Teresa Mathew
July 22, 2015 4:56 pm

If you love writing, women, and Wikipedia, West Virginia University is opening up your dream job. After noticing a huge gender divide on the site—a survey in 2011 found that only nine percent of edits were women—the University is in the process of hiring a one-year “Wikipedian-in-residence” to work towards closing the gap.

The focus of the position will be on contributing articles to Wikipedia that focus on West Virginian women and gender studies, and the university is hoping to fill it for the beginning of the fall semester. The goal of the Wikipedian-in-residence is to increase articles in these fields by 25%.

Even if professors aren’t willing to accept Wikipedia as a credible source for a paper, academic officials are well aware of the site’s power and longevity. With that in mind, Jon C. Cawthorne, the dean of WVU libraries, told Inside Higher Ed, “We want to focus our energy on making the content better.” He then continued, “We know that there’s such a gender gap, and it affects the quality of the content that’s there.”

Cawthorne credits Adrianne Wadewitz, a Wikipedia editor and feminist scholar who passed away last year after a rock climbing accident, as the inspiration for the position. A university creating a Wikipedia-based role isn’t unheard of—Harvard created a Wikipedia resident last May to serve as a liaison between Wikipedia and the University. And in 2013, Campus Reform reported that universities were giving students credit for writing about feminist issues in the online encyclopedia. But this is a little different—West Virginia University is using an academic (and funded) position to try to actively close a noteworthy gender gap. And the University is clearly dedicated to the cause—it received a $27,100 grant from the Wikimedia Foundation (a nonprofit which supports open-access information) and is adding its own funding to support the position.

There are many important names in history, but the contributions of women have all too often been erased or ignored. But education leads to power and change, and hopefully the closing of Wikipedia’s gender gap will be the start of eradicating similar gaps elsewhere.

(Image via iStockPhoto)

Advertisement