Where are the Women in WordPress?

Since my first Programming 101 lecture at college 10 years ago where I was just one of five women in my class, it seems not a lot has changed.

Gender inequality in tech is nothing new. All of my computer science lecturers, bar one dalek-obsessed woman with a hint of a moustache (“It’s dah-lek, not day-lek!”), were men.

So when I went along to a friend’s computer science college graduation ceremony recently, I was disappointed to watch as, one by one, men crossed the stage to receive their degrees.

And where else is there usually a sausage-fest of men? Oh yeah, WordCamps.

WordCamps can be a case of spot the woman.
WordCamps can be a case of spot the woman.

Where are the women? Has really nothing changed in 10 years?

Are Women Their Own Enemy?

At last year’s first WordPress Community Summit, a gathering of the who’s who of the WordPress world, just 12 of the people there were women. Naturally, they got together to talk about that fact.

They discussed the lack of women applying to present at WordCamps, where speakers are usually men on the developer track. It’s an issue for the tech industry as a whole, where conferences are usually a flood of white men. It’s been said that women often turn down invitations to present because they feel the need to have a PhD on a topic, whereas when men are asked they’re more likely to say, “Yeah, I know a bit about it. Sign me up.”

Then there’s “imposter syndrome.” When women are complimented on their skills, many immediately think to themselves, “I’m not that great.” Most guys accept the compliment and believe it.

It was also noted at the summit discussion that many women don’t think they’re smart enough and feel like outsiders despite the incredible work they do, and some women who work in development tell people they’re not a developer.

More Women Need To Get Involved

This month, Shannon Smith of Cafe Noir Design will run her third unconference in three years exploring the role of women in the WordPress community and the fact we make up more than half the bloggers but only about a quarter of WordCamp speakers and an even smaller number of developers, coders and contributors at WordCamp Ottawa this month.

“Where are the women? Why aren’t they participating? And when are they participating? Why don’t we see them? And more importantly, how can we even out that imbalance?” Smith says.

“Tech dominates our lives, our society. It influences the way we live, 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 unequal segment of the population.

“Until technology is controlled by a diverse cross-section of society, it cannot serve all of society. Blogging, by its 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.”

Why Do We Need More Women?

So why exactly do we need more women in WordPress? I’m glad you asked…

1. Diversity Improves Performance

A Cornell University study proves diversity improves performance and morale, not to mention the end product. And since 39 per cent of visitors to wordpress.org are women – and probably even more are users of WordPress software – it makes sense that women are more equally represented in creating the end product. More women engineers means building a better WordPress and improving it for society as a whole.

2. Future Jobs are in Tech

As Sara Chipps points out, there are six million information technology jobs in the US, up from 628,000 in 1987, and then 1.34 million in 1997. At the moment, jobs in the tech sector have half the unemployment rate of the rest of the workforce, and this ain’t changing any time soon.

If growth continues at the current rate, it won’t be long before women won’t be able to find work if they are not qualified to work in tech. We need to better educate girls and encourage them to get involved in communities like WordPress now so in the future they are not the poorest members of society.

3. Women Bring Diversity of Thought

Women think, act and approach problems differently to men. While men, in general, are naturally more prone to risk taking and competition thanks to their increased testosterone, whether it’s cultural or biological, women tend to be more emotionally and socially sensitive, empathetic, are better collaborators and are better at achieving long-term results. Diversity of thought in business and having a company made up of people who approach problems in different ways can only be a good thing.

4. Women Can Talk to Women

Women make up more than half of bloggers, including many small business owners who need websites. If no one can understand their needs, can talk their talk or build and design appropriate products for them, then that’s a massive chunk of the market — and not to mention profits — that WordPress is missing out on.

Take car manufacturers, for example. They have quickly cottoned on to the fact that women influence 80 per cent of car purchases and have changed their designs and marketing campaigns accordingly. Even Volvo, marketed for its solidity and reliability, employs more women. When my heavily pregnant sister-in-law went looking for a new car, she wouldn’t look at any other make of car.

5. Women are Good for a Company’s Bottom Line

After years tracking the performance of about 200 of the Fortune 500 companies, a 19-year Pepperdine University study consistently found the correlation between high-level female executives and business success was “consistent and revealing.” And the better a company was at promoting women, the better it tended to rank in terms of profitability.

This is something WordPress should certainly take note of — WordPress’ core and contributing developers and developer emeriti are all men. Just two women are part of the core team.

Women Have Run Out Of Excuses

We know there are women out there quietly working with WordPress, tapping away on their keyboards, creating beautiful websites and playing with code. I want them to come out of hiding.

