The Smithsonian Archives’ Sarah Stierch Will Be Working On Wikipedia’s “Women In Science” Problem
by Jamie Frevele | 11:43 am, April 5th, 2012
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has publicly acknowledged the dearth of female editors at his site and how many subjects that could use a woman’s perspective are seriously lacking. Well, at least one area of subject matter has begun to be tackled, thanks to Sarah Stierch, the official “Wikipedian-in-Residence” at the Smithsonian Archives. Her fellowship was first announced back in December, when she was brought on to encourage more women to contribute to the crowdsourcing information site. And now, she’s held a Wikipedia “Edit-a-thon” to zero in on the subject of women in science. Ladies, start your laptops!
While it’s a lovely thing to be able to head to Wikipedia for basic information — sometimes even better than basic — on a subject (we at The Mary Sue do it all the time), it’s become very noticeable that certain areas of knowledge have less than extensive coverage. Namely, women in science. While Ada Lovelace enjoys a long, detailed profile, she is a major icon of women in science. But several other women either don’t have profiles at all or have only scant ones that don’t provide a whole lot of information. Stierch, however, is on it. On March 30, she held the She Blinded Me With Science: Smithsonian Women in Science Edit-a-Thon and enlisted several women to take on a “to-do” list of women who needed better profiles (or just profiles).
Ten woman showed up to scour the resources of the Smithsonian Archives and learn, and then write about one or two women each. They were tasked with either writing new articles or updating existing ones, and were given the opportunity to translate if they possessed the skills.
The female-centric edit-a-thon was inspired by recent numbers that came out from the last Wikimedia Foundation survey, when it was revealed that only 9 percent of all of Wikipedia’s editors are women — after a 13 percent drop.
“The majority of the editors are white males around 30 years old with higher education, a bachelors or masters degree,” Stierch says. “So, we’ve got a group of smart people, but just like history, it’s being written by middle-aged white guys.”
Stierch had organized multiple edit-a-thons on several other subjects throughout Women’s History Month to encourage more participation by women, who sometimes don’t try to edit Wikipedia articles for fear that their work won’t be accepted (because the subject matter won’t be seen as relevant enough). However, with Stierch’s Smithsonian Archives cred, the women who needed profiles now have them, thanks to a group of women who gave their time to contribute. Hopefully, this kind of meeting of the minds can take place outside of Women’s History Month from now on!