Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Quotas

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Unnecessary, and none of the Board's business[edit]

There have been ten elections for WMF trustees in the WMF's history, resulting in 23 individual selections of trustees. 12 of those were male, and 11 were female (~48%). Of the twelve affiliate selections, 6 were male and 6 were female. We're doing pretty good at gender balance in community-/affiliate-selected trustees. (In Board-selected trustees, not quite as good but almost.)

The Board also generally isn't great on geographic diversity, with most of the problem coming from the Board-selected trustees: 12 of the 20 people selected by the Board have been based in the US, including 3 of the current 4. Perhaps having a US-based organization involved in selecting people for important positions in a global movement gives biased results. Certainly, the community itself is not evenly-distributed throughout the world, but it is far, far more diverse than the Board or the WMF staff or contracted companies.

If any quotas are to be implemented for elections, the Board and WMF should not be involved in the decision. The Board should not have significant influence over who is elected as their successors, and the WMF should not have any influence over the body that provides oversight over their activities. The community decides who are the community's representatives. --Yair rand (talk) 07:49, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

Your sentiment is reflected in this post to wikimedia-l, copied on talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_of_Trustees/Call_for_feedback:_Community_Board_seats#post_to_wikimedia-l_and_all-affiliates-l. Please join the conversation there also. Ad Huikeshoven (talk) 10:26, 3 February 2021 (UTC)
Hi there, Just to add for reference, Nataliia Tymkiv has replied to this post on wikimedia-l. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 23:25, 4 February 2021 (UTC)

Strongly Against[edit]

I come from a country where the quota system is used in the parliament (for young people and women). This system has widely proven its limitations in our context, where many people use it as a guarantee to "annuity" and "rent" without doing any effort, and without having the skills that might be asked from others. If diversification and good representatively is indeed crucial in our movement, it should not be done at the expense of skills or choices of the movement. I would rather think that quota shall be made in the nominated part of the board, where there is a clear unbalance in terms of diversity and representation.

Instead of quota, there might be many other alternatives to guarantee diversity, for example to hold elections for each community/region and have a member voted per region, or to make sure that information from the board is translated to many languages during crucial events such as elections, and that material is shared through different means (such as videos and easy tutorials) that will better disseminate than meta pages. So far, all board elections I have seen have almost not been noticed in my region and by my community, so maybe making more effort in outreach would bring more diversity and interest, and better results than a quota system.

In any case, I think that quota for community board seats is a very bad idea, and disagree totally with it. Regards -- Anass Sedrati (talk) 09:54, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

Symbol oppose vote oversat.svg Strong oppose to any kind of quotas for the reasons presented, but mainly for being a disrespect for the intellect of the people it's supposed to empower, and for its potential to be abused, appointing people unfit for the places just to fill up the quotas.--- Darwin Ahoy! 23:31, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

I'm with Darwin. Saturnalia0 (talk) 10:01, 9 February 2021 (UTC)

The Global Council is designed to capture the diversity of the movement[edit]

The Global Council will have many seats, and is designed to capture the diversity of the movement, including underrepresented voice. To get that thing going see Project wiki representatives. Ad Huikeshoven (talk) 10:30, 3 February 2021 (UTC)

Ad Huikeshoven, I appreciate your passion about the move toward a Global Council. To quote the Problems to solve section of the Call for Feedback "As the Board is designed today, we have a problem of capacity, performance, and lack of representation of the movement’s diversity." Do you have feedback about improving diversity on the Board of Trustees? Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 23:21, 4 February 2021 (UTC)

Oppose as Discrimination[edit]

Let's call this what is - the proposal is to discriminate against certain people by denying them the ability to run for certain board seats. That's always been the problem with quotas - by saying "this seat is reserved for group A, B, and C, you're telling members of groups X, Y, and Z that they are not welcome. To tell someone they can't be appointed to an office because of immutable aspects (like their gender or skin color) is disgusting.

The Universal Code of Conduct has a long list of personal characteristics that it isn't acceptable to insult people for: Intelligence, appearance, ethnicity, race, religion (or lack thereof), culture, caste, sexual orientation, gender, sex, disability, age, nationality, political affiliation, or other characteristics. I'd say that to apply quotas to people based on any of these would be equally wrong. I'll note that in the recently approved text, the board denies ethnicity as a meaningful distinction, and now they propose discriminating against people based on their ethnicity.

