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Analysis on the strategies of Mozilla and Wiki communities on gender gap aspects

Posted by Bhuvana Meenakshi at Oct 03, 2019 11:55 AM |
There is a need for research on how Open Source communities are trying to balance the gender ratio and how they provide the safe space environment to its contributors. With this in mind I have come up with this blog as I am an active contributor of Mozilla since 5 years and also got myself recently introduced to Wikimedia and its sister projects, have interacted with few Indian women contributors in both of these communities and came out with a few observations on how I see them in India and what could be improved in both communities.

Opening note

  • Wikipedia community

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia of articles where many users can edit it freely and it has become so large that you run across it all the time in Google. It is so popular that it is now one of the Top 5 websites in the world! ­The reason behind the growth is because the articles are simple and useful. 

Wikipedians are the contributors who do a communal work to improve the content by editing bits of  text and cluster them to the large database. Beyond this there are other sister projects of Wikimedia which interest the audience on whichever they are expertise about. The main motivation for these contributors is their freedom to contribute in their own native language which they are more passionate about. This is a great social cause they are contributing towards.

  • Mozilla community

Mozilla makes browsers, apps, code and tools that put people before profit. In fact, there’s a non-profit Foundation at the heart of the enterprise.Their mission is to keep the internet open and accessible to all. Hope everyone uses or had at least at some point seen Firefox browser/logo, so this is the prime product of Mozilla. There are  various projects to support the Firefox browser and they are mostly Open Source.

Mozillians are the volunteers who contribute in the improvement  of these projects thus helping the world to access the internet and the Open web.Mozilla Volunteers are passionate to learn,collaborate and knowledge share among a large world-wide community and the crew is a mix of coder, non-coders, policy makers and anyone who supports Open Web.  The point that drives everyone to contribute is that the community creates a vibe to contribute and to create a safe and better experience in accessing the digital world.

This a group of editors who aim to improve Wikipedia's coverage of women's topics. It brings Wikipedia users of all genders, sexual orientations, geographic locations, and personal backgrounds together to discuss and collaborate on coverage of women's content across  Wikipedia.There are various streams in which women can be part of the larger mission for instance:

Art and Feminism

Women in Red

Wiki loves women

Women & Mozilla ("WoMoz") a community composed of members from different Open Source projects.It is  mainly dedicated to improving women's visibility and involvement in Free/Open Source and Mozilla, and to increase the number of women contributors. Anyone can participate in this project, regardless of sex, age, job, etc. We are united by the common goal of promoting women's visibility and involvement in open source communities. They also believe that the Internet, FLOSS projects and computing must remain open and participatory. This also means accessible in the same way to all - women and men alike. 

It also believe solutions should continuously be proposed in order to improve the visibility of all minorities, who for various reasons might not have equal access to computers or the Internet. This project is an example of this, as it aims at ameliorating women's presence and participation in Mozilla and open source. But currently this group is not very active, except for a few regional contributors where they find massive necessity to focus on the women participation.

Overview of  the strategies used  for increasing women participation

  1. Methodologies used

Both the communities are great supporters of the Free Softwares and licenses and so the methods that is used in addressing the gender gap issues is as follows: 

  • Conduct gender neutral events like hack-a-thons/ edit-a-thons where the tutor is a woman or there is a large ratio of under represented community in the event.

  • Host monthly offline/online meetups.

  • Work on projects which are  gender neutral based.

  • Following up special protocols like CoCs strictly at these events.

  • Days like “International Women’s Day” and on similar significant occasions some unique events will be hosted and contributors will be appreciated.

  1. Impact on Indian communities

The WikiProject woman and WoMoz programs play a very important role among the Indian communities. Although I do not see a single or uniform progress there is always a good scale-up among the regional communities. For a country like India where there is still necessity for uplifting the presence and awareness of these type of FOSS programs I feel that most of these programs are extensively hosted in urban or developed phases of the country. Recently, the internet access has spread across but then the basic knowledge of contributing to Open Source is still abandoned. The end result and the what the contributors shall get on contributing to these communities must be emphasised more.

Closing note

My study and analysis on these two communities is drawn from personal interest and engagement with these communities  since I have been contributing and interacting with the contributors for the last few years. The objective of this post is basically to bring about an awareness on the accessible resources on bridging the digital divide , and how these resources can be modified and taken further for a country like India. The efforts taken to improve the gender neutrality by the above communities is laudable but more light has to be thrown on improving the measures taken to sustain women contributors