Celebrating #WCCWiki at 50!

  • September 22, 2021

By Dr Victoria Leonard, FRHistS

In July 2021, #WCCWiki marked an important milestone. The initiative, designed to improve the online representation of those who identify as women and non-binary, held its fiftieth Wikipedia editathon. Since 2016 when the initiative began, our community has come together each month to edit Wikipedia pages for women and non-binary people, share resources and practical tips for editing, and to offer training for those new to the task. Organised through the Women’s Classical Committee UK, #WCCWiki has done fantastic work in transforming the online representation of classicists who identify as women and non-binary, and helping to challenge Wikipedia’s intractable gender gap. Classics is very broadly conceived, including historians, archaeologists, theorists, translators, poets, and others who work on the ancient world.

But the implications of our success reach far beyond one platform. #WCCWiki has spread awareness and understanding of Wikipedia and why it’s so important, especially to those invested in knowledge transfer, as much of our community is. We have upskilled classicists to use and improve Wikipedia, tools which have then been transferred into classrooms around the world. We have built an activist network based on solidarity and dynamic action, and we have demonstrated how hard-won research skills really are transferable and can make a huge difference to environments beyond grant applications and writing articles.

Julia Caldwell Frazier was one of the classicists to have a new entry written about them on the English Wikipedia in 2021.

Before #WCCWiki got started, the heritage of women and non-binary people in classics, both historical and contemporary, was a largely unrepresented online demographic. An estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies of classicists on Wikipedia featured women. #WCCWiki has worked hard to make this demographic a highly visible and accessible part of classics.

We’ve created or edited more than 450 Wikipedia pages for those classicists who identify as women and non-binary, including path-breaking foremothers who were only referred to on their husband’s pages, such as Dr Miriam T. Griffin, Dr Annie Ure, and Professor Leslie Brubaker. One of our long-standing members, Richard Nevell, calculated that, as of 28 July 2021, 17.7% of the total of biographies of classicists on Wikipedia feature women. This is a significant rise from December 2019 when the number of biographies of women classicists was 16.3%. With every month, the proportion of Wikipedia biographies featuring classicists who identify as women or non-binary continues to increase.

Our pace of change means that on average every other day, a page for a woman or non-binary person is created or edited. #WCCWiki articles have featured regularly on Wikipedia’s front page and an increasing number have achieved Good Article status. #WCCWiki franchises have been inspired internationally, from Durham in the UK, to Winnipeg in Canada, to Ohio in the US. Our Wikipedia pages have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, and we have boosted their impact on social media, mainly on Twitter, where posts have reached 50,000+ people.

Richard’s calculations demonstrate the huge leaps #WCCWiki is taking, especially in comparison with Wikipedia in other languages. 34% of new articles about classicists on the English Wikipedia created between December 2019 and July 2021 feature women, which is twice that of the German Wikipedia, and triple that of French. Whilst #WCCWiki edits and creates pages in a variety of languages, English does predominate. Richard’s stats reveal the gender bias on Wikipedia without initiatives like #WCCWiki working against them.

A graph showing the percentage of biographies on different Wikipedia about classicists that are women. Created by Richard Nevell using data in denelezh and queries on 28 July 2021

Initiatives like #WCCWiki and the Wikiproject Women In Red are still essential in tackling Wikipedia’s gender gap. Between 84% and 91% of Wikipedia editors are male, and only around 19% of biographical pages feature women overall. At 17.7%, the representation of those classicists who identify as women and non-binary still lags behind the more general gendered trend. So, there is much more to do. Everyone is welcome to join us online as we edit together on or around 22nd of each month, 13.00-15.00 GMT+1. For more information, check out our Project Page, and #WCCWiki on Twitter. Now we’re looking forward to our 100th editathon, come and join the party!

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