The female Mexicans who are rewriting Wikipedia

Four years ago, a group of women met in a small room of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute in Mexico City. Academics and writers from Wikipedia worked for five hours with the same purpose: to rewrite history in the world’s largest encyclopedia, but this time with women being part of it. Globally, only 1 in 10 Wikipedia writers or ‘Wikipedia’ is a woman, a gender gap that the Wikimedia Foundation has accepted contributes to an evident bias in the content of the platform. A clear example: only 19% of the biographies in Spanish of the site is about a woman.

“I do not want to say that Wikipedia is sexist, but many of the people who collaborate in it do,” says Forbes Mexico Carmen Alcázar, president of the Wikimedia Foundation nationwide.

The Editions were born before this need, in a Wikipedia in which only 12% of the profiles belonged to a woman and the civil status or information about the family of the character in question weighed more than his career.” By then [2012] a large percentage of women’s biographies were about porn actresses,” Alcázar recalls. Unlike the Editions or the edition and content creation marathons that already existed in other parts of the world and in Mexico, this initiative exclusively for women was planned based on a gender perspective, adapting to certain needs, such as schedules or ease of having a daycare facility.

“If the women are not there [on the platform], they will unconsciously think that we are not important,” says Alcázar. And it is Wikipedia is the fifth most consulted site of the Internet, according to Alexa Internet of Amazon, with 6,000 people visiting it every second.

However, in a platform of collaborative nature, this kind of efforts comes up against its own glass ceiling. At first, says the expert, the Wikipedia community did not see it with ‘good eyes’. “They talked about reverse discrimination and we had to explain that it was really positive discrimination.” The challenges are still latent. A recent example, recalls the specialist, was the Editatona on women soccer players in which they dedicated themselves to creating articles about women’s soccer clubs. “They did not think they were relevant enough to have their own input, and instead they proposed to attach them to another article, as a subsection.” And although ‘porn actresses’ is no longer the category of women who figure more, the road is still long. According to figures from Wikimedia Mexico, the segment in which women are most present is in ‘Actrices’ and this represents only 2.12% of the total number of articles in Wikipedia in Spanish. Meanwhile, the figures are much more dramatic in categories such as “political”, “scientific” or “footballers” (1.20%, 0.68% and 0.06% respectively).

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While it is true that Wikipedia is the main reference site on the internet, Alcázar stresses that it is a secondary source, that is, that no Wikipedia content is original. Therefore, without the support of the media, researchers and other players in the information environment, it will still be difficult to balance the scales. To date, this project born in Mexico has crossed borders and has been replicated in countries such as Spain and Argentina, even in places where the foundation has no presence, such as Guatemala and Nicaragua. In 2018 he received the Prize from the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean (FRIDA) in the category of Technology and Gender.

This text was originally published in Spanish on January 19 (2019), in the Digital Edition of the magazine Forbes MX by Sofía Paredes.

Reference: Las mexicanas que están reescribiendo Wikipedia.

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