It’s no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is a male-dominated field. For years, women in science and educators alike worked to pave the way for young women and girls to pursue careers in STEM. No one’s quite exemplified this effort better than Dr. Jessica Wade.
Jessica Wade Uses Wikipedia To Honor Women In STEM
Dr. Jessica Wade is a 33-year-old London-based physicist who’s spent years advocating for women in STEM. According to the American Association of University Women, women make up only 28 percent of the STEM workforce in the United States. As it stands today, only one in five engineering or computer science majors are women. Not to mention, women in STEM earn an average of only $60,000 a year compared to $85,000 for men.
Because they’re so underrepresented, plenty of women who’ve made meaningful contributions to science have gone unnoticed. This is something that Wade is actively trying to change. In her 20s, Wade began writing Wikipedia biographies about women and minority scientists who never got the public recognition they deserved.
As it turned out, this was no small undertaking. Quickly, a few sparse entries climbed into the hundreds, and eventually into the thousands. She’s since dedicated herself to promoting gender equality in STEM and has gained international recognition for her work.
While Wade has since achieved numerous accolades and was even honored by Queen Elizabeth, the world of Wikipedia contributors didn’t immediately accept her with open arms. Several of her entries were deleted by high-ranking Wikipedia editors.
Their excuse was that many of the women Wade wrote about weren’t well-known enough to have their own dedicated page. However, Wade argued that this was exactly the problem: For their contributions, these women should be better known.
Clarice Phelps was one name Wade had to battle to keep on Wikipedia. The African-American nuclear chemist contributed to a team that discovered a new periodic table element at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Wade would publish Phelps’ biography, only for editors to delete it. This happened multiple times until, ultimately, Wade won. Now, readers will be able to read about Phelps’ impressive career for years to come.
Of course, Wade’s advocacy work has expanded well-beyond Wikipedia entries. Today, along with her work as a doctoral research fellow at London’s Imperial College, she helps develop programs to make STEM more accessible to young women and people of color.
“I genuinely believe that science is better when it’s done by diverse teams,” she explained, according to Today. “Even if you don’t care about any of that, the world desperately needs more scientists and engineers… Science can help solve the world’s biggest challenges—climate change, antibiotic resistance, emerging pandemic-inducing viruses.”
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of recognition for Wade’s important work!