Humility, reticence, and self-doubt: unfortunately sought-after qualities in a traditionally feminine woman, but terribly inconvenient when hunting for female experts. This is the problem currently facing Wikipedia, the go-to reference site and bane of professors everywhere. Out of “hundreds of thousands” of contributors, fewer than 15% are women. In fact, there is a larger percentage of female justices on the Supreme Court, which isn’t exactly known as a shining example of gender equality.
The NY Times article discussing the lack of female contributions among the 3.5 million entries explains that such unequal participation is common—according to the OpEd project, a NYC-based research firm that “monitors the gender breakdown of contributors to ‘public thought-leadership forums,’” (they have a company for everything now, don’t they?), an 85%-to-15% man-to-woman ratio is common. According to its founder, women are in this position because of a lack of confidence and an overabundance of self-doubt.
We spend the vast majority of our time listening to women… and they know their own minds. Think about your own experience: the formidability of Mom when she’s crossed. Your girlfriend’s dogged pursuit of the perfect outfit for New Year’s Eve. The exact specifications of your niece’s tree house. Do you doubt the women in your life? Remember that the female half of the population controls around 80% of household spending—women are speaking with their money instead of their voices, which is great news for advertisers, but less encouraging for the greater good.
We’ll leave you with a point from the article that struck home: Encouraging women to contribute to the internet’s favorite knowledge base isn’t some noble pursuit of “diversity for diversity’s sake.” Instead, Wikipedia’s executive director is looking to make the encyclopedia as good as it can be. “Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,” she said. “If they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb.” We know you know what you want, and we know you have opinions. The question is: Are you at the table?
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