Category Archives: Academy

Nobel Laureate Professor’s Comments Highlight Sexism in the Sciences

sexismTim Hunt, a biochemist from University College London, recently resigned following controversial statements he made at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. Hunt was quoted as saying “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls… Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”

After a backlash in the Science community, Hunt offered the following apology: “I’m really sorry I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists… What was intended is a light-hearted ironic comment. Apparently it was interpreted deadly seriously by my audience… I did mean the part about having trouble with girls. It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing but getting at the truth.”

Unfortunately for Hunt, this apology was not enough and he resigned days later. A recent article in The Atlantic highlights why Hunt’s statement is so problematic. Most notably, he perpetuates unfair stereotypes about women in STEM fields that have persisted for decades. As the article notes, women are continually paid less for the same jobs as men in Science fields. Additionally, women face an exorbitant amount of sexual harassment in their fields, as well. Thus, Hunt’s statements gesture toward wider biases and systemic issues that need to be solved if women are to close this gap. It is up to education to help further the publicity of this issue and allow for women to advance properly in STEM field on the whole.

Hooray for Wikid GRRLs receiving Wayne State University grants

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We are very happy to learn that Wayne State University and the WSU College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts support our Wikid GRRLs project and its associated research with grants. They will pay for transportation for teachers in our program to go and teach middle and high school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools. They will also be used to purchase supplies for participants — to show them that they are appreciated and recognized in their efforts to navigate the wiki world. We are looking forward to launching our curriculum in five Detroit Public Schools this fall.

If you are a Detroit Public School with middle and early high school girls, have computers or a computer lab with working internet and are interested in participating in Wikid GRRLs, please e-mail Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

If you are a Wayne State University student interested in teaching the Wikid GRRLs curriculum or to help with research and organization, please also e-mail Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

Howard University adds Black histories to Wikipedia

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Students and faculty at Howard University in Washington D.C. came together on February 19, 2015 for a Wikpedia-Edit-A-Thon to add urgently needed Black history to Wikipedia. As the New York Times wrote: “To many people, a topic does not exist if it does not have a Wikipedia page.”

That Wikipedia is being edited by a large majority of white Western men, as the New York Times also previously reported, has sparked many such editing events to correct these author and connected content biases. Most of these, however, have been geared toward adding the histories of women.

In this latest edition, scholars expanded existing histories of Black scientists, doctors and designers and added missing Black women, men and organizations to the online encyclopedia.

More such events are planned for the future. Perhaps it is time to start a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in Detroit? Wikid GRRLS would be game.

Four ideas from Stanford President Hennessy on Women in Technology

Right on target with our goals at Wikid GRRLs, Stanford University President John Hennessy said at the recent Intel Capital annual summit that when it comes to women in science and technology: “our system is broken somewhere between middle school and high school.” He listed four barriers that need to be addressed:

 

  • A lack of inspiration and role models for girls during puberty (girls do better than boys in elementary school in math and science)
  • A dominance of gaming culture, and within it a prevalence of “killing” that he says is little attractive to girls
  • An isolation effect for women being the only one or just one of few in a tough math or science class
  • An image of computer science as a “lonely pursuit”

He suggested more inspiration, role models, and support networks as solutions for girls to develop and keep up an interest in math and science.

This is what Wikid GRRLs is set out to do with a creative writing approach. In a group of like-minded girl peers, students in middle and early high schools play in a sandbox wiki to learn online skills to contribute to knowledge projects. We offer them an introduction to simple coding, writing creatively to produce content that matters to them, and presenting their work on the computer confidently.

If you are interested in teaching our free, ready-to-go Wikid GRRLs curriculum in your school (or library or community center) e-mail Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

More on the story on Forbes, November 4, 2014.

Strategies for Wikipedia to attract more women

WikipediaGlobeGuest post by Laura Hale

One of the things that I have been discussing with several women about Wikipedia recently involves the question: “If another woman came to you and said they were interested in getting very involved with Wikipedia, would you recommend it to them?” Privately, I have found that several women who are highly active are actually beginning to say no. I said this on a Facebook post, and a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board asked me what the solution to this problem of women not encouraging women to participate is. My response to them was:

I am not sure what the solution is. I’m growing increasingly disillusioned, and amongst my friends, I sense similar attitudes. In reflecting on my own interactions with the community and conversations I have had with my friends and acquaintances, there are three things that I see as potential solutions.

1. Demonstrate why women should contribute to Wikipedia in a way that is personally meaningful. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other small social networks, conferences and in-person groups do this. They provide women with contacts and networking opportunities to further professional, academic and personal goals. Wikipedia and its movement appear to be a dead-end street. The skill set for contributing doesn’t assist you. (And even some parts that do, you can get those skills elsewhere without the drama.) The networking only serves you in a limited Wikipedia movement way, which limits your options instead of expanding them. Why myself and women should be involved in terms of selfishly helping us meet our own personal, academic and professional goals needs to be made implicitly clear.