The Board should apologize for this proposal. TomDotGov (talk) (hold the election) 01:13, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

Oppose, but if you must...[edit]

First off, I oppose quotas. They're crude, divisive, guaranteed to provoke endless rounds of "my group isn't represented on the board, why don't we have a quota?", and they're unlikely to solve the underlying issues. The emerging communities are convinced that the WMF is a western organisation that is only interested in westerners. The european communities are convinced that the WMF is an American corporation that only cares about Americans (who are mostly on en-wp). En-wp is convinced that the WMF is a professionalised NGO that only listens to the big, professionalised affiliates (which are mostly european). The affiliates are convinced that they're sidelined despite being the only people with a quota! If the established communities are sure they're powerless, its unlikely that a quota is going change that for the emerging one.

But since my reading of the tea leaves is that quotas are coming, here's how to make them less bad:

  • Use quotas to solve problems with representation, not make statements. Gender imbalance hasn't been a problem in BoT elections, geographic imbalance has.
  • Keep them simple. One or two guaranteed seats for people who don't live in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, or AUSCANNZUKUS (I'm probably missing someone there, but you get the point). Don't try to micro-target specific regions ("one trustee from an ASEAN nation, one from a AU nation..."), or life experiences ("grew up in a non-democratic country"), or add in contingent rules ("three trustees from emerging communities unless this would cause the percentage of female trustees to drop below 40%...").
  • Don't change them every single election. Don't panic because they don't work out the way they're intended in one election. You'll never convince people it wasn't to benefit or hinder particular candidates.
  • Conversely, don't set them in stone. If one region is consistently filling the quotas for a decade something may be going wrong.
  • Again, keep them simple. Make the selection method as similar to the non-quota trustees as possible. Highest ranked candidate from emerging communities replaces the lowest ranked winner.
  • Make the quotas small. Two out of eight at most.

--RaiderAspect (talk) 13:07, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi RaiderAspect, Thanks for your feedback. I've included it in the first weekly report. I see you say geographic imbalance has been an issue. Some members from communities in Africa and Eastern Europe said during the office hours sessions and during conversations the only way they would be represented on the Board is if there were a quota. I do want to ask, have you checked out Regional seats or Specialization seats under Ideas from the community? Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 20:17, 12 February 2021 (UTC)
Hi JKoerner (WMF), sorry to ping you, but did you mean the Middle East instead of Eastern Europe? I've had a read through the two community proposals and will be posting feedback there. --RaiderAspect (talk) 03:58, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
@RaiderAspect:, Thanks for reaching out. I do mean Eastern Europe. Someone from Georgia was talking about quotas being an option to avoid larger user groups and communities from dominating elections. I think they might have been talking about quotas in a way that would fall within the Regional Seats idea. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 13:31, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
Interesting. I wonder exactly what they meant by that though. After all, there are two Eastern Europeans on the BoT at present and one of them is from a former Soviet Republic. Were they unaware of that? Or do they not consider Ukraine and Poland part of their region? Or did they mean it was the only way other regions could be represented on the Board? The first two would definitely reinforce my suspicion that everyone feels disenfranchised and reserved seats aren't going to resolve the issue. --RaiderAspect (talk) 14:50, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
Hi there, RaiderAspect, let me @Mehman (WMF):. I think they meant it was the only way other regions could be represented on the Board, but let me ask Mehman to clarify this since I was not there. Hopefully more context will allow the conversation to continue! Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 18:18, 24 February 2021 (UTC)
Hello. Eastern Europe is, of course, represented in the BoT by members from Poland and Ukraine, but there are also large linguistic communities who believe that it would be better to present their candidate from the linguistic community to them, than someone from the countries of Eastern Europe. I just want to tell you, that Eastern Europe is a diverse region and there are communities with different opinions. Thanks, --Mehman (WMF) (talk) 21:26, 24 February 2021 (UTC)
That final point is precisely one my concerns about the quota system. Even the maximalist ideas for regional representation will have individuals representing a large number of disparate communities. I fear that in two or three years we'll be back where we started in terms of feelings of disenfranchisement. --RaiderAspect (talk) 04:24, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

Good intentions but bad idea[edit]

The intentions here are good and I welcome diversity. However I agree with everyone above. This appears to be unanimously opposed, at least thus far. We already have enough difficulty finding sufficient good candidates. It's already clear that our people are eager to vote for diversity when candidates with remotely-comparable qualifications show up.

The Board recently tried to mandate "Global South" representation in the Rebranding committee. One affiliate failed to find any candidate at all, and a second affiliate only found single person with fringe position unsuitable for representing the community. It is unclear whether any of the other affiliates did any better finding candidates. You can't force good candidates to show up. You can't force Wikipedia to have 50% female biographies without forcing 50% of U.S. President biographies to be female. There's no internal-problem to fix here. Consider that we have a gender gap in readers - "67% of respondents across all 13 wikis studied identified as men".[1] That is not an internal problem. You can't force more women to show up to read Wikipedia.

