The number of women who edit the popular open-source website Wikipedia is much lower than you might think. A Miami University edit-a-thon seeks to change that by teaching female students and staff how to contribute to the site.
A chief complaint against Wikipedia is that anyone can change the content, leading to errors or misinformation.
Humanities librarian Erin Vonnahme says that's not the only problem. "There is a sharp gender divide between Wikipedians. There is a demonstrably male majority of Wikipedian editors. Female-identified Wikipedians are, by far, a smaller percentage of the total population."
In fact, according to a 2011 study by the Wikimedia Foundation, just nine percent of Wikipedia editors are female.
"It affects how knowledge is seen; how knowledge is created and shared," says Vonnahme. "What knowledge is considered valuable is also really significant too. If female-identified voices aren't part of that conversation, then automatically what gets privileged and prioritized is skewed."
Vonnahme and co-creator Carly Sentieri say the edit-a-thon is part of a larger effort called Art + Feminism. That group sponsors similar edit-a-thons all around the world throughout the month of March.
Miami's edit-a-thon Tuesday was part of the university's Women's Read In.
"I would love it if we could create some people who are much more comfortable with editing Wikipedia generally and they can do it today and just build those skills," says Vonnahme. "But also apply it to their regular life and feel empowered to deploy their expertise as necessary and when needed and not feel intimidated by the medium."