Community Engagement/Women in the Wikimedia movement: Conversations with communities/Organizer's guide

The goal of Women in the Wikimedia movement conversation series is to create a space where women Wikimedians can talk about the work they do, share successes and challenges, connect with each other and network across the movement. In doing so, we are empowering women as leaders in the movement.

In this guide, we are sharing the rationale behind this project, the questions asked across events, and other considerations, with the hope that others can step in to organize the conversation series in other languages.

To have a better understanding of the outputs of the conversation series, read the report.

Event structure
Slot Duration What happens
Introduction 5 minutes The organizer welcomes everyone, names the theme of the event, and describes how it is going to unfold. If there are any co-hosts, introduce them here.
Presenter 1 20 minutes Presenter shares her experience.
Presenter 2 20 minutes Presenter shares her experience.
Open conversation 15 minutes Organizer starts the conversations with the first question. Check frequently after responses if other participants would like to ask or share something as well.

Before the event


Selecting participants to present

  • Focusing on specific areas of work will allow you to narrow down on a topic and keep the conversation relevant. Define the area you are going to focus on, give examples if necessary, and say why you'd like to focus on that topic. In the section Background and rationale I explain why we chose those three areas.
  • Select women that are doing remarkable work in those areas. Remarkable doesn't always mean popular or well known across the movement, it can also refer to quiet work that brings more quality to the content on the wikis, or work that make our communities better, that hasn't been noticed before. Talk to your peers and ask around to find women contributors doing work you would like to feature.
  • Contact participants and ask them if they'd like to join your virtual event and do a short presentation about their work. Do this at least 3 weeks in advance of the event. Every event for the first conversation series was scheduled to last one hour (some of them lasted longer than that), 20 minutes for presenter 1, 20 minutes for presenter 2, and 20 minutes for open conversation at the end, guided by the questions. Check in with your participants one week before the event, and make sure that they understand that they have to present about their experience.
  • Participant presentations are important, not only because they work towards promoting women's contributions to the movement, but also because they provide to the conversation at the end: people attending the event may have follow up questions, or a similar experience they'd like to share.

Designing the conversation

  • Have clarity about why you are inviting the 2 presenters you selected, how their work is connected, and how it is connected to the topic you chose for conversation. Explain this in an email when you connect both of them to explain how the event will develop. This is a way to both inspire presenters, and also guide them on what the focus of their presentation should be.
  • Create a series of questions in advance, to guide the conversation with presenters and participants of the event. Invite everyone to respond when moving to the conversation part of the event. In the section Questions to guide conversations I share the questions I created in preparation for the event.
  • Share the questions with your presenters at least 3 days in advance of the event. Being open and clear about the conversation you want to have in advance of the event, will make for a better conversation on the day of the event.

Set up and promote the virtual event

  • You can create a virtual event using a variety of video conference software. If you use a gmail account, you have access to a YouTube channel for free, where you can schedule an event, stream it, and record it. Find out more on this guide about using Google Hangouts. If you would like to have the event on Learning and Evaluation's YouTube channel, please email eval wikimedia · org.
  • Create a calendar reminder and invite people you would like to join the meeting. If your audience is on Facebook, it might be worth creating a Facebook event and ask people to join there. Alternatives are Google Calendar, iCal (iOS), and a wiki event page where people can sign up (like this one).
  • Share your event on social media. Consider sharing your event on Twitter, Facebook, and maybe write a blog about it as well.
  • Personally invite people you would like to join the conversation. A personal note goes a long way, take the time to invite the people you think could contribute to the conversation. Remind them that there is a space for open conversation at the end, and let them know you will have questions prepared that they are welcome to respond as well.

Questions to guide conversations


These questions were prepared in advance of each event, to guide the conversations that took place after the presentations. Some questions are the same across all three events, others are specific to one topic area. To have a better understanding of the experience of the first conversation series, read the report. If you have ideas for more questions, please feel free to add them!

