The problem with Wikipedia? There are not enough women

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Wikipedia has become an integral part of everyday life. It is more than just a repository of human knowledge; its ubiquity means that it truly participates in shaping our society.

English Wikipedia records 32 million page views per day. Sometimes we search for a credible source of information in a targeted search, other times we end up exploring the endless hyperlinks as one random question leads to another in a quest for answers either solo or online. band.

Yet if we step back to consider what is recorded and what is not, whose lives and accomplishments are documented on Wikipedia and which are not, and who puts in the entries and what perspectives they have, it becomes clear that the online encyclopedia reflects society. It reflects existing inequalities and, above all, amplifies them. Wikipedia’s unique democratization of editorial rights, where anyone can theoretically tinker with or delete information, may intensify this magnification.

Of the nearly 1.9 million biographies of notable individuals on Wikipedia in English – from authors to scientists, celebrities and scholars, politicians and sportspeople – just 19% are women. This more generally reflects unequal representation.

For example, in media coverage, 70% of people seen, quoted and heard are men, and about 80% of expert sources are men. In political news coverage, women receive political and government coverage only 16% of the time. When male experts form the majority of the opinions heard, not only do women’s achievements lack public recognition, but their hard work is devalued.

And then there is the question of where women are represented in the media and on Wikipedia. When we group the biographical articles by profession, there is indeed a selection that contains more women than men, but the list is telling. The top 25 categories where this is the case include nuns, women’s rights activists, sex workers, erotic models, royal wives and housewives.

This month, England are hosting the Women’s Euro and many will be supporting our Lionesses. Yet only 6.5% of biographies of football players on Wikipedia are women. The Women in Red project has identified thousands of notable female footballers who are “in red”, meaning they do not have a Wikipedia profile despite their achievements. Even more shameful, there are currently more Wikipedia entries on men’s football and footballers than on women as a whole!

In politics, women are no better off. Women are heads of state or government in only 22 countries, while 119 countries have never had a woman at their head. Although the proportion of female MPs in the UK has reached an all-time high, they still make up – again shamefully – only 34% of total MPs and just 28% of peers are women. Wikipedia reflects and exacerbates this inequality: only 13.3% of profiles of politicians concern women.

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The new #ChangeTheStory campaign from CARE International, Wikimedia UK and Women in Red aims to draw attention to the importance of increasing the number of women’s profiles on Wikipedia. Recognition and greater representation means greater support and opportunities for women around the world. Great women are not lacking, far from it. just not enough representation and telling of their stories.

The world of Wikipedia and more generally the online world reflects and informs our society. It is both a symptom of inequality in society but it also becomes a cause, exacerbating existing prejudices. It’s not necessary. People can become editors and help fill the gaps, they can join the #ChangeTheStory campaign and help wiki be part of the change instead of the problem.

Restoring the balance on Wikipedia is a step towards equality, social justice and the recognition of the power of women. We can help Wiki become a place, a global arena, where women – in all their diversity – gain the legitimacy, authority and status they deserve.

Helen Pankhurst CBE is an activist, scholar and writer

Learn more about the Women in Red project and register as a Wikipedia editor to help “write the wrongs” regarding gender representation on Wikipedia

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