We should seek diversity and welcome it, not fill slots in a trophy rack with human-tokens. Alsee (talk) 18:41, 5 February 2021 (UTC)

Thanks for your feedback, Alsee. I hear that you oppose quotas. You'll be glad to know that feedback is reflected in the first weekly report.
Have you checked out the ideas from the community? Might these sound better than quotas? Have you given your feedback about the Call for types of skills and experience idea? Perhaps these might better speak to the problems you're speaking about regarding qualified candidates. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 20:53, 12 February 2021 (UTC)

Bad both for candidates and for the community[edit]

In theory quotas are an interesting avenue. But from my personal experience of trying to increase diversity in a number of committees from the chapter board to an online ArbCom any 'quota' system will be bad for both candidates and the community:

  • It is bad for candidates as they are viewed as 'quota' candidates but not qualified candidates. I have helped recruit a good board candidate, who was a woman coming from an ethnic and linguistic minority. She would perfectly meet any 'quota', but she did not want to. She was a media expert and she wanted to be recruited as a media expert. She did not want to be recruited as a woman, she did not want to represent an ethnic minority, she wanted to be recruited for her skills and experience, and she was very unhappy to be considered a 'diversity' candidate. Not everyone wants to apply for a 'quota', and many potentially good candidates will likely prefer to win without a quota than to apply for a quota seat.
  • It is bad for the community as they may support none of the quota candidates. I have seen elections where the only candidate(s) meeting a certain 'quota' (e.g. only women participating, only older person participating etc.) were simply not consensual candidates. A real case: out of two women applying for an ArbCom seat, one has a significant track record of conflicts to the point of annoying a majority of the community, and another one is a newbie lacking any relevant experience (who in the end got elected, quickly got a burnout and left). If we had a 'quota', our members would have had to choose between two candidates they would not support in normal circumstances. Sometimes you might want to reject a candidate not because they represent a certain diversity, but because of something else: set of skills, views, track record, behaviour etc. Making people choose a candidate they would not support without a 'quota' is bad for the community.

So please do not introduce 'quotas', and encourage people with uncommon profile apply for regular seats — NickK (talk) 11:26, 6 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi NickK, thanks for bringing this up. This is a good point - just like tokenism noted on another talk page, making people feel marginalized is not a good outcome either. I will include this in the feedback. It seems like the rest of your comment has almost a burnout theme - would you say quotas might not be sustainable? Just trying to accurately capture your comments. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 21:06, 12 February 2021 (UTC)
@JKoerner (WMF): Oh no, burnout is not the main theme of my comment. However, burnout is something that might happen to an unprepared candidate. With quotas having an unprepared candidate is just something more likely — NickK (talk) 16:22, 13 February 2021 (UTC)
@NickK: Sorry I wasn't more clear. I should have said I noted the other feedback in your comment. I just asked about the burnout situation because that is new feedback I had not yet heard about quotas. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 13:22, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
@JKoerner (WMF): Just to clarify: that's an unintended feedback, and I don't want to generalise but it can indeed happen.
I have not seen any case directly related to quotas. I have seen a few cases where new and more diverse candidates were elected (partly because people wanted new faces, partly because they added some diversity), and unfortunately these candidates happened to be not very well-prepared for the position and had a burnout. This might not have been a direct consequence of being uncommon candidates, but these burnouts really happened.
I would say the 'burnout' point for 'quotas' is the following: quotas should not go too far enough to make us elect a significantly less-prepared candidate (or candidates). Even a well-prepared candidate would be in a difficult situation: they would be a hope for an underrepresented group, while other voters would see them as a candidate who relied only on this quota to get elected. A less-prepared candidate, in addition to this pressure, would be on a steep learning curve, making a burnout just more likely. If we are feeling that some group is not represented as their candidates are weaker, so we need a quota to get a candidate from them, we really should invest in training these candidates first — NickK (talk) 14:46, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
Oh! @NickK: It is good we are talking more about this then. I see now. Let me list the feedback I heard here just to double-check that I understood correctly:
  • Quotas could put some people on the Board by trying to fulfill the quota, but that person might not be prepared for this role on the Board and burnout.
  • If the community wants people from certain areas on the Board, those people should be provided with training first to prepare them.
  • Quotas might make some very qualified candidates uncomfortable, or even make them hesitant to take the seat on the Board, because they don't want to be seen as getting the seat because of diversity quotas.
  • Voters might see the candidate as someone who relied on the quota to get elected to the Board.
Does that about capture it? Let me know if I missed anything? Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 16:34, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
@JKoerner (WMF): One point is missing: Voters may support none of the quota candidates for an unrelated reason, meaning they have to choose a candidate they would not have supported in normal circumstances. They can meet all quota requirements but be unpopular for an unrelated reason (let's say we have a quota for Africa, but all three African candidates think Wikipedia should introduce ads, something the community cannot support). This point is clearly one of my top-2 together with #3 (very qualified candidates) — NickK (talk) 17:57, 15 February 2021 (UTC)
I'm glad you clarified that for me. I have it all now for the next weekly report. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 18:16, 15 February 2021 (UTC)

