Legal Law

Wikipedia wants to target women as contributors

Around the 20th birthday of the German version of Wikipedia, a discussion about the participation of women in the encyclopedia project has developed. As part of a digital campaign week in Austria and Germany, there was also a recent campaign organized by WU Vienna and Wikimedia Austria on the subject of “More women on Wikipedia”. The aim was to increase the presence of women, especially from business, in the German-language Wikipedia.

Claudia Garád, managing director of the non-profit association Wikimedia Austria, admits in an APA conversation that the Wikipedia community in this country is still too little diverse. She estimates the proportion of women to be around ten to 20 percent. Basically, however, it should be said that Wikipedia contributors are free to disclose their gender and only this public data is recorded. In many cases this does not happen “because you know that it can have an impact on how you are treated”. Generally speaking, the culture of discussion among Wikipedians is often a problem, Garád said, pointing to the harsh tone that often prevails in discussions about articles. The (often lonely) work on Wikipedia articles is also “less social than other voluntary hobbies”, which is why women often turn to other platforms.

A possible hurdle used to be the complicated editing directly in wiki syntax, which put some people off. “In the meantime, however, there is a simple editor, similar to WordPress,” says Garád, who, with Wikimedia, is also increasingly committed to reducing fears of the threshold for new contributors. Last week’s workshops, in which numerous women from business and science also took part, gave a careful introduction to the sometimes still complex processes.

A higher proportion of women – “and more diversity in general, for example in terms of origin” – is also being sought for reasons of content in order to make the life and work of women more visible. Here, however, one also comes across the “societal problem” that there are far fewer sources – such as newspaper reports – for many female personalities. “And we only summarize and do not produce new knowledge,” emphasizes Garád. For example, there was a great outcry when there was no Wikipedia entry for the Physics Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland, who was awarded in 2018. “The reason was that so far hardly any reports have been made about them,” criticizes the Wikimedia managing director.

But the female gaze is also often lacking on other topics such as articles about films. “Even if it’s a film about the fate of women, you quickly notice that the article was written by a man because, for example, other aspects are often brought to the fore,” says Garád. However, since Wikipedia has no cost pressure in terms of size, it doesn’t hurt to add more aspects to articles like these. In any case, it is an ongoing goal to attract more women as future contributors.

In Austria there are around 575 people who regularly contribute to the online encyclopedia. Worldwide, the share of women among the Wikipedia active is estimated at 12 percent, among the new contributors it is currently around 22 percent. Wikipedia projects such as “Women in Red” for biographical articles and campaigns around Women’s Day are aimed at targeting women. There will be another possibility soon: On Friday (March 19) a workshop will take place as part of #WikiGap in cooperation with the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish embassies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

(SERVICE – # WikiGap workshop on March 19, 3 to 7 p.m. Info under https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiGap/Workshop_WikiGap_2021 and www.wikimedia.at)

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