User-driven sites lead to user-based bias.
Movements like #MeToo have drawn increased attention to the systemic discrimination facing women in a range of professional fields, from Hollywood and journalism to banking and government.
Discrimination is also a problem on user-driven sites like Wikipedia. Wikipedia's 20th birthday is on Jan. 15, 2021 and today it is the thirteenth most popular website worldwide. In December 2020, the online encyclopedia had over 22 billion page views.
The volume of traffic on Wikipedia's site – coupled with its integration into search results and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri – makes Wikipedia the predominant source of information on the web. YouTube even started including Wikipedia links below videos on highly contested topics. But studies show that Wikipedia underrepresents content on women.
Signs of bias
Driven by a cohort of over 33 million volunteer editors, Wikipedia's content can change in almost real time. That makes it a prime resource for current events, popular culture, sports and other evolving topics.
But relying on volunteers leads to systemic biases – both in content creation and improvement. A 2013 study estimated that women only accounted for 16.1 percent of Wikipedia's total editor base. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales believes that number has not changed much since then, despite several organized efforts.
If women don't actively edit Wikipedia at the same rate as men, topics of interest to women are at risk of receiving disproportionately low coverage. One study found that Wikipedia's coverage of women was more comprehensive than Encyclopedia Britannica online, but entries on women still constituted less than 30 percent of biographical coverage. Entries on women also more frequently link to entries on men than vice-versa and are more likely to include information on romantic relationships and family roles.
What's more, Wikipedia's policies state that all content must be "attributable to a reliable, published source." Since women throughout history have been less represented in published literature than men, it can be challenging to find reliable published sources on women.
An obituary in a paper of record is often a criterion for inclusion as a biographical entry in Wikipedia. So it should be no surprise that women are underrepresented as subjects in this vast online encyclopedia. As The New York Times itself noted, its obituaries since 1851 "have been dominated by white men" – an oversight the paper now hopes to address through its "Overlooked" series.
Categorization can also be an issue. In 2013, a New York Times op-ed revealed that some editors had moved women's entries from gender-neutral categories (e.g., "American novelists") to gender-focused subcategories (e.g., "American women novelists").
Wikipedia is not the only online resource that suffers from such biases. The user-contributed online mapping service OpenStreetMap is also more heavily edited by men. On GitHub, an online development platform, women's contributions have a higher acceptance rate than men, but a study showed that the rate drops noticeably when the contributor could be identified as a woman through their username or profile image.
Gender bias is also an ongoing issue in content development and search algorithms. Google Translate has been shown to overuse masculine pronouns and, for a time, LinkedIn recommended men's names in search results when users searched for a woman.
What can be done?
The solution to systemic biases that plague the web remains unclear. But libraries, museums, individual editors and the Wikimedia Foundation itself continue to make efforts to improve gender representation on sites such as Wikipedia.
Organized edit-a-thons can create a community around editing and developing underrepresented content. Edit-a-thons aim to increase the number of active female editors on Wikipedia, while empowering participants to edit entries on women during the event and into the future.
Our university library at the Rochester Institute of Technology hosts an annual Women on Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in celebration of Women's History Month. The goal is to improve the content on at least 100 women in one afternoon.
For the past six years, students in our school's American Women's and Gender History course have worked to create new or substantially edit existing Wikipedia entries about women. One student created an entry on deaf-blind pioneer Geraldine Lawhorn, while another added roughly 1,500 words to jazz artist Blanche Calloway's entry.
This class was supported by the Wikimedia Education Program, which encourages educators and students to contribute to Wikipedia in academic settings.
Through this assignment, students can immediately see how their efforts contribute to the larger conversation around women's history topics. One student said that it was "the most meaningful assignment she had" as an undergraduate.
Other efforts to address gender bias on Wikipedia include Wikipedia's Inspire Campaign; organized editing communities such as Women in Red and Wikipedia's Teahouse; and the National Science Foundation's Collaborative Research grant.
