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.
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.