British physicist Jess Wade is on a mission to elevate the achievements of female scientists, and her determination is impressive.
In the past year, Wade has already written 270 Wikipedia pages for outstanding and notable female scientists in the hopes that this information will spread far and wide.
Her goal? To get more women like herself into the field of science by providing realistic role models for young girls.
"I kind of realized we can only really change things from the inside," she told The Guardian.
"Wikipedia is a really great way to engage people in this mission because the more you read about these sensational women, the more you get so motivated and inspired by their personal stories."
The history of science is littered with the achievements of female scientists, but very few people actually know their stories. Even today, the public is hard-pressed to think of a female scientist, despite the fact that more women than ever before are pursuing science careers.
In 2014, for example, the grassroots organisation ScienceGrrl asked participants in the UK to name a living, female scientist who has won a Nobel prize. Of the 3,000 men and women polled, 68 percent named Marie Curie and 12 percent named Isambard Brunel as famous, living female scientists.
The only problem? Brunel is a man, and Marie Curie has been dead for over 80 years.
These results aren't confined to the UK. In a similar survey done by L'Oreal in 2009, 65 percent of participants in the US were unable to name even one woman (either living or dead) who had made a remarkable contribution to science.
This is exactly the problem that Wade is trying to address. So far, she feels like the current efforts to include women in STEM have largely been futile.
"There's so much energy, enthusiasm and money going into all these initiatives to get girls into science," Wade told The Guardian.
"Absolutely none of them is evidence-based and none of them work. It's so unscientific, that's what really surprises me."
After realizing Wikipedia's incredible reach, Wade knew what she had to do. She started making Wikipedia pages for incredible women who had somehow been overlooked, including impressive figures like the first female editor of National Geographic Susan Goldberg.
While some people have critiqued Wade for writing Wikipedia pages that promote her friends and colleagues, most of the feedback that Wade has received about her project has been supportive. In 2018, she even won the award for "Positive Wikimedian of the Year."
Every day, Wade tackles a new female scientist, and she has now started posting each new Wikipedia page on her Twitter to help spread the word.
Meet Dr. Yasmine Belkaid, an immunologist + microbiologist at @NIH and professor at @Penn. Her lab studies the delicate balance between the microbes🦠 that live in our gut & on our skin and own immune systems. Now on @Wikipedia 👉 https://t.co/IpLWSAmCUS pic.twitter.com/2Ak9CgYKiU— Maryam Zaringhalam, PhD (@webmz_) July 25, 2018
💫 Meet Dr Emma Chapman (@DrEOChapman), @RoyalAstroSoc Fellow @imperialcollege working on the first stars in the universe. She is the co-founder of @1752Group, a lobbying org who work to end staff-student #sexualharassment. New @wikipedia page:https://t.co/Qf6tcKcJdw #womeninSTEM pic.twitter.com/ftb11P4x1R— Dr Jess Wade 👩🏻🔬 (@jesswade) July 25, 2018
The winner of the 2018 @royalsociety Rosalind Franklin award is volcanologist, science diplomacy pro and public engagement expert @tamsinmather. Read more about Prof Mather on @Wikipedia: https://t.co/iR1nca0Ib6 and the award: https://t.co/B0mW3w6LJ9 #RSMedals x #womeninSTEM 🌋 https://t.co/UIYgu8fhHT— Dr Jess Wade 👩🏻🔬 (@jesswade) July 25, 2018
🚑 Meet A/Prof Esther Choo (@choo_ek), ER doctor @OHSUSOM and advocate for minorities in medicine. Choo started @Equity_Quotient to monitor and promote equality in healthcare. She's incredible. New @Wikipedia page: https://t.co/FUUhuyh0zH #womeninstem pic.twitter.com/oE5jpY3nPI— Dr Jess Wade 👩🏻🔬 (@jesswade) July 24, 2018
The project is huge, but Wade isn't on her own. She told The Huffington Post that there are several WikiProjects dedicated to similar ideas of inclusion, including Wiki WomenInRed and Wiki Project Women Scientists. Both of these projects are trying to reverse historical and cultural biases towards women.
"I realized that this kind of bias has been penetrating through society for so long," she told The Guardian.
"Ever since Darwin's time women have been fighting back. I suddenly realized I can do this: I can change it and I can make sure other people read this too."
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