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Scientist creates hundreds of LGBTI and women’s science pages on Wikipedia

Scientist creates hundreds of LGBTI and women’s science pages on Wikipedia

Dr Jess Wade has been creating hundreds of Wikipedia pages

A scientist in London has revealed she spent last year creating hundreds of new Wikipedia pages to showcase diversity in science.

Dr Jess Wade, 30, is a Research Associate with the Department of Physics at Imperial College, London.

On New Year’s Eve, she posted a tweet revealing that she had spent 2018 creating new Wikipedia pages. An accompanying video flicked through each page.

The aim of the project was simple. To counteract Wikipedia being dominated by white, male scientists only, Wade wanted to create pages to highlight women, POC and LGBTI scientists.

She says she wants to encourage people from these groups to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

At the moment, only one fifth of physics A-level students in the UK are female. And women account for less than 18% of Wikipedia biography pages.

Wade said: ‘Everyday in 2018 I started the @Wikipedia biography of a woman, person of colour or LGBTQ+ scientist or engineer. I’m up to 450 pages so far.’

Wade reveals she spent about an hour to an hour and a half each day on the project. She says she would sometimes leave events early to get home and make sure she did an entry for the day.

‘So far I’ve edited from conferences, synchrotrons and my holidays, on my birthday, bank holidays, new year’s day and christmas day. I’ve never run out of people who deserve biographies.’

Dr Jess Wade wants more LGBTI people to think about careers in STEM
Dr Jess Wade wants more LGBTI people to think about careers in STEM (Photo: Supplied)

Challenging stereotypes

Wade told the Daily Mail: ‘’I think we can [challenge stereotypes] now and Wikipedia has a huge amount of power. People visit the website 30 million times a day.

‘People use that for education, journalists use it for articles and politicians use it to research so it’s really important that it reflects the true diversity of the world.

‘You don’t realise how bias Wikipedia is in itself, 80 to 90 per cent of the people editing it are white men in America and just 17% of articles on English Wikipedia are about women.

‘Physics is seen as a very middle class white boy topic and we need to stop that.’

Wade says that if still alive, she contacts people to first check if they wish to be written about.

She told CNN, ‘Some people do a controversial area of research, and it’s not the best thing that they have loads of publicity’. Some decline because they have been the victim of online trolling previously.

LGBTI scientists

Wade shared with Gay Star News some of the LGBTI pages she has created. These include:

  • Vivienne Ming – a groundbreaking, openly trans scientist.
  • Ruth Gates – the late Director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology, who passed away last year because of a brain tumour.
  • Lauren Esposito – the Assistant Curator and Schlinger Chair of Arachnology at the California Academy of Sciences. She is the co-founder of the network 500 Queer Scientists.
  • Zuleyma Tang-Martínez – an Emeritus Professor of Biology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
  • Ben Britton – a Materials Scientist and Engineer based at Imperial College London, and a specialist in micromechanics, electron microscopy and crystal plasticity.
  • Vicky Forster – A postdoctoral researcher at The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.

Wade says one of her favorite entries to write was for POC scientist Gladys West. The African American mathematician played an important role in collecting data from satellites to help develop Global Positioning Systems. She was inducted into the US AIr Force Hall of Fame in 2018.

Challenging notions of inferiority

Wade tweeted that she wants others to follow her lead.

‘It would be awesome if everyone could make a pledge to celebrate a scientist from an underrepresented group in 2019: whether it’s writing a @Wikipedia page, nominating them for @TEDTalks or prestigious prizes, or supporting them with a fellowship application.’

Not content with updating Wikipedia, Wade also embarked on another ambitious project last year.

She is a big fan of the book Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research. The book explodes myths around gender inferiority. Wade helped raise over £25,000 to send a copy of the book to every school library in the UK.

She’s now encouraging people to donate to a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 to help stock a copy of the book in every public school in New York.

See also

10 notable queer women in UK history that you should know about

Meet the ‘Science Daddy’ at NASA who’s helping us to understand Mars

Historic plaque to be changed after complaints it erased lesbian sexuality