Survey on Women participation in OpenStreetMap : Perspectives of all Genders

Chiming in as one of the moderators. Please remember that misogynistic speech on one of the talk lists a few years ago led directly to adoption of new Etiquette Guidelines and creation of a moderation team for the talk@ and osmf-talk@ lists as well as this channel of the forum. The impetus for this was an open letter A Call to Take Action and Confront Systemic Offensive Behaviour in the OSM Community - Google Docs to which the Board of Directors responded with adoption of Etiquette Guidelines drafted by the LCCWG, made available for public comment, and then appointment of moderators.

Second, the 2021 community survey showed that about 8% of the OSM community is female, a strong indication of a problem. This was confirmed in my extensive interviews conducted between January and April 2020, during which women who have left the OSM project described to me the overt hostility they had encountered.

I will be monitoring this thread for any signs of misogyny or hostility either to the survey or to any other person involved in this discussion. If you need guidance on what constitutes acceptable discourse, please refer to the Etiqutte Guidelines: Etiquette/Etiquette Guidelines - OpenStreetMap Wiki


I think the community does not consciously build barriers against female participation. Yet women encounter barriers. Not absolute barriers, because there are women participating, but the difference in participation is very big, and I would like to know why, without making presumptions or jumping to conclusions.

(That’s not a battle for women’s rights. Women’s rights are not won over OSM participation.)


This diary post, written by OSM contributor Maning nearly a decade ago, still effectively illustrates this point quite well of divergent interests: maning's Diary | Of gender and mapping perspectives | OpenStreetMap


I think this is an excellent statement. I agree with the notion that maybe the way OSM is promoted could have more nuance to set the groundwork for more participation by women.

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Thanks for your comments, I appreciate your replies.

We are very much aware of that and that does not only apply to “women knowing all about other women” but to “human beings knowing all about all aspects of life”. Nevertheless everybody is setting his/her priorities and those will vary from person to person.

Agreed, and I do not intend to introduce whataboutism to this issue by declaring we shall not improve OSM because there are other and bigger problems just around the corner. It is just that I believe the problem of OSM not being attractive to most women is not to be found in the OSM community, but this is a personal opinion only.

Fact is that most girls and women in my social setting are not interested in cartography at all and this knowledge is not from a book but from talking to people. I definitely do not believe this is due to some weird gender reason but I also do not believe the reason is an unwelcoming or exclusive environment within the OSM community.

Yep, it was too nerdy for most men in the days of Margaret Hamilton and many others.


Did you know that Wikipedia DE offers the page of the actress Margaret Hamilton as first choice when searching for this name, and the page of the scientist only as second …??.. HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE …

But this is another issue, you talk about a booming industry and best paid jobs here - no doubt that men startet grabbing these jobs and building barriers for women, whereas one can’t see any reason why men should want to grab all those OSM contribution jobs and exclude women from those.

You’ll probably find most men outside your social circle are equally disinterested in the idiosyncrasies of cartography as the women you spoke to, because it’s a niche subject. No one is asking for the Average Jane/Joe to be interested in it. It’s a niche subject done by people who are, to put it bluntly, usually geeks. But the thing is, there are just as many geeky women as there are geeky men. There is nothing inherent about gender in which geeky pursuits you follow.

And back to programming, I should have been a touch more specific, it’s not simply a “job for men”, in the 80s, it became a “job for geeky men”, it was still not a job that most men would ever have considered taking up.

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If that is so we will surely find out as soon as the results of this survey are available and we understand how we can improve the community to make it more attractive for geeky women. And yes, I am very curious about the outcome and if the strategies developed afterwards will lead to a significant increase of women contributing to OSM.

Could have been and we can split hairs about that but would it change the fact that well paid jobs are a different issue than voluntary work?

The survey will not show what I claimed, it’s not a census of all geeks.

It is a different issue, until one starts claiming that there is an innate reason that women don’t want to do the task of cartography. Rather than issues with barriers (economic and social) and outreach. But yes, it is a different issue, thus it was only an analogy to show that gender stereotypes are very malleable.

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Just noticed that I am censored here, and I am not only one. And no one censored said anything wrong or against the women. On the contrary, we expressed joy that women here are as equal as it can be.

But someone does not like it. they want to create illusion that problem exists.

More over I got private slap on the mouth accusing me that I express false information. I was even @corrected@ that there are actually data that shows that women on OSM are ill treated. Of course evidence of such claim is not presented, just claimed.

This is of course done, again, by people who do have power to rule as they wish, and not in the best interest of the community.

So far, due years of active involvement in OSM, I was targeted on ethnic level and now I am etiquette as women hater or something like that. And is is always done by people who do have power to enforce their personal opinions as global OSM rules, even if it against global OSM rules.

And we cannot even defend oursleves as what we said was removed so noone can see what was actually said.


Actually I don’t remember someone endorsing misogynistic speech, what actually happened was someone citing the president of the United States of America, in an attempt to express a high level of disgust relating to a company, not relating to women.


It would be great if you could link to free sources of these references. I could only find the first and third with a quick search (I’ll try harder eventually).

