Women on the Ballot for OSM-US: Why it Matters

Posted by KathleenLD on 4 October 2013 in English (English)

If you follow me online, you know that yesterday I spent much of my day shouting (excitedly!) about the OSM-US board elections and the fact that of the 8 people who are running, 4 of us are women. (Yes, I am running too)

This is incredibly significant. Women make up a small percentage of the tech community and an even smaller percentage of the open tech community. Anecdotally, I can tell you that the OpenStreetMap community in the US (and most other places) is overwhelmingly male. However, there is nothing gendered about the use of the data we are curating. If we're building a map for everyone, by everyone, shouldn't it actually be by everyone?

Bridging the gender gap in OSM (and tech at large) isn't going to happen overnight. However, the fact that as of this morning four women are running for the OSM-US board is a huge deal. For reference, last year no women ran. Let me repeat that. Last year, five people ran for five positions. No women. This year, 8 people (so far) are running for 5 positions. Four women. In fact, no women have been on the OSM-US board since Kate (current OSMF board member) and Thea served on the 2010-2011 board.

Let me be clear about a few things:

  • Bridging the gender gap in board elections is huge, but just a start. In the same way that four women running for the board doesn't mean we've accomplished the goal of making OSM a great place for women, it's also not the final word on diversity. Where are the people of color, for example? We still have work to do.
  • By no means should any of this be interpreted as "a vote for a male candidate (or even only male candidates) means you hate women". There are some great men running and I think they either are or could be great allies. Also, men who are still considering running should absolutely still do that. (Seriously. Do it now. Elections start tomorrow.)
  • This election isn't about gender, despite what it probably looks like to anyone listening to me for the past 48 hours. This election is about the OSM community in the US and electing the board that will best serve our interests. The fact that there's an equitable gender spread means that you and I will have a more diverse pool of candidates to choose from, and that will ultimately result in a stronger board, which will result in a stronger OSM in the US.
  • The women who are running aren't running on a unified platform of “Women in OSM”. Hell, I'm not even running on that platform. We each have different experiences and perspectives and priorities. In the same way the the four men who are running don’t represent all men in tech, neither do the women represent all women.

This post would be incomplete without mentioning two people who aren’t running, but who have worked tirelessly over the last year (and years prior) to make OSM a better place for women. Kate Chapman (current OSMF board member) and Bonnie Bogle (de facto OSM-US Conferences chair) have been taking exactly zero BS (even when it’s been abundant) and have made incredibly headway for women as a result. (Also I consider them both trusted friends and mentors, and they are awesome)

I'm not here to tell you who I think you should vote for-- vote for the 5 people who will best represent your priorities and vision for OSM-US in the coming year. What I am here to tell you is that this is a significant milestone for the OpenStreetMap community in the US, and we should be incredibly proud. I know I am.

Comment from bigfatfrog67 on 8 October 2013 at 10:40

While not an American I applaud your stance, in fact I voted for Kate this year to get elected to OSMF.
But what I applaud even louder are your comments about this not being a gender battle and that "There are some great men running". All too often a call for greater diversity in any group can be easily misinterpreted as an attack on those who are over represented.
To my knowledge no minority has been excluded from OSM, or Tech at large, but the social groups that have formed OSM and Tech in general are the ones who enjoyed it most. What is lacking is for other social groups to find it equally enjoyable.
This is where you, Kathleen, Kate, Alyssa et al come in. Continue to encourage, enthuse and inspire others to join us, but be careful not let it be seen as Male bashing. This will improve our map and our society!

Oh and also make our social gatherings more fun ;-)

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