The gender gap on Wikipedia has just narrowed thanks to volunteers who marked International Women’s Day this year with an “edit-a-thon,” creating and editing dozens of biographies for prominent women in the social and behavioral sciences.
On March 8, SAGE Publishing organized the edit-a-thon in Washington, London, and online, to highlight achievements of women researchers in social and behavioral science who explore the world to gain a better understanding of human behavior. From anthropology to psychology, their studies have supported efforts to improve individual mental health and can influence development of public health policies for communities and nations.
“Women are critical to social and behavioral science research and instruction, from their pioneering work of new methodologies to the application of their work outside of academia on policy and practice. In fact, today, women fill more than 61% of social science-related occupations,” says Charisse Kiino, vice president for product and market development with the US college division of SAGE Publishing.
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“For us, it made sense to make a start by working on biographies of women in the social and behavioral sciences for a couple of reasons. At Sage, 65% of our employees are women and do great work every day. So we want a resource like Wikipedia to reflect the amazing work that women are doing. And for my division, US college, one of our goals to make sure that all students from all backgrounds and abilities can see themselves in the pages of our textbook content. Shouldn’t a resource like Wikipedia also reflect women’s crucial role in social and behavioral science research? I want women in college to see that work and influence reflected in a site like Wikipedia,” Kiino tells me.
The Wikipedia gender gap arises not only from the predominance of male contributors but also from the challenge presented by Wikipedia’s principle of notability – a Wikipedia biography must refer to previously published materials.
Yet if women are underrepresented as Wikipedians and elsewhere, this results in a catch-22 bind.
“It’s what perpetuates the gender gap,” says Ariel Cetrone, institutional partnerships manager for Wikimedia DC, a regional outreach affiliate for Wikipedia and other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation. “At these events, we encourage individuals to write new articles, especially when working on biographies, and cite existing sources. Now, if we can’t find those sources, we can’t write those articles.
“We encourage our partners and anybody listening here – if you are in the position to write about women, if you are in the position where you can get the word out, publish profile pieces on the women, talk about their work, talk about what they’re doing in their fields. Once that information is published, we are able to cite it.”