Women Researchers Take To Wikipedia To Tackle Gender Bias

By Women Love Tech
on 25 July 2019

We were shocked to discover only about 18% of people profiled on Wikipedia are women. Thankfully, there is now a move to change that.

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon plans to make online content representative of the sector’s diverse talent with participants adding and updating pages to highlight the contribution of female health and medical researchers. 

Franklin Women – a social enterprise that empowers women pursuing careers across the health and medical research sector – and biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Australia, is responsible for holding the Edit-a-thon. 

In addition to increasing female-focused content, the event aims to equip more women will the ‘soft skill’ to become Wikipedia editors, with participants receiving full training and support from experienced Wikipedia editors.

Dr Melina Georgousakis, founder of Franklin Women, believes this is a step forward in helping better representation of women and encourage more women to become Wikipedia editors.

Dr Melina Georgousakis, founder of Franklin Women,
Dr Melina Georgousakis, founder of Franklin Women

“When people search for information online, Wikipedia entries are often the first results to appear. If articles on female scientists are missing on one of the largest and most popular encyclopaedias it skews public perception of their contributions to the health and medical field,” said Dr Georgousakis. 

“We are excited that because of this Edit-a-Thon more women scientists will get the recognition they deserve for their work and the role it has played in shaping society today.”

The Edit-a-thon will be held on the birthday of the late Rosalind Franklin, the UK researcher after whom Franklin Women is named.

Dr Georgousakis says celebrating Franklin’s birthday in this way is a tribute to the long history of gender bias in science and how we can all play a role in addressing it.

“Even though Franklin’s scientific discoveries were seminal for determining the double-helix structure of DNA, her contributions went largely unrecognised at the time. Rather, it was her male colleagues who received the accolades and went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize after her death. Now Franklin’s work is celebrated globally,” she said.

The Edit-a-thon is part of a broader global movement to close the gender content gap on Wikipedia. Similar editing sessions have been held across the UK, USA and Canada.

Dr Jessica Wade, a physicist based at Imperial College London who has been spearheading this movement, says this is an important step forward for the Australian medical and scientific community.

“Wikipedia editors are mainly men in North America, and, unfortunately, that impacts the representation of women – and anything in the Southern Hemisphere. When a Wikipedia page was created for Canadian physicist Donna Strickland it was quickly deleted for not demonstrating her notability – she went on to win the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics,” said Dr Wade.

“It’s great to see this Edit-a-thon happening in Australia to bring greater recognition to the incredible women scientists and researchers who have been overlooked,” she said.

Kirsten O’Doherty, General Manager of AbbVie Australia and New Zealand, said it is crucial for organisations across the health and medical research sector to support these impactful, grassroots initiatives.

Kirsten O’Doherty, General Manager of AbbVie Australia and New Zealand
Kirsten O’Doherty, General Manager of AbbVie Australia and New Zealand

“As a company with a diverse workforce, AbbVie is committed to ensuring our employees, researchers and industry leaders are recognised for their work regardless of gender or other demographic,” said Kristen.

“Through the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, we hope to help educate more people on the contributions of inspiring female researchers throughout history, as well as those pushing the field forward today.”

For more information about the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for Women in Health and Medical Research, visit https://franklinwomen.com.au/events/wikipedia-edit-a-thon-for-women-in-health-and-medical-research/

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #FWOnWiki or tagging @FranklinWomen and @AbbVie_AU on Twitter.

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