WXXI AM News

Event at RIT aims to improve online gender equity

Mar 19, 2019

Credit freeimages.com/Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

RIT Libraries will hold an event this week aimed at improving gender equity on one of the internet's most popular resources.

RIT Libraries is hosting its third annual Women on Wikipedia edit-a-thon this Friday.

The goal is to improve and add to the number of Wikipedia entries based on women. One study estimated that women are the subject of only 30 percent of biographies in the online encyclopedia.

"If women's achievements aren't being represented on Wikipedia then they're not part of the larger conversation about the role that they've played in history and in really important events that have transpired," said RIT Liberal Arts Librarian Lara Nicosia.

One example of an ommission organizers of the edit-a-thon plan to rectify:  Emily Sibley Watson, founder of the Memorial Art Gallery, does not have an entry on Wikipedia though her husband, James Sibley Watson, does.  There should be a live entry completed by the end of Friday’s event.

"A lot of the entries on women tend to focus too heavily on their gender and less so on their accomplishments," Nicosia said about the current entries found on Wikipedia. "So we encourage people to work on improving the quality of the writing."

Realizing that researching and writing Wikipedia entries can be time-consuming, organizers of the edit-a-thon have come up with some less demanding, but important tasks for volunteers to do.  They include adding titles to the "further reading" list on Wiki entries and creating info boxes.

"Google searches pull information from those info boxes," Nicosia said. "By having better info boxes on the entries, you're not only improving the entries themselves, but also potentially the results that are coming back through other searches such as Google."

At the end of the day, librarian Kari Horowicz, a co-organizer of the event, said they hope to have either added or improved 75 to 100 separate entries. Separate focus groups will work on entries pertaining to their interests. For instance, the group Deaf Women of Rochester and representatives of NTID's department of Creative and Cultural Studies have identified entries for women who are deaf and hard of hearing.  RIT's School of Photographic Arts and Sciences will highlight women photographers, and the Rochester Regional Library Council will focus on authors and librarians.

The edit-a-thon runs from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 22 at Wallace Library on the RIT campus.  The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided and personal care donations will be collected for the Sojourner Home and RIT's Center for Women and Gender.