Category Archives: Women

The Need to Increase Gender Diversity in IT


A recent study published by Catherine Ashcroft and Wendy DuBow from the National Center for Women & Information Technology suggests ways for men to get involved in fighting gender inequality within both the technology field and workplace.

The authors suggest that men’s advocacy is necessary to promote gender diversity in technology because diversity is not just an issue for women but a business and human issue. The authors note that gender diversity allows for more creative and interesting business solutions, especially within the technology field. When men recognize that they have a stake in this issue, it becomes clear that change needs to be made. Moreover, because men hold more formal and informal positions of power in technology than women, they have more potential to influence systemic changes within the field.

The authors next suggest what men should and could be advocating for in these spaces. They argue that men can help change the work environment (and not, for instance “change” the women). Second, men need to speak up when they know of a woman who deserves a promotion or recognition when they are not receiving it in addition to working towards necessary systemic changes more generally. Further, men need to “Listen, Don’t assume that all women want a part in diversity efforts, and reframe negative reactions as valuable opportunities for developing empathy.”

For more information on the ways men can be advocates, visit here. In addition, see this link for ideas in which workplaces can better serve gender diversity.


Feminist encounters on Wikipedia


For anyone interested in Wikipedia’s gender gap and living or visiting in and around New York City, a panel that is open to the public this Wednesday, April 1, offers a discussion about the continued gap, feminism and intersectionality in digital labor.

FemTechNet and the The New School’s School of Media Studies, who are organizing the event, are also offering this discussion as a livestream.

Please see more details below.

Feminist Encounters with Wikipedia Panel Discussion

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang College
65 West 11th Street (Room B500), 5th Floor
New York, NY 10003


This panel will address systemic gaps in participation in editing Wikipedia, where the editor base is currently 87% male. Unsurprisingly, consistent underrepresentation is also reflected in content and coverage throughout the digital cultural archive. Recent feminist initiatives have garnered much coverage and attention in countering these proven biases. Results of these efforts have built significant entry points for engaging Wikipedia practically and critically. In addition to reporting on the quantitative aspects of these successes, this panel will explore potentially unexpected questions around digital labor, intersectionality and sustainability that emerge in designing feminist encounters with Wikipedia.


Panelists will include:
-Anne Balsamo (Dean of School of Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement)
-Marcea Decker (Master’s Candidate in Parsons The New School for Design’s MS Design and Urban Ecologies program)
-Dorothy Howard (former Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Metropolitan New York Library Council and co-organizer of Art+Feminism campaign)
-Antoinette LaFarge (Professor of Art in Digital Media at University of California, Irvine). Veronica Paredes (Lecturer at School of Media Studies) will moderate.


Sponsored by the School of Media Studies and FemTechNet.


The importance of role models

It makes a lot of sense to tackle the gender gap in STEM fields from different angles.

Apart from early education and dispelling myths about math and gender, another piece of the puzzle is to ensure that girls have role models they can relate to and identify with. A free to download collection of interviews with “Women in Data,” by Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton, gives women a voice to share how much mentors and role models have shaped their careers in different fields in data and technology.

The interviews also show that with more women going into technology, more role models and mentors will be available to coach younger women and girls to follow.

Be inspired be these 15 “Women in Data.”


WikidGRRLs becomes signatory to FemTechNet’s statement on anti-feminist violence online

wikidgrrlslogo-resized1.jpgOnline attacks on women and feminist bloggers, activists, scholars and authors have become a frequent topic of coverage in U.S. news media over the past year. Increasingly more scholarship is addressing this problematic online phenomenon. For instance, a 2014 Pew study shows that young women are “particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking” via social media.

The FemTechNet network of scholars, artists, and students working at the intersections of science, technology and feminism has issued a statement addressing the anti-feminist violence online: “FemTechnet publicly denounces the systematic and pernicious harassment of women, feminists of all genders, and transgender people for their participation in digital life.”

WikidGRRLs has decided to become a signatory to this important statement. AsFemTechNet,WikidGRRLs is dedicated to an open and accessible internet, especially for (young) women. As FemTechNet we are raising our voices to “reject online and offline violence and silencing of women and feminists.”

Currently societal and legal conditions in the United States are still permitting an atmosphere in which violence online is not fully acknowledged nor fully prosecuted, as Danielle Keats Citron describes in detail in Hate Crimes in Cyber Space. Only by continuing to raise awareness, to keeping up coverage, scholarship and activism can we contribute to transforming the situation for the better. As Danielle Keats CItron puts it: “Change will not be swift, but it is within reach” (p. 96).

Read the complete FemTechNet statement and become a signatory with your initiative or group to show that we do not tolerate violence online. 

