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Overlooked Female Scientists

A British physicist has been on a mission to redress that balance and has written 1,750 Wikipedia bios for overlooked women scientists. ‘Not only do we not have enough women in science, but we aren’t doing enough to celebrate the ones we have,’ physicist Jess Wade told the Washington Post.

British physicist Jess Wade
Photo courtesy of Jess Wade

On a whim, Jess Wade wrote up her first Wikipedia page five years ago. It was a biography of Kim Cobb, an American climatologist who - despite earning several scientific accolades - had never been written about on the world's most popular online encyclopedia.

“I met her at a science event, and I was massively impressed,” said Wade, 33, a British physicist, who, after a quick search online, was stunned to see that Cobb had no profile on the public platform. Wade had stumbled into something she found troubling: Cobb was one of countless deserving women whose names - and lengthy list of achievements - had yet to be documented on Wikipedia, launched in 2001, and now used by roughly 2 billion people a month who are seeking information about people, ideas and topics.

Wikipedia is “used by pretty much everyone,” Wade said. She realized that “despite it being this incredibly important resource, it was suffering from a lack of content, particularly about women, but also about people of color.”

She decided to set about fixing this imbalance and, over the last five years, has taken it upon herself to write more than 1,750 Wikipedia pages for female and minority scientists and engineers whose accomplishments were not chronicled on the site.

Wade says there is still a very long way to go, as just 19 percent of English Wikipedia biographies are of women. Part of her mission is to advocate for women in STEM, who make up only 28 percent of the workforce.

“Wikipedia is a really powerful way to give credit to people who, for a long time, have been written out of history,” she said. “Not only do we not have enough women in science, but we aren’t doing enough to celebrate the ones we have.”

With every biography she writes, she hopes to tighten the gap a little more. “I’m a tiny fish in a massive sea,” she said. “But I’ll keep doing everything I can to make science a more accessible and inclusive place to be.”



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