At this point, Wikipedia’s gender issues are well documented — men account for 87 percent of the site’s contributors, and content tends to skew accordingly. But here’s a step in the right direction: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (h/t the Atlantic) that next week, Brown University will host a five-hour edit-a-thon aimed at adding and improving entries about women’s achievements in science, technology, and math. The first hour will include a tutorial on Wikipedia writing, after which attendees will get busy on their laptops. (The event’s Wikipedia page includes a starting list of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) whose entries are either nonexistent or inexcusably cursory.)
Sue Garner, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, has many theories about why more women don’t edit Wikipedia, ranging from speculation that they find the overall atmosphere of the site to be misogynistic to that they don’t feel sufficiently self-confident, or even that the site’s interface isn’t user-friendly enough. While none of the foundation’s initiatives to close the gender gap have been particularly effective thus far, an edit-a-thon at least looks like progress. Someday perhaps we can have a comprehensive online resource where “cloth menstrual pad” isn’t the only article edited by more women than men.