Congratulations and thank you Jess Wade for 1000 new biographies @Wikipedia 🏆

Jess_Wade_-_2017_(cropped)

Jess Wade, editor extraordinaire, in 2017. Portrait by Dave Guttridge via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA

Today Jess Wade published her one thousandth new Wikipedia article, a wiki-biography of Sylvie Briand. This biography joins 999 others Jess has written at a rate of one per day since September 2017. All of these articles have been about people from under represented groups, with a particular focus on women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Passing the 1k milestone is a fantastic achievement in its own right, but also something we should all be grateful for because:

  1. She has significantly improved Wikipedia. Wikipedia is undoubtedly one of the Seven Wonders of the World Wide Web but it also has well known limitations. The gender of editors on Wikipedia is notoriously unbalanced and coverage of many people and topics is incomplete or non-existent. For example, according to the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI), as of May 2020, there are around ~1.7 million biographies on English Wikipedia but only ~300,000 of them are about women, a paltry 18% or so. [1]  While we are a long way off gender parity in Wikipedia, we are slowly moving the needle in the right direction thanks to work from Jess and many other editors. Back in 2017, the gender balance of articles was down at 15%. [2]
  2. She has brought lots more attention to an important ongoing issue. Jess’s work as an editor has received lots of media attention including from the New York Times, Sky News, the BBC, HuffPost, ABC News, El País, CNN, Nature, The Guardian, New Scientist, Physics World and many others. Like many other blokes, I was aware of the problem gender inequality but didn’t realise the magnitude of the issue until she drew my attention to it. Redressing this inequality is in all our interests because a more inclusive and diverse Wikipedia will be a better Wikipedia.
  3. She has inspired many others to do more. Plenty of people have been influenced and inspired by Jess’s work. For me personally, watching her training sessions and editing from a distance gave me a much needed virtual kick up the backside to finally get around to organising events myself. We hosted our first training session in October 2019 for Ada Lovelace day (which Jess helped with) and we’ve got more planned for the future in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum North on the subject of Women in War in June 2020.

Talking of wars, Jess’s recent edits have been focusing on women fighting in the great  coronavirus war through their work in public health, virology, vaccine development, epidemiology, immunology and medicine. This includes people like Sarah Gilbert, Nicola Stonehouse, Nishi Chaturvedi, Marion Koopmans, Eleni Nastouli, Devi Sridhar and Isabella Eckerle alongside many others. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, visit womeninred.org and explore their list of articles wanted , there’s even a dedicated sub-list for COVID-19 Women.

So congratulations Jess and thanks for all one thousand of your valuable contributions – here’s to your next 1000 biographies! 💪

Epilogue

This week is mental health awareness week in the UK. Over the last month, I’ve been doing Yale’s most popular course with Laurie Santos on The Science of Well-being which has been worthwhile. [3] One recurring theme of the course is that we are biased to “mis-want” things that we think will make us happy but actually don’t. One way to combat this annoying built-in feature of your brain is to intentionally overcome your biases by deliberately doing things that are proven to make you happier and healthier. Experiencing gratitude, being kind and more socially connected are several scientifically proven ways to do this and improve the mental health of yourself and your peers. Which is where this post came from – it’s also part of my coursework on Coursera. Thanks also to Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi for comments on an earlier draft of this article, and thanks to Uli Sattler for encouraging me to take a look at Laurie’s well-being course. 😃

References

  1. Anon (2020) Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI): Gender by language, Wikimedia Foundation, wmflabs.org
  2. Piotr Konieczny and Maximilian Klein (2018) Gender gap through time and space: A journey through Wikipedia biographies via the Wikidata Human Gender Indicator, New Media & Society, 20 (12), p. 4608–463, DOI:10.1177/1461444818779080
  3. Anon (2018) ‘The Science of Well Being’: Yale’s most popular class ever available via Coursera, Yale University News, yale.edu

(NOTE: Jess tells me she won’t be celebrating her 1k milestone until she’s created 1011 articles, because 11 of them have been deleted, although 3 have been re-created by other users)