There is no excuse to sit back and let the boys have all the fun. There are plenty of ways to get involved in the WordPress community.

1. Share your knowledge. At a recent London WordCamp Siobhan McKeown outlined ways people can contribute to WordPress:

  • Developer (Core, Documentation, Plugins, Mobile Techno)
  • Designer (User Interface, Documentation, Mobile Design, Theme Review)
  • Writer (Codex, Handbooks)
  • Linguist (WordPress Translation, Document Translation, Plugins, Multilingual Support)
  • Teacher (Teaching, Sharing Courses, Support)
  • Organizer (WordCamp, Meetups)

2. Get Involved. Getting involved is as simple as clicking “Get Involved” at wordpress.org. Joe Foley has a ripper write-up about it.

3. WordCamps. There were 67 of them held around the world last year — and even more this year. Go along and watch, or better yet, present.

“I knew there must be other people like me looking for design topics, so I decided to give a few,” says user interface designer Mel Choyce who presented at New York and Philadelphia last year. “There’s a good chance you’ll feel totally unqualified, but everyone thinks that at first. Many people still feel that way. You have nothing to lose from applying to speak.”

4. Meetups. With 430 WordPress Meetup groups listed online, there’s bound to be one in your area.

On the first Monday of every month, members of the Albuquerque’s women working with WordPress “sister” Meetup group get together to pick each other’s brains. Organiser Karen Arnold says this month the ladies met to discuss their current projects.

“One woman had a website she wanted feedback on so we pulled it up on the projector and as a group we helped her solve some issues she’d been having,” Arnold says. “Another woman shared a project she’d been working on that she just wanted to show off since she was so excited about the project.”

Co-organiser Samantha Metheny says women often feel more comfortable about their place in the tech world when they see how many other women are involved, too.

Getting involved in the WordPress community might seem daunting at first, but everyone’s been there. It’s not as if you’re going to receive a formal invite for exclusive access to the secret WordPress society. WordPress is open source – by the community for the community, so just get stuck in.

“I think the WordPress community is encouraging to anyone who is jumping in and getting involved. This has nothing to do with gender,” Untame partner and developer Sarah Gooding says.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

A handful of successful woman offer a glimmer of hope.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson

Written by a Lisa Sabin-Wilson – a woman.

Lisa Sabin-Wilson’s story is almost legend — she was a registered nurse for 12 years and worked on websites in her spare time before walking into her boss’ office one day to hand in her 30-day notice of resignation. She has since written five editions of WordPress for Dummies and is a partner at WebDevStudios.

Andrea Rennick

Then there’s Andrea Rennick, who started out as a blogger in the homeschooling community. Rennick wanted to start a website for other parents who were homeschooling and stumbled across the early stages of the WordPress Multisite project. She works with Copyblogger and has co-written several books on WordPress.

Siobhan McKeown

Another success is McKeown, who started out as a writer on this very website. She has gone on to run Words for WP, is an editor at Smashing Magazine and recently started a new role at WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg’s angel investment company Audrey Capital.

McKeown says the growing number of women prominent in the WordPress community due to their skills and expertise — not the fact they wear a bra — provide excellent role models for young female techies looking to get their foot in the door.

“Their very presence shows what is possible and makes it easier for women who are starting out to see themselves inhabiting that role,” McKeown says.

Jen Mylo

Automattic’s Jen Mylo can’t be left off this list. She has been the UX and community lead for WordPress for several years, more recently taking on a greater role focusing on encouraging women and diversity in the WordPress community. In her pre-web life, she was a cook/baker and managed healthy cafes and kitchens in tourist lodges.

In December, Mylo announced her role would be focusing more on increasing diversity in contributor groups, starting with the gender gap. Hence, the Community Outreach contribution group was launched.

“When Matt (Mullenweg) convinced me to take the job at Automattic, one of the things that got me in was that he said I could work on programs to bring women and girls into the WordPress community, especially around programming,” Mylo says on her blog.

“In that lunch on a San Francisco sidewalk, I laid out a vision including mentoring programs, school projects, summer camps, trips to the moon… okay, not trips to the moon, but just about everything under it.

“I keep going back to that sidewalk lunch and how exciting it was to talk about possibilities around using WordPress as a gateway for women, girls, low-income kids and minorities of all stripes who are under-represented in our community to get into the web industry.”

Since that post, Mylo launched her first initiative, a workshop series open only to women, in Washington DC and San Diego last month. The troubleshooting workshops helped participants learn about common errors, CSS fixes, software conflicts and hacks and viruses.

So What Next?

