[Osmf-talk] Reaching out and diversity (Was: Re: AGM and board elections)

Kathleen Danielson kathleen.danielson at gmail.com
Sat Sep 27 19:32:06 UTC 2014

The thing is that it's incredibly difficult to make sure that a group isn't
"institutionally sexist" which is why conversations like this one are
needed. Yes, I agree we need to ensure that, but it's not a matter of
checking a few boxes and patting ourselves on the back. We should see that
there's a problem by the low numbers of [insert marginalized group here],
and we should want to do something about that proactively. We can't just
pass this off on conference organizers or working groups or something like
this. It needs to be a community-wide priority. I don't think it is yet,
but I'm hopeful that can change.

I am hearing a lot of people say they want things to improve, but they
don't know how. Here are some ideas:

* I would like to see widespread adoption of codes of conduct across the
community. As Mele mentioned [1], the Puppet community has a very robust
list of Community Guidelines for a wide array of forums and interactions
[2]. I would love to see us do something like this.
* Explicit, easy to find, enforceable guidelines for conversation happening
on any mailing list hosted by OSM.
* Clear expectations given to moderators in enforcing said guidelines, and
adequate support for moderators, who are often too drained to step in.
* Required Anti-harassment policies for any event billing itself as a
"State of the Map" conference. This would obviously have to be tailored to
each locality for legal reasons, but having a minimum requirement for the
type of expectations as well as the type of recourse that should be
available to all attendees, would be a great start.
* More scholarships for marginalized groups to attend SOTM conferences.
(Some conferences have started doing this, but we still need to do better.)
* People doing a better job of holding each other accountable publicly.
There are a lot of really good people in this community, but a lot of times
you stay silent when someone misbehaves. That tells me that that behavior
is tolerated. You can call people out in a gentle, but clear way. Try that.
* Prioritizing outreach to marginalized groups to join the community and to
speak at conferences.
* Programming and initiatives originating from places of leadership within
the community to provide safe, welcoming places to talk about these issues
and work on ways to improve them.

These are just some ideas, and obviously there are road blocks to each of
them. I don't expect any of them to happen overnight, and I know that some
are quite controversial. My point, though, is that we aren't powerless.
This is our community and we can make it better, but depending on the
people who are already in a disadvantaged position to be the ones to drive
change isn't helping. To those of you who are in a position of privilege,
use that privilege to make some of those things I mentioned happen.


As you mentioned, you are blatantly trying to provoke a response, and you
know my intentions were not to belittle male caregivers. That said,
intentions don't really matter, so I apologize to any non-female caregivers
who found my comment dismissive. Here's a link explaining why the lack of
childcare at conferences disproportionately disadvantages women [3], but
obviously this can affect any parent, particularly single parents of any

You invoked the concept of a meritocracy, which is highly problematic. I
encourage you to read about why [4]. This is not something we want to
strive for because as lovely of an idea as it might sound, it is ultimately
just a way for the people who are already privileged to remain privileged.

In response to your final comment about ensuring equality, I would also
encourage everyone to read this excellent blog post on why simply hiring
for merit isn't enough to ensure that we're eliminating systemic
discrimination [5]. It's relevant even to discussions not explicitly about

[1] https://twitter.com/pdxmele/status/515906404440240128
[2] https://docs.puppetlabs.com/community/community_guidelines.html
[3] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Childcare
[4] http://www.garann.com/dev/2012/you-keep-using-that-word/
[5] http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JennFrank/20140327/214022/The_Rolodex.php

