Winston Churchill once said, “History is written by the victors.” It’s undoubtedly true that those who record history have a tremendous impact on how future generations perceive those events.
That’s why this article in Slate last week was so troubling to me. The article focused on Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ response to a question during the Wikimania 2012 conference last week about why just 9% of Wikipedia editors are women.
Wales discussed his opinion that one major factor discouraging more women from becoming Wikipedia editors was topic bias. Here’s an excerpt from the Slate article:
A pillar of Wikipedia is that a subject must meet a level of import to warrant an article. But the community’s geek-colored glasses mean that they may overestimate the value of some articles and underestimate that of others. For instance, (Wales) noted, “We have over 100 articles on different Linux distributions, some of them quite obscure … and [they have] virtually no impact on the broader culture, but we think that’s perfectly fine.” The same editors who deem those Linux articles important might dismiss articles on makeup, say, as “some fluffy girl topic”—despite significant cultural impact.
It seems a tragedy to me that women (and other “non-geeks”, of course) - are not being heard when you think about the fact that Wikipedia has become the resource people turn to for “objective” information these days.
We really need to encourage more women to take an active interest in becoming developers, creators and inventors when it comes to technology and social media - not just passive users. Let’s make sure that our voices are heard, and that we have an equal role in shaping how our culture and history are taught to future generations.