Today is International Women’s Day, and as a passionate Wikipedian, I want to give a shout out to everyone who is working so hard to address the gender balance of articles on Wikipedia. It’s no secret that Wikipedia has a gender problem, here’s the encyclopedia’s own article on the topic: Gender bias on Wikipedia. On the English-language Wikipedia only 17.49 % of biographical articles are about women. This figure is better for some languages, such as Welsh which achieved gender equilibrium in 2016, and worse for others. This disparity is hardly surprising given that women account for only around 10 -15% of editors on English Wikipedia. What is perhaps less well known is that, all over the world, editors, Wikimedia chapters, and Wikipedia projects, such as Wiki Women in Red, are working really, really hard to change this.
At the University of Edinburgh we are fortunate to have an amazing Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, who works tirelessly not only to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, but also to redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to become editors, and to improve the representation, coverage and esteem of articles about women in science, art, literature, medicine and technology. Ewan regularly runs WikiWomen in Red editathons and events for International Women’s Day and Ada Lovelace Day to name but a few.
In my own fledgling Wikipedia editing career I’ve created a whole seven new articles, all of them about women, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Ewan’s support and guidance. Seven articles might seem like a drop in the ocean, but those little drops can ripple out and have an unexpected effect.
Last week in school, as part of The Young Women’s Movement, my daughter and her class were asked to write a couple of lines about a person who inspired them. This is what my daughter wrote.
I choose my mum because she wants to empower women by making Wikipedia pages for them, she makes wikipedia pages for women who played a big part in history but aren’t known that well. #Gomymum
I hope by the time she is old enough to become an editor herself the gender balance of Wikipedia will have improved a good deal, but in the meantime, here’s a shout out to some of the amazing women who are helping to make that a reality: Lucy Crompton-Reid, Daria Cybulska, Marshall Dozier, Charlie Farley, Josie Fraser, Gill Hamilton, Melissa Highton, Susan Ross, Ann-Marie Scott, Jo Spiller, Sara Thomas, Alice White, and all my Wikimedia UK colleagues and fellow Board members, past and present.