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Those of us who are interested in history have a big stake in the accuracy of the historical record. History changes as new records come to light, and as researchers bring new perspectives to old accounts. That’s why it’s so important that online resources like Wikipedia are kept updated.

In 2016, the IET hosted its first Wikipedia event with the University of Leeds, the University of Kent and the Women’s Engineering Society. It started as an activity to commemorate the First World War, as many women working in engineering in the UK first entered the workforce in wartime. The success of this event and other WW1 focused activities led to the Women’s Engineering Society Centenary Trail, a national campaign to discover and publish the stories of women engineers using Wikipedia. One of the WES centenary training events was held at Imperial College London, and the IET and Imperial College have co-hosted an annual Wikipedia event ever since.

What difference has this made? If I look back over the history of Wikipedia entries for historic women engineers, I can find five that predate 2016: Hertha Ayrton, Caroline Haslett, Verena Holmes, Dorothee Pullinger and Beatrice Shilling. There are now hundreds. That's a massive change in a handful of years, and it took a lot of patient effort from volunteers across the UK, one Wikipedia entry at a time.

There is still work to be done. As we celebrate the centenary of the Electrical Association for Women in 2024, we are still finding women scientists and engineers with no Wikipedia biography or only a small one that does not reflect the importance of their work.

On 26 June 2024, the IET will be co-hosting a Wikipedia editathon for anyone interested in learning how to become a Wikipedia editor. We can suggest articles you can work on, or help you create new entries for forgotten women you have come across in your own work. You can register here: Women in STEM Wikithon Tickets, Wed 26 Jun 2024 at 14:00 | Eventbrite

If you’d like more information, please contact the IET Archives at archives@theiet.org