Bias

Nobel Prize-winning scientist was at first denied a Wikipedia entry — but not her male colleague

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Donna Strickland. (University of Waterloo)

It has been revealed that Wikipedia users who created a page for recent Nobel Prize-winning physicist Donna Strickland were forced to delete her page just months before her historic win this week — in spite of the fact that one of her chief male collaborators had been given his own page more than a decade earlier. The good news is she now has a Wikipedia page and it’s a thorough summary of her remarkable career.

Strickland, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Waterloo and former president of the Optical Society, became the first woman in 55 years — and just the third woman ever — to win the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work in laser physics alongside American scientist Arthur Ashkin and her longtime colleague Gérard Mourou. But in a minor scandal that appears to illustrate the biases faced by women both in science and at Wikipedia, while Mourou has boasted a page in the popular online encyclopedia since 2005, an attempt by users to create a page for her in March was denied after a Moderator ruled that she didn’t “[qualify] for a Wikipedia article.” Following the announcement that she had been awarded the Nobel prize, Wikipedia scrambled and managed to rapidly erect a page for her just an hour and a half later.

Over the past 117 years, just 50 women have won Nobel prizes in the sciences — compared to 873 men.

We are disappointed looking at the larger perspective that more women have not been awarded,” said Göran Hansson, the vice chair of the board of directors of the Nobel Foundation, in a recent interview. “I suspect there are many more women who are deserving to be considered for the prize.”

Asked about the difficulties faced by women scientists in terms of achieving recognition as a woman scientist, Strickland told The Canadian Press that it was important to “never lose the fact that we are moving forward — we are always marching forward.”

“We need to celebrate women physicists because we’re out there. I’m honored to be one of those women,” she added after winning the prestigious award.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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