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Study: Wikipedia shows large gender gap

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've confirmed a substantial gender gap among editors of Wikipedia and a corresponding gender-oriented disparity in the site's content.

University of Minnesota researchers say the Web site has become a premier online information resource as about 400 million people around the world each month visit Wikipedia, which harnesses the collective efforts of millions of volunteer editors.

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"Anecdotal information suggested that the smaller number of female editors may have led to a deficiency in Wikipedia's coverage of topics of particular interest to females," computer science doctoral student Shyong (Tony) Lam said.

"We wanted to do the research to see if this disparity was carried throughout Wikipedia."

Using self-reported gender information from more than 110,000 editors, they found only 16 percent of new editors joining Wikipedia in 2009 identified themselves as female, and those females made only 9 percent of the edits by the editors who joined in that year.

In contrast, the researchers said, the gender gap has nearly disappeared in other areas of social media or has even reversed, as females now outnumber males on Facebook and Twitter.

But Wikipedia's gender gap has shown no sign of closing over the past five years, they said.

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"We were stunned to see such a significant gender gap in Wikipedia," UM computer science Professor John Riedl said. "As Wikipedia continues to be a critical information resource, it is important that all voices be heard. We feel that understanding the challenges caused by Wikipedia's sizable gender gap can be a first step to finding ways to broaden participation."

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