Survey on Women participation in OpenStreetMap : Perspectives of all Genders

Hello all, My name is Benedicta, an intern with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT).
I am conducting a survey to gather insights and perspectives on the participation of individuals who identify as women in the OpenStreetMap community. The survey is purely anonymous and information like your name and email will not be collected.

The survey include questions about the respondents’ gender, their experience with OSM, and their perceptions of women’s involvement in the community.

Additionally, the survey seeks feedback on the barriers that women may face when contributing to OSM and strategies that could be implemented to improve gender diversity and inclusion within the community.

Thank you for participating


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I agree. That’s why the huge gender-related difference in participation is interesting.


At least not, when it comes to the question if the (most of the time unknown) gender hinders someone to find a welcoming community in OSM.

As the survey is coming from the HOT community, one thing I could imagine though is that people of certain genders are facing barriers in their particular countries’ society.

It is normal. There is general difference what genders are interested in. If there is significant difference in participation of genders, that is not because some gender is oppressed, but simply, because that gender generally is less interested to get involved.

Why would anyone see that as a problem and try to change it?

All we can do is promote OSM in pubic as best as we can and welcome anyone who decides to join, regardless of gender, skin color, nationality, or some other questionable differentiation criteria some people invent to imagine problems that allegedly require activism which is justification to apply for some funding.


It doesn’t hurt to look into the causes of notable differences in participation. If there are specific problems, maybe the way we promote OSM in public and the way we welcome people could be adapted to open doors.


Agreed, but that has nothing to do with OSM. There are no barriers for anyone to participate in the OSM project, as @Pedja has pointed out already

and I have never noticed any person being discriminated in any OSM communication channel for any of these criteria. So if there are only few female persons participating in OSM the reason is probably the same why only few female persons choose the profession of a surveyor or similar jobs.

If this is a problem which should be adressed one would have to work on the gender stereotypes in the society, education, social media and the like. When more girls become interested in mathematical and/or technical jobs automatically more will become interested in participating in OSM.

I do not see any chance the other way round, trying to make OSM more attractive for female persons to engage themselves as long as this basic interest has not been stimulated and developed before.


It doesn’t hurt to look into the causes of notable differences in participation in OSM. If there are specific problems, maybe the way we promote OSM in public and the way we welcome people could be adapted to open doors to OSM.

And it might improve OSM, making it less about nerdy tech and math and more about what it brings to people, so that more people want to bring something to OSM.


Do we even know the demographics of OSM?

I agreed to that already, so no need to repeat it again. And I am still of the opinion that the causes for such difference are not to be found in OSM but in the conditioning of girls by gender stereotypes, society, social media and the like.

The doors to OSM are wide open to everyone interested already.

I do not have any objection in trying to recruit more people generally and including women of course to contribute to OSM, but I do not see anything like

caused by the OSM community. And I am wondering about

This sounds strange to me. What has gender diversity to do with contributing data to a geodata base? And is our community not inclusive already? Do we exclude anyone because of his or her personal background? I haven’t noticed that so far and I feel a bit uncomfortable with the unexpressed reproach hidden behind these pleasent words.

Noting a marked difference and trying to find out what causes it, is not a reproach. As yoy said, there is no hard exclusion on the part of the OSM. Still, looking into it might just point to opportunities to do even better.
For example, anyone on the planet can contribute, but there is a marked geographical concentration of contributions. This might be due to the very western nature of the project, the documentation, the tagging system, the tools, the networks. As a result, some parts of the map are very well developed, while others are less developed. I think this is something that is worth improving. No-one is to blame for it, but I do think it warrants an effort to be more inclusive for contributors outside the western core.
Looking into the specific causes of such a difference is beneficial, because it may well point to solutions.


Come on, I have not taked about "noting a marked difference and trying to find out … " in that context
and you are aware of that for sure.

The “unexpressed reproach” I mentioned reflected the statement

because it implies that there may be some barriers specially for women and there is lack of inclusion as well which I feel is not the case at all. Anyhow this is just my personal view and I don’t have a problem with anyone spending time with such an issue.

“Barriers to female participation” is just academic jargon for “reasons women don’t contribute as much”, which you both agree is worth studying :slight_smile:

If women in low income countries are less likely than men to own a phone or computer, or if mapping is perceived as a nerdy hobby or something that requires a lot of technical know how and women are put off by that more often than men, then these are barriers. It’s not all about about discrimination and harassment


I don’t think anyone identifying themselves as men should discuss “barriers that women face”, because they’ve never experienced them. The fact that you, as a man, cannot see any barriers or believe that we are already inclusive enough pretty much sums up the whole problem. There’s a great essay/book called “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”, addressing a similar problem.

I, for one, am happy that HOT is doing this survey. The only downside to it is that we will probably never hear the side of those that were turned away by the barriers, which really is a shame.


It’s anonymous for everyone, except for Google itself… You should considering using some other kind of survey. #SurveillanceCapitalism
For all the rest, BRAVO.


For anyone here wondering about the barriers women and underrepresented genders face, I advise you to take read a little bit. Here are my suggestions:

  1. The epistemology of resistance (Jose Medina)
  2. Epistemic Justice (Miranda Friker)
  3. Data and Feminism (Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein)

And if you want to see some data on demographics and community engagement from a gender perspective, take a look at the 2018 Geochicas’ gender survey results:


And just to finish this up, what you’re all doing is called mansplaining, and of course, these are also microaggressions. You telling us that we don’t face any barriers is really violent, when we face them every day, we face material and symbolic barriers e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. And not knowing that is called privilege.


This debate is becoming more and more ideologic and drifts away from the issue of OSM. FYI my wife is an active feminist since she was a young girl and she had my full support all the time. I do see lots and lots of barriers for women in the societies all over the world and I do see lots of other serious gender related problems that still are not dealt with.

What I cannot see are barriers built by the OSM society against female participation but this is just a personal point of view. I showed this topic to my wife who does not contribute to OSM directly as she is not interested in and she just laughed about it. Her words “If we (women) don’t have other problems than this one we must live in a nearly perfect world”. Would you blame her for mansplaining and microaggressions also or not understanding such issue because she is a woman?


I believe you both should be aware that there is no such thing as a homogenized “all women knowing all about the other women” if you want to read and educate more about intersectionality I recommend you to go to Kimberlé Crenshaw’s book called: On Intersectionality: Essential Writings. I mean this in the sense that maybe your wife doesn’t face many or any of the barriers other women do.

Also, not drifting from OSM. If you take a look at any critical geography theory, the social turn that geography and cartography have taken for the past 20 years is something that Harley (1990) really talks about in Cartography, Ethics, and Social Theory.

It will become clear that I believe that our discourse about maps, whether historical or modern, should be made more responsive to social issues such as those relating to the environment, poverty, or to the ways in which the rights and cultures of minorities are represented on maps.

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Benedicta, thanks for your leadership on this topic. I look forward to seeing the results. And, understanding how each of us can better share space and support the OSM journey - for everyone.

All the best,



People can generally complain about more than one thing at a time. So complaining about OSM inclusion or rather the lack of it, doesn’t mean that women face no other sexist issues in the world. In fact, it’s generally the combination of all the issues that manifests in something as specific as women not contributing to OSM. So, the question, as always is what can we do, as a specific community, to improve our small part of the world?

As an aside, to the people saying that the task doesn’t appeal to women for some weird gender reason that I can’t fathom at all, I’d remind them that programming used to be a job for women, until the 1980s, when social attitudes changed and it became a job for men.