Gender Bias in Wikipedia and Britannica

The International Journal of Communication has published Lauren Rhue’s and my paper on “Gender Bias in Wikipedia and Britannica”. The method of crawling the sites, the large size of the comparison, and the guessing of genders were interesting technical challenges that once addressed permitted us to write:

Abstract: Is there a bias in the against women’s representation in Wikipedia biographies? Thousands of biographical subjects, from six sources, are compared against the English-language Wikipedia and the online Encyclop√¶dia Britannica with respect to coverage, gender representation, and article length. We conclude that Wikipedia provides better coverage and longer articles, that Wikipedia typically has more articles on women than Britannica in absolute terms, but Wikipedia articles on women are more likely to be missing than articles on men relative to Britannica. For both reference works, article length did not consistently differ by gender.

I think this work is a complement to the Lam, Uduwage, Dong, et. al (2011) paper that will be presented at WikiSym: “WP:Clubhouse? An exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance.” Whereas we look at content across sources, their paper is able to draw connections between the gender of contributors and their contributions. One area of overlap is that in “WP:Clubhouse” there is evidence of a gender gap in article length except in the domains of Nobel Prize winners and recipients of the Academy award, that is in biographies. In this regard – with respect to biographies of notable people – we agree and write in the conclusion that “if a subject is deemed notable enough to warrant inclusion in Wikipedia and Britannica, then the subjects, regardless of gender, may be treated similarly by the contributors.”

Complete HTML tables from the analysis as well as the data used in the analysis are available online.

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