Increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of women in STEM

By on March 27, 2018

Increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of women in STEM

By on March 27, 2018

Increasing Wikipedia’s coverage of women in STEM

Through our Communicating Science initiative, Wiki Education hopes to expand Wikipedia’s coverage of topic areas that fall under STEM. We are also committed to closing Wikipedia’s gender gap through our programs. These values come together in the improvement and creation of biography articles about women in STEM. Engaging students in editing these articles provides a beneficial experience for them, but also honors the lives and accomplishments of women in STEM who deserve to be represented on the world’s most popular online encyclopedia.

Wikipedia matters for women in science for a number of reasons. The presence of their biographies on the site addresses Wikipedia’s gender-based systemic biases. The act of correcting this imbalance models career paths for young women looking into STEM. Reading about successful women can also help alleviate the threat of negative stereotypes in STEM fields and beyond. And seeing women and people of color in a student’s chosen profession minimizes the sense of responsibility they may feel to confront stereotypes alone.

Christiana MacDougall taught with Wikipedia this spring in her course at Mount Allison University. Students improved and created new articles about women in science for the benefit of Wikipedia’s worldwide readership. Before they contributed their hard work, you’d be left wanting more information reading the articles about Eleanor Jones and Catherine Jérémie, two women in STEM from two different countries and time periods. And public health educator, social scientist, and professor Kaye Wellings didn’t even have an article! Now, thanks to these students, we can read about their lives, accomplishments, and legacies.

Eleanor Jones, born in 1929, is one of first African-American women to get a Ph.D. in mathematics. She studied mathematics, physics, and education at Howard University in 1945, where she looked to Elbert Frank Cox, the first African-American person to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics, as a mentor. After completing her Bachelors and then master’s degree, Jones became a teacher in the newly integrated southern school system. She was also active in the civil rights movement. Later, Jones moved to New York with her two sons to complete a doctorate program, after which she became an associate professor of mathematics at Norfolk State University. She became a board member of the Association for Women in Mathematics in 1989. And as a committee member in the American Mathematical Society, she now continues her work in creating opportunities in mathematics for underrepresented minorities.

Catherine Jérémie was born in 1664 in Quebec. As an aspiring botanist and midwife, Jérémie learned from medicinal practices of indigenous peoples in Canada and carried that knowledge with her throughout her scientific and medical endeavors. She is the first known female naturalist in Canada, and spent much of her life documenting medicinal uses of local plants. She provided these reports to French naturalist scientists who then sent Canadian plants to their collections in Paris. She applied her botany knowledge to her midwife practice, as well, in efforts to help women through abortion, pregnancy, and birth. One of her clients remarked that she was “la magicienne de ma vie au Quebec” (the magician of my life in Quebec).

Kaye Wellings is a Sexual and Reproductive Health educator, as well as a public health and social scientist, with an interest in evaluation research related to AIDS prevention strategies in Europe, risks of drug use in prison populations, taboos that surround contraceptives, and more. Wellings is currently a Professor of Sexual and Reproductive Health Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her recent research focuses on trends and patterns over time in sexual practices among young people with opposite-sex partners.


To learn about more about teaching with Wikipedia in your classroom, visit teach.wikiedu.org or reach out to contact@wikiedu.org with questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *