Research:WikiWomen's Collaborative

This page is about a social media initiative being developed by the Wikimedia Foundation. For the 2012 conference, see WikiWomenCamp.
Editor Engagement Project
WikiWomen's Collaborative
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Community Fellow
Head of Community Fellowships
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Editor engagement projects Editor engagement initiatives

The WikiWomen's Collaborative (WWC) is an online initiative that seeks to engage and inspire women to edit Wikipedia, Commons, and related projects. Through social media campaigns, peer to peer encouragement, and clear calls to action, this project aims to engage, sustain and support women as active participants in Wikimedia projects. WWC will launch in the second half of 2012 as part of Wikimedia Foundation fellow Sarah Stierch's fellowship focusing on the gender gap.



The WikiWomen's Collaborative takes inspiration from the women's movement of the 20th and 21st century. Historically, women have been gathering in offline spaces to engage and inspire one another for change - change that stemmed from community organizing and clear calls to action that allowed women to participate at many different levels.[1] As culture and technology have evolved together, online activism has provided calls to action for women to engage and initiate social change.[2][3]

As Wikipedia strives to close its gender gap and keep up with an ever-more social and engaging internet, the WikiWomen's Collaborative will tap into the social and visual contemporary landscape of the web. We aim to create a social movement to encourage those who are already active Wikimedians to continue to deepen their participation, inspire others to do the same, and make it easy for more women to successfully help share their portion of the sum of all the world's knowledge.


  • Provide a safe and friendly space for women to interact with and inspire one another to contribute to Wikipedia
  • Increase the number of women who contribute to Wikipedia each month
  • Incorporate a social approach to editor support without losing the central focus of building an encyclopedia
  • Focus on engaging women while aiming to not exclude anyone who wants to participate



WWC will be piloted as a WMF Community Fellowship project during the second half of 2012. The pilot will promote participation in Wikipedia and Commons, with opportunities for further expansion into other projects.

This pilot is intended as an experiment or proof-of-concept, and the outcome should demonstrate whether or not the approach adds value to Wikipedia and succeeds at attracting and retaining more women as editors of Wikipedia. If the pilot proves successful, the project should be turned over to the community to maintain.

Ideally, the project will be piloted in at least one language besides English, please do let us know if participating would be of interest to your language community.

Phase one


For more information on what happened during this phase, please visit the Phase one report

Phase one focused on building dedicated social media channels in order to better gather WikiWomen together into an active WikiWomen's Collaborative movement. We wanted to explore the use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and a blog channel, to build community aimed at getting more women involved in editing. Research has shown that women utilize social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest more than men.[4] In phase one, we've begun to leverage these existing tools to find women where they already are, and attempted to bring them to where they are needed, Wikipedia.

Phase two


For more information about the current phase of this project, please visit the Phase two plan

Phase two will aim to increase the involvement of women not yet editing Wikipedia. It will also continue to expand on our likes and followers, improve partnership between Wikimedia Foundation communications and the Collaborative, and solidify a sustainable model for the future (post-Fellowship).

Our phase two report is here.

Final report


Sarah Stierch's fellowship ended in January 2012. You can read her reflection on this project, here.

Target audience


Our target audience is geared towards women, transwomen, and people who have good will towards them. While the project is geared towards encouraging women's participation, all allies who support the Wikimedia Foundation's aim of encouraging women's participation will be welcome.

Some of the audiences we'll particularly aim to meet the needs of in this project include:

  • Women who have yet to cross the line into becoming an active editor on Wikipedia and related sister projects
  • New editors
  • Experienced women editors who can serve as community leaders

Engagement strategies


Rather than taking a "build it and they will come" approach, we will launch the project by using a variety of social media channels to build a movement where women already are, and see if this is an effective strategy for encouraging women to support each other and become more active on Wikipedia. These strategies include:

Social media outreach

  • Social media campaigns through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
  • Outreach to bloggers
  • Promotion through the Wikimedia and chapter blogs, FB and Twitter accounts

Partnership building and leveraging the gendergap networks

  • Outreach to women's organizations with requests to engage with the project and "send" participants our way - there are a variety of women's groups who have expressed interest in getting involved, this will provide them with a clear way to do so
  • On-wiki outreach to experienced editors to get involved and send new women editors to WWC
  • Outreach to women researchers and scholars to contribute their knowledge - WWC should include easy ways for users who are already active in the project to invite others to get involved as well
  • Outreach to journalists and media who have covered the gender gap
  • GLAMWIKI outreach - majority of participants at GLAMs are women

Offline events

  • WWC will be promoted at volunteer-led offline events (i.e. WikiWomen's edit-a-thons), and we'll aim to gather email addresses of participants for follow up invitations to share stories, resources, and remain active after these events.

