Due to the structural bias in our systems, women usually end up with a disadvantage. Despite being on par, if not better than their male counterparts, their achievements are appropriated, ignored and overshadowed. Many women in STEM, despite their fantastic credentials, are often forgotten along with their many contributions.
Wikipedia, the world’s largest online open-source, has only 9% of women editors. With men as the gatekeepers of information, Wikipedia is yet to acquire gender sensitised writing. I along with MoveForward and Feminism in India decided to change this. A Wikipedia editathon was held on the 8th of December 2019 at the MoveForward office in Bangalore to edit pages of women in STEM in partnership with FII.
A list of women, whose contributions had long gone unnoticed in the fields of STEM and the universities which offer women the access to STEM education was prepared. Most of the names on our list did not have expanded pages on Wikipedia and were accompanied only with very brief information. All of the pages edited by the participants were stub pages.
Participants were informed about how to write for and about women. They were walked through the steps of Wikipedia editing and each chose a woman/university from the list whose Wikipedia pages they would edit.
Gloria Steinem is credited with saying, “Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough.” By showing up at the event to edit Wikipedia pages, our 12 participants were able to directly contribute to changing the community knowledge systems.
While editing one of the pages of a scientist, a participant claimed, “This woman is so cool. Why have I never heard of her before?” To which, another responded, “That is exactly what you are changing right now.” This brief conversation was accompanied by several proud faces lighting up at the thought of making a significant, real-time change.
At the end of the day, 23 pages of women and universities for women in the fields of STEM had been edited by the participants. The specific stats for which are given here.
The event received overall positive feedback with many of the participants enquiring about the next editathon. One of them, in particular, said, “I really liked the fact that I could edit pages that needed to be edited with such ease and no prior experience. Felt good to put out information about women on the internet who have done substantial work but not enough credit has been given to them. It was a really good experience, I can’t wait for the next one.”
Editor’s note: Feminism in India under it’s program FII Wiki Project now mentors young women and gender minorities to organise their own Wikipedia editathons at their universities, at their organisations or in their cities. If you’d also like to organise a Wikipedia editathon focussing on gender, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images credit: Muskan Soni