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Celebrating Women’s Day, the Wiki way

Participants editing articles about women in science.

How many Indian women scientists can you name? Go on! Think about this one. Think really hard. How many can you name, now? One? Two? Three?

I wrote this blog post at a co-working space for tech startups in the Southern Indian city of Kochi. I was surrounded by science students. None of them could think of a single woman scientist from India. Pretty shameful, isn’t it? And, there was nobody to burst our sexist bubble, except, Wikipedia. This page lists 15 women scientists from India. While I am grateful for this archive, it is hardly comprehensive. 15 women scientists from a country of 1.2 billion people.

India is currently Asia’s third largest economy and it prides itself on making many ancient discoveries. Given this context, it is unbefitting for us to come up with such a tiny list. (By the way, If you know of a more detailed website on this subject, please send me the link on Twitter – which you can find at the bottom of this page). Could there be women whose contribution to science have slipped out of popular culture?

Wikipedia has organized edit-a-thons for the entire month of March to address these glaring gaps in our knowledge. The goal of these edit-a-thons is to celebrate International’s Women’s Day that fell on March 8. During this month, we would like to enhance the quantity and quality of Wikipedia articles on gender and sexuality and translate English articles into other Indic languages. Anyone can join the celebrations as editors, translators, bloggers, event managers or enthusiasts.

We encourage more South Asian women to use this opportunity- right now 9 out of 10 Wikipedians are men. There are many subjects that may be of interest or value to women that are not covered in traditional encyclopaedias because the majority of knowledge-producers are men. Let us make sure that Wikipedia is diverse and voices from all sections of  society are represented.

We have kick-started the event with weekend edit-a-thons. We will provide specific topics and links to editors to write or expand upon. This month the focus is on women parliamentarians and scientists.

So come on over, put your editing skills to use, make some new friends and last but not the least, learn more about women scientist from India!

- Diksha Madhok, Wikipedian

2 Responses to “Celebrating Women’s Day, the Wiki way”

  1. Rohit Arora says:

    I agree that the concept of ‘edit-a-thons’ is fantastic, but the question you are posing here is very vague and domain-specific. I can easily name not 1 or 2 but 15-20 female biologists in India. If you ask me for the same list among the Indian Astrophysicists, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to give you any names – mean and women alike.

    Ok, why don’t you answer this one for me. How many Indian scientis (male or female) can you name who have published in high impact journals in last 10 years?

    Not everyone reads scientific journals as a hobby, so it is very difficult to retain names and achievements of the contributing scientists. Moreover, in India a Postdoctoral scientist gets paid less than a BPO employee. So not a lot of people choose to work in India in sciences, instead they work and publish from foreign unversities where they are better taken care of.

    It is NOT a gender issue. It is an issue of priorities. We need to prioritise Science, not a specific gender.

    Fun question: How many Indian women bodyguards can you name? ;)

  2. Leigh Thelmadatter says:

    Academics in general are hard to document because there is so little information published ABOUT them even when they are clearly notable.