Jess Wade’s Take on Lack of Female Recognition in STEM

Physicist writes 1,750 Wikipedia biographies for female scientists who deserve more recognition


Vince Kim

Outside of her research on polymer-based OLEDs and public engagement in the STEM field, physicist Jess Wade spends her free time writing Wikipedia biographies for under-recognized female and minority scientists not featured on the website. Her inspiration for writing 1,750 Wikipedia pages goes back to 2017 when she met American climatologist Kim Cobb at a science event and was “massively impressed”. Despite the several honors that have decorated Cobb’s career as a climatologist, Wade discovered she was nowhere to be found on the world’s largest online encyclopedia, deeply bothering her that millions of people a month were seeking information on a website which considerably lacked content on women and minority groups. 

Taking matters into her own hands, she began promoting female scientists and engineers by writing their biographies, crediting them with their contributions that would have otherwise been overlooked. During her journey to correct gender biases and advocate for women in STEM, Wade noticed, “Not only do we not have enough women in science, but we aren’t doing enough to celebrate the ones we have,” adding, “Wikipedia is a really powerful way to give credit to people who, for a long time, have been written out of history.” Recognizing that “we do an awful lot of talking about underrepresentation,… but not enough acting on it,” Wade also held edit-a-thons and writing workshops to attract numerous volunteer contributors to write and learn about the existing gender bias.

Anusha Alikhan, vice president of communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, commended Wade and her followers for their contributions to addressing and narrowing the Wikipedia’s gender gap, stating there has been an increase of 15 to 19 percent of Wikipedia pages about women in the last three years. Although it may seem like a very small change, the percentage represents more than 75,000 women biographies on Wikipedia, and a significant number of those biographies are due to Wade’s efforts.