It’s all well and good to have women-only workshops, but getting a handful of women together in Washington DC to pick through their CSS isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

What we need is a plan to lift the number of Women actively involved in the WordPress community. This is what I propose:

  • More women at the top. We need more women in the core team developing WordPress. We need to push female developers who are sitting back and watching to get more involved and show us what they can do.
  • Set quotas for women involved in WordCamps. Positive discrimination is not only symbolic but will give women the confidence and encouragement needed to voice their ideas and opinions to the community.
  • Target school age girls. We need to target girls early and educated them about tech and the WordPress community and the opportunities available. Workshops and talks at schools giving girls the chance to play with WordPress and learn how to blog would be a great start.
  • A roadmap with achievable targets. There’s no point throwing around ideas if we don’t have something to work towards. Since half of bloggers are women we should work towards ensuring half of those involved in the WordPress community are also women.

Tell us what you think below.

Image credits: Ray from LA, Randy Stewart, epSos.de, Thomas Tolkien, Laihiu, Judi Knight, Keijo Knutasnegative from BigStock.

86 Responses

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    I have taught myself WordPress at home for the last two years, but I still don’t understand enough PHP programming to really change things myself, or make any plugins.

    I couldn’t attend Wordcamp this year in Jerusalem because it was just plain too much money for me as a single mother living on Israeli unemployment.

    Nofyah Shem Tov

    • New Recruit

      Just wanted to add that after tweeting about this blog post one of the organizers of WordCamp Miami said they may have had more women in attendance than man at the last WordCamp Miami. The “no women in tech” thing has been beaten to death and the fact is there are a LOT of women in WordPress and at WordPress related events.

        • New Recruit

          How many WordCamps or WordPress Meetups have you been to in the United States where the vast majority of them take place?

          I’ve been to many here and at the WordPress events I have been to there was plenty of women in attendance. The most recent WordCamp Miami saw upwards of 40% women in attendance.

          My own local WordPress Meetup group might even be comprised of more women than men! See for yourself: http://www.meetup.com/WordPresshr/members/

          Yes there aren’t as many women speakers as men. But WordPress also has a fair number of women who regularly speak at WordCamps.

          This post makes sweeping generalizations about women in the WordPress community that I simply don’t see when I attend WordCamp’s and WordPress related meetups here in the United States.

          Something people fail to take into consideration is there is going to be less women involved than men from sheer numbers alone.

          – Far Less women than men get into programming as a career field. Why? Because by and large they aren’t as interested in it as a vocation. They aren’t as in to technology and gadgets as men are. Yes they use technology and yes they can love it. But the majority of them see it as a tool to accomplish what they want to do or for entertainment. My wife is a good example. She has no interest in working in tech but she loves using it.

          – Of the minority of women that do decide to get into programming as a career, an even smaller percentage of this already small percentage of women are going to have any interest at all in attending conferences or meetups. They have other interests outside of their job. Family obligations, other hobbies, etc.

          – Of the minority of women that do decide to attend tech related conferences an even smaller percentage of that already reduced minority is going to have any interest at all becoming a speaker.

          By the time you whittle things down of course there are going to be less women speakers and less women attending conferences than men.

          I base this on my knowledge of working with and employing women in the tech industry for the past 15 years.

          We currently employ 2 women programmers. Neither of whom have much interest in attending WordPress related conferences even though they do WordPress development for a living. One of them spends her off time with her family and with another business she has (online store) and the other would rather go to a sci-fi/horror/fantasy convention than a WordPress conference.

          • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

            Carl, we’ve got 40 people here at Incsub these days, the majority in the US, who regularly attend WCs.

            I organized and ran the first ever WC in the Southern Hemisphere… we know a think or two about WordCamps!

            And please tell me you didn’t just accuse us of making sweeping generalisations and then say:

            “Far Less women than men get into programming as a career field. Why? Because by and large they aren’t as interested in it as a vocation. They aren’t as in to technology and gadgets as men are.”

            You clearly haven’t met my 13 year old stepdaughter ;)

            I think, to be honest, we’re pretty much talking about the same thing and agreeing on it, that there isn’t an equal gender balance (although you are suggesting it’s more equal than we are) – just that we see that as a problem, and you see it as not being one.

  • New Recruit

    WordPress’ core and contributing developers and developer emeriti are all men.

    This is not true. I’m not taking this personally by any means, but I think you’re doing a disservice by ignoring that, though it may be just the one, there is a female contributing developer who is also a guest committer: me.

      • New Recruit

        I’m having a little bit of a hard time wanting to reply to your and James’ comments because I don’t want to come across as defensive and/or offended, because I’m not :) I would feel this way even if it weren’t me.

