It's so hard for everyone to talk about this without grossly stereotyping — that women can't figure out the editor, that women prefer relationships and personal language to cold hard fact-speak, or that women in general are less involved in the open source/open knowledge web community. All I know is that for ME, I can figure out the editor quite fine..."
    • "The interface is probably scaring off a lot of women. For non-tech-savvy people, it's intimidating."
    • "The default assumption of so much of what we do is that the editor is a geek... as long as we expect people to remember, unprompted, that the proper syntax for entering "oil on canvas" in the Artwork template is {{technique|1=oil|2=canvas}} we will never increase the general community of editors. If the user experience folks I work with in the real world designed interfaces like ours, they'd be fired."
    • "Make the user face a little more straight forward and jazz up the look of the Wikipedia site."
    • "The interface is simply awful and the writeup language, though not difficult, is so different from most online sites. One has to be quite committed to get started - and then snotty rebukes about minor things make it all seem not worth it."
    • "...wiki mark-up is currently one of the greatest barriers for the non-technically inclined, a user friendly text editor would probably lessen the gender gap, increase the average age, and more."
    • "Things like a WYSIWYG editor will assist more than just women (and I would be opposed to one unless it was, like WordPress, easy to toggle between plaintext and visual) and it is a bit sexist in itself to assume that "women can't code"- something that, as a compsci student, I get an awful lot of."
    • "I think wikipedia background and style isn't really appealing to women."
    • "I find the WP culture very difficult to understand as it is soooo technical. Instructions are over complicated. That has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with the type of people editing and trying to give instruction. We are not all computer programers. Write instructions in basic basic examples."
    • "...the markup is rather difficult so you need to be a little bit of a techie to feel comfortable with the challenge of learning it."
  • On off-Wiki attacks...
    • "I'm a former arbitrator, mediator, administrator, OTRS responder, and umpteen other things. The pattern of women at that level being cyber-stalked off the project is so thorough, and has happened to so many of us..."
    • "At the time I joined WP, there was some rather extensive and vicious harassment directed at women editors (those involved had been banned, but there was no effective means of preventing them from off-wiki harassment). Thus I chose a genderless username and did not publicly state I was female, until several years later when I was running for adminship. (Some people already knew, though.) This issue continues to recur; although much off-wiki harassment is not gender-based, I believe women are much more sensitive to it. We can do a better job of alerting new contributors, including women, about how to respond (or more particularly, not respond) to harassment like this."
  • On discrimination in Wikimedia...
    • "Like sexism I think transphobia is a huge (sad) part of the Wikimedia culture and I hope that it will change."
    • "When there is no compassion from mods and arbcom for the harm that racism and sexism do that is a clear signal that Wikipedia is not a safe place for women or minorities, unless we swallow accusations of inferiority, tolerate sexism, and give up on setting the fact straight instead letting the content of the project cater to protecting the feelings and emotions of the typical white male reader or editor."
    • "I believe more support for transwomen on Wikipedia is desperately needed, to make what is quite an inhospitable environment at least feel a little more friendly and welcoming. Transwomen potentially have a unique role to act as ambassadors in correcting the gender gap, as they have first-hand experience of the issues in an extremely acute way..." (Edited for anonymity)
  • On this survey...
    • "So glad you're doing this and have gotten us focusing energy and brains on this!"
    • "I'd like to acknowledge that your questionnaire is chock full of leading questions. I hope you are not planning to use the info in the public realm to demonstrate any point or finding. It seems you reached your conclusions before asking the questions."
    • "Thanks for doing this, and good luck on your project. It's about time someone actively sought out the opinions of female editors as the stats show us to be a very small minority."
    • "You are surveying the wrong population. We contribute to Wikipedia. You need to survey women who do not contribute to Wikipedia. Their reasons are the true cause of the gender gap. I am not representative of the population, because most women do not contribute to Wikipedia."
    • "Thank you for keeping this fireplace burning. Although the discussions about gender gap is nothing I really participate in I am following them and I think talking about it is a first step to change something."


  1. Noam Cohen (30 January 2011). "Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List". Business. The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2011.