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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Posts Tagged ‘gender gap’

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

Why Wikipedians should love librarians

Merrilee wants YOU to work with your local libraries to improve Wikipedia!

Last year marked the start of Wikipedia Loves Libraries (WLL), and in 2012, WLL activities are in full swing, with many events planned in the coming month. WLL was originally conceived as a way of celebrating Open Access Week, but we now have WLL events throughout the year. As a librarian who is interested in seeing more coordination between libraries and other cultural heritage organizations (i.e. GLAM), I’d like to offer some perspectives on why libraries and Wikipedia are so well aligned with one another.

The bottom line is that we share a common mission. We are dedicated to providing free access to information and knowledge. Wikipedians want to strengthen their articles by citing credible sources. If those sources are in print, or hidden behind paywalls, it undermines the important tenant of free access.

Libraries collect those same credible sources and make them freely available to patrons. Partnering with libraries helps keep sources free. Librarians value “information literacy,” which means teaching the general public to recognize, appreciate and rely on credible sources. Sound familiar? Teaching basic Wikipedia editing skills can be a great, practical way to re-enforce information literacy skills.

Encouraging more librarians to become Wikipedians will also help address the gender gap. Librarians are an almost mirror image of Wikipedians in terms of gender – a March 2012 survey of members of the American Library Association found that 80.7 percent of those in the profession are female (versus about 10 percent of Wikipedians).

So, if you haven’t already, reach out to your local librarian. Suggest a WLL event, or find out if you can use library space to hold an editathon on a topic of local interest. Ask for help from your library in promoting events, not only to library patrons, but also to staff. Be patient, and recognize that librarians may move at a slower pace than Wikipedians (and that they have a range of other events and activities on top of their day-to-day duties). Be complementary to see if you can find a way for Wikipedia activities to harmonize with areas where the library is already investing. If you make the effort, I think you’ll have a good shot at creating a beautiful partnership, and creating some new Wikipedians in the process.

-Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research (User:Mlet)


Wiki women joining Indic languages

Netha Hussain

User:Netha Hussain‘s inspiring story is a wonderful way of celebrating Women’s History Month. Netha is a woman editor of the Malayalam language Wikipedia from the state of Kerala in India.

Netha is both a medical student and a Wikipedian. She mostly edits articles related to medicine/biology, literature and women’s biographies. She used to maintain a portal for biology on the Malayalam Wikipedia and is presently working to create and improve its most important health articles.

Netha recalls how she landed up on Wikipedia searching for a kind of chutney made in Malayali cuisine, ‘Chammandi‘, and after realizing there was no article on it, started it herself. Initially reluctant to edit in Malayalam, it is actually through Wikipedia that she brushed up her language skills well enough to write a Featured Article in Malayalam within a year! On the English Wikpedia, she started by editing the article about her college.

As it is so often the case, until Netha landed up at a WikiAcademy in Kozhikode, not many knew she was a female editor! She has taken up the challenge to bridge this gender gap and now runs mailing list discussions for women Wikimedians in Malayalam to share their experiences and build offline relationships. “Most of my friends online are Wikipedians”, she quips.

About welcoming women editors on Wikipedia, especially its Indic language versions, she says, “The community is very receptive to women editors. I was not privileged or discriminated just because I was a woman. I was encouraged to work on women’s biographies which were mostly stubs. With my help, many good quality articles on famous women were created on Malayalam Wikipedia.”

As in Netha’s case, in most Indic language Wikipedias it is easier to make substantial contributions than in other projects. Netha believes that the role of women is not different from the role from men in their contribution to free knowledge movements.

Netha believes her medical dreams and her Wikipedia editing reflect aligned missions “to empower people with knowledge and fulfill our duties towards the society.” (To reach out to her, the best place is her talk page.)

Noopur Raval, Consultant (Communications), India Program, Wikimedia Foundation

Campus Ambassador program tackles gender gap

A key piece of Wikimedia’s strategic plan is to close the gender gap by encouraging more women to participate in projects. One area where we already see progress is the Wikipedia Ambassadors program, developed in conjunction with the Public Policy Initiative. During the 2010-11 academic year, university students across the United States are writing Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework, and they learn the Wikipedia basics from trained Campus Ambassadors who come into the classroom to teach students how to start contributing.

These Campus Ambassadors are the first face of the Wikimedia movement that most students have seen, and 27 of the 59 Campus Ambassadors this term (that’s 46%) are women. At Indiana University Bloomington, for example, six Campus Ambassadors assist three classes of students — and five of them are women.

“I think I am putting a face on Wikipedia instead of it just being a web site that people use,” says Chanitra Bishop, a librarian at IU and one of the five female Campus Ambassadors there. “Hopefully, if students and professors have thought about becoming involved, they will see that they can and that they have unique knowledge to contribute.” Likewise, Indiana Library and Information Science master’s student Beth Brockman was drawn to becoming a Campus Ambassador because of her desire to make Wikipedia a better resource for anyone to use, but she thinks seeing women teaching about Wikipedia in university classrooms can be an inspiration to the female students in the class.

Chanitra’s and Beth’s views are echoed across their cohort. They don’t focus on being role models for female students. Instead, they try to ease all students into the joys of editing Wikipedia — and closing the gender gap is a nice side effect of their work.

“I would hope that I am providing a model for any new editor, not just women, and I would hope that I am contributing to making Wikipedia a professional and respectful environment,” says Adrianne Wadewitz, a longtime Wikipedian. “Being a Campus Ambassador allows me to join together two things about which I’m passionate: Wikipedia and teaching. It allows me to show professors how useful Wikipedia can be as a teaching tool and it allows me to learn, in turn, from students and other teachers about a variety of subject matters and techniques for communicating.”

