Chemist Margaret D. Foster, restored and nominated to a featured picture by WiR participant Adam Cuerden. Photo by National Photo Company, public domain.

As of the beginning of this year, the English Wikipedia had 1.4 million biographies. Only 240,000, or about 17%, were about women.

This sort of content gender gap is one reason why WikiProject Women in Red exists. Formed a bit under two years ago, the volunteer-led initiative has led to the creation of over 45,000 biographies about women on the English Wikipedia. In particular, articles on women scientists have been improved at a rate significantly higher than the site as a whole. This work has helped combat Wikipedia’s gender gap, both in terms of volunteer contributors or article subjects; an April 2011 Wikimedia Foundation study found that only one in every ten Wikipedia editors are women.

Women in Red’s name stems from the color of links to non-existent articles. While surfing Wikipedia, you cannot miss the blue hyperlinks that take you to other Wikipedia articles. Many people have fallen down rabbit holes while clicking them. However, you might have skipped over the red links that denote nonexistent articles. Women in Red refers to the latter: they want to take those red links and turn them blue by creating articles on notable women.

“There are many notable women who have done amazing things,” says project member SusunW, “but whose histories have been overshadowed by their spouses, by lack of media coverage, and by cultural bias. I write because I don’t want future generations following us to have so few women who are visible as role models.”

SusunW has, along with other members, improved 13 Wikipedia articles to “good article” status, a quality classification used by the English Wikipedia community. Five of them were created by her, appearing on the site for the first time as a result of her work.

“I try to focus on minority women,” she explains: “non-western women, and women who contribute to society. The candidates I choose as subjects are not women who are famous, but rather women who have made a difference.”

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight co-founded the project. She was later named as a co-Wikipedian of the Year together with Emily Temple-Wood for working on projects that boosted female participation on Wikipedia. Stephenson-Goodknight attended the events held in March every year to encourage editing about women, but she wonders why women’s history is only celebrated one month out of the year.

“When Roger and I founded WikiProject Women in Red, we were clueless if anyone would be interested in writing women’s biographies on a regular basis aside from March each year,” says Stephenson-Goodknight.

She continues: “My pervading view was to say ‘yes’ to every possible opportunity which came our way. I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, we’d only write a handful of articles on that particular topic.”

The project now holds three events per month on average. Since July 2015, between one and three thousand articles have been created every month. The events take different forms: some are “contests, others are challenges, most are only virtual events, some include in-person meetups, some are international in scope, and some are very narrow,” Stephenson-Goodknight explains.

Helping to bolster a collaborative spirit is Women in Red’s atmosphere. Sue Barnum, one of the project contributors, described it as “the friendliest place on Wikipedia.” Gathering many editors who share the same values was not an easy job, but it paid off in building “a harassment-free zone for on-wiki conversations,” as Stephenson-Goodknight calls it.

For Barnum, participating in the project was an eye-opening experience where preparing the material for editing helped her learn about women she knew nothing about. “I had no idea so many amazing women were out there,” says Barnum. “I didn’t know there were Yemeni feminists. I didn’t know that there was an all-woman, all African-American WWII company sent overseas. These people are forgotten, erased. That’s not okay.”

With her willingness to share her experience with the other project contributors, Barnum volunteered to be the project’s Librarian in Residence. Editors refer to her when they need help researching material to edit their articles.

The Women in Red project has expanded to other languages on Wikipedia. It is now available in Albanian, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Persian, and Spanish. It also keeps growing on the English Wikipedia where every hand is needed to keep it running smoothly.

“The success of Women in Red depends on the labor of many,” says Stephenson-Goodknight, “and everyone needs a break sometimes, so the more editors who contribute in their own time and their own way, the better. This doesn’t apply only to article creation and improvement. It also applies to our talkpage, which now contains thousands of posts. We’ve created a friendly and safe space for conversations regarding this work and as much as I’m in awe of the more than 45,000 articles we’ve created on the English Wikipedia.”

In brief

“Wikimedia hubs” coming to Nigeria: The Nigerian user group is establishing Wikimedia hubs at universities in the country. Led by Olaniyan Olushola, the group’s president, they plan to create a group of 20 students per institution to study the site and share their acquired knowledge with others. Olushola told us that “We hope this project will create a paradigm shift, turning these students from Wikipedia readers to active contributors.” This move comes as a survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Reach team has indicated that over three-quarters of Nigerians are not aware of Wikipedia, and that the encyclopedia more popular among students than among the population as a whole. To learn more, visit the Wikimedia Fan Club, University of Ibadan and Wikimedia Hub, Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) pages on Meta.

Meet a Wikipedian!: The youngest-active editor on the Punjabi Wikipedia is Baljeet Bilaspur. Known as Baljeet Bilaspur within the Wikimedia community, he is a student in the tenth class from Bilaspur, Punjab. He became acquainted with Wikipedia in June 2015 during a workshop led by Charan Gill. His interest in technology motivated him to contribute content to the Punjabi Wikipedia, such as computer-related stub articles in Punjabi such as Central Processing Unit, Computer virus and Hard disk.

In November 2016, he participated in the first-ever Wikipedia Asian Month and became the Punjabi community’s Wikipedia Asian Month Ambassador by writing the highest number of articles. It was this experience which led him to explore his interest in Chinese history via Wikipedia—most of the articles created by him were related to the country’s rivers, mountains, ethnic groups, and ancient dynasties (like Sui dynasty, Zhou dynasty and Tang dyansty). As of January 2017, he has written around 375 articles on Punjabi Wikipedia during the course of making more than 5000 edits. For the future, he hopes to learn more about the technical aspects of Wikipedia, like bots, scripts, template localization, and MediaWiki.

Pangasinan hosts its second Wikipedia edit-a-thon: The Wikipedia Community in Pangasinan, the Philippines held its second editing event (edit-a-thon) last month. The event was supported by the Pangasinan Provincial Government and funded by a Wikimedia Foundation grant in addition to anonymous users who provided prizes for the winners. 84 people attended the event where they spent the time listening to introductory sessions about Wikipedia, and how it works, followed by an editing workshop.

Celtic Knot Conference 2017 registration open: Registration is now open for the ‘Celtic Knot’ – Wikipedia Language Conference which will take place Thursday 6 July 2017 at the University of Edinburgh Business School. The conference aims at showcasing innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data that support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities. The event is organized by the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK.

Wiki Loves Earth 2017 kicks off: The annual photography contest will start on 1 May 2017. The competition aims at collecting photos of natural heritage sites—such as nature reserves, landscape conservation areas, national parks, scenic/landscape areas, remarkable gardens, etc. – to illustrate articles on Wikipedia and its sister projects. Local teams in the participating countries will organize local events for taking photos and dispensing prizes on the winners.

Wikimedia Affiliations updates: This week, the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee (AffCom) recognized the Wikimedians of Peru User Group, which aims to support the movement and its community in that country, and de-recognized Wikimedia Philippines as a Wikimedia Affiliate. In addition, Wikimedia Chile announced the results of their board election.

Wikimania 2017 program update: The Wikimania program committee shared an update about the conference submissions received by the committee. So far, the program committee has received 208 lecture submissions, 37 panels, 51 roundtables & birds-of-a-feather, 19 lightning talks, 11 posters, 54 workshops and tutorials. More details about the submissions and next steps on Wikimania-l.

Voting opens in Foundation Board of Trustees election: Nine candidates are currently vying for the three community seats on the Board of Trustees. Information on the candidates and voter requirements is available on Meta; the actual vote is being conducted via SecurePoll.

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Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern
Wikimedia Foundation