Physicist Jess Wade and Her Ambitious Side Project


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Jess Wade has a very busy day job, working at a physics lab in London. She has also undertaken an ambitious night job; ensuring that women in science get the recognition they deserve. Her method: one Wikipedia article at a time. Wikipedia is often the first place people go to research a particular topic, whether it be for education, interest, or enjoyment. This makes it the perfect way to start heightening awareness of the important role women have played throughout science history.

A Biography Per Day

At the start of 2018, Wade challenged herself to write at least one Wikipedia page per day, highlighting a woman or other individual from an underrepresented group and their accomplishments. With over 280 pages already written, she is likely going to accomplish her goal, and then some.

Writing as Inspiration

Wade found writing these articles incredibly inspiring. She told CNN that she found the project incredibly fun and motivating. Her goal is to be one of these “phenomenal people” one day, and with her work at the Imperial College in London she is well on her way. In fact, there have been several subjects that have been incredibly inspiring to her. One of them is Tamsin Mather, who is a volcanologist at Oxford University. Her work is surprisingly dangerous. Mather even found herself at gunpoint at one point in her travels. Wade also highlighted Gertrudis de la Fuente, a biochemist who helped lead the commission on toxic oil in Spain following a mass poisoning in 1981.

Under-Representation

When Wade began her project, less than 20 percent of the biographies on Wikipedia were about women. Once this number is narrowed down to women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the number dips even lower. For comparison’s sake, you can easily look up the Wikipedia page for almost any male scientist and find at least some information. When it comes to women, however, they often don’t have any information at all. Closing this gender gap means increasing the representation of women in science. It is the best way to bring equal representation without spending a ton of cash. Since creating and editing Wikipedia pages is free, this is the fastest, most cost-effective way to increase representation.

Sadly, for now, women and minorities are vastly under-represented in science. This is not because of a lack of interest but rather a minimalization of their contributions. Thanks to people like Wade, future generations can quickly and easily learn about the many ways women and other under-represented groups have contributed to science.

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