The vision of the Wikimedia movement is to collect and freely share the sum of all human knowledge. All human knowledge, however, requires representation from a wide cross section of all humans, and in this area, we in the Wikimedia movement have work to do. The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that hosts Wikipedia and other projects, releases periodic “Community Insights” reports, which include demographic data on Wikipedia’s editing community.
You’ve probably heard of the Wikipedia gender gap — that far more people who identify as men edit Wikipedia than those who identify as women or other gender identities. The 2021 Community Insights report, released recently, shows the progress that’s been made on that front recently: Globally, women made up 15% of contributors, but in Northern America, where Wiki Education’s programs operate, that number is 22%. In contrast, self-reported survey data from our program participants shows:
- 67% identify as women
- 30% identify as men
- 3% identify as non-binary or other
Wiki Education’s programs are clearly making a difference in diversifying the gender identity of contributors. The gender identity of our program participants has remained fairly steady throughout the 11-year history of our program; we know we’re helping tackle Wikipedia’s gender gap, and — with nearly 15,000 new contributors every year, representing 19% of all new active editors to English Wikipedia — we’re doing it at scale.
What’s new this year is data on race and ethnicity, which the Community Insights survey asked about for contributors from the United States for the first time. The report concludes that: “In the United States, both Black and Hispanic or Latino/a/x people were severely underrepresented in our communities, while white and Asian American editors were overrepresented.” While we always expected our student population was more diverse than the general editing population, we now have data to back up our belief. Note that the Wikimedia Foundation survey allowed respondents to select multiple racial or ethnic categories, while Wiki Education’s survey instead included a more general “biracial/multiracial/other” category, so the numbers don’t perfectly align. Nevertheless, they give us a good idea of the differences.
- 89% of U.S. Wikipedia editors identify as white, while only 55% of our program participants do (compared to a U.S. population percentage of 72%).
- 8.8% of U.S. Wikipedia editors identify as Asian or Asian American, while 18% of our program participants do (compared to a U.S. population percentage of 5.7%).
- 5.2% of U.S. Wikipedia editors identify as Hispanic or Latino/a/x, while 12% of our program participants do (compared to a U.S. population percentage of 18%).
- 0.5% of U.S. Wikipedia editors identify as Black or African American, while 8% of our program participants do (compared to a U.S. population percentage of 13%).
- 0.1% of U.S. Wikipedia editors identify as Native American, while 1% of our program participants do (compared to a U.S. population percentage of 0.9%).
- An additional 6% of our program participants identify as biracial, multiracial, or another self-reported category we didn’t offer as an option.
While we have room to improve to reach parity with the U.S. population demographics, our program is clearly helping address the underrepresentation issue identified by the Wikimedia Foundation’s survey. With 8% of our participants identifying as Black or African American and 12% identifying as Hispanic or Latino/a/x, we’re bringing significantly more diverse contributors to Wikipedia than the existing editing population.
Diverse contributors are important because we need to share diverse knowledge on Wikipedia. When the people writing the content don’t accurately reflect the population at large, topics, perspectives, and sources are missing. Programs like Wiki Education’s, and those of colleagues in our movement actively working to bring more diverse contributors to the English Wikipedia, especially in the United States, are a key part of enacting knowledge equity. Freely sharing in the sum of all human knowledge, after all, requires involvement from all humans.