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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Wikipedia: a male bastion

surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of [Wikipedia’s] hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html?nl=business&emc=ata3

 

What’s interesting about this statistic is that it flies in the face of some common explanations for why men and women end up in different places.

An “old boys network” is sometimes blamed for fewer women in academics or business, but Wikipedia is a purely voluntary activity.

It seems a bit unlikely to be general internet familiarity. That might have originally been the case, but “the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s” and a glance at Facebook clearly shows women in their 20’s are willing to spend substantial amounts of time online.  Contributing to Wikipedia is harder than updating your Facebook status only because you are expected to footnote it.

What this does support is the notion that sometimes very large disparities can exist without any personal discrimination, or even without any personal contact at all.  What are the implications of this for college admissions, job placement, and other similar contexts?