On Sat, Sep 27, 2014 at 8:38 PM, Scott Neville <scott07 at worldsofwar.co.uk>

> I realise this reply is going to get a lot of people upset, but to
> continue a theme.......
> Your message is sexism in OSM.
> I refer you to this sentence:
> When women are unable to attend conferences because to my knowledge no
> SOTM has ever provided childcare, that is sexism in OSM
> You are clearly suggesting that as a man I wont have children, or I am not
> a competent guardian of my children and therefore the issue wont arise as
> my children would be someone elses problem.
> On the flip side (and this is actually my opinion, the above sentence is
> not, I just said it to make a point), I am not bothered.  People are always
> going to say things that can be taken as sexist, most languages are
> wonderfully ambiguous with 101 ways of different ways of reading the same
> thing.  Now I know you had absolutely no bad intent and I appologise for
> the confrontational way I started this message.  However the point I am
> trying to make is there has to be a balance.  Given enough time you will be
> able to read something sexist/mean/rude/impolite out of anything (and yes I
> appreciate by even mentioning in in that manor I am being disrespectful to
> someone who does do that).  I think the key thing is to try and build a
> strong meritocracy where achievement (or maybe effort, after all someone
> who has put their heart and soul into something that was misguided by
> someone else still deserves respect) is the most important thing.  We
> should make sure OSM is not institutionally sexist and we should have
> policies in place to address it when it occurs between members via OSM, but
> when OSM is not involved we should leave well alone.
> One thing I have never understood about equality is why whenever you do
> something you get "we have to ask for your gender, ethnic background and
> skin colour".  If I am opting in to something I would argue the best way to
> ensure equality is not to ask, let me be just an IP address on the internet
> that is as significant or as insignificant as every other IP address on the
> internet until I do something to warrant a change to that view.  I dont
> believe we need to recruit more minority members, we need to recruit more
> good members regardless where they are from or who they are or what they
> are good at (an excellent mapper can still be a naff spokesperson).
> Anyway thats my two cents worth.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Kathleen Danielson" <kathleen.danielson at gmail.com>
> To: "Simon Poole" <simon at poole.ch>
> Cc: osmf-talk at openstreetmap.org
> Sent: Saturday, 27 September, 2014 4:57:34 PM
> Subject: Re: [Osmf-talk] Reaching out and diversity (Was: Re: AGM and
> board     elections)
> Greetings from Berlin.
> I've been following this thread from afar and am finally chiming in. It
> took me this long because in order to do so I had to finally join OSMF. I'd
> like you to note how ridiculous it is that anyone has decided to join the
> organization to combat a lack of, or lack of interest in, diversity.
> Since my comments on Twitter yesterday I have seen and heard a lot of
> people stepping up to voice their support for this issue. Thank you.
> As others have mentioned, gender diversity is not the only type of
> diversity we struggle with, but it's more or less become the focus of this
> thread. Since it is the one that affects me most, and it would be
> presumptuous to pretend I know the experience of other marginalized groups,
> that's what I will focus on.
> As Kate said, it is not her job, nor is it mine, nor any other woman or
> member of a marginalized community to explain to you how you are further
> promoting your own privilege at the expense of ours. If you notice that
> your community lacks diversity (and a simple scan of the names of people
> engaging in this, or any of the OSM mailing lists should tell you that), it
> is incumbent upon you to ask yourself why. It is incumbent upon you to
> educate yourself about issues of diversity in tech [1]. It is incumbent
> upon you to work to create a more inclusive community. By not doing that
> you are making your priorities extremely clear. Believe me, OpenStreetMap
> as a whole has made its priorities clear time and again.
> The request for more "proof" is an exhausting, and as already pointed out,
> troubling one, for various reasons. The reality is that OpenStreetMap is a
> community under the umbrella of tech. It is naive to think that we are
> somehow immune to the problems that plague literally every other large
> scale tech community in existence. If you don't believe that tech has a
> gender problem, and FOSS even moreso [2], I'm not sure that I can help you.
> Worse still, OSM is dramatically behind the curve. The conversations we
> have about diversity are ones that other communities were having years ago.
> No one has ever said that OSM is blazing the trail for gender diversity in
> tech. You know who is? Groups like the Python Software Foundation[3]. The
> European JavaScript community[4]. Even WMF is taking a greater interest in
> this than we do [5]. Many others are taking proactive, bold, exciting steps
> in this direction, while we're still trying to convince you that a problem
> exists in the first place. This is incredibly aggravating and defeating.
> This simple fact is enough to keep women out of OSM. It's enough to get
> women to leave OSM.
> You want examples of sexism in OSM?
> When I get private, harassing messages from prominent men telling me that
> people in the community don't respect me, that is sexism in OSM. When there
> are men who no women in OSM will engage with because we all feel
> uncomfortable interacting with him, and we're told "he's just like that"
> and to not take it personally, that is sexism in OSM. When women at SOTM
> conferences are asked or simply assumed to be attending because they are
