The online world continues to suffer from a severe shortage of WikiWomen—roughly 8 or 9 out of 10 Wikipedia editors are male. But the number of female contributors will grow as a result of the latest WikiWomen Edit-a-thon, to be held Saturday afternoon at UC Berkeley. Unless, of course, the world abruptly ends or all the people registered fail to show up in person or virtually. Which is not likely, given that there are plenty of women, and men, who have a certain aversion to all that testosterone overpowering the site.
Wikipedia, for anyone who is still operating a Radio Shack Tandy from his or her yurt in Mongolia, is the free internet encyclopedia that is “collaboratively edited,” and contains more than 30 million articles worldwide.
Those interested in demystifying the rather intimidating world of Wikipedia and improving its coverage of women’s history are invited to attend the free event at Moffitt Undergraduate Library, or take the training remotely.
The host of the edit-a-thon—the most recent in a global series loosely tied to Women’s History Month— is Sarah Stierch, an experienced Wikipedia editor herself and a fellow at the Berkeley Center for New Media.
The goal: to teach women about Wikipedia’s policies and then encourage them to plunge into the online site, removing some of its inherent gender bias either by writing new articles or adding more information to existing ones. At the end of the afternoon, organizers promise that everyone will have created “edits that stick.”
A to-do list already is taking shape: One participant intends to focus on entries for African American suffrage activists; someone else has suggested enhancing articles about influential women including Marie Curie, Rachel Carson and Hedy Lamarr; and others have proffered the names of worthy women who are not household names, such as Violet Virginia “Pinky” Smith, the first woman jockey to race against men. (As of Friday afternoon, Smith’s Wikipedia entry contained a puny one-sentence acknowledgement that she was the sixth woman in the country to obtain a jockey’s license.)
Stierch, who helped create the edit-a-thons in 2012, told the East Bay Express that this years’ events have thus far produced 331 new articles focused on women. The paper reported that she was initially stunned by the statistics revealing how much Wikipedia’s editors constituted a “boys’ club,” and then propelled to act after discovering that Wikipedia’s link to “hair stylists” redirected her to an article on barbers.
Wikipedia has endured occasional public shaming for its gender bias. The ridicule got particularly intense when its volunteer editors began methodically striking female American novelists from the “American Novelists” category and depositing them into a separate “American Women Novelists” category. “Wikipedia bias an accurate reflection of universal bias,” tweeted Joyce Carol Oates. “All (male) writers are writers; a (woman) writer is a woman writer.”
The forces in charge of Wikipedia have been proactively trying to reverse the damage ever since, including supporting female-oriented edit-a-thons.
Research has shown that women use Wikipedia as much as men, but that Wikipedia’s content creators and editors are disproportionately male, college educated, in their 30s, and based in the United States or Europe. Women themselves offer various explanations for their anemic participation compared to men, including a lack of free time to spend online, a preference for face-to-face social engagement, and frustration over certain approaches to editing. In particular, women get discouraged when other editors delete their contributions, while men will stick around and just pummel one another with their deletions and insertions.
For more information or to register for the event, go the event’s Wikipedia page.
Posted on April 4, 2014 - 12:43pm