Tag Archives: women in tech

Calling all women: Contribute to Wikipedia

Wikipedia LogoWhile the tech industry is a lovely melting pot of people and innovation, it can be overwhelming to stay abreast of it all. New technologies, companies, and acronyms pop up all the time. We work with people from varied cultures, with traditions and holidays different from our own.  I’ll admit that I’m regularly in meetings where I hear something I don’t know — a technical buzz phrase, a reference to an Indian holiday or Hindu god, or a colloquial expression whose meaning I’m not quite sure of. When this happens, I tend to look it up on Wikipedia. It’s a quick way for me to get a general grasp of the topic.

A few years back, I was in a meeting for an upcoming software release, and the engineering leader said, “That feature will be a cake walk.” While I thought “cake walk” meant something easy, I started second guessing myself. What if it meant it would be a difficult feature to build? I didn’t want to sound stupid when I started talking about the feature, so I quickly looked up “cake walk” on Wikipedia, clicked on the “Modern Times” heading, and read that it’s used to describe something that’s very easy or effortless. Got it! I then returned my full attention to the meeting…

Ever since then, I’ve thought about making a contribution to Wikipedia. Not only do I want to pay it forward and help others who use Wikipedia like me, I also want to help change the ratio of how many contributions are made by women. While I don’t have anything against men editing pages for Wikipedia, I don’t want them to be the only ones writing our history. I think it’s important that women’s memories and perspectives are included and preserved.

Did you know that less than 15% of Wikipedia’s contributions are made by women? Of the 30,000-40,000 daily edits to the English Wikipedia site this month (June 2013), only about 1500-2000, or roughly 5%, are made by women. (Note about chart: Drop-off on June 24 is due to the time of day – early morning – that the snapshot was taken.)


Chart showing gender gap in Wikipedia edits during June

Even though I wanted to make a contribution to Wikipedia, I just never got around to it. Well, until I wrote a blog post about professional bucket lists where I shared what’s on mine. Yup, writing for Wikipedia was on my bucket list. Boring, but true.

What changed when I wrote that blog post? Research shows we’re more likely to accomplish something by sharing it with others. (You can read a summary of this research by Gail Matthews, PhD, published on the Dominican University web site.) In fact, as soon as I wrote the first draft of that blog post, I took the plunge into Wikipedia. And, it was a cake walk! I chose to contribute to two software projects that I had worked on earlier in my career:


If you’re a woman and you’re already contributing to wikipedia, thank you!  If you’re not already on Wikipedia, please consider creating an account and sharing your knowledge. Either way, be sure to specify your gender in your account preferences to have your contributions count towards changing the ratio. (The default gender setting is “Undisclosed.”)


P.S. Interested in more statistics about Wikipedia? Here are just a few:



A simple yet powerful phrase

by Karen Catlin

[dropcap bg=”#ba82e0″ color=”#ffffff”]If[/dropcap]you receive the Femgineer weekly email, you’ll remember that last week’s theme was about clarity, and how we often beat around the bush instead of just asking for what we want. I’m as guilty of this as the next person! Even if I think I’m being direct, I make mistakes such as:

  • Using passive voice, which dilutes an otherwise direct request. “The dishwasher needs to be emptied.” vs “Please empty the dishwasher.”
  • Using extra words that take away from the clarity of my ask. “It would be great if you could take out the trash.” vs. “Please take out the trash.”


Yes, the simplest phrases are the most powerful. My favorite is one that I heard at a seminar for parents at my children’s high school. The speakers shared statistics about teenage drug & alcohol use and told us about their first-hand experiences with addiction. They also recommended that we tell our kids, “My expectations are that you won’t do illegal drugs and that you won’t drink until you are 21, and then that you will do so responsibly.”

I felt like hitting myself on the side of the head. While I wanted my children to stay away from drugs and alcohol, I don’t think I had ever explicitly told them. At breakfast the next morning, I mentioned the seminar, and I replayed the exact phrase, “My expectations are…”

Will these words alone be enough to keep my kids from experimenting? Of course not. But, by saying them, I reinforced our family values in the context of drug use and underage drinking, and I felt I was doing so in a way that was respectful and demonstrated that I trusted them to make good choices.

[dropcap bg=”#ba82e0″ color=”#ffffff”]It[/dropcap]got me thinking about the equivalent in leadership, and how I could make use of the phrase, “My expectations are…” when I delegate projects, write performance reviews, and speak at employee meetings. Using these words, I could describe things in a way that would show my trust, motivate them, and perhaps even inspire them to achieve more than they thought they could. E.g., “My expectations for the budget proposal are that you will deliver an executive summary with a detailed spreadsheet, by the deadline, and that you will identify the right people to work with so that the proposal is accepted quickly.”

To explore using this phrase in a written performance evaluation, I decided to dust off some of my past reviews. In one, a manager gave me somewhat vague input into what I should be doing:

  • “Over the coming year it will be very helpful for you to continue your advocacy for your group and the collaboration with the business units…”
  • “I encourage you to focus more time on a longer term roadmap for your group…”
  • “I also encourage you to continue building out your thoughts on areas for you to have greater impact than you even do now at the company and where that may lead to developing skills further…”


Imagine how much more effective and empowering his guidance would have had if he had used the “My expectations are” phrase:

  • “Over the coming year, my expectations are that you will meet with all the key players in the business units, ensuring that there is excellent collaboration…”
  • “My expectations are that you will deliver a 3-year roadmap for your group…”
  • “My expectations are that you will identify two new service offerings, along with a plan for developing and rolling them out to the company.


So much better!

[dropcap bg=”#ba82e0″ color=”#ffffff”]?[/dropcap]Do you have a favorite simple yet powerful phrase to convey values, rules, directives, or goals? Please share it in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.


Karen Catlin, a former software industry executive, is now a leadership coach and the latest member of the Femgineer team. She is passionate about helping women have successful careers in tech. She’s also the author of “Use Your Inside Voice“, a blog about the intersection of leadership and parenting; a version of this post was originally published there. Find her on Twitter at @kecatlin.

Focus of Femgineer Forum’s Inaugural Event

Having a long career in tech and having had many roles, I’ve experienced, and have been presented with a number of issues that women in tech face such as:

  • Interviewing at male dominated companies
  • Communicating concerns effectively with supervisors
  • Crafting an ASK for an offer, promotion, raise, or just a change in role

While we can claim that tech is merit based there are many women who are highly skilled and very talented who do not receive the same attention as their counterparts.  The common methods of addressing these concerns such as panels, content, or simply pointing to aspirational figures such as Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer isn’t enough.  While we should continue to champion the efforts of those who are trying to attract more women into the field by teaching and supporting young women and girls, there is little to no support for women already in the field.  Women who have already begun their career or are mid-career need strategies and solutions to keep them motivated, and help them achieve the career they dream of!

We also don’t want to play the victim card, which is why the goal of the Femgineer Forum’s inaugural event is to provide strategies and suggestions to help women who struggle with these common topics.  While I do no claim to be a psychologist, I have personally dealt with a number of these situations.  Through my experience I’ve been able to effectively come up with a system of strategies that has helped me, and many other women in tech avoid settling, asking for what we need in order to be taken seriously, making six figures, and succeeding while still staying sane!

If you’re a highly skilled and talented women in tech, don’t stand in the way of your own success, learn the strategies you need to have the career you want!  Come to the first ever Femgineer Forum and learn compelling communication strategies.  Looking forward to kicking this series off with you!