        I think what I see as the issue in being left out is that it inaccurately represents WordPress core development as a men-only club. Yes, I am absolutely a minority (in more ways than one), and other than Jen, I am the only longer-term female fixture on the credits screen. However, to be honest, I don’t have a problem with it right now. I certainly hope more women will get involved and those who are will continue to push themselves to higher levels of involvement as they already are, but it has to start somewhere, and as is often pointed out, people in general tend to feel encouraged to step up and participate more when they see a peer.

        I’m not getting involved – I am involved. I’m a guest committer because I was just recently given privileges in December before the 3.6 cycle. I hope to retain those privileges and it would be awesome to become a permanent committer, but I fully expect and hope to be held to the same high standard as guest committers before me. Koop and Jon Cave (duck_) were guest committers for a couple/several cycles first. I know I’m not as much of a recognizable face and in a lot of ways I like it that way, but I agree with Mandie – it’s way more productive to showcase what women ARE doing rather than scaring them (us?) off by reinforcing the idea that they (we) aren’t welcome.

        • Hang on a sec, I’m not at all reinforcing the idea that women aren’t welcome. In fact, the article encourages women to get involved, much like yourself, and even illustrates the successes of women like Lisa, Andrea, Jen and Siobhan. The article even lists how women can get involved. If you think the post is scaring off women then you might want to read over it again.

          Your experience is exactly what I’m talking about — women are a minority. I haven’t said the core team is a men’s only club, I’ve simply said that it is predominantly a group of men, which it is. It would be great to see more women involved in core and I haven’t suggested at all that there are barriers to getting involved, which I’m sure you already know about. As I said in the article, “WordPress is open source – by the community for the community, so just get stuck in.”

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    While I think that this continues to be a problem in tech in general, I think that it is less so in WordPress. I’m sure that it is still a problem, to some degree, but every WordCamp I’ve been to has a pretty good percentage of woman. And your list does a great disservice to the enormous number of excellent female devs I’ve met in the community. In fact, I’d say that around half of the WP devs I read or go to for advice are female.

    All aspects of the tech community need to continue to work to make women feel more welcome, but I think that WordPress leads the way in this regard. Not that we should stop trying, but I think this post makes things look a lot darker than they are.

  • New Recruit

    I echo the request that Carl has on more information from the author on what data she is basing her claim that WordCamps are sausage fests. Are we talking about attendee ratios or speaker ratios.

    Going further, I would like to understand why the author calls for a quota on participation of Women in WordCamps but not Core contributions. Why are these separate?

  • New Recruit

    I was one of the co-organizers of “Sausage Fest” San Diego 2013 a.k.a. WordCamp SD, and would be happy to share our numbers with you if you are interested. I’m not sure what percentage serves as the tipping point on the “Sausage Fest” scale, but I can tell you that 5 out of 23 speakers were female and our attendee makeup was roughly 30% female (this percentage is based on t-shirt size requests).

    I’m in agreement with Carl’s statement above – “The “no women in tech” thing has been beaten to death and the fact is there are a LOT of women in WordPress and at WordPress related events.”

    There are most certainly more than “a handful of successful women” making things with WordPress and contributing to the community. Perhaps the WordPress community and tech at large would be better served if we focused on writing posts highlighting on the positive roles and amazing stuff women are making/doing, rather than creating a dire scenario rife with “doom and gloom”.

      • New Recruit

        WordCamps a very affordable events, by design I might add, that cost the same as going to a movie these days. There is nothing outside of Women buying tickets to a WordCamp, preventing Women from actually going to a WordCamp.

        While you’re not not arguing that there are ‘no women in tech’..you are trying to validate the claim by the author that WordCamps are sausage fests. You’re doing a miserable job at it I might add.

      • New Recruit

        I guess I must have misunderstood the part at the beginning of the article where the author said, “Gender inequality in tech is nothing new”. The author then built on the notion of gender inequality in tech to highlight her position that WordPress is a male-dominated ecosystem, using a particularly colorful euphemism relating the higher proportion of one gender in the same location to a cylindrical tube of meat.

        Personally, I am not a fan of special initiatives that seek to solicit participation from a select group of individuals. However, I understand that there are barriers to participation that exist for each individual, and am empathetic of the fact that some women need a little extra push to jump in to uncharted territory If you are truly concerned and believe that women are underrepresented in the WordPress ecosystem, perhaps consider a section on the WPMU blog where, on a regular basis, you feature a different woman that works with WordPress. I have to imagine that focusing on the achievements and successes of these women would be more inspiring than the call for quotas and outlining reasons why women do not get involved found in this piece.

        • New Recruit

          “Personally, I am not a fan of special initiatives that seek to solicit participation from a select group of individuals”.

