"People often ask me why women aren't in Wikipedia....I say "Huh?! I am!" – Beatriz, a female Wikipedian from Argentina.
Every year women involved in Wikimedia projects come together for lunch at Wikimania. A casual conversation generally emerges, forming into a passionate and lively discussion about women's roles within Wikimedia.
This year Wikichix Lunch was attended by more than 40 women from countries such as Bulgaria, England, Germany, Israel, India, Australia, Poland, Russia, Argentina, Armenia, and the United States, among others. Wikimedia Foundation Director Sue Gardner mediated the discussion. Held at the Lounge at Wikimania 2011, a casual conversation began, with Wikichix sharing their thoughts, experiences, and concerns about gender gap and gender relations on Wikimedia.
A warm welcome
Sue welcomed us, noting that after attending her first Wikichix lunch years ago – which only had 11 women – she was excited to see that our numbers kept growing in attendance. After encouraging introductions, we were greeted with a warm welcome by Hedva Almog, the Deputy Mayor of Haifa. She shared her remarkable story with us: her role as a commander in the Israeli Army for 25 years and as an advocate for workers, children and women's rights in Israel.
The Deputy Mayor also provided us a challenge: that within 2–3 months every woman at the WikiChix Lunch write 10 articles relating to women. If every woman in the room did so, we'd have over 400 new articles related to women.
The dialogue begins
After the Deputy Mayor's welcome, Sue moderated the lunch, encouraging WikiChix attendees to stand up and voice their thoughts and opinions as being Women who Wiki. The range of experience varied from brand new Wikipedians to seasoned administrators and Chapter board members.
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- Lyzzy opened the lunch with a reminder of the disparaging numbers about female contributors in Wikimedia and that there is a bigger need to examine "what the benefits are" for women to contribute to Wikipedia. She also stated that there was a need for women to identify as just that on Wikimedia – not just as an anonymous IP address. She also stressed that women don't just need to edit – Wikimedia Projects provide near endless opportunities for women to contribute in some manner.
- FloNight, a seasoned Wikipedian and administrator on English Wikipedia, asked if female Wikimedians were encouraging other females to edit - do you or don't you?, she asked. Female to female encouragement to volunteer for Wikimedia is an imperative tool in closing the gender gap, and she encouraged us to go out and inspire others to participate. Later in the discussion, FloNight also asked about workshops and activities - at Wikimania and beyond - who is attending, and what are the retention rates of women who participate?
- Elya from Wikimedia Germany, also asked about the benefits of Wikipedia for women. She shared her experiences as a woman within German Wikimedia and how the gender gap and the treatment of women in German Wikimedia is completely ignored by most German contributors. She questioned the fact that we had notability guidelines for porn stars and train stations - but the lack of female coverage on Wikipedia is frustrating and how can we make it better?
- Juttavd, from Wikimedia Australia, expressed the need for the Wikimedia Storytellers to bring women's stories to light, in order to help encourage female volunteers. These stories are tools, and keeping in line with the desires of FloNight to see women encourage women to contribute - these stories can be a key motivator.
- Douglas, from Israel, praised the role that her female Wiki-mentor had in her early Wikipedia editing. This editor helped her learn about the process and become a better editor. Douglas shared with us that most of her early edits were reverted, a statement that received nods and verbal agreements from women throughout the room. She mentioned the gender differences in university environments in Israel - male dominated environments - similar to the landscape of Wikipedia. She agreed with FloNight that "women bring women" to Wikipedia and encouraged women to greet other women on Wikipedia via talk pages.
- MichChemGSI, a Campus Ambassador from Michigan, shared her experience as a female editor working in the sciences on Wikipedia. Many agreed - the tone of articles written by women is different from that of those written by men. She hopes that, through the participation of women on Wikipedia, this difference may encourage women to get more involved in not only Wikipedia, but the sciences in general.
- Magalia discussed her experience with an event Polish Wikipedia attempted which encouraged a week of female contributors edits on Wikipedia. The project struggled – the dominance of male editors in the Polish Wikipedia was obvious: the list of topics that was to be used in the event about female related topics revolved around shoes, make-up, beauty, fashion, and other "female interest stereotypes." This list, created by male Wikipedians, provided ammunition for Polish women's rights organizations, who used it as a tool to show the backwards way of thinking and lack of awareness amongst Wikipedia and women's roles in the movement.
- Alla (?), a Russian born editor who lives in Israel and contributes to Russian Wikipedia, expressed that she felt her own writing style is the same as men's, contradicting MichChemGSI's belief about women's writing styles versus male styles in articles. She shared that she is the only woman out of 20 men in the project she participates on, and that she has never felt resistance or sexism from the Russian male editors in the project. She stated that Israeli men have treated her equally as well, and that she "doesn't pay attention to the gender gap."
