Jan 31, 2011

Gender is confusing

The NY Times reports this morning on an effort at Wikipedia to increase the number of women who contribute to its entries - because according to a study last year, only 13% of those who contribute to the online encyclopedia are women. I find this frustrating and befuddling, especially because Wikipedia seems to be the ultimate anonymous forum in which asserting your knowledge has few, if any, negative effects. The people at Wikipedia, including the female head of the Wikipedia foundation, would like to reduce the gender disparity, but they're not really sure why men dominate so much. Intriguingly, this statistic mirrors the gender breakdown of contributors to the nation's op-ed pages and other opinion forums, according to the Op-Ed Project, which works to develop strong female voices on the opinion pages.

For a long time I've been curious to get a good explanation of why men dominate Jeopardy. I suspect it has something to do with confidence in one's knowledge, but that's just a hypothesis. In any case, I wonder if it's related to the Wikipedia issue, and the op-ed issue - whether all are representations of women feeling less capable than men of sharing their knowledge assertively with the world.

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