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RIT hosts edit-a-thon to help improve women's representation on Wikipedia

Mar 25, 2021

Credit RIT Libraries

Wikipedia is used as a resource by millions, but compared to the total amount of its users the site has a small number of mostly male contributors. A 2010 study by the Wikimedia Foundation found that at the time only 13% of its contributors were women. RIT Libraries' Women on Wikipedia-edit-a-thon events are geared toward changing that imbalance. 

RIT libraries has hosted the annual event for the past five years, offering its space and resources for people to contribute and create new pages of women on the popular website. 

RIT Librarian Rebekah Walker said that before the pandemic, the event was held on RIT’s campus and was open to the public.

"People could show up with devices and we could find them devices in the library to use to edit," said Walker. “Then we have very similar resources like books for people to browse through.”

Over the past 20 years, Wikipedia has become an essential resource for quick web references and preliminary research. However, males have dominated the site's contributor ratio.  It's estimated that about 20% of all Wikipedia biography pages are about women. Some people attribute the lack of diversity in content to the high representation of its male editors.

Since 2011, an initiative by the Wikimedia Foundation has invited more women to be represented as both contributors and in biographical content.

Walker said there is a distinction between the way women and men are written about on the website, with many women's stories told through their relationships to men.

"Women articles more often describe their familial relationship, their marriages," said Walker. "People refer to them by their first name or by Mrs. so-and-so, foregrounding their relationships other than their accomplishments.”

Previous Women on Wikipedia-edit-a-thon events have resulted in 10 new pages and edits to 260 existing pages. 

Walker said there is a list of women, that includes the first deaf NASA engineer and lesser known actresses and artists, that they hope to create new pages for during this year’s event.

Women on Wikipedia-edit-a-thon will be held virtually on Friday, March 26. To register visit the RIT Libraries website.