On the 12th June 2018, First 100 Years went along to the Wikimedia ‘Edit-a-thon’ at the London offices of Bloomberg, to discover more about the gender gap at Wikipedia, and how to amplify the stories of women in law. Many pioneering female lawyers are still without their own Wikipedia page, which is something that First 100 Years is working to address.
Wikipedia is often the first place that people go to find information on a certain topic, event or person, and it is the fifth most visited website in the world. But women are severely underrepresented on the site; only 17% of biographies on Wikipedia are of women. In part, this is a reflection of the interests of Wikipedia’s volunteers. Wikipedia is run by a community of volunteers, and anyone can contribute knowledge, but 85% of volunteers are men and, as a result, the website disproportionately reflects their knowledge and interests.
As part of Sadiq Khan’s #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, which seeks to celebrate women’s equality over the last 100 years, Bloomberg hosted an ‘Edit-a-thon’ during London Tech Week. Schoolgirls from across London came together to learn how to contribute to Wikipedia, helping to add new pages for notable women who have previously gone unrecognised. By encouraging young women to add to Wikipedia, the event was empowering, proving to the girls that their contribution was valuable. The event also aimed to increase accessible information about influential women on Wikipedia.
At the event, we heard from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, who spoke powerfully about the need to address the gender balance in the Wikipedia community in order to improve the documentation of women’s achievements, which will in itself improve gender equality. To illustrate the problem, Jimmy gave the example of award-winning novelists. Wikipedia entries on male award-winning novelists are on average much longer than entries on female award-winning novelists, which may give the impression that the male authors are more important or worthy of recognition, but their achievements are the same. People write about what they know, and for women’s interests to be represented, more women must be encouraged to contribute.
Caroline Hyde, the British journalist and presenter of Bloomberg Television spoke to the girls about the potential for new technologies to help improve diversity and inclusivity. We also heard from Theo Blackwell, London’s first Chief Digital Officer (CDO). As CDO, Theo is concerned about how we use data and technologies to achieve social goods, such as promoting gender equality and knitting our communities together. He argued that by recording the women who are making an impact, are carrying out a civic duty, and will be contributing to future equality.
So next time you see a pioneering woman who fits Wikipedia’s notability criteria
, why don’t you make them a page? In doing so, you will be helping to improve society’s recognition of women’s achievements.
Written by Annabel Twose, Project Coordinator of First 100 Years