Welcome back from Wikimania 2015!
I had a truly enlightening experience at Wikimania 2015 in Mexico City. As an Inspire Grantee who is very new to the organization, I had never met anyone from WMF in person, so it was great putting names to faces. Impressed and overwhelmed by the scale of the organization and its intimate network of talented and knowledgable individuals, I learned so much that I will be able to bring back to my project, Women of Wikipedia (WOW!) Editing Group. For example, I had many interesting discussions about making sure that women feel accepted and supported on Wikimedia's platforms. One of the biggest problems that I believe contributes to the wide gender gap is a hostile editing environment in which edits are rapidly taken down with no explanation or women are harassed on Talk pages. Providing the women of WOW! Editing Group with tangible and specific resources they can consult when they encounter these problems has now become a major goal of our project. I know that I have spent hours editing a page just to have my edits taken down for no apparent reason. Increasing transparency would alleviate much of the discouragement editors, and particularly female editors, face on Wikipedia. We plan to accumulate a list of helpful networks and resources to share with our group, an idea which I would not have come up with had I not experienced Wikimania.
One of my favorite aspects of my work with Wikipedia so far has been initiating dialogue in my community. In Berkeley, California, I am constantly having conversations about women's participation in the workforce and traditionally male-dominated occupations and activities. Wikipedia and the gender gap have become common topics of discussion with the people I encounter. Almost everyone in university uses Wikipedia frequently for an overview on topics of research, to gather further sources, and for general exploration. Yet almost no one knows that of the thousands of editors, only about 10% are women. Everyone I meet seems shocked by this and always asks the question, "Well, why is this?" I have my own conjectures for the causes, but my experience at Wikimania has vastly expanded my range and depth of response. Through notes I made during talks, conversations I had between talks, on bus rides to social events, and at the Wikiwomen's lunch, I have been able to share a much richer perspective on Wikipedia's gender gap. In the last couple weeks since the conference, I have probably had 15 or more in-depth discussions about this issue and am planning a discussion workshop about the gender gap at my living cooperative of 120 students.
In addition to motivating additions to our project and discussions I have about Wikipedia, I was also able to post a short blurb with photos on our Facebook page that we will be using for future outreach as we begin to form our group this fall.
I made many great connections with people at Wikimedia all over the world. So many of the attendees seemed very focused on the issue of gender gap, so every conversation I had was a valuable exchange of ideas and information. I will be moving to New York in January and hope to remain very involved with WMF, so I made connections with several New York Wikipedians as I hope to attend their monthly meet-ups and continue working more on this issue with the New York community.