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

Rochester Institute of Technology

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 Foundationfound that at the time only 13% of its contributors were women. RIT Libraries Women on Wikipedia-edit-a-thon events are geared to change that imbalance.

RIT libraries has hosted the annual event for 5 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. “And 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 and it is estimated that only about 20% of all Wikipedia biography pages are about women.

Some people attributed the lack of diversity in content as correlating to the high representation of its male editors. Since 2011, there has been an initiative by the Wikimedia Foundation  to invite 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. She said many women's stories are often 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 current 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 this year on March 26. To register visit the RIT Libraries website.

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