She Wrote 270 Wiki Pages For Women In STEM, Giving Them The Recognition They Deserve

“This can’t just be another diversity initiative that protects and supports white women because that won’t get us anywhere.”

British physicist Jess Wade, Ph.D., has made it her mission to alter the popular perception that women aren't as interested in pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as men. To do this, Wade began writing Wikipedia pages ― 270 overall ― in an effort to help each revolutionary female scientist "who has achieved something impressive in science to get the prominence and recognition they deserve." 

"I kind of realized we can only really change things from the inside," Wade told The Guardian. "Wikipedia is a really great way to engage people in this mission because the more you read about these sensational women, the more you get so motivated and inspired by their personal stories."

Although Wade planned to write one page per day, the postdoctoral researcher in the field of plastic electronics at Imperial College London's Blackett Laboratory said she'd sometimes "get too excited and do three," thereby enabling her to complete this initial wave of entries in less than a year. Growing up, Wade went to an all-girls school and both her parents are doctors, so science was an inherent part of her childhood. However, it wasn't until she began pursuing her Ph.D. that she recognized she was part of the glaring minority. That's when Wade decided to become the voice for those who'd been forgotten by history.

"On the English-speaking Wikipedia, the biographies are incredibly sexist," Wade told Good Morning America. "Wikipedias are mainly contributed to by male editors, the majority of which are white men, and so they make pages about people and things that they're interested in. As a result, only 17 percent of biographies are about women," she said. "So for women in science, that's particularly bad because women are already underrepresented in science anyway."

Wade, who now shares the pages she's made on Twitter using the #WomenInSTEM hashtag, also started giving talks at schools and encouraging young girls to take up science because she's become frustrated with the work going on under the "women in science" banner in the U.K., especially.

"There's so much energy, enthusiasm and money going into all these initiatives to get girls into science," she told The Guardian. "Absolutely none of them is evidence-based and none of them work. It's so unscientific, that's what really surprises me."

Throughout this project, Wade has paid special attention to giving women of diverse backgrounds equal attention in an effort to ensure that young girls of all races and ethnicities can see themselves in STEM fields.

"We have to support and promote each other more and find people from all underrepresented groups, not just women, who are doing really great things [in STEM]." she told GMA. "This can't just be another diversity initiative that protects and supports white women because that won't get us anywhere."

"Science has always had incredibly diverse people contribute to it, but, for so long, we've only heard one side of the story," she added.

Ultimately, Wade hopes her efforts will "make science a better place for everyone working in it, which happens when we recognize the contributions of these awesome women," she told The Guardian. "Then the girls who do come – because they will! – will come to a much more empowering environment."

Wade also notes that the response to her efforts "has been great" so far and that, while there have certainly been "plenty of cyber trolls," she doesn't "really care."

"It's easy to try and bring people down on the internet, but it's much more fun to elevate them," she told HuffPost.

And what advice would Wade offer young girls looking to pursue a STEM career?

"You're equally as good (if not better) than the boys around you," she told HuffPost. "You may not feel it now, because growing up is super awkward, but you'll realize how brilliant you are one day. And when you do, it would help if you were a scientist or engineer, because then you'd be making the world a better place for everyone else in it."

Cover image via PointImages / Shutterstock

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