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Wikipedia: Towards closing the Gender Gap

Friday, 9 August 2013 - 6:02pm IST | Agency: dna

By Netha Hussian, a Wikimedian from Kozhikode, India.

Most of us know Wikipedia as the free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by millions of volunteers from around the world. I have been one of those writers for the past three 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 wrote it. This made me delve into the editor demographics. It really upset me when I figured out that only around 9 percent of all the contributors to Wikipedia are women. I knew that very few women contribute to 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 means that certain subjects may not receivie 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 programmes to bridge the Gender Gap. 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 support each another and engage in programmes that help the Wikimedian community bring in new women editors. A variety of events such as edit-a-thons, interviews, and Wikiwomen parties were conducted as a part of the Collaborative's activities.

In May 2012, a WikiWomenCamp was organised for women in the Wikimedia movement to come together and discuss with like-minded women various issues related to women in the Wikimedia community. 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.

Organisations such as the Ada Initiative, named for the world's first programmer Countess Ada Lovelace, support women working with open knowledge projects such as Wikipedia by creating resources for women in open communities, conducting conferences, and advising organisations about supporting women.

Many outreach programmes 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 attract 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 percent 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.

If you would like to engage in activities for women in Wikipedia, write to Netha or Rohini, or join us here. Twitter: @NethaHussain

Edited by Rohini Lakshané: rohini @ wikimedia.in | http://about.me/rohini

Originally posted at Huffington Post Blogs.