Campus Ambassadors in the midwest region

Campus Ambassadors were trained in five regions across the United States in January, including a training in Indianapolis, pictured here.

Ellie Dahlgren is a staff member at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana, and she agrees with Adrianne that her primary focus as a Campus Ambassador is on what the students get out of the Wikipedia assignment.

“I like challenging instructors to think about teaching and learning in different ways,” Ellie says. “I like being part of a team that creates unique and practical (i.e., real-world) experiences for students.”

And it’s not just Campus Ambassadors closing the gender gap. More than half of the 600 students contributing to Wikipedia through the Public Policy Initiative this term are women. Two classes feature an all-women roster: women’s college Simmons’ “Public Relations Seminar” and Georgetown University’s “Women and Human Rights.”

Brenda Burk is a librarian at nearby Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), and she travels to Bloomington to assist in the classrooms there. Becoming a Campus Ambassador has given Brenda a new way to connect with students, she says. Brenda says the principles librarians support — understanding resources, determining source reliability, and verifiability — complement Wikipedia well. And she’s particularly excited to see the students in her class continue contributing to such an important resource.

“Seeing me use Wikipedia and edit encourages them to jump in,” Brenda says of her students. “In the class, the women are a bit more cautious starting to edit and create articles. Once they start and become comfortable in this environment they get excited about it. Hopefully the enthusiasm continues.”

Learn more about the Public Policy Initiative, the Wikipedia Ambassador program, and the classes involved so far at WikiProject United States Public Policy.

LiAnna Davis
Communications Associate, Public Policy Initiative

Wikipedia celebrates International Women’s Day

Mary Wollstonecraft, whose work “Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman” was featured for International Women’s Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a holiday around the world that celebrates the accomplishments of women in all walks of life, as well as a collective reminder of past and continuing efforts to eliminate inequalities faced by women.

On the Main Pages of Wikipedias in every language, there is a longstanding tradition of presenting a list of holidays and anniversaries. For a few, Wikipedia projects curate special content that is relevant to that event. Perhaps the most famous example is the epic April Fool’s Day Main Page sections.

In consideration of the current discussion and community organizing around the Wikimedia movement’s own gender gap, we’d just like to take a moment and recognize the great encyclopedic content that was showcased on Wikipedia for International Women’s Day.

The first standout entry is Mary Wollstonecraft’s sequel to The Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman, which is assessed as a Featured-quality article on English Wikipedia and is the selected Featured Article of the day for March 8th, appearing front-and-center on (until March 9th rolled around, in UTC time).

There are also nine solid entries in the “Did you know…” section of the English Main Page, ranging from abolitionist Anna Murray-Douglass to artist Claire Falkenstein.

Off of the front page of English Wikipedia, there is also an in-depth interview with community leaders from WikiProject Feminism in the latest edition of community newspaper The Signpost. That WikiProject is one of several now devoted to women-related topics, with WikiProject Women’s History as a second great example.

While the topic of gender is relevant to the evolution of the encyclopedia anyone can edit, this kind of activity is also something that goes on every day at Wikipedia regardless of the topic: people who care about a subject show up to participate and share free knowledge.

International Women’s Day is about focusing conversation on one problem that we face as a global society. Hopefully Wikipedia can be a place where we can support that conversation by providing neutral, verifiable information written by women and men in collaboration.

Steven Walling, Wikimedia Foundation Fellow

Wikipedia’s gender gap

The gender imbalance among Wikipedia contributors has been a simmering topic in our community for years, but a story from the New York Times yesterday is bringing a surge of new interest. “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List“, by Noam Cohen, brings wider attention to the stark statistic from a 2008 survey of Wikipedia users: Fewer than 15% of Wikipedia contributors are women. Cohen covers perspectives on the gender gap from Wikimedia’s Executive Director Sue Gardner, trustee Kat Walsh, and Wikipedia scholar Joseph Reagle, as well as leading thinkers on gender gaps in technology and the public sphere. As Gardner chronicles on her blog, the story prompted a flurry of additional coverage.

Kat Walsh goes into more detail in an essay she posted yesterday, “Women on Wikipedia“. The editing community has developed a culture that is attractive to a relatively narrow range of people, she argues, and it’s necessary–but very difficult–to become more inclusive. “How do you become more inclusive,” she asks, “without breaking the qualities that make the project happen to begin with?”

Sue shares more of her own thoughts about the gender gap in her first post to a new mailing list on the subject, which kicked off yesterday as a forum for all the intelligent voices that have chimed in lately. She says the reasons for Wikipedia’s gender gap are the same ones contributing to those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Gardner explains the reason for the list:

I think that all forms of diversity–geographic, political, ideological, cultural, sexual, age-related, etc.–are important. But having said that, I do think our gender skew is particularly bad, so even though I feel uncomfortable paying special attention to it, I believe it’s probably defensible. My hope for this list is that it’ll become a space where Wikipedians and non-Wikipedians can share research and information and tactics for making Wikipedia more attractive to women editors.

report yesterday from The Signpost hints at some of the likely measurable effects of Wikipedia’s gender gap. Researchers recently created the Science Hall of Fame, a list of how famous thousands of scientists are, based on how many times their names are mentioned in books. Wikipedian Headbomb takes that list and compares fame with Wikipedia’s quality ratings. He finds that Wikipedia articles on the most famous women on the Science Hall of Fame list are less developed than you would predict based on their fame. In fact, his preliminary analysis suggests that traditionally male-dominated fields, such as philosophy and the physical sciences, may have better biographical coverage than fields with smaller gender gaps. A fuller analysis will be needed before we can draw any firm conclusions. But there’s no doubt that Wikipedia would benefit from a wider and more diverse community of contributors.

Want to be part of the effort? Join the Wikimedia gender gap discussion list.

Sage Ross
Online Facilitator