At Wikipedia workshops, I often talk about Wikipedia’s gender gap, in which far more men contribute than women. In fact, at least 80% of those who contribute content to Wikipedia are men.
When I joined Dr. Monica Mercado, Director of the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, for a workshop at Bryn Mawr College, instructors were shocked to hear the numbers. Together, we looked at how the gender gap affects the world’s most-accessed educational resource.
Attendees were disappointed in Wikipedia’s lack of diversity, but I think our discussion inspired them. The aha moment came when they realized how much students can improve Wikipedia’s representation of women. When instructors at a women’s liberal arts college like Bryn Mawr take on a Wikipedia writing assignment, they help bring women’s voices to Wikipedia. While students may choose to expand content related to women, they also curb Wikipedia’s systemic bias.
Today in the United States, women outnumber men in universities. Encouraging university classrooms to contribute to Wikipedia includes more women in the project. That’s one of the most compelling reasons for new instructors to participate.
In the fall 2015 term, after a year of partnering with the National Women’s Studies Association, we wanted to know just how many of our student Wikipedians were women. In the end-of-term survey to instructors, we got an answer. 97% of instructors surveyed said half of their students were women. 52% of respondents said 75% or more of their students were women.
That’s a powerful impact, especially on a website where more than 80% of contributors are men. I’m excited to see how our students continue impacting Wikipedia, and I hope our future work includes the instructors I met at Bryn Mawr. Thank you to Dr. Mercado for also inviting me into her history class to speak to students about how they can change herstory with Wikipedia.