Dr. Jess Wade
Dr. Jess Wade
Change Agent Abie Award
Jess Wade is a physicist at Imperial College London whose research investigates new materials for electronic devices. Beyond her daily work as a physicist, Jessica is championing women in scientists by tackling gender bias on Wikipedia.
Only 18.46% of the biographies on English language Wikipedia are about women — and the percentage of women scientists is even lower. Jess has been addressing this important visibility and representation challenge since 2018, through writing at least one Wikipedia article per day for people who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields. This has led to Jess adding over one thousand Wikipedia biographies in the past two years.
The representation of women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ scientists has improved with these pages — Jess is helping to document these stories, and broadcast out their accomplishments on one of the most world’s most important platforms and popular websites.
It’s not all plain-sailing: Jess has experienced challenges of contributing to a website where almost all the editors are men — including tackling pages being nominated for deletion, despite these accomplished researchers having received numerous awards and other recognitions.
Global Impact: Edit-a-thons
Jess has helped to shine a light on thousands of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians since she started editing and writing articles two years ago. Her geographic reach is global — this is due not only to the accessibility of Wikipedia, but her strong ties to the community of 500 Women Scientists and her efforts as an event-organizer for in-person and online Wikipedia edit-a-thons. Today, Jess has successfully organized hundreds of Wikipedia edit-a-thons all over the world, and the impact of these events has been covered by the BBC, CNN, Nature, Guardian, HuffPost, New York Times, and more.
The Wikipedia edit-a-thons prove her efforts can be replicated and are scalable – in one impressive example, over 3000 new articles and over 125,000 articles were edited in just two weeks. Her work surpasses physical borders.
Jess is vocally addressing gender bias online — a problem that is not unique to the technology sector and is glaringly present within the broader society. Jess is creating an awareness of recognition bias that ripples across all sectors. Her work empowers many — through her events, speeches, social media accounts — and her actions help provide access to STEM role models who inspire girls to have the courage to enter fields they may have previously thought of as inaccessible.
Jess has received several additional awards for contributions to science, science communication, diversity, and inclusion. Amongst these, she’s been recognized for her work in materials science by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, by Imperial College for her work on gender equality and societal engagement, and by the Institute of Physics for her work in science communication and advocacy. Even Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has said he is impressed by the project. Jess was also awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to gender diversity in science.
The Abie Award Selection Committee commended Jessica’s work for:
— Contributing to raising the profile of minorities in STEM
— Inspiring and empowering individuals to contribute to the recognition of women in STEM by identifying a readily available platform
— Creating a campaign shows that each of us can take the first step to contribute to elevating the work of women in STEM from wherever we are in the world
If you’d like to learn more about why Jessica is so passionate about this work, you can read this article she wrote after her 500th biography in 2019.
Jessica in 2020
You can follow Jess on Twitter at @jesswade.
Thank you to Intel Corporation, Sponsor of the 2020 Change Agent Abie Award.