Quyên Nguyen-Le
March 10, 2016 3:19 pm
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 2012, Emily Temple-Wood, a biology student at Loyola University in Chicago, realized that a huge number of female fellows in the prestigious Royal Society (the big wigs of science) had no Wikipedia articles written about them. “I got pissed and wrote an article that night,” Temple-Wood said. “I literally sat in the hallway in the dorm until 2am writing [my] first women in science [Wikipedia] article.”

This eventually led to co-founding the WikiProject Women Scientists, a collaborative drive to address the significant gender bias across Wikipedia’s science domain by generating more content about women in science throughout history.

According to Wikimedia Blog, her work drew negative attention from online harassers: “Throwaway email addresses frequently send her requests for dates, condescendingly discuss her body, insinuate that she got to where she is through sexual favors, ask her to reserve those favors for themselves, and when she doesn’t reply, they spew profanities.”

Unfortunately, this is all too familiar for those of us who are not cisgender men. But Temple-Wood is turning the sexist negativity into a motivation for continuing her positive work to publicly recognize the work of women in science: For every harassing email she receives, Temple-Wood and a squad of fellow Wikipedians will create a new biography about a woman in the field of science.

Former Wikimedia Foundation staff member Siko Bouterse says, “It’s really important that she’s not just writing about white women scientists, she’s also working to address underrepresentation of women of color in Wikipedia and looking at other points of intersectionality as well.” Bouterse continues, “When I was a kid, I could count the number of women scientists I was aware of on one hand. But I know our daughters are going to have access to so much more free knowledge about scientists who look like them, thanks to Emily’s efforts, and that’s really powerful.”

Since the project began, 376 women scientists have been featured on Wikipedia’s front-page “Did you know?” section, and over 30 articles have gone through the peer-review process with “good” or “featured” ratings.

You can click here to get sucked into the Wikipedia wormhole about all the cool women in science.

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