While the tech industry is a lovely melting pot of people and innovation, it can be overwhelming to stay abreast of it all. New technologies, companies, and acronyms pop up all the time. We work with people from varied cultures, with traditions and holidays different from our own. I’ll admit that I’m regularly in meetings where I hear something I don’t know — a technical buzz phrase, a reference to an Indian holiday or Hindu god, or a colloquial expression whose meaning I’m not quite sure of. When this happens, I tend to look it up on Wikipedia. It’s a quick way for me to get a general grasp of the topic.
A few years back, I was in a meeting for an upcoming software release, and the engineering leader said, “That feature will be a cake walk.” While I thought “cake walk” meant something easy, I started second guessing myself. What if it meant it would be a difficult feature to build? I didn’t want to sound stupid when I started talking about the feature, so I quickly looked up “cake walk” on Wikipedia, clicked on the “Modern Times” heading, and read that it’s used to describe something that’s very easy or effortless. Got it! I then returned my full attention to the meeting…
Ever since then, I’ve thought about making a contribution to Wikipedia. Not only do I want to pay it forward and help others who use Wikipedia like me, I also want to help change the ratio of how many contributions are made by women. While I don’t have anything against men editing pages for Wikipedia, I don’t want them to be the only ones writing our history. I think it’s important that women’s memories and perspectives are included and preserved.
Did you know that less than 15% of Wikipedia’s contributions are made by women? Of the 30,000-40,000 daily edits to the English Wikipedia site this month (June 2013), only about 1500-2000, or roughly 5%, are made by women. (Note about chart: Drop-off on June 24 is due to the time of day – early morning – that the snapshot was taken.)
Even though I wanted to make a contribution to Wikipedia, I just never got around to it. Well, until I wrote a blog post about professional bucket lists where I shared what’s on mine. Yup, writing for Wikipedia was on my bucket list. Boring, but true.
What changed when I wrote that blog post? Research shows we’re more likely to accomplish something by sharing it with others. (You can read a summary of this research by Gail Matthews, PhD, published on the Dominican University web site.) In fact, as soon as I wrote the first draft of that blog post, I took the plunge into Wikipedia. And, it was a cake walk! I chose to contribute to two software projects that I had worked on earlier in my career:
- For the Dreamweaver page, I wrote a brief history of how the project started.
- I added my ACM publications to the IRIS Intermedia page.
If you’re a woman and you’re already contributing to wikipedia, thank you! If you’re not already on Wikipedia, please consider creating an account and sharing your knowledge. Either way, be sure to specify your gender in your account preferences to have your contributions count towards changing the ratio. (The default gender setting is “Undisclosed.”)
P.S. Interested in more statistics about Wikipedia? Here are just a few:
- As of 6/23/13, there have been more than 1.8 Billion page edits on Wikipedia.
- During the month of April 2013, Wikipedia had over half a billion unique visitors.
- It is the 7th most visited site on the web.