Women EmpowerED: Wikipedia Editathon

By Sarah Lappin, final year computer science and artificial intelligence student at the University of Edinburgh, and President for Edinburgh University Women in STEM (EUWiSTEM). 

In Summer 2020, I organised my first Wikipedia Editathon as part of the Women in STEM Connect series. With an eye-opening talk, physicist and Wikipedia diversity advocate, Dr Jess Wade introduced me to the issue of underrepresentation on Wikipedia and left me, and seemingly all our attendees, feeling inspired to start editing Wikipedia. With training from University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, and a total of 15 editors, we were able to contribute fourteen thousand words, edit forty-two articles and add five new articles to Wikipedia by the end of the event. I created my first Wikipedia article on Dr Jessica Borger, an Australian T-Cell immunologist, and caught the editing bug!

Women EmpowerED by Sarah Lappin.

To celebrate International Womens’ Day 2021, Edinburgh University Women in STEM (EUWiSTEM) has joined forces with 5 other female and gender minority lead societies: Edinburgh University Women in Business, Women in Law, Women in Politics and International Relations, EconWomen, and Hoppers, the society of women and gender minorities in Informatics. Together we are hosting Women EmpowerED, a week-long celebration aiming to showcase the achievements of women in different fields and discuss the issues women currently face, with a focus on cross-disciplinary inclusion. 

The theme of International Womens’ Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. Fitting with that theme, it is important we acknowledge the achievements of diversity and inclusion initiatives but it is equally crucial that we continue to challenge the norms and push for further improvements. Women EmpowerED has chosen to kick-off our celebrations on March 6th with an event that fits these aims perfectly – a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. At this event, we aim to improve the representation of women and gender minorities on Wikipedia, focusing on those who have chosen to challenge societal norms, and inspirational women in the host societies’ fields. Ewan McAndrew will be providing editing training during the event, helping us to make Wikipedia editing accessible to all. 

We are pleased to be welcoming Bruce and John Usher Professor of Public Health in the Usher Institute, Dr Linda Bauld, to give a talk on the importance of representation online at the Edit-a-thon. Online platforms now have a massive influence on society, and most of these platforms are rife with internet ‘trolls’, and political agendas. As the fifth most visited website worldwide, and what is designed to be a source of reliable information for users, it is crucial that Wikipedia is free from bias and abuse. As Jess Wade explains in a 2018 TEDXLondon talk, “the majority of history has been written by men, about men, for other men.” 

But we can start to change that through Wikipedia. 

In our event, not only will we add and improve articles for women and gender minorities, but we also hope to increase the diversity of its editors, making a lasting impact on Wikipedia. 

If you would like to learn how to edit articles or assist in our mission to improve diversity on Wikipedia, you can get tickets to our editathon on eventbrite.

For more information on Women EmpowerED visit our website.

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