Twenty female Wikimedia editors from around the world gathered at the National University of La Plata in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 23–25 May 2012 for the first-ever WikiWomenCamp, where they discussed issues facing women editors and ways to increase the number of female editors (agenda here).
It has long been known that women editors face different challenges than male editors. This was one of the main forces behind the creation of the Wikichix programme – a program exclusively for women editors (see previous Signpost coverage) – in 2006. The foundation listed increasing the participation of women editors as one of its strategic goals in 2010. The number of female participants has since dropped. An independent survey by Sarah Stierch, now community fellow for the encouragement of women's participation at the foundation, found that between 2010 and 2011 the proportion of women editors dropped from 13 per cent to 9 per cent; several of the survey's respondents cited inhospitality as a possible reason for quitting. This gender gap has received mainstream media attention, including a report in The New York Times.
The concept for WikiWomenCamp arose from discussions between women affiliated with several international Wikimedia chapters at GLAMcamp Amsterdam in late 2011 as a way to address women's issues; it was then developed with further input from other editors, most of them women, as well as feedback from women from wikiHow, open-space facilitator Anne Goldenberg (who served as facilitator at WikiWomenCamp), and hacktivistChristina Haralanova. The conference was attended by women from 12 countries on every continent except Antarctica, with the strongest showing from Argentina, and received coverage in the newspaper Tiempo Argentina (Google translate).
The conference resulted in numerous plans. At the community level, these include relaunching the Wikichix programme as well as increasing work with women in technology groups, in a move that is hoped to increase women's participation, and runnning several further workshops related to the gender gap. At the foundation level, several steps for addressing women's issues are in the works. To deal with harassment, women will be able to use a private mailing list to complain about and receive input regarding harassment faced on-wiki, while outreach may be made easier with learning/training materials specific to women. Further research into gender issues is planned, as is a program to translate articles on topics related to women so that such subjects are represented more evenly across the encyclopaedia. Meanwhile, a book about the perspectives of women around the world on Wikimedia-related issues is scheduled for publication, and media related to the camp is at Commons (audio, pictures, video).
Laura Hale, a WikiWomenCamp organiser and vice-president of Wikimedia Australia, found the Camp to be worth the 24-hour transit each way, saying "I wouldn't have traded it for the world". She described a point on Friday where Sue Gardner pointed to her article work as "my personal fangirl squee moment". Sarah Stierch found the concept a "great idea" and expressed hope that all involved "left with a strong sense of empowerment to do some great things to inspire women to participate".
Another WikiWomenCamp is in the works, but a date is uncertain at the time of writing. Further discussion of women's issues in Wikimedia is planned within Wikimedia Australia. Discussion about women in open-source technology, including Wikipedia, will occur at AdaCamp, held in Washington DC by the Ada Initiative, to coincide with Wikimania 2012.
^Suggestions include a lack of recognition of the gender gap, a lack of mentorship, women in several cultures having less free time than men to volunteer, a difficulty in finding referencing to support their contributions, and a lack of confidence in defending their contributions from the majority demographic.