Internet Skills and Wikipedia's Gender Inequality
with Eszter Hargittai and Aaron Shaw, Northwestern University
January 21, 2014 at 12:30pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor
Although women are just as likely as men to read Wikipedia, they only represent an estimated 16% of global Wikipedia editors and 23% of U.S. adult Wikipedia editors. Previous research has focused on analyzing aspects of current contributors and aspects of the existing Wikipedia community to explain this gender gap in contributions. Instead, we analyze data about both Wikipedia contributors and non-contributors. We also focus on a previously ignored factor: people’s Internet skills. Our data set includes a diverse group of American young adults with detailed information about their background attributes, Internet experiences and skills. We find that the gender gap in editing is exacerbated by a similarly important Internet skills gap. By far the most likely people to contribute to Wikipedia are males with high Internet skills. Our findings suggest that efforts to overcome the gender gap in Wikipedia contributions must address the Web-use skills gap. Future research needs to look at why high-skilled women do not contribute at comparable rates to highly-skilled men.
Eszter Hargittai is Delaney Family Professor in the Communication
Studies Department and Faculty Associate of the Institute for Policy
Research at Northwestern University where she heads the Web Use Project. Her research focuses on the social and policy implications of
digital media with a particular interest in how differences in people's
Web-use skills influence what they do online. Her work has received
awards from the American Sociological Association, the Eastern
Sociological Society, the International Communication Association, the
National Communication Association and the Telecommunications Policy
Research Conference. In 2010, the International Communication
Association selected her to receive its Outstanding Young Scholar Award.
Hargittai is editor of Research Confidential: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have (University of Michigan Press 2009), which presents a rare behind-the-scenes look at doing empirical social science research.
Aaron Shaw is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. His research focuses on political and economic dimensions of collective action online. Aaron's current projects address the effects of power inequalities in information sharing communities; the relationship between online participation and political engagement; the effects of online participation among venture-funded Internet startups; and the motivations of contributors to commercial crowdsourcing markets and non-commercial peer production projects. He received his Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in Sociology in 2012.