          THANK YOU.

          This women in tech thing has been blowing up lately, but I really think there are a lot of people taking the wrong approach to rectifying the shortfall.

          When I’m approached as a “woman in WordPress” and asked if I would like to participate in an “all women” WordPress event…it’s insulting. It makes me cringe and spikes my blood pressure. You can multiply that feeling and add embarrassment when they make announcements in WordCamps about such events.

          We (because I know I’m not just speaking for myself) don’t need special treatment. Our work can speak for itself. Perhaps the reason there are such low numbers of women in tech is because when we are singled out, it makes us NOT want to be there. Even with the best of intentions, it’s offensive every time.

          As developer, I already have to battle the preconceived notion that “Oh, she’s a girl…so she’s a designer.” Really?! (I do design, but the majority of my time is dedicated to developing starter themes). I usually just shut up and smile, hand them my business card, and let them figure it out for themselves if they feel inclined to visit my site.

          I think the best advice would be to just treat us like men. Stop babying us. If that means you need to belch and fart in front of me, I’m fine with that.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    The number of women in web development and”WordPress” is certainly increasing, but I get where the author is coming from. My theory is it’s one of those (broad) fields that attracts tinkerers and very technical builders, albeit with our brains instead of hands. Engineering faces the same issue. Until fairly recently, engineering schools were predominantly men, by far. But that’s changing. All things being equal, a natural balance will be eventually be achieved.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Based on t-shirt order numbers and other factors, I would estimate 40% of WordCamp Miami 2013 Attendees were female. Our official attendance was just over 500 (and that’s not counting anyone of the 150 on our waiting list).

    WordCamps are local events, so the male/female mix (and any mix you might think of really – developer vs non-developer, etc.) will vary by geographical location. Best gauge for statistics like this is to look to the local meetups (so if a WordCamp is a “sausage fest” then most likely the meetups are as well, otherwise there has to be a reason). It’s certainly possible some WordCamps could have a majority of one or the other, but the percentage seems to hover around 30%-40% (a complete non-scientific observational guess on my part) if you attend more than a few.

    If we are talking about speakers, I think it’s been well established generally numbers on those. I had to go back and look because as part of the committee, we don’t even care who they are. Male or female. We look for unique presentations, new speakers who want that shot, and local speakers that represent the community.

  • New Recruit

    I wouldn’t want to see “female-only” workshops, seminars or anything of the sort setup for WordPress. Why would you want to limit learning to what gender can participate?

    I go to WordCamps and anything else tech-related because I want to–not because I want people to see “hey, look I’m a female and I can do the same thing as men!”

    There’s nothing more I loath then when males OR females need to use their gender as a reason. You don’t see male gamers running around writing about how they’re a “guy gamer” yet you’ll see so many females shouting to the world how they’re a “girl gamer.”

    No one cares. Do what you want to do without having to attach your gender to it. Just because one gender is low in attendence doesn’t mean that it’s a bad OR good thing.

  • If the number of women in the WordPress community wasn’t a problem, why is Jen Mylo focusing her time on upping the numbers of women? Why bother going to the trouble of running women-only workshops. And why is Shannon Smith running her third WordCamp presentation in three years on the lack of women in WordPress?

    I’m not saying there are no women in WordPress — obviously there are and I’ve listed successful women in the article. What I’m saying is that the people making WordPress should better reflect the diversity of the people using it.

    Whether you agree with my article or not, I wanted to encourage debate and it’s great to see so many people having their say.

  • New Recruit

    In organizing WordCamp Melbourne we struggled to get women on the speaking roster… and to that end we’ve initiated WordChicks, a subset of the Melbourne meetup group to address many of the above issues.

    We have great women in the WordPress community here, and we’re hoping that by doing some ‘chick only’ stuff (in spite of some criticism) we can start building up the girls’ confidence to contribute more to the wider group in the near future.

    Basically, I hated struggling to find girls to speak, so it seemed right to actually do something at the grassroots level in order that next WordCamp, we don’t have to work so hard at it. But the spin offs I hope will be wider than just WordCamps. It’s my belief that meetups and the community as a whole will end up way better off as a result.

  • You’re not alone in struggling to find women speakers for WordCamps and it’s a shame that many organisers have to actively go hunting in an effort to even out the numbers.

    I wanted to go to WordCamp Melbourne and I’m so disappointed it sold out before I was able to get a ticket!

    It’s brilliant that you’ve started WordChicks. How often is it on? I’d love to come along.

  • New Recruit

    Not to put too fine a point on an issue, but you had me until “sausage fest.” Hard to make a point about an imbalance when you are ready to toss out a blatantly sexist term.

