Founded in 2015, the Women’s Classical Committee UK (WCC UK) aims to support women who teach, research and study classical subjects as well as to promote feminist and gender-informed perspectives in classics. Part of WCC UK’s mission is also to advance equality and diversity in the field, and it is with this in mind that we have been taking steps towards improving the visibility of women classical scholars. This includes, for example, thinking about ways in which we can ensure that women’s writings and viewpoints are represented in our curriculum (see these practical tips for feminist pedagogy in classics), or working to uncover the hidden stories of women classical scholars of the past (as in this recent publication). We have also been taking steps to redress the gender imbalance on Wikipedia; with over 5.3 million articles and 800 articles added everyday, Wikipedia is often the first port of call for those seeking information about a topic or individual. Of approximately 200 biographies of classical scholars who are featured in the online encyclopaedia, until recently only around ten per cent had women as their subjects. It was with this statistic in mind that the WCC held a one-day ‘editathon’ to start working towards a better representation of women scholars online. This training event was held at the Institute of Classical Studies (London) on Monday 23rd January 2017 and was supported by trainers from Wikimedia UK – most of them as volunteers. We welcomed around 20 participants, including those joining remotely via Skype as well as face-to-face. The event brought together academics from a range of career stages and backgrounds, including those from outside academia with editing expertise. Our aim was to host an inclusive event which allowed all participants to collaborate in producing good quality reference material to boost the online presence of scholars who had, until now, been un- or under-represented on Wikipedia.
This project chimes with wider initiatives within Wikipedia to increase the representation of women on the site; these include, for example, the Women in Red project and 100 Women (run in conjunction with the BBC). Our trainers also explained how many of them spend time working to ‘de-gender’ existing entries, for example by ensuring that women are mentioned by their names, titles and specific roles, rather than in generic terms such as ‘the woman’, or being described merely as the daughter or wife of a male subject.
Some of the participants have shared their own thoughts on the day elsewhere: you can read Leen Van Broeck’s blogpost here, and view Ellie Mackin’s vlog (which also offers some useful tips for those new to editing) here. As a result of the WCC UK editathon sixteen new Wikipedia articles focusing on women classical scholars were created, and a further three existing articles were expanded. The event provided an informative and supportive introduction for people editing Wikipedia, in some cases for the first time. It also helped to raise awareness about the male skew that dominates the information found on Wikipedia, and gave people the tools to challenge this imbalance. There is still, however, much more work to do, and we plan to capitalise on the enthusiasm generated by organising future training sessions in other locations, as well as by holding a monthly remote editing session. The first of these will take place on 22nd February 2017 between 1pm and 3pm UK time. Please feel free to join the initiative and spread the word: for further information on how to get started with editing visit the WCC Wikipedia project page. You can also follow WCC UK on Twitter (@womeninclassics). For Wikipedia editing we use the hashtag #WCWiki; a Storify of tweets from the first event is available here, and you can view a short video from the event, produced by Wikimedia UK, here.