Overly generous of you, David, really, and I cannot take credit for any original thinking in that brief response. My comment was carefully crafted to present a direct quote of verbatims from Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a scholar, and a gentleman who, like you, is far more qualified than me to assess the state of the world, and make projections, let alone offer solutions. The most important part of Dr. Greenwald’s expert assessment of the problem of bias was that there is no viable solution he can foresee for “many decades.”
I wouldn’t characterize Dr. Greenwald’s assessment as “doing a bare minimum while simultaneously casting blame.” He’s obviously done a great deal. While the Harvard Implicit Association Test validated the problem we already knew existed, it did not solve it, put a dent in it, nor did it reveal or even suggest any grand solutions. Dr. Greenwald’s keen objective scientifically trained read on it is what might otherwise be referred to as simple realism based on decades of research, millions of data points, and an unsurpassed highly-credentialed clear-eyed view of the world in which we live. Who am I to suggest he’s wrong?
That said, you’re familiar enough to know that being unqualified hasn’t stopped me from considering a line of action or two, based on what little I’ve been able to garner in the way of facts. Sometimes, David, our response to a problem doesn’t always have to be a solution to the problem. There is nothing wrong with saying, “We can’t fix this road, so we’ll have to take an alternate route.”
I don’t know for a fact that this is necessarily the case for the WMF issue. What I do know is that the site was founded January 15, 2001, giving men an 18-year head start. So let’s say WMF embarks tomorrow morning on an 18-year catch-up project to match the number of men’s submissions to close that gap of an 80% deficit (conservatively) in English alone. On TOP of that, WMF would have to collect simultaneously and consistently and incrementally the existing rate of incoming men’s submissions going forward, again, in English alone.
“Currently, the English Wikipedia alone has over 5,836,552 articles of any length, and the combined Wikipedias for all other languages greatly exceed the English Wikipedia in size, giving more than 27 billion words in 40 million articles in 293 languages.”
There are questions about Wikipedia’s real growth rate in sheer numbers of articles, but the amount of text appears to be in a quite steady growth curve. So the game isn’t just catch up, but keep up, as well.
It would take a gargantuan planetary English writing effort to play gender catch up/keep up, and such an effort would likely strain or even collapse WMF’s ability to fund it just from the work required to solicit them, let alone validate the submissions. And, speaking of validation: Wikipedia isn’t generally considered a reliable source, anyway. No accredited scholarly academic institutions or organizations accept it as a valid source of reference citations for academic papers of any kind. They’d be a laughing stock.
I could keep going here, but I think you get the point. The good folks in your shop were around, just as I was, in 2001 when Wikimedia launched. We all knew what democratization meant. Why would we expect the result of a democratized encyclopedia to look fundamentally different from a democratized nation in which quite similar inequalities abound?
It’s not about doing nothing and casting blame. As farmers know, if you plant corn, you get corn. If you plant strawberries, you get strawberries. If you plant weeds, you get weeds. And, if you plant nothing, you get…weeds. In 2001, Jimmy Wales planted Wikipedia. Along with the good stuff over the last 18 years, folks also submitted weeds. Other folks submitted nothing, apparently including women who needed to tell their own stories, because men can’t, and men won’t. That’s not blame, David. It’s democratization at work.
I am a WMF donor just so I don’t feel guilty about the shortcuts I sometimes take through Wikipedia to get to more reliable info. Of all the problems of the world that I can think of to work on, gender balancing Wikipedia content isn’t high on my list. If being underrepresented on Wikipedia was the worst problem my people had, it would be a pretty good day.
I’ve got a granddaughter in real college, David, and I hope to higher learning she’s not using Wikipedia to establish her academic standing or her identity. I’m sure Ms. Levine wouldn’t find that an objectionable position.
So my proposed solution? Walk away. The Wikipedia gender balance problem is both too big/expensive to fix, and too low on the list of global gender equality priorities. I mean, can you imagine F-1000 CEOs searching Wikipedia to figure out what to do to help women in their organizations? Would you suspect that the W.H.O. is scanning Wikipedia hoping for some global solution to women’s health to finally pop up? I can’t imagine the leaders of nations around the world gathering together at a U.N. General Assembly meeting or at the Davos World Economic Forum to present what they found on Wikipedia on how to better serve the women of their countries.
Well, okay, maybe one. But mostly not the rest.
I’ve probably already spent too much time rambling on about this, David. You baited. I bit. Great work, as always.