Wikipedia's dependence on volunteer editors has resulted in several systemic issues, but it also offers an opportunity for self-correction. Organized efforts help to give voice to women previously ignored by other resources.
This is an updated version of an article originally published in 2018.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience. Crenn will share the importance of gaining knowledge and inspiration from what and who surrounds you, building a unified and empowered team, and inventing a business model out of inspiration, as well as necessity.
We as a society need to rethink the way we value careers over everything else.
- Around age 19, women are generally focused on their careers. That changes around the age of 30 when they realize that a career is not the primary purpose of their lives.
- There are a handful of things that are actually fundamental to life, and if one of them is missing it will get in the way of personal fulfillment.
- For the women with ambitions to be mothers, teaching them that careers are more important does them a great disservice.
A few traditions in the Roman Catholic Church can be traced back to pagan cults, rites, and deities.
- The Catholic rite of Holy Communion parallels pre-Christian Greco-Roman and Egyptian rituals that involved eating the body and blood of a god.
- A number of Catholic holidays and myths, such as Christmas, Easter, and Mardi Gras, graph onto the timeline of pre-Christian fertility festivals.
- The Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called "de-facto idolatry" and even a relic of goddess worship.
By the fourth century, the Christian Church had established itself as the official faith of the Roman Empire through a successful grassroots campaign to dominate, and almost exterminate, paganism. But did it?
In reality, the early Church had to merge itself with pagan practices and beliefs in order to blend into Roman society. In the rites and symbols of the Roman Catholic Church, we can find surviving, though rebranded, pre-Christian myths, deities, festivals, and rituals. Here are three Catholic practices that can be traced back to ancient pagan religions and cults.
Photo by Debby Hudson / Unsplash
One of the more fascinating elements of Catholicism is the ritual cannibalistic consumption of their "demigod" known as Holy Communion or Eucharist. During Catholic mass, bread and wine are transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, who is considered the son of God, in a rite called "transubstantiation." This isn't a symbolic transformation. A core teaching of the Catholic faith is the belief in literal transubstantiation. Practitioners eat the body and blood of Christ to become one with God.
Similar rituals were practiced in the underground "mystery religions" of the Greco-Roman world. In a few of those occult religions, celebrants shared a communal meal in which they symbolically feasted on the flesh and got drunk on the blood of their god. For example, the Mithraic Mysteries, or Mithraism, was a mystery cult practiced in the Roman Empire in 300 BC in which followers worshipped the Indo-Iranian deity Mithram, the god of friendship, contract, and order. Mirroring the Catholic Eucharistic rite, the idea of transubstantiation was a characteristic of Mithraic sacraments that included cake and Haoma drink. But the ritual probably wasn't original to Mithraism either. In Egypt around 3100 BC, priests would consecrate cakes which were to become the flesh of the god Osiris and eaten.
Holy Days and Carnivals
The survival of ancient communities was intimately dependent upon the fertility of the land, so their religious symbolism and festivals reflected this fundamental bond between humans and the cycles of nature. A number of Catholic holidays and myths parallel the timeline and adopt the symbols of pre-Christian fertility festivals. In Catholicism, Jesus Christ is thought to have been born on December 25, Christmas Day. In pre-Christian Roman religions, the Winter Solstice was a core sacred event that took place on December 25 at the time of the Julian calendar. The best known custom was the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was celebrated similar to Christmas with drinking, fires, gift-giving, and tree worship.
Similarly, the Catholic Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras, is rooted in the pre-Christian Roman celebration of Lupercalia. A February holiday honoring the Roman god of fertility, its customs involved feasting, drinking, and "carnal behavior." Today, the same can be said of Mardi Gras, when Catholics (as well as non-Catholics) eat festival foods and party before abstaining for 40 days during Lent.
When it comes to Easter, celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the symbolic story of the death of a god (or sun/son) and springtime rebirth is a tale as old as time. The spring equinox was recognized by various pagan cults as a festival marking the resurrection of light triumphing over darkness and the fresh fecundity of the land. One such festival was Eostre, which celebrated a northern goddess of the same name. Her symbol was the prolific hare representing fertility.
