Can These Students Fix Wikipedia’s Lady Problem?

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=woman+on+computer+at+night&search_group=#id=20748589&src=4G92I9IiWpjIwlMfdvzSdg-1-4">Dmitrieva</a>/Shutterstock

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Earlier this month, Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales told conference-goers in Hong Kong that a whopping 87 percent of the site’s editors are men. It wasn’t the first time Wikipedia’s gender imbalance had played out in the media: In Februrary, staff acknowledged that it affected the online encyclopedia’s content, and a New York Times op-ed in April noted that Wikipedia editors had been moving women from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory.

Chart of Wikipedia gender distribution across countries

Wikipedia survey, 2011 Wikimedia Commons

So what’s a tech-savvy woman to do? “Storming Wikipedia,” a project of the feminist organization FemTechNet and an assignment given to students participating in FemTechNet’s new online course, is designed to fix this imbalance. During these exercises students edit Wikipedia en masse, “with the goal being to collaboratively write feminist thinking into the site,” says Alexandra Juhasz, professor of media studies at California’s Pitzer College and one of the course facilitators.

Students participating in the exercise will create and expand Wikipedia articles on influential women and encourage “feminists, academics, and activists to contribute to Wikipedia and help revolutionize its culture.” According to Inside Higher Ed, “students will be given lists of women who have played key roles in science and technology,” and will tweak articles to acknowledge their contributions.

FemTechNet, which Juhasz calls “a collective of international feminist scholars, artists, and activists,” is launching an online curriculum focused on educating people about the relationship between women and technology. Starting in September, instructors at 15 different colleges, including Brown, Yale, and Penn State University, will be offering “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology.” Students taking the course will study technology through a feminist lens using prerecorded videos featuring prominent feminist scholars.

“From a feminist perspective, we think of technology differently than just as objects or applications,” says Anne Balsamo, a course organizer and dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York City. “Technology from a feminist perspective is social, cultural, technical objects or arrangements.”

And, importantly, it includes women.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate