[Gendergap] Introducing ourselves :-)

Sue Gardner sgardner at wikimedia.org
Tue Feb 1 03:14:06 UTC 2011

Hey folks!

When Asaf of the Israeli chapter started up the Wikipedia in
Developing Countries list, he did something that I thought was really
great: he asked everybody who joined to introduce themselves, and talk
a little about why they were interested in the list topic. Why don't
we do the same thing here?

I can start:

I'm Sue Gardner; I'm the executive director of the Wikimedia
Foundation, the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia.

I'm interested in the Wikipedia gender gap for two reasons: 1) I'm a
woman, and I am sometimes surprised/irritated/appalled at how thin
Wikipedia is on some topics that interest me. I want Wikipedia to be
as rich and complete and broad and deep as it possibly can be, so that
I find what I'm looking for when I read it. And 2) I'm the ED of the
Wikimedia Foundation, and our mission is to make the sum total of all
human knowledge available to everyone. I know that Wikipedia is only
going to be as good as the breadth & diversity of the people who
contribute to it, so ensuring that women are fully represented on
Wikipedia is, I think, a part of my job.

A little more background on me personally: I know that a lot of women
on Wikipedia operate in predominantly male environments such as
science, technology, engineering and math. That's not my situation. I
spent most of my career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
which is an extremely female-friendly environment with lots of women
throughout the organization at every level, and I also worked at the
Women's Television Network, which had at the time a 98% female staff.
So I am very used to operating in female-majority cultures. This means
that when I first joined Wikimedia in 2007, it was a pretty big
culture shock to me.

But I'll also say that I've never personally witnessed misogyny on the
Wikimedia projects, and I don't believe that Wikimedia editors, by and
large, are sexist. (I know that some people would disagree with that.)
I think our gender gap has its origins mainly in the external
environment, and the contributing factors are many of the same ones
that result in women being underrepresented in the STEM fields. Plus I
don't think the Wikimedia movement has yet done a sufficiently good
job of stressing the societal benefits of our work (which I think
would be appealing for lots of women): rather, we've let our work be
defined by others as solely technical and 'geeky.' Plus, women don't
typically have as much leisure time as men for pursuits like
Wikipedia, and the time they do have tends to be spent in groups
rather than at a computer. I say all that only because I think lots of
women would edit Wikipedia if they had a clearer understanding of what
it is, and why it exists.

I should also say: I think that all forms of diversity --geographic,
political, ideological, cultural, sexual, age-related, etc.-- are
important. But having said that, I do think our gender skew is
particularly bad, so even though I feel uncomfortable paying special
attention to it, I believe it's probably defensible.

My hope for this list is that it'll become a space where Wikipedians
and non-Wikipedians can share research and information and tactics for
making Wikipedia more attractive to women editors. Myself, I'm not
particularly interested in debates about 'how bad the problem is' or
'is there really a problem' or 'whose fault is this problem anyway.'
I'm actually not all that interested in the origins of the gender gap,
except insofar as they shed light on possible solutions.

Following the story in the Times today, I got lots of e-mails from
people who want to help us fix things. I'm not going to forward the
mails here without people's permission, but I will probably reach out
to many of those folks and invite them to join this list.

Oh: and a little background. Erik Moeller, my deputy, created this
list today because I asked him to, and after floating the notion on
the internal-l mailing list, it looked like there might be sufficient
interest to make it worthwhile. My understanding is that this is NOT a
women-only list; it's a list for people who are interested in the
gender gap on Wikipedia, who want to help attract/support more female


Sue Gardner
Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

415 839 6885 office
415 816 9967 cell

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
the sum of all knowledge.  Help us make it a reality!


More information about the Gendergap mailing list