Desi Deck of Dames: selection criteria

I announced the Desi Deck of Dames a month ago, and the support I got was great! I’ve mostly figured out the operations — I know where I’ll be running my campaign, I have a solid list of 50 nominees (though I’m always looking for more) and I’ve been working with the talented Ayesha Rana to get the initial visual design of the deck worked out! All of this was easier than I expected it to be. Having said that, I was stuck with the toughest task of this initiative —puzzling out who would be featured.

Selection Criteria

Beyond the obvious (i.e. must be Indian and must identify as female), someone featured in this deck would ideally:

  • have been working in the last 50 years, and is relevant to the current struggles and political scenario in our country
  • have changed something major, that wouldn’t have happened without the work they did
  • be relatively unknown outside of the circles of their work, and thus would benefit from the exposure the deck would provide them.

The people represented in this deck are people who have affected change in the capacity of their profession.

They would also have to be someone who fulfills the spirit of Wikipedia’s notable person guidelines.

Some examples

  • A lawyer who represented a path-breaking case
  • A journalist whose article initiated a harder look into the subject, and elicited conversations where there previously would have been none
  • A policy activist whose findings and recommendations, on adoption, have proven to having a net beneficial outcome to the people it impacted
  • A business woman’s impact on providing gender parity in the workplace, increasing opportunities for women in the field

What methods and criteria do other popular lists rely on?

Highly reputed lists like Forbes’ 30 under 30 “…evaluate[s] each candidate by a set of key quantifiable metrics, such as funding, revenue and number of people impacted, as well as ‘winning’ qualities such as inventiveness, social benefits and promise…”[1].

Home-grown offerings like Lab Hopping books, showcase the women behind the science by focusing on the work they are doing.

Regarding nominations

I had a lot of people write in about people they were inspired by, people they’ve worked with, and people they know who have been responsible for systemic changes in their respective niches. Here’s the problem though — there wasn’t much information about the work they’ve done, and the implications of that work, in the public space. Only 23% of all the people recommended for the deck so far have Wikipedia articles about them! This issue is indicative of a larger gap — only 17% of all biographical articles written on Wikipedia are women.

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An accurate representation of potential nominees, courtesy Krishna Somya

To accurately fulfill Desi Deck’s mandate of showcasing lesser-known women who have changed the way we live, I have to first find these stories, and then tell them. It is now logical for us to run a Wikipedia article-creation campaign. I’ve been doing this low key, but this is definitely a many-people effort.


  • If you want to help create Wikipedia articles — even if you’ve never done it before,
  • If you have been on Wikipedia for a while and can help with editing and quality checking new articles,
  • If you are an organisation that would like to host a Wikipedia editathon around this topic in general,

Please email me or reach out on Twitter!

If you know someone who should be featured on the deck, you can nominate them here.

If you have more questions about the selection criteria, or any suggestions, please write to me.


7th October, 2019: The deck is now available for pre-order! Get it here.

Written by

Open source | Undergrad | Tango. I am one part tech-bro and one part feminist. I collect interesting people for self-discovery purposes. I like pizza.

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