Francesca Tripodi spotlights gender inequality on Wikipedia in recent paper and interviews

August 3, 2021

Francesca Tripodi, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), recently published a paper examining why biographies about women who meet Wikipedia’s criteria for inclusion are more frequently considered non-notable and nominated for deletion compared to men’s biographies. “Ms. Categorized: Gender, notability, and inequality on Wikipedia,” which appears in the June edition of New Media & Society, offers new insights and analysis to help explain why women account for just 19% of the 1.5 million biographies about notable writers, inventors, and academics on Wikipedia.

Francesca Tripodi stands in front of Manning Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus.
SILS Assistant Professor Francesca Tripodi.
Photo by Johnny Andrews, UNC-Chapel Hill

The paper created a buzz on social media and caught the attention of several news outlets. Tripodi discussed her findings on NPR’s “All Things Considered” on July 13 and with MarketPlace Tech’s podcast on July 27.

In both interviews, Tripodi explains how discouraging these deletions can be for editors who are trying to make Wikipedia more equitable. She also highlights the Wikipedia’s heavy influence on Google searches and AI interfaces like Siri and Alexa.

“When women go missing from Wikipedia, that absence reverberates throughout the 21st century in pretty much any way we go to learn about something,” Tripodi says in her NPR interview. “So discrediting the significance of women subjects holds really wide implications.”

A senior faculty researcher with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP), Tripodi also recently hosted an episode of CITAP’s podcast “Does Not Compute.”

The episode, titled “What You Think Is What You Find,” explores how search engine algorithms work, how media manipulators game the results, and how our own perceptions and biases shape our results before we even open the search bar.