Women in Wikimedia programs

  • In your personal journey as a Wikimedian, have you ever encountered any boundaries?
  • When introducing Wikipedia through a program to newcomers, do you address the gender gap? How do you describe it? What responses have you heard from participants?
  • How does the cultural context influence gender equality in Wikimedia programs?
  • Having hosted programs where the majority of participants were women, could you speak some to what motivates women to contribute?
  • How do you engage men in understanding the gender gap and collaborating to improve gender equality in the Wikimedia Movement?
  • I noticed there has been a shift in the last few years, to not only address the content gender gap, but specifically, to develop resources that teach how to edit from a gender perspective. How important is it to have a gender approach when editing Wikipedia?
  • How has a gender approach served well? Are there any limitations to this approach?
  • Does gender impact how people participate in programs? Does it impact whether or not they continue to contribute?

Women in Leadership

  • In your personal journey as a Wikimedian, have you ever encountered any boundaries?
  • Thinking about the project you led, what made you feel empowered to do it?
  • As a woman contributing to this movement, is there anything in this context (Wikiverse), that makes you feel empowered to act, that you don’t find in other contexts where you live?
  • Did you or do you have a mentor? Is there someone that you feel like you have learned a lot from? Is there anyone that made you feel empowered to step into this organizing role?
  • Do you feel like Wikipedia’s policies and written rules describe the way you work with others on everyday life?
  • Between 2013 and 2017, we’ve noticed more women stepping into leadership positions across Wikimedia organizations: the percentage of female representatives grew from 20% to 27% in that time frame. How did this change come to be? What do you think made this possible?
  • As you know, in our movement we share good practices, experiences and activities across the globe, which results in a lot of replication and imitation. Do you remember a time when you were inspired by others? What steps did you take to affect change?
  • What traits would you like to see more of among leaders and organizers in this movement?

Women in Wikimedia technical spaces

  • What attracted you to contribute to Wikimedia, and what made you stay?
  • How do you find a balance between your professional and volunteer work?
  • In your personal journey as a Wikimedian, have you ever encountered any boundaries?
  • As a woman contributing to this movement, is there anything in this context (Wikiverse), that makes you feel empowered to act, that you don’t find in other contexts where you live?
  • Did you have a mentor? Is there someone that you feel like you have learned a lot from? Is there anyone that made you feel empowered to be a contributor on the technical side of Wikimedia projects?
  • Were you involved in the creation of the code of conduct? How have you seen this change (or not) the way volunteers developers contribute and collaborate?
  • Have you tried bringing more women into the project/movement to contribute in technical spaces? What is the experience like?
  • What would be your advice for someone who is trying to bring more gender diversity to Wikimedia projects?

Background and rationale


During the Leadership Development Dialogue, we had received some feedback from community members about how we could better support them to step into leadership roles. Much of the feedback highlighted two major goals: (1) Focusing on empowering leaders, by supporting peer exchange, and helping people step into leadership; and (2) offering online opportunities and resources, like in-person social networking.

Connecting with others was at the heart of this request.

With this in mind, we hosted a series of events that focused on the role of women in the Wikimedia movement, that took place during the month of March 2018. Our goal was both to promote the work women are doing all over the world, and to better understand how to best support that work so that we can foster more diversity across the movement.

The conversations were focused on three areas where women’s participation can bring more diversity to Wikimedia projects:

  • Women in Wikimedia Programs,
  • Women in Wikimedia Leadership, and
  • Women in Wikimedia technical spaces.

Theory of change

  • By showcasing the work done by women Wikimedians, we focus on positive contributions and have a better understanding of what aspects of our culture we need to promote.
  • By addressing specific areas of work we are proactively engaging community members on strategic topics.
  • By opening a space where underrepresented groups can talk about their work, we are taking concrete steps towards knowledge equity.

Women participation in the movement: the numbers


The Community Engagement Insights report 2016-17 shows that, while the gender gap for editors and other content contributors remains at 10% female participation, there are more women stepping in positions of leadership, as can be seen by looking at female participation for audience groups Program leaders, and Affiliate coordinators.

Additionally, we have observed that women participation or women-focused content has increased in several areas, over the last 5 years:

  • Female representation in affiliate boards and leadership positions has grown from 20% in 2013, to 28% in 2017, and 4 percentage points of those happened only between December 2016 and December 2017.
  • More affiliates have been created which focus on gender diversity, whereas before, there weren’t any at all.
  • More programs and events have reducing the gender gap in content as their main goal, whereas before, they focused on other themes.