Speaking of goddesses...
Goddess Worship: The Virgin Mary and Saint Brigid
Photo by Grant Whitty / Unsplash
Though theoretically monotheistic, the Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called "de-facto idolatry" and even a relic of goddess worship. Rebranded pagan goddesses can be found in the Catholic Church today in forms of Saint Brigid and the Virgin Mary.
Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ, is arguably the most important Catholic icon save for the Holy Trinity. She's likely the amalgamation of pre-Christian mother goddesses from antiquity whose ranks include Artemis, Demeter, Diana, Hera, Isis, and Venus. The cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis may have had a particularly strong influence on Christian myth. While historical records can not substantiate this entirely, there is physical evidence of statues of Isis cradling Horus that were converted and reused as the Virgin Mary holding Jesus.
Brigid, the beloved Celtic goddess associated with fertility and healing, is perhaps the clearest example of the survival of an early goddess into Catholicism. Practitioners, particularly in Ireland, pay tribute to Saint Brigid of Ireland who shares many of the early goddess's attributes. Her feast day on the first of February falls around the same time as the pagan celebration of Imbolc.
The appropriation of these pagan practices and symbols by the Catholic Church shows how, as social interests change and new institutions are established, religious myths and practices are not so easily exterminated. Today, millions of Catholics eating the body and blood of their god, bowing their heads to feminine idols and celebrating natural cycles on the Liturgical Calendar are still worshiping in the ways of the ancient pagans.
Iceland has closed almost 88% of its gender gap and increased its lead over second-ranked Norway.
For 11 consecutive years the Nordic nation, with a population of just over 360,000, has been the frontrunner in the index, which benchmarks countries according to how close they are to reaching gender equality.
Iceland has closed almost 88% of its gender gap and increased its lead over second-ranked Norway.Iceland leads the way at gender parity. Image: World Economic Forum
A century away
The latest figures indicate an overall positive direction of travel.
The global gender gap – which is measured across four key areas, or subindexes: health, education, work and politics – has narrowed slightly to 68.6%. The average gap left to close is now 31.4%, compared to 32% last year.
But there is still an excruciatingly long wait for gender equality: it will take 99.5 years to achieve full parity between men and women at the current rate of change.
The gender gap is on course to close.... in 99 years https://t.co/nkB1ddNNvy
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) December 17, 2019
The majority of countries made strides towards parity in the last 12 months – some moving faster than others. The 16 countries that make up the index's top 10% recorded an improvement of more than 3.3% year-on-year.
Since the report began in 2006, Nordic countries have frequently monopolized the top spots in the ranking, and 2020 is no exception. Just below second-placed Norway are Finland and Sweden.
In fifth place is Nicaragua, followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.
The most-improved countries are Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain.
The United States is 53rd this year, a fall of two places. The world's second-largest economy, China, is down three to 106th.
Looking at the data by region, Western Europe has made the most progress in closing the gender gap, followed by North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa.
Progress in politics
85 of the 153 countries covered in the latest edition have never had a female head of government. Perhaps no coincidence then that five of the top 10 most gender-equal countries have women in charge.
It's official: Finland's Sanna Marin was just appointed prime minister, making her the world's youngest sitting head of government at age 34.
The Social Democrat will lead a coalition of 5 parties all headed by women. Four of those women are under the age of 35. pic.twitter.com/9LWBUw7cLF
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 10, 2019
This year's overall improvement was mostly the result of progress in politics, as the number of women in parliaments around the world increased. Even so, only 24.7% of the gap in the Political Empowerment subindex has been bridged so far.
There were also marginal gains in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival, both of which are nearing parity at 96.1% and 95.7%, respectively.
However, the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap widened slightly, meaning it will now take even longer to close – 257 years, compared to the previous estimate of 202 years.