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Photo by Davide Gorla (1 May 2012) via Flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Like us here at Sydney University Press, you are probably frustrated by the underrepresentation of women on Wikipedia, both as subjects and as editors. Wikipedia itself accepts that this gender bias exists, stating that not only do men make up the majority of Wikipedia editors, but that those male editors are also individually responsible for editing more articles than their female counterparts. While there are many and varied factors contributing to this, Wikipedia’s own attempts to redress the imbalance have been largely unsuccessful.

So what can you do to raise the profile of women on Wikipedia? How can you skew Wikipedia’s perspective away from that of a 20-something or retired male, ensuring that it is more representative?

Edit-a-thons are a great way to foster more diversity of input. Edit-a-thons are organised events where communities come together to increase the gender, racial and/or sexual diversity of Wikipedia. So why not join us at the Women in Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2017? We’ll be redressing Wikipedia’s gender imbalance, destroying joints and smashing ceilings as we go, and leaving only a trail of new and comprehensive Wiki entries behind.

Who can be a Wiki editor?

Anyone can become a Wikipedian and edit or create articles on Wikipedia. No formal training is required, nor any exceptional IT proficiency. Before embarking on the Wikipedian path, however, it is good to familiarise yourself with the fundamental principles of Wikipedia, summarised as the Five Pillars:

  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia
  • Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
  • Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit or distribute
  • Editors should treat each other with respect and civility
  • Wikipedia has no firm rules

Creating an account

The first step to take before starting to edit is to create a Wikipedia account. This is a simple process that takes less than a minute. Just go to the main Wikipedia page, click on the 'Create account' link in the top right-hand corner and choose your Username and a Password.

Some tips on choosing your Username;

  • Your username shouldn't be offensive, misleading, disruptive or promotional
  • One username should represent one person
  • Consider carefully before using your real name or a name easily traced to you because, as with other social networks, this can increase the potential for harassment, particularly if you are going to edit in controversial areas

When you create a new account Wikipedia will suggest an article in need of some minor editing, along with tips on how to go about it. Even if you don’t make any edits at this stage, this makes for a good introductory tutorial.

Wikipedia will also send you an introductory welcoming message to your inbox. This message provides links to all the relevant information and tutorials you need to get started creating and editing articles in Wikipedia. If you don’t have time to go through these tutorials fear not, we’ve got you covered. There will be brief training sessions run throughout the day at our edit-a-thon and a team of volunteers on hand to provide assistance if you get stuck.

Editing Wikipedia


Editing a Wikipedia page is relatively straightforward. There are two methods used for editing, wiki markup and VisualEditor. VisualEditor is a ‘what you see is what you get (WYSIWIG)’ editing aid and if, like me, you are a new Wikipedian, this is probably what you will be using.

To dip your toe in the Wikipedia waters, you can have a go at providing some background information on your own User Page. Simply log in to Wikipedia, click on your Username in the toolbar at the top and then click on ‘Start the User:…. Page’. You can create a little biography for yourself, bearing in mind Wikipedia’s warning about not making yourself too identifiable if you want to avoid the trolls. All you need to know about using the VisualEditor can be found in the VisualEditor/User guide.

Wiki Markup is used extensively through Wikipedia. It consists of a range of syntax and keywords that assist in formatting a page. It also allows for the use of some HTML elements. You can edit Wikipedia without learning this markup language – but for a list of markups and tips, visit the Wiki Markup Cheatsheet.

Choosing a candidate

Now all there is left to do is choose your Wiki-worthy woman and get the information out there. We have done some initial groundwork, digging through various biographical dictionaries from the library collection and searching online databases, to compile a list of names whose Wikipedia presence needs creating or updating. Please have a look at the list and put your Wikipedia Username next to any entry you wish to work on.

If you know of someone who is missing from our list, someone who inspires or challenges you, please add them. Wikipedia defines notable subjects as those that have received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject. If your inspiration fulfils these requirements, go ahead and add them to our list or, better still, create an entry for them.

The edit-a-thon

Finally, all that remains is for you to come along to our ‘Women in Wikipedia Edit-a-thon’ on 28 March. If you can’t join us at Fisher Library on the day you can be with us in spirit by taking part wherever you are. Don’t forget to check-in with us using the hashtags #editathon and #wmnshist.

And of course there is nothing to stop you continuing to add ‘Women in Wikipedia’ long into the future.

OK, let’s do this.

Wikipedia tips

Useful resources

  • Beyond 1914 – The University of Sydney and the Great War - An extensive, searchable database of biographies and archival information of members of the University community involved in the First World War.
  • Encyclopedia of women & leadership in twentieth-century Australia - Announced on the day on which Australia’s first female governor-general administered the oaths of office to its first female prime minister, this online encyclopedia focuses on women who occupied leadership positions throughout the twentieth century in Australia.
  • Sydney Medical School online museum - Searchable biographies of Faculty of Medicine staff and graduates from the University of Sydney.
  • Wikiproject – Women in Red - The Women in Red project seeks to turn red links in Wikipedia (which indicate a subject who is mentioned in Wikipedia but doesn’t have her own Wikipedia article) into blue links.
  • Women in STEMM Australia - All around Australia there are remarkable women in science investigating dark matter and studying volcanoes, implementing health policies and administering research grants. Get to know some of Australia’s outstanding women in STEMM from a range of disciplines, professions and locations.

Some further reading

Bear, J.B. & Collier, B. (2016) Where are the women in Wikipedia? Understanding the different psychological experiences of men and women in Wikipedia. Sex Roles (2016) 74 (5), 254-265: 254. doi:10.1007/s11199-015-0573-y

Cohen, N. (2001, January 30) Define gender gap? Look up Wikipedia’s contributor list. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/business/media/31link.html

Gardner, S. (2001, February 19). Nine reasons women don’t edit Wikipedia (in their own words). Sue Gardner’s Blog [personal blog]. Retrieved from https://suegardner.org/2011/02/19/nine-reasons-why-women-dont-edit-wikipedia-in-their-own-words/

Kleeman, J. (2015, May 26). The Wikipedia wars: does it matter if our biggest source of knowledge is written by men? New Statesman. Retrieved from http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2015/05/wikipedia-has-colossal-problem-women-dont-edit-it

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