[Osmf-talk] Gender in OSM/OSMF

Stefan Keller sfkeller at gmail.com
Wed Nov 29 01:07:26 UTC 2017

Dear Tim

Just some remarks on the three references you gave:

[1] Concludes that "social motives as well as platform-specific
contribution and communication mechanisms influence women’s
participation behaviour."
[3] "Possible answer of low female participants: Because they perhaps
find other things more interesting than gadgets and sitting in front
of a computer for hours..." (my own free tanslation).
[2] Is a study of low scientific quality. Especially the example of
brothels and childcare tags is superficial and gives no evidence. See
earlier OSM talk threads for what I mean. (BTW it's an interesting
example where science is not always self-correcting, since this study
seems to be still being cited in an uncritical way).

So; yes, all studies detect an (obvious) imbalance of female and male
contributors in the field of VGI.
And yes I'd personally like to see too more women participating,
actually - not only in OSM but also in technical professions.
But besides [2] I hardly read in the studies that the OSM
"communication style" is more an issue than in other communities as
you suggest.
And again don't get me wrong: I of course are also in favour of a
welcoming culture and community and there's room for improvement in

I'm really looking forward for Muki's research about systematic biases
in VGI 2018 [1].

In the meantime let's DO something - like going out mapping,
organizing parties, designing nice maps - or cleaning up and writing
good documentation.


[1] https://povesham.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/phd-studentship-in-collaboration-with-the-ordnance-survey-identifying-systematic-biases-in-crowdsourced-geographic-information/

2017-11-29 0:45 GMT+01:00 Tim Elrick <osm at elrick.de>:
> 'One would hope that we welcome all', indeed. However, the few scientific
> studies that looked into gender and other social biases in OSM (e.g. study
> by Steinmann, et al. [1], Stephens/Rondinone [2] or Uhlmann, et al. [3])
> suggest that these biases prevail. The OSM community still is dominated by
> young, white, middle-class males with a tecchy background (me included,
> although the young doesn't hold anymore).
> Anyone who follows OSM discussions will notice a specific communication
> style - I would describe it as open and pretty direct/blunt (which adheres
> to specific cultural traits, that can be found in male-tecchy dominated
> communication as well as e.g. 'German style' communication); the above
> mentioned studies suggest that quite some people interested in participating
> in OSM could be deterred by such a communication style (and I just want to
> remind you about the discussion of Severin's contribution a couple of days
> ago). Please note, that I do not say one cannot get accustomed to this style
> and if you do, you find out that most communication is not intended to be
> disrespectful or unfriendly at all, but more often e.g. protective of one's
> work, annoyed-why-newbies-cannot-read-the-wiki-first,
> surprised-that-someone-does-not-understand-the-priorities-in-OSM, etc.
> We can also find (gender) in the features mapped: while we have a quite
> sophisticated use and differentiation of brothels, we still miss this use
> and differentiation in childcare (yes, there are a lot of
> amenity=kindergarten, but if you compare amenity=brothel to
> amenity=preschool/nursery/creche ...). My point here is that the interests
> of the persons mapping, of course, reflects in the features mapped; and I am
> glad it does; however, apparently, we are still missing the caring fathers
> and mothers who map the pre-schools.
> So, as much as I value the OSM eco system and its distinctive communication
> style and dealings, if we want to broaden our contributor base and overcome
> some of the social biases (of course, there are economic biases, too), I
> guess, we have to think about our communication style and dealings with each
> other, too.
> Tim
> [1] Renate Steinmann, Elisabeth Häusler, Silvia Klettner, Manuela Schmidt
> and Yuwei Lin 2013: Gender Dimensions in UGC and VGI: A Desk-Based Study,
> http://hw.oeaw.ac.at/0xc1aa500d_0x002e6e72.pdf
> [2] Monica Stephens, Antonella Rondinone (2012): Presentation at the
> Association of American Geographers' Annual Meeting in New York: Gendering
> the GeoWeb, https://www.slideshare.net/geographiliac/gendering-the-geoweb
> [3] J. Uhlmann, F. Tommasini, H.-J. Stark (2010): Presentation at the
> FOSSGIS e.V. annual meeting in Osnabrück, Germany: Empirische Untersuchung
> der Motivation von Teilnehmenden bei der freiwilligen Erfassung von
> Geodaten, Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz.
> Am 27.11.2017 um 08:28 schrieb john whelan:
> One would hope that we welcome all no matter what gender they declare
> themselves as or if they declare themselves at all.
> Having people declare their gender means leaving them open to "trolls" and
> many feel safer not doing so.
> From my work validating and giving feedback its apparent that you cannot
> assume the gender from the user name and I know of a number of people that
> would rather be judged by their contributions than by their gender.
> Cheerio John
> On 27 November 2017 at 03:05, Heather Leson <heatherleson at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear OSMF members
>> I'd like to re-open a discussion about gender in this community.  How can
>> we improve the gender balance? I know there are some amazing leaders and
>> best practices. It would be great to hear from women and other genders that
>> are often rare voices. Kate posted about diversity this summer. Let's build
>> on this.
>> As much as I've been vocal during this period, I tend to read and not
>> comment on this forum. The reason for that is partially due to the tone. OSM
>> can only truly global if we keep working on this.
>> Also, would the "actions" from this discussion flow to the membership
>> working group? I notice that there are no women listed on the wiki for this
>> group. Maybe we need a "gender chair" to really follow through. The
>> "membership working group" does not appear to have the offical responsibilty
>> to improve the community experience. If not the "membership working group"
>> to take up this gap, then maybe we need a balanced "community working group"
>> .
>> Thank you and have a good day,
>> Heather
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