Tuesday was Ada Lovelace day, an annual celebration of women in STEM named after the early pioneer of programming algorithms. Last weekend I was took part in a Wikipedia editathon hosted by The Royal Society as a part of the events surrounding the day. We started off as 20 or so women new to editing. By the end of the afternoon, with some excellent support from Wikimedia UK, many of us had published to the world new articles on female Fellows of The Royal Society, with a real sense of achievement as each new article became live.
On Thursday Wikimedia confirmed that all the female Fellows of The Royal Society now have Wikipedia articles – a resounding success for this year’s Ada Lovelace day editing. It was great to contribute to The Royal Society editathon and learn a new skill in the company of a group of women working in and around science. It’s a somewhat surprising, and perhaps rather disappointing, statistic that only around 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female, which probably has a knock-on negative impact on the number of articles created about the achievements of notable women. The event at The Royal Society formed part of a wider series supported by the MRC that’s attempting to address this shortage.
I’d recommend getting along to the next one that’s held near you if you can; women are particularly, although not exclusively, encouraged to apply to attend.
As a woman returning to science, I can’t say that this kind of event would have really registered on my radar before taking time away from research. However, having spent the last two years working in schools, I have become aware of a real societal peer pressure that seems to put the girls off taking science and maths to higher levels. As I look forward to sharing my journey back to the lab over the coming months, I realise I also have a chance to contribute to changing those wider pressures.