Women’s Wikipedia pages are more likely than men’s to be nominated for deletion
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Angela Merkel makes what is likely her last visit to Washington as chancellor, the care economy is a $648 billion opportunity, and new research reveals a disturbing pattern on Wikipedia. Have a fantastic Thursday.
– Deletion debate. There’s been lots of research about how badly women are underrepresented on Wikipedia. They make up roughly 19% of English-language biographies. Now new research from Francesca Tripodi, assistant professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science, gives some insight into that disparity.
She found that despite accounting for less than a quarter of biographies, women made up 25% of the Wiki pages nominated for deletion, underscoring how hard it is for the platform’s volunteer editors to get women’s profiles to stick.
“The problem of underrepresentation on Wikipedia runs deeper than simply missing pages,” Tripodi’s study says. “Not only are Wikipedia’s notability criteria a barrier for women, even women who meet these stringent guidelines for inclusion are still more likely than men to be considered ‘non-notable’ and nominated for deletion.”
Establishing a prominent woman’s notability is hard enough, Tripodi says, considering they’re less likely to be included in books, in the news, and in galleries. Then editors have to monitor a women’s published page to ensure it doesn’t disappear.
“[I]f nobody’s watching out for it, then it will be deleted. It’s exhausting,” Tripodi told NPR. “It’s a second level of work that, quite frankly, new people or new editors might not want to take on.”
This pattern matters, Tripodi says, because information on Wikipedia supplies other platforms on the Internet, like Google’s knowledge panel, and because Wikipedia is used to train A.I.
Tripodi’s analysis is a good reminder that a single instance of gender bias online can metastasize across an Internet that feeds off itself and poke holes in our collective knowledge about what women have accomplished. Recall, as Tripodi does in her study, that when physicist Donna Strickland won a Nobel Prize in 2018 for her work to develop high-powered lasers, she had no Wikipedia page. She had a Wiki biography in 2014, Tripodi’s study says, but six months after it published the page was deleted.
The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe.
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