Ladies first, also on Wikipedia

This column was first published in Finnish at Suur-Jyväskylän Lehti on 10th October 2018. 

Last weekend group of Finnish wikimedians, including me, attended Wikimedia Northern Europe Meeting in Stockholm. Over the years various organisations have been created around Wikipedia: there is the American foundation and different kind of user groups and chapters that want to support the activities of Wikipedists and volunteers in other Wikimedia projects locally. Some of these local organizations are occupied purely by volunteers, while some have also permanent employees or project-related employees.

Wikinem October 2018 03

The WIKINEM participants. I am the one with they grey hat in the first row. Image: Arild Vågen, CC BY-SA 4.0

The highlight of the year in the Wikimedia community is the Wikimania event that brings together both people from different Wikimedia organisations as well as volunteers. In order to get as many people as possible to participate in Wikimania, it has been organised in different parts of the world, most recently in Mexico, Italy and South Africa. Next summer Wikimania will be held for the first time in Northern Europe, Stockholm, and this was one of the most important reasons behind our gathering.

But there are also other reasons why we want to intensify the cooperation between the Nordic countries and the Baltic countries. We are close to each other, both geographically and culturally. Each Wikimedia project has however its own culture and a good example of this is the recent hullabaloo around the English Wikipedia article of Donna Strickland, the Nobel Prize winner. Somebody had tried to create an article for her already in 2014, but it was then removed because of copyright infringement. However e.g. the readers of The Guardian may have thought that Strickland was not considered significant enough for Wikipedia before the Nobel Prize.

Wikipedia editors decide themselves about which subjects they are writing to Wikipedia. This is why there is actually nobody that you can blame if a certain significant person is still missing a Wikipedia article. However, these so called wiki gaps can be influenced for example by organizing editing competitions where editors are producing the missing content together. About 17% of Wikipedia’s articles of people are telling about women, and when almost the same number of editors, 16%, are women, one could imagine that these things are connected.

I think that also the masculine culture of our society should be blamed for the gap. For example if you are asked to make a list of experts in some field, your list can become very manly unless you consciously mind the issue. If you don’t believe this, try asking your acquaintances to name the professionals of a certain field! With help of women-related competitions run by Wikimedia movement the attitude of active Wikipedists for example in Norway has already changed: ”Let’s start by making articles about women’s football players and add men players after them,” they may say now.

Further reading:
Two months of Women’s Day events: over 1000 new female biography articles created  in events in Finland
Exploring Wikimedia’s gender gap with six contributors from Scandinavia


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