> the girlfriend/wife/partner of a *real* community member, that is sexism in
> OSM. When women are unable to attend conferences because to my knowledge no
> SOTM has ever provided childcare, that is sexism in OSM. When the mere idea
> of concerns about how childcare or brothels are tagged becomes a community
> joke, that is sexism in OSM. When implementing an anti-harassment policy
> for a conference is considered controversial, or simply relegated to the
> back of a program book or bottom of a webpage, because of concerns that it
> might seem "scary" or like we're getting ready to "lawyer up", that is
> sexism in OSM.
> These are just a few examples that I can think of within 10 minutes that
> won't be *too* risky for me to mention. (Also, the fact that naming names
> or specific incidents would make me unsafe? That's sexism in OSM.)
> You think this is simply a marketing issue? You think that OSM doesn't
> have a gender problem? Think again.
> [1] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Feminism_101
> [2] http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_incidents
> [3] https://twitter.com/jessicamckellar/status/413009020522221568
> [4] http://2014.jsconf.eu/news/2014/08/15/diversity-tickets.html
> [5] http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Diversity_Conference
> On Sat, Sep 27, 2014 at 1:34 PM, Simon Poole < simon at poole.ch > wrote:
> IMHO we have two intertwined subjects and some are making unwarranted
> conclusions, if not to say large leaps of faith in the arguments.
> 1) harassment of minorities and other groups, in particular females, and
> specifically female OSM participants that are publicly known.
> It would be naive to assume that this doesn't happen, participating in
> OSM doesn't automatically make us better human beings and given that we
> have reports by victims, we can safely assume that this is an issue. And
> while an overwhelming part of the OSM community chooses to remain
> anonymous, we have all the interest in the world for it to be safe for
> contributors that choose to come forward publicly.
> We need to make clear that such behaviour is not acceptable and stop it
> when it happens and I believe at least in current times we have done a
> reasonably good job of that. What is potentially missing is an OSM wide
> place to report such incidents and get help, and maybe providing
> something like that should be taken up by the board.
> 2) low participation of females in OSM. This is what the discussion
> started out with. At some point it was implied that (1) was the main
> reason for this, aka: larger numbers of females join OSM, are harassed,
> and then leave.
> However this isn't supported by any of the available studies, statistics
> nor by logic. Only a very very very small number of contributors
> regardless of gender ever interact with other mappers, mailing lists
> etc, nearly all remain essentially completely anonymous both in name and
> gender, the opportunity for large scale misbehaviour simply isn't there.
> In a way it would be far simpler if the statement was true, because it
> would be relatively easy to address. Everything we currently know
> however points to that we simply have a very low influx of female new
> contributors to start with (this is naturally true for other minorities
> too, and the similar arguments likely apply).
> As I said right at the beginning of the discussion: I'm convinced that
> this is due to that OSM is perceived as a typical male hobby with a
> slightly nerdy angle to it, to the point of implying that other genders
> might not be welcome and that (1) might be a problem.
> Or to put it differently: fixing the issue is mainly an image marketing
> activity, unluckily a very difficult one and likely slow to show
> success. And undoing the damage (I'm not blaming anybody for this,
> getting an article to come out right is an art, it is just a wonderful
> example of the image we convey to the outside) an in principle harmless
> article like:
> http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/09/18/uk-foundation-ebola-maps-idUKKBN0HD0ER20140918
> does is extremely difficult.
> All good things start off with our personal behaviour and I believe we
> should start off by reviewing which image of OSM we are personally
> conveying to the outside.
> Simon
> Am 27.09.2014 11 :35, schrieb Jaak Laineste (Nutiteq):
> >
> > On 27 Sep 2014, at 02:16, Steve Doerr < doerr.stephen at gmail.com
> > <mailto: doerr.stephen at gmail.com >> wrote:
> >
> >> On 26/09/2014 23:33, Emilie Laffray wrote:
> >>
> >>> First of all, I want to say I agree with you and I could probably
> >>> cite a few occasions where some comments or behaviors have been
> >>> inappropriate. I am going to refrain from naming and shaming because
> >>> it won't help and it will only stir more conversations.
> >>
> >> It *will* help, and stirring more conversations is precisely what we
> >> need, if there is indeed a problem. You don't actually need to 'name
> >> and shame': at least in the first instance you can present anonymized
> >> anecdotes.
> >
> > I honestly have the same problem. I try to read this thread and I still
> > have little idea what it is talking about. Probably I’m naive, stupid,
> > having different cultural background from the soviet chauvinist
> > education, do not read posts carefully enough, blind to something. I’m
> > afraid that I can be even accidental sexist, with nobody mentioning.
> > There might be others like me. I tried to skim through some articles
> > pointed before, but could not really link them to OSM as I know it. I
> > understand that some of us are too tired of it, are afraid of it etc,
> > but maybe some others who also do know well the issue would please add a
> > few specific examples of diversity issues in OSM? These could be be even
> > made up, just realistic enough in OSM context.
> >
> > Jaak
> >
> >
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> >
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