Strongly against gender quotas[edit]

Strongly against any kind of gender quotas, but in particular the extremely discriminatory 50/50 ones. Because:

  • Why someone should be forced to assume a specific gender and reveal it, in order to be part of the BoT? Does it make the candidate more fit to the job?
  • 50/50 quotas clearly is a form of dictatorship of the majority, with the booty divided between the two genders with greater expression in the world population, blocking all others from having that job. The 50/50 solution, in particular, should be completely discarded, as worst than being "non inclusive", it's a discriminatory solution that clearly blocks candidates from minority genders, or candidates that do not which to reveal their gender at all.
  • Because it is not only a non rational approach, but even goes against our history and practice: In the last ASBS BoT elections, of 12 candidates, 10 were men, and 2 women. At Wikimedia Portugal, we have favored the 2 women candidacies (which actually won), not because they were women, but because we thought they were the best for the place. With 50/50 gender quotas, one of the candidates would have to be a man, which would imply moving one up of the non immediate choices. There were also excellent candidates there which were men, but why be forced to chose them just because of gender quotas? Another example are WMF CEOs, which have all been women till now. Is there some logic at all into introducing quotas there, forcing the next one to be a man, even if he's not a primary or even secondary choice for the job? It's absurd.

--- Darwin Ahoy! 20:38, 17 February 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Quotas from the first weekly report[edit]

The facilitation team was thinking it might be helpful to share the feedback pertaining to each idea on each idea's talk page. Here is the feedback from the first weekly report covering February 1 - 7 of the Call for Feedback. The facilitation team has revised the reporting procedure for weekly reports after feedback received from the community regarding the weekly reports. This is visible on the second weekly report.

There have been two ideas developed from the community around the topic of quotas: Regional seats and Specialization seats.

  • Some contributors on Meta expressed a dislike for quotas; members of the Russian WikiCommunity agreed
  • Some oppose due to worry some people could get onto the Board without the proper skills
  • The proposal is to discriminate against certain people by denying them the ability to run for certain board seats.
  • Participants in the office hours sessions said quotas might be a solution depending on how they are implemented
  • A comment from a French-speaking discussion suggested geographical quotas with at least 1 seat and increase in relation to regional community size.
  • Participants in a discussion in the Middle East said quotas would be the only way someone from the region would get on the Board
  • Three-fourths of the conversation attendees of the Wikimedia Nigeria User Group said they were in support of quotas, more specifically regional quotas.
  • Three-fourths of the conversation attendees of the Wikimedia Tanzania User Group said they were in support of quotas, more specifically regional quotas.
  • Any quotas should be handled by the community
  • Gender equity on the Board should be 50/50

Please reach out with questions or comments! Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 16:46, 18 February 2021 (UTC)

Collected Feedback about Quotas from the second weekly report[edit]

Here is the collected feedback about quotas from the second weekly report covering February 8 - 14 of the Call for Feedback. This weekly report integrates the feedback received from the first weekly report to better identify the information sources.

Please reach out with questions or comments! Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 19:22, 18 February 2021 (UTC)

Quotas and voting[edit]

Hello, I support increasing the diversity of the WMF Board, and having quotas is a valid method. Now, there are many ways to implement quotas, in particular how the community would vote in such system.

An option could be that each continent votes one or two Board representative. I discourage this case. I would like to have the chance to vote for or against candidates from other continents as well. So either have a worldwide vote, or have both continental and worldwide votes. --NaBUru38 (talk) 23:12, 19 February 2021 (UTC)

Hi there, NaBUru38, thanks for your feedback! I have added it to the upcoming weekly report. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 18:26, 24 February 2021 (UTC)


Collected Feedback about Quotas from the third weekly report[edit]

Here is the collected feedback about quotas from the third weekly report covering February 15 - 21 of the Call for Feedback.

11 users from 6 different home wikis have participated in the conversation on this idea's talk page so far.

Do reach out with any questions or feedback. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 18:07, 25 February 2021 (UTC)

WMF already has power to appoint runners-up[edit]

The Wikimedia Foundation has, and has always had, the power to appoint runners-up in community elections to the board. It would be a good use of at least one or two of the new appointive seats to select runners-up from community elections who did not win outright, but who are from parts of the community that have been underrepresented. This would build confidence all around, I believe.--Pharos (talk) 05:14, 26 February 2021 (UTC)

That's a good idea, especially as those appointed seats will be a lot more as well in the future, far more then missing skill-sets can justify. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 09:11, 26 February 2021 (UTC)