Bias in Wikipedia Articles Towards Men as Default Gender

“Computational Linguistics Reveals How Wikipedia Articles Are Biased Against Women” (published last week)

“It turns out that articles about women are much more likely to link to articles about men than vice versa, a finding that holds true for all six language versions of Wikipedia that the team studied.

“More serious is the difference in the way these articles refer to men and women as revealed by computational linguistics. Wagner and co studied this counting the number of words in each biographical article that emphasize the sex of the person involved.

“Wagner and co say that articles about women tend to emphasize the fact that they are about women by overusing words like “woman,” “female,” or “lady” while articles about men tend not to contain words like “man,” “masculine,” or “gentleman.” Words like “married,” “divorced,” “children,” or “family” are also much more frequently used in articles about women, they say.

“The team thinks this kind of bias is evidence for the practice among Wikipedia editors of considering maleness as the “null gender.” In other words, there is a tendency to assume an article is about a man unless otherwise stated. “This seems to be a plausible assumption due to the imbalance between articles about men and women,” they say.

“That’s an interesting study that provides evidence that the Wikimedia Foundation’s efforts to tackle gender bias are bearing fruit. But it also reveals how deep-seated gender bias can be and how hard it will be to root out.”

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