Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Quotas
|Call for feedback: Community Board seats|
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A commitment to diversity is one of the governance priorities identified in the Foundation’s Bylaws. The Board has consistently expressed its commitment to achieving diversity in Board composition. The Board can follow through on these commitments directly with the Board-selected trustee seats. For the community- and affiliate-selected seats, however, the Board stating its desire for diversity is not sufficient to ensure that the selected trustees truly reflect the diversity of the Wikimedia movement.
One possible approach to addressing this issue is to introduce quotas that require a minimum number of community- and affiliate-selected Board seats to be filled by trustees from groups who would otherwise be underrepresented or disadvantaged in a community-wide nomination and voting process.
The Board has many open questions related to the idea of quotas, and requests community feedback on what the answers should be. In particular:
- What types of diversity would be most important to guarantee with a quota system? Some possible options are gender, ethnicity, LGBT+ status, geography, totalitarian regime experience, social status (including class and income), having experienced the lack of freedom of travel, speech, or religion, and maturity of “home” community within the Wikimedia movement.
- How should a quota system be enforced? One possibility would be to reserve certain seats for members of certain groups. Another possibility would be to consider overall diversity of Board composition at the end of the selection process. Yet another would be to include diversity in the Trustee Evaluation Form as important additional characteristics.
- How should the quotas be set, and how should they be changed over time?
It should be noted that while the Board has not come to an agreement regarding a clear understanding of what kind of diversity should be systematically introduced, it has discussed gender as a widely uncontroversial criterion for overall board diversity, yet has not come to a conclusion how it can be introduced across the community and appointed seats practically.
The Board recognizes that quotas are not necessarily the only way to ensure the selection of a diverse set of trustees for the Board. Suggestions of alternative approaches are welcome.
Summary of ongoing feedback
The facilitation team keeps this section in sync with the main report.
Quotas have been discussed in almost every conversation and the range of opinions has been very wide. In practice, most discussions have focused separately on regional quotas or gender diversity quotas. Other factors like non-Wikipedia projects participation, minority languages, age, and skin color have been mentioned sporadically and inconsistently.
The majority of participants agree on the importance of having a Board that represents the diversity of the world. The majority of participants also recognize the difficulty of implementing a system of quotas that is fair, effective, and representative. The support to find diversity solutions based on quotas is stronger among participants from emerging Wikimedia communities as well as women and LGBT+ participants.
Some individuals had reservations to express opinions publicly or participate in the Call for Feedback at all. Aspects like gender and cultural background are closely related to people’s identities. In society, topics like social privilege, political representation of women and minorities, or contemporary colonialism are very controversial and difficult to discuss. All these factors were noticeable during the Call for Feedback. We organized targeted outreach to learn more about the opinions of participants in several groups, including Wikimedia LGBT+, WikiWomxn, Les sans pagEs, WikiDonne and Art+Feminism as well as informal groups of women and LGBT+. Some of whom noted feeling overworked by the quantity of discussions about the Wikimedia movement requesting their participation.
There are serious concerns about the implementation of quotas, including among groups underrepresented in Wikimedia. Disagreement about quotas among women and LGBT+ groups tended to be related to unintended consequences like tokenism and potential candidates feeling discouraged to run for “a quota seat”. On Meta-Wiki, a few contributors expressed their strong disagreement on principle, considering quotas discriminatory, and some of them disagree that the Board has a problem of diversity.
Note: two volunteers spun off the ideas of Regional seats and Specialization seats. Feedback received about regional representation or specialization quotas are listed in the related sections.
- The topic of quotas is very broad. The only types of quotas being discussed are regional and gender quotas. Age and skin color are other factors mentioned sporadically. The opinions range from strong opposition to strong support.
- The team has noticed some silence from individuals and groups, as well as directly encountering reservations to express opinions publicly. We have dedicated special attention to providing safe spaces and optional ways to gather feedback without exposing individuals.
- Several participants said that the purpose of quotas is to overcome historical and systemic inequities, which the current practice of Board member election makes difficult.
- Many participants in all regions, also in Western Europe and North America, said that quotas may be the only way for certain underrepresented groups to ensure that their perspectives and presence are included on the Board any time soon.
- A Wikimedia Foundation executive noted that women are underrepresented in elected/nominated seats, and appointed seats should not be the only guarantee of balancing diversity.
- Some participants commented that the Board diversity should represent the world’s population composition and not just the Wikimedia community composition.
- Many participants said that a representative implementation of quotas may be hard given that there is a maximum of eight seats for community and affiliates.
- Some warned of larger communities overshadowing smaller communities due to influence and noted this may produce a silent minority as has happened in some countries with indigenous communities. For this reason, they say quotas should be based upon population and not the size of the wiki community.
- Several participants from underrepresented groups said that quotas may deter potential competent candidates from underrepresented groups from running for election because they want to be selected on their own merits, without the help of a quota system.
- They fear that these candidates may be judged as only on the Board because of the quota and disregard the experience or expertise of the person. Some said candidates using the quota may get less support because of this.
- Many participants in several regions were concerned about the risk of candidates joining the Board without having the proper skills thanks to quotas.
- Some participants feared that quotas may increase tokenism, that is, an apparent representation of diversity that is more symbolic than effective.
- A few participants said that candidates selected due to quotas may feel public pressure from contributors opposing quotas.
- They mentioned groupthink as a potential side effect, that is, trustees selected through quotas feeling forced to align with the trustees selected without quotas, defeating the point of diversity.
- Several groups from emerging Wikimedia communities mentioned the connotations the term “quotas” have in their countries.
- They described situations where governments are misusing quota-based systems that were created to include minorities, resulting in various forms of corruption.
- Especially on Meta-Wiki, a few users disagreed strongly with any system of quotas.
- One user said that quotas discriminate against certain people by denying them the ability to run for certain board seats based on their innate characteristics.
Regarding gender quotas
- There were many considerations specific to a gender diversity quota:
- Participants in several countries mentioned examples of gender balance laws or campaigns in their countries and considered it logical to explore a similar application in the Board.
- Many participants mentioned concepts like “50/50” or “50%” to refer to a gender quota for women, according to some of them following terms popularized by governments or the media in their countries.
- Other participants including members of the Wikimedia LGBT+ user group complained, saying that these concepts were binary and implicitly biased against non-binary, trans or genderqueer people. The Facilitation team acknowledged this problem and rectified the related mentions in their reports.
- A former trustee suggested the Board be proactive about diverse articulations of gender such as trans and non-binary and also diverse sexual orientations.
- A couple of participants suggested adding limits for overrepresentation instead of minimum quotas, like for instance a maximum of 60% of any gender on the Board.
- One participant suggested that gender representation should not come before regional representation.
Regarding quotas in general
- A few participants have said that quotas should be applied during the nomination process, not the election.
- Some Wikitech participants suggested ensuring that there is a minimum number of candidates from each group rather than having election quotas.
- A member of the Elections Committee considered it is not possible to cover all the diversity of our movement with quotas unless there is a system of short-term rotation.
- A former trustee suggested to look at “underrepresented” as a required expertise to avoid using a plain concept of quotas.
- Some participants said that the Board seats should reflect the current community, not the community that it is desired to become.
- Some participants from the Wikimedia Stewards User Group were of this opinion.
- Others said imposing restrictions on the community seats makes for ineffective representatives.
- A few participants commented that the feedback period was not long enough to discuss quotas.