    I and those under my direction have actively sought women to invite to our team and have lately been developing an internship geared toward promoting WP coding education for women.

    Even though most all of our team members are women we SO do not talk about our group being a virtual “clambake” (yah, another very derogatory term I have seen rear its ugly head from time to time) so feel free to leave off the derogatory terms and you got yourself a fan :)

  • Sausage-fest was a term often thrown around in jest when I was in college because there was such an overwhelming number of guys compared to girls. You know, I’ve never heard of “clambake” (I had a giggle when I read it). Maybe it’s just my Aussie humour and our propensity for using silly slang, but I personally don’t find that term offensive. I was just injecting a bit of humour in the post.

    It’s fantastic that you’ve got an internship for women and that you’ve sought out women. That’s an awesome idea. Why did you decide to start the internship?

    • New Recruit

      I would have to say that it is somewhat two-fold as to why start the internship. When looking for more programmers I was able to find plenty of guys who were – no offense guys – more than a little impressed with their own abilities. What I wasn’t seeing were any real numbers of women who were confident enough to take on our positions. I felt that perhaps reaching out to women who are either still in school or fresh out that I might be able to offer them a place where they can stretch their proverbial legs and really build up some confidence as to what they can do. Gotta say that I am always impressed by the work ethic of the hard working ladies we have here and love seeing them hit their stride where they can stand up and not only say “I can do it” but be ready to shout “I Rock At This!”

      • That is really cool. We need more people like you! It’s great to see that your internships are working out so well for you. And reaching out to girls in schools and fresh out would be such an amazing confidence booster for them in an industry that is male-dominated.

        It’s interesting what you say about men being more confident. I guess it’s the testosterone, which is known to increase self-confidence.

        • New Recruit

          Self-confidence boost, yes… Always a good thing? Not necessarily :)

          Coming from a background where my mom was the sole bread winner due to lack of father-like personage and seeing her raise two kids and put herself through nursing school, I know that many are capable but may simply be scared to try or put off by all the stuffy testosterone.

          • Hats off to your mom!

            Having studied IT, I can see why so many women would be put off working in the industry. It can be daunting being in the minority and feeling like you have to prove yourself. Often it’s easier to stay in your comfort zone, which is why many women need a little push because they don’t realise they do have what it takes.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Many many many jobs tend to lean towards one sex or the other. The tech field in general tends to have a higher percentage of men. This is not a hot story.
    Are people crying to get more men involved in jobs that typically appeal to women?
    A better story to write would have been how the WordPress community welcomes women, which I think it does.

  • New Recruit

    I’ll take to heart the point about being more confident in my abilities, but I’m not sure why women have to join the men’s club. Here in Chicago I quit attending the main WP meetup and go to a smaller one (with better content and community) run by a woman in business for herself as a developer…and she invites other women working in WP to be speakers. It’s never been called a “women’s group” but I’d ballpark we achieve a gender balance, simply because women are up on the stage – particularly as developers.

  • New Recruit

    “Then there’s “imposter syndrome.” When women are complimented on their skills, many immediately think to themselves, “I’m not that great.” Most guys accept the compliment and believe it.”

    This really struck a chord with me. I’ve been developing with wordpress since it was released, and prior to that I worked with greymatter (the cgi / perl blogging platform that semi inspired WP).

    I’ve been working with it for such a long time, but anytime someone compliments me I second guess myself. Is it some ingrained stigma that we feel people are just being nice to us because we’re women or something?

    I would also be terrified to go to a wordcamp. I would feel like the cliche of a girl wearing a Superhero shirt and being grilled on her knowledge of the subject, which is unfortunate.

  • New Recruit

    I like the suggestions from mandie_shaner and denise_teal. I think that featuring developers on the web or starting a local “Word Chicks” group would be a great way to reach out to more women developers in the community. I’ve worked as a front-end WordPress developer for about 8 years now and personally know handfuls of brilliant women developers and designers who are out there. Many of them are like me, we have families and are busy, but love WordPress and work with it on the side. I suppose it can be intimidating to get involved in core developments when comparing yourself to others who work with it full time. But, it doesn’t mean we don’t have excellent ideas and that we don’t want to contribute when time permits. In fact, I’m sure many women would love the opportunity. Perhaps the right setting will help encourage them to become more involved, myself included.

