Most of us know Wikipedia as the free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by millions of volunteers from around the world. I am one of those writers for the last 3 years. It was by writing articles about medical sciences that I started contributing to Wikipedia. Later, I was intrigued by the enormous volume of information available on Wikipedia, and was curious to find out who actually write them – which made me delve into the editor demographics. It really made me upset when I figured out that only around 9% of the contributors to Wikipedia are women. In fact, I knew that so few women write on Wikipedia, but I hadn’t expected the figure to be as low as 9 percent.
Diversity of opinion is the essence of any encyclopedia. Having equal representation from women will bring in wider perspectives, and increase the neutrality of the articles on Wikipedia. With men creating most of the content for Wikipedia, certain subjects might be covered more than a subject that may be of interest to women. Women not writing on Wikipedia mean that certain subjects may not be receiving the attention they rightfully deserve.
The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia, had recognized this problem sooner than I did. The Wikimedia Foundation has launched various programs to bridge the gender gap, and the latest addition to the list is the WikiWomen’s Collaborative.
The WikiWomen’s Collaborative was created in September 2012 by women around the world who edit Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and want to encourage others to do the same. The project was aimed at helping women and transwomen to support one another and engage in programs that help the Wikimedian community to bring in new women editors. A variety of events, like edit-a-thons, interviews and wikiwomen parties were conducted as a part of the collaborative.
In May 2012, a WikiWomenCamp was organized for women in the Wikimedia movement to get together and discuss about the various issues related to being women involved in the Wikimedia community with like-minded women. Over 20 women from different countries participated in the camp to brainstorm solutions for existing problems that concern women, and suggest future plans to collaborate with one another. It is customary to conduct a WikiWomen’s luncheon at Wikimania, the global gathering of Wikimedians, exclusively for the women participants.
Organizations like the Ada Initiative, named for the world’s first programmer Countess Ada Lovelace, support women working with open knowledge projects like Wikipedia by creating resources for women in open stuff, conducting conferences and advising organizations on supporting women.
Many outreach programs were conducted in women’s universities all over the world to encourage students to participate in the Wikimedia movement. The Women’s History month edit-a-thons conducted every year, attracts both male and female editors to write biographies of notable women on Wikipedia.
The Wikimedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25% by 2015. Given the good response from the community to various events conducted for women, it is likely that the foundation will achieve its goal within the set time limit.