back to top

Wikipedia's Gender Gap, As Measured By Famous Birthdays

A gender gap continues to plague Wikipedia, and one of its main effects is on the kinds of people the encyclopedia considers noteworthy. We took a look at this through the lens of birthdays.

Posted on

Ninety-one percent of Wikipedia's editors are men, and Valerie Aurora of the Ada Initiative says that skews the site's coverage of important people: "This is how you end up with the absurdity of arguing whether a woman scientist is notable enough to deserve a Wikipedia article at the same time that women starring in pornography [who win a pornographic award] are automatically considered notable." One way to see who Wikipedia thinks is important is to look at the list of famous births for each day. Today's is here, and I did a quick count of the men and women listed. It seemed sort of unfair to start in 841 AD, when most women were tending hearths and dying in childbirth and not getting famous. So I started in 1950. After that date, there are 46 dudes on the list, and 15 women.

Is this perhaps some sort of March 22 fluke? To check, I looked at March 21: 75 men, 15 women. And March 23: 66 men, 18 women. And in case March is somehow a particularly man-heavy month, I checked October 22: 54 men, 9 women.

To be clear, this doesn't mean Wikipedia editors are sexist assholes — it just means that the folks who edit the date pages can think of more famous men than famous women. A lot of the men tend to be sports stars, but there aren't a corresponding number (or even close) of female athletes — which means that if Wikipedia wants to achieve its goal of being "neutral," it needs more editors who are into women's sports. Would these editors have to be women? Not necessarily — as a Wikipedia editor pointed out in 2009, female Wikipedians don't all want to write about famous women. But odds are, if the site managed to recruit more women, the number of women considered noteworthy — on date pages and elsewhere — would go up.

h/t Daily Dot.