  • New Recruit

    My name is Carol and I am the Arizona WordPress Meetup organizer and also organized WCPHX 2013 this past year. Clearly women still lag in tech, but I am encouraged at the number of women in WordPress and getting involved. I think part of the key is for us to get involved in some way, even if it is a small contribution. As more of us get involved, we bring more women to the tribe. I was especially proud to have 8 women out of 15 on the WCPHX organizing committee. On the org team, the women actually outnumbered the men. :-)

  • New Recruit

    I think the issue may be getting a little distorted. There are a lot of women involved in WordPress, but more are on the using side than the development side.
    I think that what Raelene is trying to do is get more women involved in the technical side, rather than the user side.
    At the 2 WordCamps I have been to, there have been large numbers of women, but they were almost exclusively attending the designer track and there were only a handful of us with the majority of men in the developer track.
    I think that WordPress will see more women developers when the fear and mystique of the code is dissipated by more women being involved and outspoken. I truly believe that there will be an onslaught of women jumping in in about 2-3 more years.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    I have to say: This article annoys me. And I don’t want to be associated with or represented by the group of “Women in WordPress” you’re talking about. I know you’re trying to empower us, but I honestly feel belittled after reading that, like I should’ve been some quiet little feminine mouse, just hiding myself and my work in a dark little corner all this time – away from all the male developers out in the WordPress world all the time. Am I missing something???

    I don’t see how any of the “issues” you’ve brought up here are actually issues within the WORDPRESS community, or anyone in it. At most, they’re just the result of issues we have might have as females on a personal level, but they’re not resulting from anything WP-related. If I’m ever one of those women who “don’t think they’re smart enough and feel like outsiders despite the incredible work they do, and some women who work in development tell people they’re not a developer” well, that’s my own problem and something I need to work on. “Do women sabotage themselves by underrating their abilities?” That’s a great question! But I don’t think this is the right arena to discuss that, and I definitely don’t think anyone in the WP world is to blame for it, or draw attention to in order to find an answer.

    For what it’s worth I have never once felt any sort of discrimination for being a woman at any WordCamp, WP MeetUp, or any other event in this community. In fact, I’ve felt the opposite: welcomed, invited, encouraged to share ideas, and so on. I LOVE this community. It’s a fact in our present day world: Some industries still have a male-dominant population. AND THAT IS OKAY. Again, I don’t see any real issues with the gender imbalance, although I also think it’s leveling out more and more like others have commented. I’m sure it will with time, but even if it doesn’t – that’s ok too! In the meantime, I think this article is just a reflection of your OWN perspective, which happens to be negative. Your story in the beginning is a perfect example of your perspective, and sets the tone for the rest of what you say: “So when I went along to a friend’s computer science college graduation ceremony recently, I was disappointed to watch as, one by one, men crossed the stage to receive their degrees.” Who cares if they were all men?! It’s YOUR decision to feel disappointed over these things. I would never feel a sense of disappointment over something like that. I’d say GREAT for them for earning their degrees! Hopefully we’ll all learn something from these people, instead of unintentionally picking a battle with them in the meantime.

    I’ll just say I love others’ ideas of celebrating individual women for their accomplishments in the community. And I love this community in general – where its come from, where its headed, and all of those involved. Men, women… anyone/everyone involved.

  • New Recruit

    I organized many events where there are speakers, none being WordCamps.

    I make requests for female speakers. The few women that apply…after I read their proposals, I never hear from them back.

    Women that like to be speakers NEED to apply at their local WordCamps, WordPress meetup groups and other events.

    As an organizer, I can only ask so many times.

    I ask them, what do you need? wireless mic or do you have a loud voice? and other questions. I do the same questions to make speaking requests.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Starting a discussion about gender discrimination is not a bad idea. Starting a discussion about ANY discrimination is seldom a bad idea. True, in some places those discussions can get you killed, discrimination goes deep in many cultures and sub-cultures.

    It might be interesting to find out how much of a cultural contribution there is in the barriers which women, and other perceived minorities, run up against.

    From a ‘western world’ perspective, having potential any adversary remove a large fraction of the smart people from the game isn’t bad. Women are a bit more that 1/2 of the population; that’s 1/2 of the geniuses and creative talent that most oppressors throw away. IF you want to prevail, this is not smart.

    A personal ‘OBTW.’ I worked for 25 years at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is (among other things) a division of the California Institute of Technology. First, casual observation on the CalTech campus what used to a male-dominated place; not so much today. There professors and students that are not only female, they show up as women, not in the ‘male’ uniform of ‘sloppy.’ At JPL, women are everywhere, and from everywhere. JPL sent one attractive blond engineer I know to an ‘unnamed’ country to supervise testing and QC. The men there did NOT like taking instructions from her. She simply explained that if they didn’t do as she asked she would simply call the project manager and he (in this case) would tell them to do the same thing. They learned; reluctantly. I viewed it as a good thing that JPL didn’t cave in to the discriminatory biases of our ‘partner.’