Support and engagement tools

  • WWC will link to the WP:Teahouse, so that those who have questions related to editing can get quick support on-wiki without recreating the wheel.
  • WWC should link to off-line events when available, so that those who want in-person support can gain access to them.
  • Should WWC have a newsletter on-wiki?



The following features would be the main elements, dreams and hopeful requirements of the WWC, if the project were to develop into its own online space (i.e. WordPress site).

During phase 1, many of these "features" can be thought of as bodies of content being built up in various social media experiments (ie, a WikiWomen's blog roll, posting activities and other clear calls to action from the Twitter and Facebook pages, curating a resource list to link from the Facebook page, etc)


  • attractive interface that entices visitors to click and take action on-wiki
  • calls to action include:
  • teahouse extension/link
  • simple starts - dab solver, wikifying, etc.
  • search box - search for something to edit
  • etc

How to get involved

  • roles: highlighting different roles women can take in Wikimedia projects
  • content creation
  • content curation
  • Arbcom
  • GAC, etc.
  • admin duties
  • tasks: opportunities for volunteering
  • writing articles
  • copyediting
  • AfD
  • AfC
  • Wikiprojects
  • curating content in Commons
  • Donation button (lower priority, but good thing to do)

Resources for new editors


Curated selection of best existing resources for new editors

  • videos
  • help documentation
  • tutorials

Social communication

  • a blog will feature profiles about editors, news and successes
  • promote the space and allow social sharing, a toolbar or "share" button would be included, which would allow users to share a link via social media (i.e. Facebook, Stumble Upon, Twitter)

Event support

  • pulling together existing materials and how to documentation on putting together editing events
  • direct tie-in to WMF merch/store, so that event planners can request swag
  • events calendar (or, link to meetups page)


  • engage experienced community members to take leadership roles in the space (moderators, blog writers, content creators), and list them as contributors
  • tell us about what you're doing! input (form to fresh content feed) to share new/improved content on WP, Commons as potential feature material for blog, etc

About the gender gap

  • Light documentation providing an overview of gender disparity in Wikimedia projects
  • Media links
  • Mission of action space

Areas for exploration


These topics, questions and concerns are areas for exploration during the research portion of this project.

  • How can we gear the space towards women yet still remain conscious and inclusive of non-women participants? (i.e. male allies)
  • Gendered language use
  • Have a "are you an ally?" page that discusses the space for non-male participants
  • Will the space naturally evolve into a "women's space"?
  • Is there an opportunity to pilot the space in another language other than English?

Project participants


Founding pilot volunteer participants


Interested in volunteering in the WWC? Get involved today by visiting our volunteer page.

  1. Rosiestep
  2. FloNight
  3. Jenny Mikulay
  4. LoriLee
  5. RexRowan
  6. Jenova20
  7. LadyofShalott
  8. Orlady
  9. Keilana
  10. Gyoung
  11. SlimVirgin
  12. Michelledavison
  13. tylas
  14. Netha Hussain


  • August - project planning
  • Aug 20 - prototype development begins
  • September 10 - v1 soft launch, content seeding
  • September 28 - public launch and promotion
  • October & November - community/content growth, iterate, measure
  • December 3-7 - pilot evaluation



Successful outcomes for this project should include strong evidence that more women not only start editing as a result, but also continue to edit over time and deepen their participation as a result of visiting the WWC.

Collection methods will include some combination of a feedback link, surveys, optional user-name collection for on-wiki follow up, and page view analysis.

Specific metrics will be defined for each phase of the project. See the phase 1 plan for more information on metrics in the initial phase. Phase 2 metrics are now posted and a survey is available also.

Rationale and supporting research


Only 9% of Wikipedia contributors are women[5] While researchers have put forward a variety of theories to explain the skewed proportion of male to female Wikipedians[6], the gender gap is probably the result of a combination of factors. The WWC aims to address specific issues which could attract and retain women as contributors.

Provide a space where women can connect with and support each other

  • Inspiring confidence through peer support. Common reasons women give for not editing Wikipedia include lacking the self-confidence that is required to edit, being conflict-averse, and a preference for experiences on other sites that emphasize social relationships and a welcoming tone which may be missing from many new editors' experiences of Wikipedia.[7] Providing a welcoming, social environment for women can help build self-confidence at all editor levels. Creating an easily accessible peer support space can also help build a stronger community that supports editors through tough times that might generally deter them from continued project participation.
  • Seeing and knowing other women contributing builds confidence to contribute. Seeing other women participating in a challenging or intimidating space, such as Wikipedia, can motivate and inspire women to get involved. Experienced women editors can become "peer advisers" in the community. Having women who have successfully navigated their way through Wikipedia and past its barriers not only inspires and builds confidence in new editors, but also allows experienced women to give back their experience and knowledge to a new generation of Wikipedia editors.[8][9]
  • Women trust and engage more with communities designed for them. Women trust content and relationships they build on online communities built for women more than they do social media websites like Facebook. They are also more prone to spend more time engaging with online communities for them.[10] Creating a space geared towards women, which bypasses social media outreach (which the majority of "outreach" is taking place online for Wikipedia) encourages trust by women of the Wikimedia brand and the importance of contributing to Wikipedia.

