Women, WordPress, & the Web — Two Years Later

Two years ago today, I published Women, WordPress, & the Web.

A lot for me, personally, has changed in the past two years. I got a lot more involved in contributing. I joined Automattic. I’m currently on a team meetup in Hawaii. Two years ago, I could have never imagined where I’d be today. Literally! I’m in Hawaii!

My experiences are not the industry norm.

A year ago, this retrospective would have been a lot more positive. But after the past few months, I honestly feel like there has probably never been a worse time to be a vocal, prominent woman in tech. Levels of harassment have escalated from casual misogyny and sexism to outright terrorism. Men in tech and gaming are organizing attacks on women who speak up. Just look at some of the harassing tweets Anita Sarkeesian receives in a week. Recently, Model View Culture CEO Shanley Kane’s entire family was doxxed after she criticized Linux leader Linus Torvalds.

Despite all of this, WordPress kind of remains a relatively safe haven for women in tech. This isn’t just an accident, or a fluke — the WordPress community, and most importantly, WordPress leadership, has carefully cultivated a culture of inclusion, acceptance, and diversity. WordCamps are adding code of conducts. People who say obviously shitty things are called out. The WordPress community team has been hard at work doing diversity outreach and event planning and creating opportunities for mentorship (More, more). Helen Hou-Sandí, a total badass and top WordPress contributor and committer, was promoted to Lead Developer this week. This promotion has so far gone off with nothing but congratulations and support, without people questioning her (impeccable) qualifications.

Quite honestly, you literally can’t turn around without walking into an awesome woman doing something great with WordPress. Women are designing, and coding, and supporting, and speaking, and leading. Seeing that kind of representation, from people who look like you? It’s incredibly empowering. It makes you want to become a part of the community, because you know that people like you have already been welcomed.

Sure, it’s not perfect. There are plenty of ways we can continue to improve. Outside of gender, we’re not super diverse. There’s still a lot more we need to do, and we need to make an effort. Jerks are still going to be jerks. Well-intentioned people are still going to fuck up, and we’re going to have to apologize and try not to do it again. We need to keep this in mind as we move forward to create an even more inclusive and global WordPress with a variety of diverse perspectives.

But as a woman in a world where our colleagues are getting doxxed, and swatted, and harassed on a daily basis, dealing with a couple microaggressions, some casual patronization, and the occasional inappropriate email feels like a cakewalk for me.

That said, given the current tech climate, the act of publishing this post is a significantly scarier idea now than it was two years ago.

I’m not sure where to leave this off. I hope this is the worst of it. I hope this is the one last hurrah of assholes in tech before things do get better. And I really, desperately hope that it doesn’t take an act of violence to turn the tides.

But for now, I’m going to enjoy some waves of my own with my amazing WordPress friends and colleagues.



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6 thoughts on “Women, WordPress, & the Web — Two Years Later

  1. Two years ago you also had a lower profile — it’s less scary to speak up when there are fewer eyes on you, and fewer sites likely to reblog your statements as “Contributor X says Y! Scandal!” I think your assessment of where we are as a community is accurate, though I will say that on the community team (WordCamps and Meetups) it is getting harder rather than easier to convince organizers that diversity is important. The fact that we have to “convince” at all is a problem. The best thing you can do is to bring to the table the things you already do: good work, open communication, and a critical eye that doesn’t accept things at face value if there’s more to see beneath the surface. Thanks for paying attention. :)

  2. I will never, as a man, understand why some men have this fear of womens, who are their equal in skills and performance. And I wonder why they have this fear.

  3. Great post, which echoes the conversations some of us were having at WordCamp Birmingham at the weekend. A few years ago I spoke out about the poor representation of women at web standards conferences and was abused and patronised on twitter. I’m very active in the UK WordPress community and while I’ve had to deal with some jerks, most of it hasn’t been sexist but just idiots being idiots. Let’s just hope the rest of the tech community learns from us rather than the other way round.

    Enjoy Hawaii! (not that I’m jealous or anything ;) )

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