Donna Strickland recently became the first woman in 55 years to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, which is amazing news! She deserves to be acknowledged for the work that she’s done, and it’s one more glimmer of hope in a world where women have been working but are often ignored or overlooked.
Yet, Wikipedia initially decided that a submission for her didn’t meet their standards because the “references [did] not show that the subject qualifies for a Wikipedia article.” Interestingly, you can find a number of absurd articles on Wikipedia that are socially amusing but are not absolutely relevant. You know, things like calculator spelling.
Anyway, due to the dearth of women scientists on Wikipedia, people have put forth a lot of collective work to fix that problem. Many of the people working on this project are doing so in order to help us realise that there are more women scientists than the handful that we know while also ensuring that these popular women are known on their own terms.
What this shows is that we have a lot of work to do. As educators, we need to ensure that we’re making our classes more diverse (even if our demographics are not). We need to make sure that we encourage all of our students to do what they enjoy and are good at, even in subjects that might not interest them. We have to show more of the world, more reality, and given them the guidance to critically analyse their thoughts and the messages that others present.
Though, all of this is also despite my distaste for the way that the Nobel Prizes are designed; there are no doubt other scientists, particularly women or people of colour, working behind the scenes who will never receive enough credit for any of the work they ever do, while the person leading the project will be remembered for all of recorded history. This is all despite the fact that this just isn’t how science is really done; one person, on their own, is not making those contributions.
So we also need to make sure that we properly credit groups and teach students that, within groups, the contributions of other can be meaningful (while also teaching them how to constructively criticise their peers, especially those who may not engage with the work as much).