Encouraging the participation of women in WordPress

Encouraging the participation of women in WordPress

When I was a kid, in a small town, in a rural state, there wasn’t much to do on a Friday night as a teenager. Often, I would end up down at the Playful Quarters. Playful Quarters was an arcade with a pizza place next to it with a doorway between the two.

The arcade kept music videos going on the TV’s and kids would play video games for hours. Of course, we had to have plenty of those quarters.

One of the games I would play was a game called Centipede. Several years later, I learned that one of the creators of that game lived in my home state, in the capital city.

Not only that, the co-creator of the game was a woman. Dona Bailey was a pioneer of sorts in the video game industry.

If someone is blessed with the gifts to do something or create something, why should he or she not be able to utilize those gifts? Such is the case with Bailey and many women who are active in WordPress.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”If someone is blessed with the gifts to do something or create something, why should he or she not be able to utilize those gifts?  #womenwhowp” quote=”If someone is blessed with the gifts to do something or create something, why should he or she not be able to utilize those gifts?”]

It really is no secret that there are fewer women in the tech industry than men. Countless studies are made available, and many try to find out why this is the case. Many have offered suggestions, and some, like this infographic, dive into the as many of the different data points as possible. The infographic also mentions notable women in tech.

WordPress is not the only tech industry with fewer women represented. Venture Capital and Venture Capital funding have been notoriously bad for women founders. Take a look at this numbers from 2017 according to Fortune,

All-women teams received just $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year, according to data on the from M&A, private equity, and VC database PitchBook. That’s equal to about 2.2% of 2017’s total pot.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that a very small percentage of Venture Capital boards include women.

Once we carefully reviewed the data for the top 100 venture firms, we discovered that 7 percent of the partners, or 54 of 755, are women, and 38 percent of the top 100 firms have at least one female partner. TechCrunch 

Every tech-based conference I have ever been to has been skewed more towards men. That isn’t to say there weren’t women in attendance. There were. Often, the ladies were well respected too. There just weren’t many.

Previously, several articles tell you who notable women in WordPress are. I am going to avoid that. I encourage you to read those articles and learn about who are some of the most well-known women in WordPress, but this article is about how we can encourage more women to participate.

Courtesy of Startup Stock Photos - Pexels.com
Courtesy of Startup Stock Photos – Pexels.com

Women in WordPress List Posts

10 Kick‐Ass Women in WordPress to Follow on Twitter – DreamHost

Women in WordPress to Follow – Ask WP Girl

20+ Women in WordPress You Should Be Following – WPExplorer

12 Women in WordPress We Should All Be Following – Elegant Themes

However, what about the woman WordPress professional that you know who are smart and talented but are not as well known?

To truly be a community, in WordPress, we need to be a community where all participate, in whichever way they wish, because we learn from each other. Therefore, I think it makes us a better community if we encourage participation from everyone. So, let’s focus on engaging and encouraging participation.

Here, we are going to discuss three ways women are and can be valuable participants in the WordPress community.

Today I want to talk about how we can encourage more women to participate in WordPress. We are going to look at three ways for encouraging the participation of women in WordPress.


Bridget Willard, Elizabeth Shilling, and Jen Miller came up with the idea of starting Women Who WP a couple of years ago.

The local meetups were the catalyst for the group. In those groups, according to Miller, the women would be hesitant to participate and ask questions.

. . . it seemed like the women would show up but they’d just sit there and they wouldn’t raise their hands or would talk. And I think it was a little bit of self censoring, you know, because people weren’t feeling as comfortable as they should have been. And so we talked about how we needed to have a group where we could learn from each other.

Miller secured a restaurant to meet and expected it to be her, Schilling and Willard, but they ended up with eight women.

At each meetup, they ask people to share something they learned that week to encourage participation. The meetings also include a presentation. Now, Women Who WP has expanded to the Netherlands, India and other states in the United States.

In India, Meher Bala has spearheaded the movement for Women Who WP, “she’s the one who has gathered all the women together in the various camps in India and not just her own,” Miller said. Women Who WP is literally going around the world.

