The Status of Women in WordPress

I was recently interviewed on women’s participation in the WordPress open source project. It’s a subject I’m always happy to talk about, but since the article doesn’t exactly get across my point of view, I thought I’d share my full interview here. The questions were provided by the author of the article.

For another point of view on women in the WordPress community, you might prefer this great article on the subject by Stephanie Leary. And this one by Chris Ford. And another one by Mika Epstein. Siobhan McKeown was also interviewed for the same article as me,and you can read her full interview as well.

* Why have you chosen to explore the role of women in WordPress in your WordCamp Ottawa presentation?

Women make up more than half the bloggers, but usually about a quarter of WordCamp speakers, and an even smaller percentage of developers, coders and contributors. Where are the women? Why aren’t they participating? And when they are participating, why don’t we see them? And more importantly, how can we even out that imbalance?

* What are you hoping to achieve with your unconference at WordCamp Ottawa?

For each of the past three years I’ve organized an unconference on Women in WordPress. The first was in Montreal in 2011, then in Toronto in 2012, and coming up in Ottawa in April of 2013. The idea is to find positive, practical, community-driven ways to increase diversity of all kinds. I talk about women in particular, because it’s a position that relates directly to my own experience, but I’m really interested in increasing all forms of diversity in the WordPress community.

* Why do you think that only about a quarter of WordCamp speakers are women?

There are so many reasons. Some women don’t feel they have something to offer (of course, I disagree). Some are busy juggling work, family, and personal lives and don’t want to add on yet another responsibility. Some are discouraged because of previous negative experiences at tech conferences. Some work in male-dominated tech environments and don’t feel like dealing with a male-dominated tech conference in their spare time. And of course, their are fewer women entering careers in tech than ever before.

* Do we need more women in WordPress? If yes, why?

WordPress in particular, and open source technology in general, are part of our technological landscape. Tech dominates our lives, our society. It influences what we learn and how we live. At the moment it is directed by, organized in the benefit of (though perhaps unconsciously), and produced by an unrepresentative segment of the population. Until technology is controlled by a diverse cross-section of society, it cannot serve all of society. Open source technology is a great place to start, since it is, in theory, if not always in practice, open to all input. And WordPress is an even better place to start because it promotes an open, diverse community of bloggers. Blogging by it’s nature, encourages a diversity of voices. It would be great if that diversity in blog production was also reflected in a diversity in blogging tool production.

* What do you think needs to be done to improve the status of women in the WordPress community?

I think that all positive change should be considered. The best ideas come from community consensus and support, which is why I’m asking women and men who work with WordPress to offer their suggestions. In the past people have suggested coding classes for teen girls, speaking coaching for women who want it, having more women speak at meetups and in other low-stress situations, women networking initiatives, and more. I think one of the most important things to do is to talk about disparities in the tech community in general and in the WordPress community in particular. Until you address the problem, it’s pretty difficult to find solutions. My unconference on women in WordPress aims to start that process.


I’ll be presenting ‘Where are the Women?’, this Saturday at WordCamp Ottawa. Tickets are still available!

Where are the women?

An informal unconference event which will look at the role of women in the WordPress community. We’ll look at why women make up more than half the bloggers, but usually about a quarter of WordCamp speakers, and an even smaller percentage of developers, coders and contributors. We will also examine ways of increasing other forms of diversity in the WordPress community. This isn’t a traditional presentation but a group brainstorming session. If you don’t like something, change it. Here’s your chance. Audience participation is expected. All are welcome (men too!). This session is for everyone.

Published by Shannon

I’m the founder of Café Noir Design Inc., a boutique Montreal web design company specializing in bilingual or multilingual web design. This is my blog where I talk about making the web a better place. I support things like making the web accessible for everyone, using open source software, helping organizations find greener more sustainable ways to operate through online technology and helping non-profits with online community organizing. I also talk about women and tech.

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