Wales

BBC 100 women 2016: Welsh women 'deserve much more'

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Media captionBBC 100 women 2016: Welsh women put their heroines online

Most of us can name remarkable female pioneers, scientists, record breakers and sports stars whose actions have inspired us to follow our dreams.

Despite this, less than 17% of biographies on Wikipedia and fewer than 10% of entries in the Dictionary of Welsh Biography (DWB) are about women.

With women still under represented on the political stage - just nine of the 40 MPs representing Wales and 25 of the 60 AMs are women - that figure might not seem so surprising.

On Thursday, some of Wales' most influential women took part in a global 12-hour Wikipedia edit-a-thon in a bid to close the internet gender gap.

All were shocked by how little was written about their heroines.

While many of the women are groundbreakers and pioneers, some were limited to a single sentence on the encyclopaedia. Others had no profile of their own - instead restricted to a single line in their husband's profiles.

Image caption Shauna Guinn edits Sheila Dillon's profile on Wikipedia

Co-founder of the Hang Fire Smokehouse, Shauna Guinn edited the profile of BBC Radio 4 food journalist Sheila Dillon, describing her as a trailblazer for women in a male dominated industry.

"She has been a big supporter of us as two women breaking the trend," said Shauna, who was surprised to see there were only five lines on her role model's sparse profile.

"With all her accolades and accomplishments, I thought there would be much more information about her, but this could be a symptom of the lack of women editors.

"She is such a wonderful woman, I believe she deserves much more information and to be much more of a notable person."

Ms Guinn, who founded the Barry restaurant with Samantha Evans, said she learned a lot about Mrs Dillon as she searched for facts during the global event to mark the end of this year's Women 100 campaign.

"There is so much I don't know about this woman; you think you know a lot about someone and then you realise you don't really," she said.

I'm sure other young women will find Lady Miloska just as inspirational as I have - it is just madness that there was only one line about her hidden in her husband's profile.

Shazia Awan
BBC

Former Conservative candidate and businesswoman Shazia Awan was shocked to find her "inspirational mentor" Lady Miloska Nott was nearly invisible on the encyclopaedia.

Despite setting up a The Fund For Refugees in Slovenia - a charity that has raised millions to help people forced to flee their homes during the Bosnian War - Lady Nott was confined to a single line on the profile of her husband - Sir John William Frederic Nott, Secretary of State for Defence in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet.

Caerphilly-born Ms Awan created a profile for her role model, saying: "She is one of the most inspirational women I have come across, I am inspired by her every day."

While Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world, only about 15% of its editors are women, according to the site.

Wiki experts believe that with their busy lives, most women simply do not think they have the time to sit down and create profiles for those they admire, something which could explain the small number of profiles.

But Ms Awan said; "I'm surprised how accessible Wikipedia is, now that I have the skills to do it I can add a lot more to the profile."

Image caption Beca Lyne-Pirkis said the experience had been "awesome" and was easier than she thought.

Contestant in the 2013 Great British Bake Off, Beca Lyne-Pirkis, edited the profile of a woman who inspired her to follow her dreams of studying music at university.

Mrs Lyne-Pirkis, from Penylan in Cardiff, said there was little information on the site about her role model, Welsh composer Grace Williams.

"As a mother raising two daughters it is a way of trying to get more high profile notable people on Wikipedia," she said.

"I know the girls will be using Wikipedia when they are older, Grace was a huge inspiration to me, the girls are only four and two but I hope they will be able to find role models who will inspire them to go and do what they want to do," she said.

However, Cywiki - the Welsh language Wikipedia - is bucking the trend as 43% of its 14,204 biographies are about women.

Jason Evans, resident Wikipedia expert based at the National Library of Wales, said Cywiki had worked hard to address the gender gap.

"We have been aware of it and we have been conscious about creating more content about women over men to try and keep it as close as possible," he said.

"But you only have to look at Welsh law before it became part of English law in medieval times; women had way more rights than women in English and European law.

"Perhaps it is something in the Welsh psyche that is a bit more equal."

Under Wikipedia community rules, a person must be judged notable enough to have a profile, which can be shunned by the community of thousands of editors if they do not agree.

Mr Evans said while there were very few male sports stars who do not have Wikipedia profiles, many female football and hockey players do not.

The first Welsh woman to climb to the summit of Mount Everest, Tori James, and Welsh international hockey player Beth Fisher are just some of the inspiring women who do not have profiles.

Image copyright Tori James
Image caption When you search for the name of the first Welsh woman to scale the highest mountain in the world in Wikipedia, it asks "did you mean Toni James?"

Good Morning Wales presenter Felicity Evans created a page for Wales' first black head teacher Betty Campbell - but a member of the community took it down shortly after.

Thankfully, the profile was put back up soon afterwards for generations of school children, boys and girls, across the world to learn about the Butetown pioneer's remarkable life.

While no one is under any impression the 12 hour global edit-a-thon will close the gender gap for good, there is hope this will be a movement which will continue to grow, allowing these incredible women to inspire generations to come.

Mr Evans said: "It is a chain reaction, it's about raising awareness that there is such a big imbalance and that Wikipedia itself cannot fix this."


How to create a Wikipedia profile

  • Go to ANY Wikipedia article
  • Highlight the last part of the URL where the person is named - for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicia_Keys
  • Change this to the name of the person you want to add and press enter
  • Click on 'Start the Article'
  • To add Images: On the toolbar at the top of the page click insert, then media, to look for open license images of the person you want to add (you can only choose free-to-use pictures)
  • Start editing. You may wish to use 'visual editor' (the pen icon on the far right)
  • In 'edit summary' pop-up box, give a short description of what you have done and do not forget to use the hashtag #100Womenwiki on Twitter - for example 'I've created a page for Alicia Keys #100Womenwiki'
  • Save the entry and this will publish the article

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