According to Miller, the group has had lots of support including from hosting companies DreamHost and Bluehost.  Additionally, WordPress developer and co-host of WP Watercooler, Jason Tucker has been a significant support.


Tech conferences often are heavy on male presenters. Leaders in the WordPress community are trying to help balance the scale with training and help to presenters wishing to share their knowledge.

The Community Team at WordPress has created the Diversity Outreach Speaker Training. It is a volunteer lead training for presenters to help include more women presenters at WordCamps and WordPress Meetups. The training has a series of lessons that can be downloaded to assist with preparation. They can help you encourage women speakers. Get in contact with them here for more information: https://tiny.cc/wpwomenspeak. You can also reach out to Jill Binder on Twitter.

Jill Binder heads up this initiative. If you are in charge of a WordCamp or WordPress Meetup, they can help you encourage women speakers. You can keep up with the process of the Diversity Speaker Training on Twitter using the hashtag #WPWomenSpeak.

Yoast has created a diversity fund which seeks to help cover the cost of travel and accommodations for speakers in an underrepresented group. They explain the fund and what it does in a blog post,

At Yoast, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to improve the inclusivity of conferences. One of the things we can do is remove hurdles, and specifically, the hurdle of costs. Costs for speakers from a diverse background to come and speak.

The article explains how you can apply to be funded for an event and the qualifications for being supported. This can create a fantastic opportunity for someone who might not otherwise attend and present to a WordCamp.


One unique thing about the WordPress community is the ability to contribute. WordPress professionals do not have to be super-coders. Everything from writing, to training, to organizing, and answering questions in forums are considered contributions. There are plenty of ways to contribute or participate to WordPress.

Whether you’re a budding developer, a pixel-perfect designer, or just like helping out, we’re always looking for people to help make WordPress even better. Below is an overview of ways to get involved and help out. If you want to dive right in, visit  https://make.wordpress.org/.

You can see all of the various ways at make.wordpress.org.

Kim Parsell was a woman in WordPress who contributed heavily to WordPress documentation. She was affectionately referred to as #WPMOM. She left a legacy of what it meant for anyone to be a key contributor to the WordPress community.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg mentioned Parsell in his State of Word presentation in the year of 2014. Sarah Pressler recounts her reaction,

“Can you believe it? Me!!! In Matt’s talk! Me!? I…just …. I can’t believe it. Little ol’ me. An old lady up there on the screen with all the kids. It’s official, I really am #WPMom now.” Grinning ear to ear. Laughing. Happy. Her eyes were glimmering. Kim Parsell was beside herself, with an humble but genuine gratitude, for having been acknowledged by Matt Mullenweg, during his 2014 State of the Word, for her contributions to the WordPress community at large.

In early 2015, Parsell passed away leaving her legacy with the WordPress community. Since then, the WordPress Foundation started a scholarship in her memory, awarded to a woman who contributes to WordPress, to attend WordCamp US.

Wrapping it up

The future of WordPress is pretty bright. WordPress powers almost 30% of the websites on the internet. There is a vast maturing market that will lend itself to needing WordPress professionals across the entire world. I am thankful for those I have met in WordPress.

I have friends in Europe, Australia, India, Canada, and the United States, both men, and women. I am a better person knowing them and learning from them.

We need the perspectives of everyone. Women have already contributed a lot to our industry, and there is room for more women contributors.

3 thoughts on “Encouraging the participation of women in WordPress”

  1. We need to encourage both new women in WordPress development and leadership roles while also keeping the ones working in the industry safe from harm like sexual harrassment and abuse in the work place.

    Thank you for shedding some light on some of the great initiatives going on to overcome these myriad obstacles.

    • Discrimination in pay is also a huge problem not only in WordPress development but also custom software development and consulting as a whole. Women are more likely to be paid less or be expected to produce cheaper proposals solely due to their gender. This not only pushes out talented women but keeps more junior women from adequately advancing in their careers, and specifically, incomes.

      Thank you again!

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Donata Stroink-Skillrud
Donata Stroink-Skillrud
President of Agency Attorneys