    From my point of view, we need all the smart creative minds we can get. This may be the first time in human history that this is the case; that it is the case — just look around at the challenges we face on this rock that orbits a star. It is in all our interests to grab, mentor, teach, educate, promote men and women so that the best flourish.
    I DID NOT say ‘equally,’ or ‘equal opportunity;’ in my view we need to do whatever it takes to make the best flourish.

    Why did I jump on my soap box? Well, there are a few comments about getting the job done, and I thing we need more. Sorry if this sounds like a ‘rant.’

  • New Recruit

    I have been programming for WordPress for the past 5 years and have found a number of woman in the WP community both engaging and skilled in worpress. I agree with some statements in the blog there that woman are more collaborative when it come to development, from my experience men just tend to “get on with it”, so to speak, figuring out solutions for themselves rather than throwing it into the ethos to find a better one if needed. I dont’t think the intention of this post was to highlight gender discrimination more to just encourage woman to get involved in core development for online web system like wordpress. I’ve been developing for Moodle + wordpress and few years now and I’ve found it equally interesting, mind boggling and exciting at the same time. I would encourage more woman to start sharing their experiences and stand alongside men in the tech world – because who knows…we could all end up developing something even bigger for the future… :-) Rachael H

  • New Recruit

    The PR industry is currently 85% female. http://www.ragan.com/PublicRelations/Articles/Women_dominate_the_PR_industry_Why_42373.aspx#

    Why is that? If we proceed with the logic of this article we could surely come up with many semi-nefarious theories eg “impostor syndrome”.

    The sad fact is, there is heavy discrimination in fields like PR, sports, media, where appearance and temperament is the primary determinant of involvement. And note: it works against both men and women. I see this as a lose-lose, for the indv of either gender that wish to pursue these endeavors.

    The main thing WP’s got going for its community (besides the “pimply nerds”) is the lack of superficial evaluation. It doesn’t matter if you look like Don Draper – if your code is garbage, than so are you. That, IMO is the attraction of STEM, the meritocracy that emerges when your job is to make something work. More broadly, this cultivates *core* diversity – that is differences in methodology and school of thought, not demographic data.

    Continue to focus on your principles: code is poetry. Doesn’t matter whose fingers typed it. Remember that most cherished principle in the US is free speech, and its most notable applications are usually disgusting. But you don’t change principles to paper over blemishes that naturally arise in a free society.

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    Seriously people, put on your big girl and big boy panties! Or, as we say in Texas, “Cowboy Up!”.

    Are you really going to turn this into a Geek Battle of the Sexes?!?!

    I’ve been around longer than many of you have been alive. Her article was great. Not because she’s 100% correct, but let me tell you folks, it was no picnic being a female in technology in corporate America. And try being a full-time working mother in technology in corporate America.

    I remember when I started a job at a large airline based in DFW (I won’t mention names but they were recently bought) and when the men in the group found out a female was coming in at a higher level and paygrade then they were, they called me “kike” and “b*!ch”.

    The numbers may be closer to 50-50 in the WordPress world than Raelene’s article implies, but quite frankly, when I look for help on various premium plugin and theme websites, it’s ALWAYS a man that answers.

    I found her article refreshing and encouraging.

    Thanks Raelene, keep ’em coming!!

  • As a former devout Drupalista, I have noticed that there seems to be a higher concentration of core and module contributors who are women in the Drupal community than there are in WordPress. I taught WordPress at a local college here, though, and the majority of the class was female every time. I think we will be seeing an insurgence of ladies in the WP world over the coming years :)

  • Design Lord, Child of Thor

    I’ve been a woman in tech, and WordPress for many years now and I do see that there is a gender imbalance but there are far more women involved these days than when I first started out and definitely a lot more women in WordPress and Drupal than in other tech fields I’ve worked in.

    I also wanted to mention that although I work with WordPress every day, I have yet to make it out to a WordCamp, but I will have to try to make it to one sometime soon. :)

  • New Recruit

    Thanks, Raelene, good article and discussion. It was very helpful to me to read: “It’s been said that women often turn down invitations to present because they feel the need to have a PhD on a topic, whereas when men are asked they’re more likely to say, ‘Yeah, I know a bit about it. Sign me up.’ ” This is so true, and something I will now try to be aware of about myself (stereotypical self-depreciating female).

    There is a great woman wordpress developer in NYC (who just spoke at the San Fran WordCamp) who has been encouraging women in WordPress, props to Dana Skallman–watch recent presentation by her at https://tadpole.cc/blog/civicrm-wordpress-integration-dana-sf/.

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