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Reed College of Media, WVU Libraries to tackle Wikipedia gender gap

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
February 12th, 2015

WVU Today

Wikipedia is one of the most commonly referenced encyclopedias in the world – more than 450 million people visit the website each month. Unlike other encyclopedias, Wikipedia’s content is written by volunteer editors from around the world. However, the site faces a serious gender gap that can influence that content.

Some Wikipedia visitors may be surprised to learn that nearly 90 percent of the site’s volunteer editors are male. The editors also tend to be mostly white and college educated. As a result, users are more likely to find more information about men and male-related topics than they are about women and female-related topics.

On March 4-5, the West Virginia University Reed College of Media and the WVU Libraries will co-sponsor a panel discussion and faculty workshop addressing the gender gap.


The panel event, “Where Are all the Women? Wikipedia’s Gender Gap,” will be held Wednesday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. in room G20 of Ming Hsieh Hall. Moderated by WVULibraries Dean Jon Cawthorne, the panel will address the lack of female editors at Wikipedia and why we should care, barriers to entry for women and how executives associated with Wikipedia are working to close the gender gap. The event is free and open to the public. For those who cannot attend, the panel also will be webcast live.

About the panelists:

Sue Gardner (@SuePGardner) is a special adviser to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia. From 2007-14 she served as the executive director. Previously Gardner was head of CBC.CA, the website for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and before that she spent many years as a working journalist. Gardner serves on boards and advisory committees for a half-dozen organizations, primarily related to technology, gender, and the free and open Internet.

Adeline Koh (@adlelinekoh) co-founded the Rewriting Wikipedia Project, which supports and advocates for efforts to add entries and posts to Wikipedia that focus on postcolonial studies as well as ethnic/minority and marginalized peoples. Koh is currently an associate professor of literature and the director of the Stockton College Center for the Digital Humanities. She also is a core contributor to the Profhacker Column at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jami Mathewson is the educational partnerships manager at the Wiki Education Foundation, where she develops partnerships with educational institutions and academic associations to systematically bring more student editors and high-quality content to Wikipedia. Throughout the last three years, Mathewson has focused her volunteer editing on improving content about women’s issues.

Sydney Poore (@SydneyPoore) has been an active Wikipedia editor since 2005 and an administrator since 2006. She is a Wikipedian in Residence at Cochrane Collaboration, an international not-for-profit research organization that provides accessible, credible information to support informed decision-making health care. Poore is a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Fund Dissemination Committee, which is an advisory committee to the WMF Board of Trustees. Formerly, she was a member of the Wikipedia English Arbitration Committee and the WMF Ombudsmen Commission.

Frank Schulenburg (@fschulenburg) is the executive director of the Wiki Education Foundation, a longtime Wikipedian and former member of the executive management team of the Wikimedia Foundation. His work primarily has focused on broadening participation and developing the public understanding of Wikipedia, especially among subject matter experts. Schulenburg has been involved with Wikipedia since 2005, both as an author and as a photographer.


WVU Libraries will host the workshop, “Tackling the Gender Gap in Wikipedia Through Course Assignments,” on Thursday, March 5, from 9 a.m.-noon in room 2036 of the Downtown Campus Library. Open to WVU faculty and graduate teaching assistants, the session will clarify the known gender gap in Wikipedia content, address strategies underway for correcting the problem on other campuses, and introduce the protocols of writing for Wikipedia here at WVU.

Attendees will leave the session with ideas for proven course assignments and strategies for adoption in their courses. Articles for Wikipedia can be substituted for traditional research projects in courses and can result in compelling student engagement and learning.

Koh and Mathewson will present the workshop. Koh uses Wikipedia research writing assignments in her classes and teaches others how to start activist instructional initiatives of their own. Mathewson identifies ways to support partners who are looking to promote the use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool on a large scale – including help with publications, printed materials, conference presentations, training new participants, and documenting metrics and outcomes.

Interested faculty members and GTAs must register online for the workshop. This session will accommodate only 30, so registering early is suggested. Registrants should keep in mind that they should bring a laptop or tablet to participate during the workshop.

The panel and workshop events represent the first in a new series sponsored by the University Libraries entitled “Talking Publicly: Conversations for a Better World.” The series programs are for WVU and the larger community and are building campus and community partnerships while encouraging dialogues on timely subjects. The panel also is part of the WVU Reed College of Media’s “The Future of Media – NOW” series, which brings to campus professionals who are reinventing journalism, media and 21st century communications.

Details for both events can be found on the WVU Reed College of Media website and the WVU Libraries site. Join the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #WikiGenderGap.

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