Design an attractive space that is different from Wikipedia

  • Spaces designed for women, by women, attract women. Wikipedia was designed by men as a simple and fast way to deliver, and edit, information. As the internet around Wikipedia has evolved, Wikipedia has evolved very little in its design and feel. Websites designed by women with women as a target audience attract more women than men designed websites geared towards women or any gender.[11] By creating a space that is designed with women in mind, Wikipedia can potentially benefit from this space serving as a starting point.

Sharing and invitation

  • Women encourage interest through word of mouth. By creating a proactive and support environment that celebrates the importance of contributing to Wikipedia, women will share their experience.[12] Providing social networking options to do that are key.
  • Blogs are more trusted than any other online resources, by women. Having a blog with calls to action, profiles of WikiWomen, and an "open door" policy in the spirit of wiki which allows community members to contribute, can allow women to gain build trust for Wikipedia and the importance of women's roles within it.[13]
  • Women use Facebook, Twitter, and related social media more than men. WWC may be able to save time, and money, by leveraging already existing social media platforms that women prefer to engage in, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. By tapping into these spaces where women already are, WWC may be able to successfully bring women to where they are needed (Wikipedia!).[4]


  • She to She - photographs of different women that can be rotated for a different image.
  • Emily's List - eye catching color use for the call to action buttons (in the lower middle). rotating images. blog/news/twitter buttons are too light and went unnoticed.
  • Miss Representation - Nice call to action boxes with attractive eye catching design. The Twitter and Facebook boxes at the bottom are nice. The blog is rather indescript probably due to branding of the other two.
  • Do Something - Too aggressive of a color scheme. Big short menu titles are nice. Doesn't really explain what the site is about.
  • Moms Rising - Colors are USA-centric. Like the rotating menu with images. Page design declines in quality as one moves past the main page.
  • SheSource from Women's Media Center - Nice color use. The call to action for the mailing list isn't apparent. Four simple buttons. Profiles are nice, possible idea for the WWC guides.
  • Tactical Tech - Videos are great. Text on left menu is too light. Menu at bottom is too light. Colors for the act/reveal/protect are nice.
  • WikiProject alert board is used to alert participants for articles for deletion

WordPress sites

  • Women Online - Rotating photo at the top. menu and colors aren't eye catching. Calls to action are too small. Blog titles get cut off in the lower menu.
  • Ovarian Cancer National Alliance - Great color and the action buttons are big, bold and catching. General text font is traditional and too small. Calendar implemented. Calendar appears to be a Google calendar, which is isn't very slick, but the map is a good idea.



General resources


Notes and references

  1. Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis. Thousand Oaks: SAGE (2011). p. 294-295. ISBN 1412980593
  2. Stange, Mary Zeiss, Carol K. Oyster and Jane E. Sloan. Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World , Volume 1. Thousand Oaks: SAGE (2011). ISBN 1412976855
  3. Chadwick, Andrew. Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics. New York: Taylor & Francis (2008). p. 266-267. ISBN 0415429145
  4. a b Kate Freeman (2012-05-29). "Women Are Bigger Fans of Social Media than Men, Survey Says". Mashable Social Media. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  5. "Editor Survey Report - April 2011.pdf" (PDF). Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  6. "Where Are the Women in Wikipedia? - Room for Debate". 2011-02-02. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  7. "Nine Reasons Women Don’t Edit Wikipedia (in their own words)". Sue Gardner's Blog. 2011-02-19. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  8. Dickinson, Torry D. Community and the World: Participating in Social Change. Hauppauge: Nova Publishers (2003). P. 24 ISBN 159033633X
  9. Pasque, Penny A. "Empowering Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs: Theory, Research, Narratives, and Practice From Feminist Perspectives." Sterling: Stylus Publishing (2011). P. 128. ISBN 1579223508
  10. Joshua Paul. "Why Women Prefer Online Communities to Social Networking Sites". Socious, serious online community software. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  11. Mary Gardner (2012-07-19). "Sarah Stierch’s The Visual Experience – Gender and Ways of Seeing Wikimedia, keynote at Wikipedia Academy". The Ada Initiative. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  12. Kelly Erickson. "How To Design For Men or Women or both Simultaneously: Dudes and Dolls and Design Decisions". JUST™ Creative. Retrieved 2012-10-06. 
  13. "Women and Social Media in 2012". BlogHer. Retrieved 2012-10-06.