Wikipedia workshops at Squeaky Wheel aim to recruit more female editors

Jun 25, 2018

Wikipedia has a glaring gender disparity when it comes to editors. Less than 10% of them are women. In an effort to improve coverage of gender, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia, Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center has held “Art and Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” workshops this year to teach local residents how they can contribute to the site.

Credit Kayla Cunningham and Audrey Warner / Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center

Caitlin Coder organized this past weekend’s event and said even minor edits are helpful. Everything done contributes to a body of work often referenced.

“There are people who just link to sources on information and that’s super helpful,” said Coder. “You don’t have to sit down and write a full article. But when we’re all doing it together and there are more women contributing it evens the playing field.”

Coder said it’s difficult to convince people they would enjoy it, but as soon as they learn how most come back to participate.

Earlier in the year Squeaky Wheel collaborated with the Albright-Knox and some of their female artists. None of them had complete Wikipedia articles.

“These weren’t obscure artists. They were already famous women with long, well-known careers,” said Coder.

Workshop facilitator Zeesy Powers said there are several topics that have plenty of sources nobody has written about. When it comes to biographies on Wikipedia, only about 15% are about women.

“It’s fascinating to see how you can go into an article about a group or a subject and you’ll have men in the article who have, even if it’s a small Wikipedia article, they’ve got an article about the man individually,” said Powers. “You’ll have women whose role is as important or maybe even more important in what is going on and they don’t have a page at all.”

Credit Kayla Cunningham and Audrey Warner / Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center

Powers says one of the biggest things she emphasizes when she is teaching is the importance of quality citations.

“I will often say to people, if you can’t find at least three quality citations or more, Wikipedia is probably not the first front to start this battle,” said Powers. “If it’s a topic or a person or a subject that are you are passionate about, maybe the place to start is writing a magazine article or making a documentary or doing an interview on a local radio station.”

Squeaky Wheel Curator Ekrem Serdar says they held the event for the first time last year, planning to do it once annually. Popularity and funding changed that.

“It was such a huge success that we decided to do it again this year and we extended it even further,” said Serdar. “We actually applied for support from the Wikimedia foundation, who awarded us a generous grant that allows us to do this three times this year.”

Many of the people they’ve seen come in so far are lovers of research.

“Just in terms for Wikipedia you have to be able to cite articles,” said Serdar. “And when there is a lot of people who are like, ‘I want to write about this artist and this artist.’ They realize that the articles just didn’t exist for some of these amazing people. It’s almost like a gateway for people to recognize the kind of research that is missing and to go even further with that research.”

The next planned workshop will take place sometime in the fall.

Credit Kayla Cunningham and Audrey Warner / Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Art Center