2. Demonstrate to women that they are not at risk for contributing. This is two-fold to a degree. There are too many stories of women specifically being harassed personally, academically and professionally for contributing. (Many women need to edit under their real names to get benefits or credits for their work. We are thus at an increased risk.) The community does not talk about these problems, even as it appears everyone else is now willing to engage in these discussions. Journalists, gamers, programmers, politicians, academics, scientists and social media sites are all having these conversations about the experiences of women and how awful they are. Wikipedia and the movement are not. Women are strongly being encouraged to be silent, to not feed the trolls. In being silent, we cannot share our experiences and what happens is that the harassers become the loudest voice and they are empowered. Because engaging with our harassers and discussing problems is taboo, the voices that the movement hears are the harassers and the trolls who are then perceived as legitimate voices of the community. And then because they are the only voices the movement hears, it feels like the people with institutional power then go out of their way to empower them and in effect, assist the people who are harassing women and driving them away from the project. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate that this paradigm is not acceptable. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate to women that they will not be put personally, professionally and academically at risk for participating. Who wants to knowingly contribute to a project where they are consciously anxious and fearful, always looking over their shoulder, when they get very little out of it?

3. Demonstrate support for content about women and of interest to women. “Category gate” [about articles concerning women and men U.S. novelists –– read our post] is going to happen again. The Chelsea Manning thing is going to happen again. There is condemnation community wise of popular culture topics, and of topics about women. We are headed towards these content issues again and again. The community appears re-active and defensive when these things come up. And there appear to be no perceived institutionally powerful people willing to pro-actively address these issues, go into the community and address these. When we do push back on women content issues, we end up with problems with point number 2. Continual community leadership and addressing the worst of the problems need to be addressed so women can feel the content about them and of interest to them matters and is not inherently inferior.

All three of these strategies feed into each other and are linked. At the end of the day, women need to feel safe to edit, that there is a reason to edit and that content about them is important and equal to the content about men. Action needs to be taken to address these points, and the action needs to come from the several parts of the movement that are perceived as having real power. The last major initiative that appears to have been addressed to encourage women to participate was a visual editor [that makes it easier to edit texts than the regular non-standard HTML used by Wikipedia], but it addressed none of these issues. People talk a good game with blog posts and speeches about how women matter, but no actions take place that confirm these. Give women solutions to deal with harassment and biased content issues and lack of opportunities in the Wikipedia movement. And then provide a press release. If you can give a press release on sock puppeting [when people use different accounts and personas on Wikipedia to edit] and actions institutional powers took against sock puppeters, why can’t institutional powers find ways to empower women and then issue press releases on that?

And I find it hard to offer examples and more concrete examples, to offer better solutions drawing on my personal experiences and that of my friends, because in doing so, I fear I will run into problems described in points 2 and points 3.

Laura Hale is a Ph.D. student at the University of Canberra, who is studying sport and social media. As a Wikipedian, she has created over 1,200 articles with over 40 percent of them about women.  She has served as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Spanish Paralympic Committee.  She is also active in a leadership role in the Wikimedia movement, having served as the vice president of Wikimedia Australia, and the provisional chairperson of The Wikinewsie Group.

 

It is done! Our old WikidGRRLS articles are moved to this new blog

wikid-grrls-logo.jpgWe were so glad when we learnt a few days ago that our old blog, hosted by the University of Maryland, was restored. The university took it down in late spring as a reaction to a larger security issue in their system and just now made our content available again.

I have now moved all the old blog posts, which we foolishly hadn’t saved anywhere else. (With multiple contributing authors it sometimes can be a challenge to keep track of who saved what where offline or on the group’s Google docs). Now you can check out again our articles about the politics of the Wikipedia category and its consequences (here and here), the enthusiastic reception of Gloria Steinem who spoke at the University of Maryland in spring 2013, new research on career choices by girls, how tech writing is dominated by white men, and a summary of Nature‘s special issue on women in science.

But especially our teaching notes are now added to this blog. They provide a week-to-week overview of our struggles and joys with teaching the Wikid GRRLS curriculum for the first time. Feel free to browse them to get a sense of how we moved through the lesson plans, trying out different things at different schools and each having a bit of a varying experience.

We will stick with this blog now so please check here for updates on how our project moves forward. We are currently working on a Strategic Plan.

Feel free to contact us to receive our free Wikid GRRLS Teaching Package, including ten lesson plans, guidelines for teachers, flyers and completion certificate, to teach girls how to engage with wikis and other online tools! No matter if you’re a parent, education, community organizer, teacher, a student majoring in teaching, or otherwise interested. E-mail us: Stine at keckert@umd.edu or Joanna at Jpmg@umd.edu.

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Taking WikidGRRLS to the next level: Working on Strategic Plan

wikid-grrls-logo.jpgNow that we have our free Wikid GRRLS Teaching Package ready — including 10 lesson plans, guidelines for teachers, completion certificate and flyers — we are working hard to spread the word about our project and its availability to anyone interested.

Part of our effort at the moment is to build our Strategic Plan to take Wikid GRRLS to the next level, to spread it at the University of Maryland, in Maryland, the United States and eventually worldwide, and in languages other than English.

All you need to adopt the Wikid GRRLS curriculum at your institution/school/library/community center/… is a working computer with a working internet connection for each girl you teach. We provide the teaching plans, that anyone can teach who is interested in introducing girls to the beauty and fun of creating online content. If you are a teacher, parent, librarian, community leader, college student, educator or anyone else interested in teaching our curriculum, e-mail us:

Stine at keckert@umd.edu
Joanna at jpmg@umd.edu

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