Edit-a-thon seeks to decrease gender gap on Wikipedia


Bercham Kamber

Source: Wikipedia Foundation

By Olivia Welshans, Staff Writer

To combat the gender imbalance in Wikipedia articles and editors, an Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon was hosted by the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art and the Krannert Art Museum on March 3.

The edit-a-thon edited or created 17 articles for underrepresented women in arts.

In 2011, the Wikimedia Foundation found less than 10 percent of editors on Wikipedia were women. The Art + Feminism campaign was founded to decrease this gender gap, said Melanie Emerson, edit-a-thon organizer and head librarian of the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art.

An edit-a-thon is an event that teaches people how to edit and create articles on Wikipedia and encourages them to take on the role of an editor, Emerson said. It is also meant to increase diversity and inclusion on Wikipedia by getting people who do not normally edit to participate.

The edit-a-thon held at the University is just one of many other Art + Feminism Edit-a-thons held around the globe. According to the campaign’s website, Art + Feminism is a campaign that seeks to improve “coverage of cis and transgender women, feminism and the arts on Wikipedia.”

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This is the fifth year since the creation of Art + Feminism and the third year an edit-a-thon has been held at the University.

“If the majority of the people editing are actually men, then they may find the content actually reflects their interests more than if it is a more diverse group of editors,” Emerson said.

At her first edit-a-thon in Chicago, Emerson said she saw this imbalance perfectly represented by a male and female collaborative art duo. Both were faculty members of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“He had an article with multiple paragraphs and all this information. She just had a paragraph within it that said she was a collaborator of his. They actually considered themselves equals, so it was funny he had an article and she only had a mention,” Emerson said.

Maureen Warren, a curator at Krannert Art Museum, said this gender imbalance could cause some women’s contributions to go unseen.

“Not that there is anything wrong with content that is created mostly by men,” Warren said, “But we need to be aware that there may be stories and information that may get left out when the demographics are skewed really strongly towards one population over another.”

Creating and improving women’s articles puts them on a more leveled playing field with men in terms of importance, Warren said.

“I think whether or not we like it, Wikipedia is the starting point for a lot of research. If there is no article for someone, it creates the false appearance that person must be less important,” Warren said.

This year was the second time Kaylee Tucker, junior in Architecture, participated in the edit-a-thon. She said the event was especially important to her because she is the vice president of Women in Architecture, a student organization supporting women in related professions.

“Without representation of women in architecture, how can girls imagine themselves as architects when they grow up?” Tucker said.

To share their work from the edit-a-thon, Tucker said her organization is creating a gallery exhibit featuring some of the women whose articles they edited. Later this month, they will display posters of female architects in Temple Buell Hall’s West Gallery.

“As college students, we often learn about male architects in architectural history classes and reference their works as precedent studies, but by improving articles about female architects, we open the possibility of learning more about them and from them,” Tucker said.

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