The first Wikipedia monument serves as a good reminder to even out the gender gap

At least one woman is among the four who are hoisting up the Wikipedia globe in the monument that it said to be the first one to honor the online encyclopedia. With all its pieces to build the sum of all knowledge it’s a heavy load to lift.

For that to happen we need more women and other people who are currently underrepresented among the many volunteer contributors to Wikipedia.

The monument stands in the city of Słubice in Poland. CNET reports that its inscription reads: “With this monument the citizens of Słubice would like to pay homage to thousands of anonymous editors all over the world, who have contributed voluntarily to the creation of Wikipedia, the greatest project co-created by people regardless of political, religious or cultural borders.”

It’s will serve as an excellent reminder that still a lot of work is ahead to even out Wikipedia’s gender gap, and its other gaps to fully represent the knowledges of all of humankind.


Strategies for Wikipedia to attract more women

WikipediaGlobeGuest post by Laura Hale

One of the things that I have been discussing with several women about Wikipedia recently involves the question: “If another woman came to you and said they were interested in getting very involved with Wikipedia, would you recommend it to them?” Privately, I have found that several women who are highly active are actually beginning to say no. I said this on a Facebook post, and a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board asked me what the solution to this problem of women not encouraging women to participate is. My response to them was:

I am not sure what the solution is. I’m growing increasingly disillusioned, and amongst my friends, I sense similar attitudes. In reflecting on my own interactions with the community and conversations I have had with my friends and acquaintances, there are three things that I see as potential solutions.

1. Demonstrate why women should contribute to Wikipedia in a way that is personally meaningful. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other small social networks, conferences and in-person groups do this. They provide women with contacts and networking opportunities to further professional, academic and personal goals. Wikipedia and its movement appear to be a dead-end street. The skill set for contributing doesn’t assist you. (And even some parts that do, you can get those skills elsewhere without the drama.) The networking only serves you in a limited Wikipedia movement way, which limits your options instead of expanding them. Why myself and women should be involved in terms of selfishly helping us meet our own personal, academic and professional goals needs to be made implicitly clear.

2. Demonstrate to women that they are not at risk for contributing. This is two-fold to a degree. There are too many stories of women specifically being harassed personally, academically and professionally for contributing. (Many women need to edit under their real names to get benefits or credits for their work. We are thus at an increased risk.) The community does not talk about these problems, even as it appears everyone else is now willing to engage in these discussions. Journalists, gamers, programmers, politicians, academics, scientists and social media sites are all having these conversations about the experiences of women and how awful they are. Wikipedia and the movement are not. Women are strongly being encouraged to be silent, to not feed the trolls. In being silent, we cannot share our experiences and what happens is that the harassers become the loudest voice and they are empowered. Because engaging with our harassers and discussing problems is taboo, the voices that the movement hears are the harassers and the trolls who are then perceived as legitimate voices of the community. And then because they are the only voices the movement hears, it feels like the people with institutional power then go out of their way to empower them and in effect, assist the people who are harassing women and driving them away from the project. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate that this paradigm is not acceptable. The Wikipedia movement needs to demonstrate to women that they will not be put personally, professionally and academically at risk for participating. Who wants to knowingly contribute to a project where they are consciously anxious and fearful, always looking over their shoulder, when they get very little out of it?

3. Demonstrate support for content about women and of interest to women. “Category gate” [about articles concerning women and men U.S. novelists –– read our post] is going to happen again. The Chelsea Manning thing is going to happen again. There is condemnation community wise of popular culture topics, and of topics about women. We are headed towards these content issues again and again. The community appears re-active and defensive when these things come up. And there appear to be no perceived institutionally powerful people willing to pro-actively address these issues, go into the community and address these. When we do push back on women content issues, we end up with problems with point number 2. Continual community leadership and addressing the worst of the problems need to be addressed so women can feel the content about them and of interest to them matters and is not inherently inferior.

All three of these strategies feed into each other and are linked. At the end of the day, women need to feel safe to edit, that there is a reason to edit and that content about them is important and equal to the content about men. Action needs to be taken to address these points, and the action needs to come from the several parts of the movement that are perceived as having real power. The last major initiative that appears to have been addressed to encourage women to participate was a visual editor [that makes it easier to edit texts than the regular non-standard HTML used by Wikipedia], but it addressed none of these issues. People talk a good game with blog posts and speeches about how women matter, but no actions take place that confirm these. Give women solutions to deal with harassment and biased content issues and lack of opportunities in the Wikipedia movement. And then provide a press release. If you can give a press release on sock puppeting [when people use different accounts and personas on Wikipedia to edit] and actions institutional powers took against sock puppeters, why can’t institutional powers find ways to empower women and then issue press releases on that?

