You are here Home » Women In Tech » Jess Wade – Ph.D. is changing the sexist Wikipedia entries where Women in STEM are grossly underrepresented

Jess Wade – Ph.D. is changing the sexist Wikipedia entries where Women in STEM are grossly underrepresented

by Milicent Atieno
Wikipedia women in STEM

The Wikipedia is one of the greatest educational materials of our time. You have probably realized that if you have had to do your college assignment, and the fact that is free makes it top go-to-place online for most students around the world.

However, if you are looking for information on the Wikipedia featuring the achievement of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). A couple of pages (in fact just 17% of pages featuring professionals in the STEM) and you will run out of web pages talking about women. The rest is about men in STEM; they will be there in tons after tons.

Does it mean that there just aren’t enough women interest in STEM? That’s probably one of the sexiest misconceptions most women and girls have become all too familiar with. Well as far as Wikipedia is concerned, the majority of its editors are male (white men) and if they’re going to write something there, they might as well something they are interested in. More often than not, they write about achievement by men (predominantly white men), hence the gross underrepresentation of women generally on the online encyclopedia.

Well Jess Wade – Ph.D. and a postdoctoral researcher in the field of plastic electronics at Imperial College London’s Blackett Lab in the U.K. – happened to be going through the Wikipedia pages for her research. She noticed what we all do, you quickly run out of pages on Wikipedia talking about the achievement of women in the STEM. Of course, it is not true that there aren’t that many women in STEM (though they could be even more), but they are grossly underrepresented on the Wikipedia.Wikipedia women in STEM 1

Wade then made it her mission to right these wrongs, and every morning, she grabs her laptop and writes about one fabulous woman in STEM. The problem with Wikipedia has been that there aren’t that many female editors, and Wade just volunteered herself as an editor with a keen focus on shading more light on the achievement made by women in STEM.

On the English speaking Wikipedia, the biographies are incredibly sexist. Wikipedias are mainly contributed to by male editors, the majority of which are white men, and so they make pages about people and things that they’re interested in,” said Wade during an interview with Good Morning America.

“As a result, only 17% of biographies are about women. So for women in science, that’s particularly bad because women are already underrepresented in science anyway.

I [started] to write the biographies of these people who have been forgotten from the stories of science so that they’re preserved on this phenomenal online resource.

Wikipedia is incredible, right? It’s a huge completely free encyclopedia. It’s an incredible opportunity to tell these unsung hero stories, and I like being a part of that.”

How does Wade chooses the Women in STEM to write about?

To know which woman in STEM she is going to write about, Wade says she runs a search through learning societies, like the Institute of Physics in the U.K. and the American Physics Society where she gets the lists of prize winners, fellows, and key positions held by women.

Currently, women in STEM careers in the U.K. account for just 14.4% of the total sum of professionals in that field. That is according to the statistics given by the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign. The campaign tracks the progress of gender equity in STEM workforce in conjunction with the U.K.’s Labor Force survey.

We have to support and promote each other more and find people from all underrepresented groups, not just women, who are doing really great things [in STEM]. This can’t just be another diversity initiative that protects and supports white women because that won’t get us anywhere.”

270 Wikipedia entries later, Wade hopes that her work will make the Wikipedia platform a gender-balanced information center for professionals in the STEM fields.

Wade’s Advice to Young Women and Girls

“[Get excited about] math. I think math is incredibly important for so many different scientific careers and I think you under appreciate it when you’re at school.”

You may also like