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Adidas to tackle lack of female football representation - starting with Wikipedia

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Almara Abgarian
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Danielle Carter from Arsenal's during Women's Super League match

According to research by the sports brand, only 3.5% of football-related biographies are about female players.

The much-anticipated FIFA Women’s Football World Cup starts tomorrow (6 June). Ahead of the event, which will run for a month until 7 July, Adidas has partnered with Wikipedia to improve representation of women in football online.

Through its research, Adidas found the site is currently heavily male-dominated; at present, only 18% of all biographies on Wikipedia relate to women and out of the football-related ones, only 3.5% reference female players.

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Furthermore, male players from the England football team have on average 150% more space on their profiles, compared to the England Women’s squad.

In order to tackle this issue, Adidas has announced a new project. By working with women’s sports writers, the brand aims to identify and create biographies for over 200 women who are having a big impact in sport, and who currently don’t feature on the site.

Alongside Wikimedia UK (owners of Wikipedia), female sports writers, journalists and athletes, the first 100 have been added, including Florrie Redford of Dick Kerr ladies. 

“We know that girls are dropping out of sport at 1.5 times the rate of boys and one of the big drivers of that is the lack of visibility of female athletes,” said Nicole Vollebregt, senior vice president of global purpose at Adidas.

“We firmly believe that ‘you need to see her to be her,’ so we decided to bring the history of women’s football to Wikipedia – and make a collective commitment to keep writing the inspiring stories of women’s sport and sportswomen as they happen.”

This isn’t the first time the Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, has tried to show its support for females. The initial goal was to increase the number of female contributors to 25% by 2015, but unfortunately previous initiatives failed, according to founder Jimmy Wales.

Ria Percival of West Ham United Ladies tackles Nikita Parris of Manchester City Women during the Women's FA Cup final match between Manchester City Women and West Ham United Ladies at Wembley Stadium

One explanation for why women have less space on the site could be that they aren’t writing the content, which is where this project comes in.

A survey from 2008 found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide were women, while a follow-up survey from 2011 revealed similar results with 9% female contributors across the globe. As for readerships rates, there was no significant difference between women and men.

According to two professors, who analysed the data, women felt less confident in editing other people’s work and were also less confident in their knowledge of the topic. The findings were published in a journal called Sex Roles in January in 2016 by Professors Julia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar.

“To a certain extent it takes a baseline level of confidence to start editing, and men and women may be setting different bars for the expertise required to do that,” said Bear.

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In addition to its new project, Adidas will also be supporting a series of events during the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup alongside This Fan Girl, as well as hand out sets of ‘How to’ edit guides to attendees.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with adidas for this project, to shine a light on women footballers and their achievements,” said Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK.

“As the UK charity for the global Wikimedia movement we are well aware of the gender gap online – which reflects systemic bias and historical inequalities – and are working with a wide range of partners to increase the representation of women on Wikipedia.”

Hopefully, through this new project, women will get the space they deserve on the site.

Image: Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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