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Editing Girl Talk

There’s a problem on Wikipedia, one that I am, as a male, not entirely qualified to answer, but has nonetheless incessantly perturbed me. Women have been statistically shown to edit Wikipedia far less than their population proportion would suggest. As noted in Good Faith Collaboration by Joseph Reagle, an encyclopedia reflects it’s authorship. Naturally the question arises, what can be done about the gender gap? I contend there is a glimmer of hope in finding a solution and the first ray shone on my face from the LCD when facebook news fed me this picture.

Katie, a student of the Wikipedia Education Program in her proud post showed that something was happening correctly. That there was something cool, so edgy in fact that it was Facebook-worthy, about editing, and that the appeal wasn’t male-only. In Wikipedia terms the fight against skewed writer demographics is known as “Countering Systemic Bias,” and the Wikipedia Education Program is doing just that. The logic goes that university students, the target of the Education Program, are evenly divided or woman-heavy in terms of gender, and so having them edit as an assignment would start steering averages. Now more affirmation is being received for that hypothesis, but also important details are arising in how exactly the bias manifests itself.

Zachary McDowell’s Writing as Communication course, a participant in the Education Program under my ambassadorship of the New England Wikipedia Brains In Education (NEWBIE) region, came second ...