- Shani, a new editor, said for her the big issue came down to awareness about Wikimedia projects. She was unaware, until attending Wikimania, that there were so many Wikimedia projects - projects that can encourage participation by women in many arenas, not just editing Wikipedia. Once she learned about these projects she felt even more inspired!
- Vassia Atanassova, a 5-year editor from Bulgaria, expressed the relatively high percentage of female contributors in the Bulgarian community, compared to other wiki communities which lack females. Simply stating "the more men, the more testosterone, the more problems" (in regards to interpersonal relationships), she shared her own experiences of being insulted online by a male editor for her contributions. Vassia refused to verbally attack back, despite the temptation. She also shared a recent discussion with a Macedonian editor - they only have 2 women (one administrator) out of about 50 people, on Macedonian Wikipedia. She credited accessibility of the internet which might contribute to the lack of editors, especially women, in Eastern European communities.
- Beatriz, from Argentina, shared the exciting details of events hosted in Argentina focused on female contributions and topics in the Spanish Wikipedia. 100 new articles were created during Wikipedia 10. Beatriz declared the importance of women and men to pay attention to the gender gap, and how do we inform people? She shared her own experience working at an Argentinian non-profit that had a percent of every grant they received go towards women's programming. She also encouraged the incorporation of women's organization's into the gender gap issue at Wikimedia. She stated "People often ask me why women aren't in Wikipedia....I say "Huh?! I am!"
- Aude, board member of the Wiki Society of DC and committee member for Wikimania 2012, shared some of the activities that have taken place in Washington, DC. She shared details about a DC area based women's tech group, a workshop recently hosted to teach women how to edit, and how the GLAM-WIKI movement has heavy female involvement. She also mentioned her recent experience in Boston at the education summit, stating that the diversity gender wise was apparent.
- Suzanna (?), an Armenian contributor, shared her ideas for bringing Wikipedia into schools – not only for children, but for child-caring women to learn how to participate.
- Sumanadig, from India, shared her experiences with leading outreach programs in India with her husband. She encouraged and praised the successes of outreach projects in India, asking WikiChix to begin outreach within their own communities and languages. She suggested that some women find the Wiki-mark-up difficult to use, and the need for visual editors that are language-specific. Sumanadig also shared topics that women in India find appealing to edit: folklore, music, and art.
- Sue Gardner encouraged women to read Unlocking the Clubhouse by Jane Margolis. She discussed the idea of women needing to be invited, agreeing with previous speakers that women need to interact with other women to gain interest to contribute. Sue also agreed that whenever WMF does outreach events, women are well represented, and that women account for at least 50% of Campus Ambassadors.
- Bishakha Datta, Wikimedia Foundation board member from India, shared her experience as a high profile woman in a male dominated area (in India, technology, and beyond). She shared that many men in India are supportive of closing the gender gap; however, they don't want to lead it. They want women to lead and participate – a way of thinking that is shared by most male Wikipedians around the world. She also mentioned that the GLAM industry is dominated by women, and that the support for GLAM and Gender Gap programming can greatly improve women's volunteer roles in Wikimedia.
How you can make a difference
Aside from volunteering and contributing to Wikimedia and it's related projects, you can participate in a variety of ways. In the near future, a presence will form on Wikimedia Outreach regarding women's initiatives. Below are just a few of the ways you can get started, as mentioned at the WikiChix Luncheon.
Become a Fellow
The Wikimedia Foundation provides funding for Wikimedia Fellows. These fellowships can encourage exploration of the gender gap, encourage female participation, or just be led by female Wikimedians from around the world. Fellows can live anywhere in the world. Learn more about fellowship opportunities here.
Work for the Wikimedia Foundation
The Wikimedia Foundation has job openings ranging from fundraising to technical development. Apply today!
Join the Gender Gap Mailing List
The Wikimedia Foundation runs a Gender Gap discussion list. We encourage you to participate.
Chat with us!
Participate in Wikimania 2012
If enough proposals are accepted for presentation at Wikimania 2012, we can potentially have a gender gap/women's oriented track. Start thinking of ideas today! Also, panel proposals are encouraged. Learn more about how you can participate in Wikimania 2012 here.
Attend an event
Wikimedians around the world are putting together exciting events to encourage female volunteer solidarity and contributions!
Explore these resources
- "WP:Clubhouse? An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance", a newly released study that examines the gender gap in Wikipedia.
- Participate in the Geek Feminism Wiki
- Women & Wikipedia Scoop.it to keep up with media coverage & blogs about the gender gap.
- Wikipedia Women Facebook group
- Margolis, Jane. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Cambridge: MIT Press (2001). ISBN 0262133989
This list is based on the Wikimania WikiChix Signup page. Please add your name if you participated and are not listed.
- Sue Gardner
- Catrin Schoneville (WMDE)
- Nicole Ebber (WMDE)
- Karen Switzerland