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Home / News / iKnowHow: building a wiki for the voluntary sector (part eight) Do women wiki?

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iKnowHow: building a wiki for the voluntary sector (part eight) Do women wiki?

Mar 29, 2012 by Lilly Price

The blog looks at whether women wiki and why they will with iKnowHow.

by Lilly Price last modified Apr 20, 2012 10:43 AM

I found a very interesting article this week that I would like to share with you all. It's called ‘the nine reasons why women don’t edit Wikipedia’, published in 2010 by Sue Gardner, responding to a New York Times article that revealed, that 'less than 15% of Wikipedia's hundreds of thousands of contributors are women' (reduced to 9% in 2011). A startling statistic that immediately caught my attention and had already been a topic of conversation at NCVO HQ during earlier research before we launched iKnowHow.

I remember looking for the largest and most popular wikis and finding it difficult to get past the many heavy duty computer game and ‘Star Wars’ wikis – both with a high majority of male contributors. My colleague Luke's best attempt at finding a wiki for women was one set up for ‘Twilight’ (with a fraction of the articles most computer game wikis get, and hardly the best representation of ‘wikis for women’).

Well Sue Gardner's article looks at why women don't wiki and lists nine reasons:

  1. Some women don’t find the Wikipedia editing interface very user friendly.
  2. Some women say they are ‘too busy’ to wiki.
  3. Some women don’t feel self-confident enough to wiki, and editing Wikipedia requires a lot of self-confidence.
  4. Women tend to be more conflict-averse and don't like Wikipedia's sometimes ‘fighty culture’.
  5. Some women think the information on Wikipedia is too likely to be reverted or deleted.
  6. Some women find Wikipedia’s overall atmosphere misogynistic.
  7. Some women find Wikipedia culture to be sexual in ways they find off-putting.
  8. Some women find it off-putting that Wikipedia refers to people as male by default.
  9. Some women don’t edit Wikipedia because social relationships and a welcoming tone are important to them, and Wikipedia offers fewer opportunities for that than other sites.

Like many other women who commented on this article I found some of these explanations patronising. But whatever we may think about them, the startling statistic remains: only 15% of contributors to Wikipedia are female.

Here at iKnowHow, we’d like to think we’ve created something that both men and women can embrace equally. Here’s why:

  • From the outset, we aimed to create a platform that is user friendly, so that anyone, with any level of web expertise can use it. We had several rounds of user testing (with both men and women) to make sure it was easy to use, approachable, intuitive and attractive. We’ve had no complaints yet!
  • The wiki is designed to suit every user, and actively encourages even micro edits, such as typo changes and adding links. Those with only 5 minutes on their lunch break can add a paragraph to an existing page. Those who set time aside can share their experiences by writing a case study. All contributions are rewarded with Blue Dots.
  • Unlike Wikipedia, or many other user-generated sites out there, iKnowHow can only enhance not distract from your work. Not only is it a place to add your knowledge and experience, it is also a place to learn from others and network.
  • Above all, iKnowHow is a supportive environment. One lady in Gardner's article said: ‘I am not thick-skinned enough for Wikipedia’. Well iKnowHow is a bit different. It exists in a sector that thrives on collaboration and altruism, not competition and selfishness. We hope it will seem welcoming to all.

With 68% of the voluntary sector workforce being female, it is very important that we erase the trend of Wikipedia and all embrace iKnowHow for the good of the sector. So far it looks like this is happening, with over 66% of iKnowHow contributions coming from women.

It would be great to hear what you think? Why do you think women don’t wiki? And how can iKnowHow continue to buck the trend?