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November 29, 2022

Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon to combat gender bias

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Women working in the health, medical and life sciences sectors will take to their keyboards on World Health Day to increase the visibility of women in science on Wikipedia, combatting gender bias in the online encyclopedia.

The Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon is part of an ongoing global movement that aims to ensure Wikipedia is more representative of diverse talent in STEMM and their contributions to society. Participants will add and update pages to include the achievements of health and medical researchers who are women.

This is the second time that Franklin Women – a social enterprise that empowers women pursuing careers across the health and medical research sector – and biopharmaceutical company AbbVie Australia join forces to host the event today.

Increasing the awareness of gender bias

Dr Melina Georgousakis, founder of Franklin Women, says the success of their first Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon highlighted how important grass roots events like this are to increase awareness of gender bias online, but also to drive momentum towards change. ‘Two and a half years have passed since our first Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon and while more than 70,000 new Wikipedia profiles have been added for women over this time, women still only account for around 19 per cent of profiles on the global encyclopaedia,’ said Dr Georgousakis.

‘Addressing gender bias on Wikipedia is not just about equity, it is also about ensuring that scientific discoveries and their impact on society are accurately captured. When people search for information online, Wikipedia is usually among the first results that appear and as such it plays a big role in informing people on the history of science and the role of women and other under-represented groups in the field.’

Effecting change now

Dr Georgousakis said that even though scientific discoveries made by the late Rosalind Franklin, the UK researcher after whom Franklin Women is named, were crucial for determining the double-helix structure of DNA, her contributions went largely unrecognised. ‘Rather, it was her male colleagues who received the accolades and went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize after her death. Now Franklin’s work is celebrated globally. This is the change we want to effect and the time is now.’

Another outcome from the Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon is providing an opportunity for women to learn how to contribute to the platform. Just 15 per cent of the people who actively contribute content to Wikipedia identify as women. Encouraging women to become Wikipedia editors is key to longer-term change to make platforms more representative.

Following the successful model of the 2019 Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon, this year’s event will see participants receive full training and support from experienced Wikipedia editors so they leave feeling empowered with the skills to continue editing Wikipedia after the event.

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