And I find it hard to offer examples and more concrete examples, to offer better solutions drawing on my personal experiences and that of my friends, because in doing so, I fear I will run into problems described in points 2 and points 3.

Laura Hale is a Ph.D. student at the University of Canberra, who is studying sport and social media. As a Wikipedian, she has created over 1,200 articles with over 40 percent of them about women.  She has served as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Spanish Paralympic Committee.  She is also active in a leadership role in the Wikimedia movement, having served as the vice president of Wikimedia Australia, and the provisional chairperson of The Wikinewsie Group.


Wikipedia, sports and the gender gap

Guest post by Laura Hale

I write about women’s sport on English Wikipedia.  Unlike scientists, artists, and other professional women, the media have paid little attention to how Wikipedia treats female athletes.  The problem is particularly acute in terms of article naming and categorization because English Wikipedia has this tendency to treat sportspeople as men by default, with women being treated as inherently inferior.  The best example of this is the national team naming structure, which almost always has the genderless national team article about men, and the gendered article name about women.  This occurs despite the fact that by rule almost all of these sports are segregated by gender.  If you’re a female sportsperson, that sends a horrifying message.

This pattern is often repeated when it comes to categories.  Men are not categorized by gender, while women are systematically categorized by gender.  Or when a male and female category exists, the men stay in the main category and the women are moved out.  The worst I’ve ever seen was when all the women were systematically moved out of “softball players” and into “female softball players”, leaving only articles about men.  This happened despite the fact that softball has historically been a women’s game.  Again, the message is that women are supposedly inferior and not equal to their male counterparts. This default language part is particularly troubling because it creates barriers.  Despite the verifiability of the fact that sport is segregated by gender and what seems to be an inherently neutral position of gender specifying the teams, the argument on Wikipedia amounts to the fact that men’s teams are inherently more notable, and are thus primary topics.  Neutrality, being specific, following verifiability should be secondary to serving the reader’s interest in finding the most notable team without gender in play.

I’ve seen a fair amount of work discussing the differences between male and female artists and scientists, but none on national teams.  The Wikipedia content for the most popular sports is better for men, has more sources, has more pictures, on average is longer in length, and is created sooner than for articles about female members of national teams.

This situation is particularly appalling given the important role of exercise and participation in sport when it comes to women’s health.  At the same time, women’s participation in sports and sports governance are often reflective of broader societal treatment of women that may not be as publicly visible elsewhere.  Think about the story of the Saudi Arabian women being excluded from the Olympic team and the fatwas issued to prevent women from playing soccer in several countries in Africa.  The portrayal on Wikipedia of women’s participation in sports is systematically marginalized in a way that it violates the “neutral point of view”, one of the five pillars for editing on Wikipedia. This is not good for Wikipedia, and broadly speaking, it is not good for women’s health issues globally.

It also discourages women from editing in sports topics because the sexism is so built into the system. Women get actively discouraged from participating and are being attacked for questioning the assumption that the default is male and should remain male because of the false premise that men’s sport is inherently superior. That’s not the sort of positive messaging that will get women contributing to articles about elite women in sports.

Further, issues on Wikipedia regarding women in sports appear to mirror problems faced by media and sports in general. This includes participation levels both at the athlete and administrator level.  There has recently been a large discussion about media coverage of women in sports and the treatment of female sports journalists.

This is really, really problematic for sports and a situation not necessarily true in other domains. Scientists are not by rule segregated by gender in doing their work and in who they compete against.  The same is true for popular culture topics, academia, art and other domains that have historically been the focus of gender gap work.  Hence, on some level this feels worse than other forms of discrimination at the heart of categorygate (during which women novelists were moved out of the American novelists category} and few people seem to talk about it.  My supposition would be that this is because of the people attracted to writing about the gender gap focus on areas of interest, which can play along feminist lines, and sports does not fit into that mold.

This is an area where I feel particularly passionate about because I feel it has largely been neglected in the gender gap narrative.  That’s sad because I think sports public profile for bringing attention to women’s issue is huge.  The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are starting on February 7 and we’re going to hear all these stories about strong, capable women who are the best at what they do in the world.  Rarely does that happen on a global level where you hear so many stories about so many women.  And the cultural implications for women’s involvement or lack of involvement in sport should be there.  I’ve talked to a number of sportswomen and having a Wikipedia article is seen as a clear sign that they’ve made it. Validating our best is good, because it encourages more of them.

Laura Hale is a Ph.D. student at the University of Canberra, who is studying sport and social media. As a Wikipedian, she has created over 1,200 articles with over 40 percent of them about women.  She has served as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian Paralympic Committee and the Spanish Paralympic Committee.  She is also active in a leadership role in the Wikimedia movement, having served as the vice president of Wikimedia Australia, and the provisional chairperson of The Wikinewsie Group.