It’s no secret that there’s a gender bias when it comes to the authorship of Wikipedia articles about the incredible accomplishments of women. Not only have female editors at Wikipedia been harassed by online predators, but there is a shocking disparity when it comes to the coverage of women and their role in both history and the present.
“Wikipedia famously bears one of the starkest gender gaps in contemporary culture — less than 15 percent of its editors are women,” writes Kat Stoeffel for New York Magazine. “As a result, the Internet encyclopedia is a lopsided, Axe-scented version of the world, one where Sex and the City has fewer citations than a single character from Grand Theft Auto.”
Thankfully, now that focused, impassioned attention has been brought to this issue, many people are striving to ensure that Wikipedia is no longer just a site to celebrate male accomplishments, but also an online encyclopedia that will be historically accurate and comprehensive when it comes to the efforts of women and their innumerable contributions to the world.
One such person is Dr. Jess Wade, who is on a personal and professional mission to make sure that Wikipedia celebrates and empowers girls and young women who are interested in the STEM fields. In order to help accomplish this, Wade, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London’s Blackett Laboratory, has used her spare time to help fill the pages of Wikipedia with information about female scientists from across the world.
In the past year alone, Wade has written 270 Wikipedia articles about these inspiring women, penning anywhere from 1–3 articles on these often-forgotten female scientists each day.
Meet Dawn Shaughnessy, @AmerChemSociety Fellow and radiochemist @Livermore_Lab who searches for superheavy elements. She discovered the elements w/ atomic numbers 114 – 118 and named 116 Livermorium . New @Wikipedia page:https://t.co/EYZaHE45qi #womeninSTEM x #RealTimeChem pic.twitter.com/97QiM64STe
— Dr Jess Wade (@jesswade) July 27, 2018
What motivated Wade to use her free time on such a task?
“I kind of realized we can only really change things from the inside,” she tells The Guardian. “Wikipedia is a really great way to engage people in this mission because the more you read about these sensational women, the more you get so motivated and inspired by their personal stories.”
Wade’s mission is certainly a crucial one, as research has shown that young girls start to lose interest in STEM studies as a result of peer pressure, lack of parental support, lack of encouragement of teachers and, most importantly, lack of role models in these fields. And sadly, even though these role models do exist, these female scientists’ accomplishments simply are not celebrated or discussed due to gender bias and sexism in online publications such as Wikipedia.
Meet Frances Pleasonton, a physicist @ORNL who measured the half-life of the neutron in 1951. She didn’t have a PhD and contributed significantly to crystallography, particle physics and policy. New @Wikipedia page: https://t.co/nuahyJe8vS #womeninSTEM pic.twitter.com/ANvxsk8TRa
— Dr Jess Wade (@jesswade) July 26, 2018
That’s why the efforts of women like Dr. Wade are so important and so deserving of our attention and assistance.
“I realized that this kind of bias has been penetrating through society for so long,” Wade told The Guardian. “Ever since Darwin’s time women have been fighting back. I suddenly realized I can do this: I can change it and I can make sure other people read this too.”