Welcoming our Programme Intern

This section was written by Daria Cybulska, Programme Manager One of Wikimedia UK’s key aims as a charity is to … Continue reading “Welcoming our Programme Intern”

  • Daria Cybulska
  • September 1, 2014
Photo shows Roberta Wedge in the Wikimedia UK office
Roberta Wedge, Wikimedia UK Programme Intern

This section was written by Daria Cybulska, Programme Manager

One of Wikimedia UK’s key aims as a charity is to teach under-represented groups how to edit Wikipedia (women make up about 10% of editors), and develop under-represented content (e.g. Women in Science). Wikimedia UK has been running ‘Women in Science’ editathons for the last two years – one of the first ones was the much acclaimed Royal Society event to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day in 2012  ) – as a part of the wider Ada Lovelace Day celebrations.

In 2013 our editathons have expanded and received extremely positive responses from the attendees and in general. They were organised with a strong support from the Medical Research Council, which enabled us to deliver events in partnerships with other organisations who hosted them and invited people from their networks to attend. Since then we have been contacted by various organisations interested in collaborating with us further.

Thanks to the popularity of these activities we decided to give more capacity for organising these diversity events (logistics can take a lot of time and effort!), and perhaps even growing the group of people who are interested and keen to be involved in this programme.

This leads me to welcoming Roberta Wedge, our Programme Intern, who is joining us for four months to particularly focus on Ada Lovelace 2014, but also support the gender gap activities in general. (To learn more about the role visit this page.)

This section was written by Roberta Wedge, Programme Intern

Wikipedia is a miracle of human ingenuity and vision and hard work. It can transform lives, and perhaps even save them, as with the recent Ebola initiative. It is also fraught with human difficulties and limitations. One result of that – and one of the worst or most worrying aspects of Wikipedia, from my perspective – is that the vast majority of editors are male, with all the ramifications that that brings. If women’s voices are not heard, and women’s stories are not told, the world as a whole is the poorer. The same goes for every under-represented group.

One of the best and most heartening aspects of Wikimedia UK (and, from what I know of them, other chapters and the Foundation too) is the acknowledgement that this gender gap is a problem, and the commitment to changing the situation. There’s a relevant parallel here. Educators and employers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) know that they have to work intelligently to build the pipeline (encourage girls in) and stop the leaks (keep women in the workforce). Just as women in STEM are under-represented but present, so are women in Wikimedia projects less likely to join and more likely to leave.

I’ll be working on this with Wikimedia UK until the end of the year. One of the main things I want to do is organise editathons, and possibly other events, to engage more women to edit, and to encourage everyone to edit related subjects. The biographies of women in science are an obvious starting point. I expect I’ll be approaching GLAMs, universities, and learned societies, both existing and new partners, as potential hosts.

Once Ada Lovelace Day is over, there’s Women’s History Month on the horizon. Aside from organising events, and finding ways to persuade those of you reading this to set up your own events, I want to collect ideas that might help structural change. One example: a volunteer (who I won’t name, without his permission) mentioned in passing that for each biography of a man that he creates, he makes a point of creating at least one about a woman. It’s a simple step, but it makes a difference.

If you have any ideas, please get in touch.

6 thoughts on “Welcoming our Programme Intern”

  1. What remains (AFAIK) the only comparative analysis of Wikipedia’s coverage of female vs male scientists was reported in [https://blog.wikimedia.org.uk/2014/05/ an earlier post on this blog], by me. This does not show that women scientists are under-represented compared to men. In fact the reverse is the case, as [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Royal_Society#2014_elections_of_fellows subsequent events demonstrated].

    This does not mean we should stop promoting Women in Science, which has proved itself a highly successful focus for so many editing events, in the UK and around the world, and helps address the undoubted gender gap in the numbers of editors. But
    wikimedia UK should see Wikipedia as part of the solution rather than part of the problem of the general science gender gap, and celebrate one of the clearest successes of the movement in recent years rather than perpetuate negative stereotypes that go against the available evidence.

    It would be interesting to conduct a similar analysis of the American National Academy of Sciences, which should not take too long – their 2014 intake totalled 105 people, so it should not take too long. Perhaps Roberta will have time for this?

  2. Thank you for your comment, John. I agree that progress has been made, and the work you’ve done relating to the Royal Society Fellows demonstrates this. But this is one project, one group, and I think it is inaccurate to suggest that male scientists are under-represented on Wikipedia compared to their female counterparts.

    The recruitment of Roberta to work on areas of our programme relating to women in science isn’t intended to ignore previous successes but to build on them. We are very confident that she will do a great job.

    The project isn’t just about improving the coverage of female scientists on Wikipedia. As you rightly point out there is an undoubted gender gap in the numbers of editors. By working on events related to women in science Roberta will be working to recruit high quality female Wikipedia editors – who, like her, have a great deal of academic experience, skill and intelligence to offer the Wikimedia projects.

  3. I didn’t do any work on women FRSs, or at most a handful of edits on existing articles. When I started at the Royal Society, all the women FRS’s there had ever been already had articles, and the ones elected in 2014 all got articles without any involvement on my part. I looked elsewhere when compiling a target list for the editathon in March. That’s my point. I didn’t say “male scientists are under-represented” – that’s your way of putting it. Do you have any evidence supporting what you think is inaccurate, or is it just an opinion or impression?

  4. Welcome Roberta.
    I am so pleased that you will be supporting our work in this area and moving on to set up Women’s History Month as well. Even in the first week you have made a difference and the progress of previous years will accelerate. Wikimania demonstrated conclusively that our community is becoming far more representative of the word at large. AT WMUK we need to make sure we attract the widest possible group of contributors. Your work will be vital.

  5. I’ve worked with Roberta before on various events commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft and, as a historian of women based in academia I’m really excited that she has taken up this post and will be applying her great energy, enthusiasm and intelligence to further enhancing Wikipedia’s coverage of women and fostering more female editors.

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