News

University deploys wikibomb because it believes a woman's place is on the web


31 October 2014

Wikipedia is the first place many people turn to online to find answers, but the website's gender imbalance means the contribution of leading women in academia is going unrecognised in the annals of the world's largest digital encyclopaedia.

Despite the website's reach, exceeding more than 34 million pages and spanning a diverse range of topics from biographies to world events, women are significantly underrepresented on Wikipedia.

Faced with a paucity of female entries on Wikipedia's peer-edited pages, the University of Sydney will lead a 'wikibombing' activation on Friday and launch a campaign to bolster the online profile of more than 100 women who are leaders in their field.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence said the edit-a-thon is the first in a series of events connected with the Women at Sydney symposium being hosted on Saturday, and aims to improve the reporting and coverage of women online.

"The University of Sydney was one of the first universities in the world to admit students solely on academic merit and to open its doors to women on the same basis as men," Dr Spence said.

"For more than 160 years, the University of Sydney has cultivated bold thinking and leadership, and this wikibombing endeavour is a continuation of our commitment to leadership on gender equality.

"It's important that we honour women who are paving the way and promote their work on the web to ensure they are recognised for their leadership and celebrated as role models."

The University Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson said volunteers at the edit-a-thon will become editors to ensure 100 women's contribution to academia, business and the community will be recorded on Wikipedia.

"There are hundreds of entries for notable University of Sydney women in the nation's pre-eminent dictionary of national biography, The Australian Dictionary of Biography, but a scarce few are mentioned on Wikipedia," Ms Hutchinson said.

"In fact, of 300 entries of eminent women from the University of Sydney detailed in the authoritative dictionary biographies, only 34 have Wikipedia articles.

"Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia, not a soapbox, but the ever-evolving content on the crowd-sourced site should reflect our diversity.

"The beauty of Wikipedia is it's a public institution and a peer-edited encyclopaedia, which means as a community we can correct the gender imbalance if we seek to address it.

"The University of Sydney wikibombing event is a practical initiative aimed at boosting the number of entries for women to correct the imbalance."

The target for the campaign is to produce 100 new Wikipedia articles on notable University of Sydney women consisting of two robust paragraphs of 100 words each.

Event details:

When: Friday, 31 October
Sessions: 2.00pm - 4.00pm; or 4.00pm - 6.00pm
Where: Charles Perkins Centre and Old Teachers College


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Media enquiries: Jessica Hill, 8627 1433, 0407 926 077, j.hill@sydney.edu.au