Wikipedia suffers from a lack of women editors, profiles, and contributors. One source says that only 15% of contributors are female, and in 2011 only 8.5% of Wikipedia editors were women. This is a problem because Wikipedia is commonly understood as the online repository and record for knowledge. Incomplete representation of the world both perpetuates inequality and writes a false history.
However, the complete picture of Wikipedia’s gender imbalance is actually a hopeful one. Inequality is a problem, but denial of its existence makes amelioration impossible. In line with its founding principles as a democratic, user-driven site, Wikipedia acknowledges its lack of women-related content and editors and calls for action.
This past weekend, to coincide with International Women’s Day, many arts and cultural organizations co-hosted Art+Feminism “edit-a-thons” with Wikipedia. At the Museum of Modern Art Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Center, volunteers trained women on how to become Wikipedia contributors and helped newly-minted contributors actually write and improve posts. We targeted a running list related to women in the arts that needed articles created or strengthened.
Senior Wikipedians trained participants all day
Lucy Drummond created French artist Camille Henrot’s Wikipedia page
The demographic of attendees was representative of the goals the Wikipedia community is working towards. There were more than a hundred people of different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who come to the MoMA to improve the internet’s encyclopedia.
It is not just the art world that has benefitted from such targeted edit-a-thons. Sibyl M. Rock, a woman instrumental to developments in mass spectrometry and the early digital computer Datatron at the CEC, did not have a Wikipedia page until Brown University hosted a 2013 women in science Wikipedia edit-a-thon. A lot of other women in technology have been recognized thanks to these efforts.
Sibyl M. Rock
It is huge for one of the most popular websites in the world to acknowledge unequal gender representation, and invite its community to fix this problem. This represents the internet at its best: devoted to the people and calling for user participation. Furthermore, the solution the Wikipedia community implemented this past Saturday involves IRL (in real life) community strengthening. Using the internet to improve lives off of the internet is what a 21-st century connected, global network should be. In true feminist form, there was even a room on-site this weekend for sponsored child-care.
Society, especially as concretized through the internet’s encyclopedia, needs women’s voices. We must give credit where it is due, and include women both in the content and creation in Wikipedia.