  1. José Medina, The Epistemology of Resistance

And I would like to add “Geographies of Digital Exclusion: Data and Inequality” by Mark Graham and Martin Dittus, which discusses in what ways different subgroups of the global population are excluded from the digital world(s).

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The speech in question is found in this post to the talk@ mailing list:

This post evoked the “call to action”, which includes the following text (I have added bolding to emphasize the salient point):

We write this statement as OSM community groups, contributors and members, in response to systemic aggressive behaviour that demotivates and excludes participation by women and other minoritized groups in OSM, as well as some men. This behaviour degrades the spirit of open community culture, and damages the OpenStreetMap reputation. The catalyst for statement was the offensive message sent to the OSM-talk list [], but the systemic behaviours described span many years and many people."

Power dynamics in OSM are controlled by a dominant contributor profile: white, Western and male. This power dynamic has led to a communication style which includes misogynistic, hostile, targeting, doxing, unfriendly, competitive, intimidating, patronising messaging, which is offensive to us and forces many of us to remain as observers and without the confidence to participate actively. As a result, many OSM spaces are characterised by white male superiority and toxic meritocracy. Often, we are nervous to engage and participate for fear of retributive comments/behaviour or ‘trial by mailing list’ from this dominant profile. We feel no ‘openness’ to new ways of communicating and participating and this shapes and limits diversity and inclusion in OSM across the spectrum; from tagging to governance.

Now, one might quibble whether quoting a political figure constitutes misogyny, but the fact remains that many women in the OSM community were outraged (see the signatures on the open letter), and the Board of Directors (which I chaired at the time) concurred that a problem of that nature definitely existed. Hence, the Board asked the LCCWG to come up with proposals to address the problem, which it did following a great deal of effort, countless online meetings, and much reflection. The LCCWG’s documents on this effort can be found here: Local Chapters and Communities Working Group/Moderation Subcommittee - OpenStreetMap Foundation

Other posts to this thread provide links to academic studies related to gender and mapping. There is sufficient academic research to underpin the need to address misogyny in discourse and exclusion of underrepresented groups. Willful ignorance of these studies, and of the other facts presented above, is no defense when the moderators enforce the Etiquette Guidelines.

When one combines this with the fact that a community survey resulting in over 2,000 responses with full demographic data revealed that only 8% of the community is female, in a world that is roughly half female, it is clear that OSM has a problem.

The volunteer moderators appointed by the OSMF Board of Directors will perform their duties as assigned and in accord with the Etiquette Guidelines as adopted by the Board of Directors.


You have the right to appeal moderators’ decisions to the Board of Directors of the OpenStreetMap Foundation.

As to your assertion regarding “people who do have power to rule as they wish, and not in the best interest of the community,” please be aware that the moderators were appointed by the Board of Directors, and the moderators’ decisions are governed by the Etiquette Guidelines adopted by said Board following community discussion from August 13 to September 8, 2021. The moderators are not free to “rule as they wish” but rather are bound by said Etiquette Guidelines as mandated by the duly elected Board of Directors. The Etiquette Guidelines were adopted very much in the best interests of the community.


At the risk of veering off topic: The moderators for the talk and osmf-talk mailing lists were appointed by the Board of Directors. The moderators for the international categories on this forum, on the other hand, were appointed by the forums-governance team, a decision which will be validated using the process outlined in the Moderator selection criteria by the end of this year.

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I refer to the five moderators of the “general” channel, who were appointed by the Board to moderate the talk@ and osmf-talk@ lists, and whose mandate was extended to three channels of the forum (general, tagging, foundation) at the request of the forum governance team. Details are here: Moderation team for talk and osmf-talk mailing lists - OpenStreetMap Foundation

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I think that a woman (or anyone quite frankly) reading this thread could easily end up feeling like the OSM community is not a welcoming place. The initial idea of trying to understand why there is an under-represented group in our community was helpful and welcoming. The fact that this didn’t get universal support and has led to a lengthy debate is quite frankly embarrassing. I feel sad to be associated with a community that doesn’t even feel like they can support an effort to better understand each other.


I still would like to know. If my actions/behaviour/words are making people feel unwelcome, I can (try to) change. But I suspect there are more reasons. I know my wife didn’t think much of my OSM-work, until she found out that her favorite hiking planner showed things she had complained about the day before, and I showed her how I did that.
Then her penny dropped, that all the things I had told about my hobby were not geek tech stuff, but actually helping her do something fun.
And then my penny dropped: I just had to show it to her in the right way (for her), not by explaining alle the tools, but by showing the usefulness.

And now she’s helping me, not by actually mapping but by turning observations and complaints into mappable requests. She may well start editing OSM, e.g. adding benches and picnic tables with the MapComplete theme “Benches and Picnic Tables”. Very important POIs, for hikers like us.


I fully agree to that and if you may have read my posts you must have noted that I did not oppose to the survey itself or to any effort to better understand each other.

I have just been irritated about the insinuation that there may be community related barriers for women and lack of inclusion within the community. I am an active member of the community and within those channels I am taking part I have not noticed any kind of misogynic speech or aggressive behaviour against women within the past 12 month - I do not say there was none, but I did not see any and there are the moderation teams taking their task quite serious.

I’d prefer to wait for the outcome of the survey before announcing the following steps but maybe I just misunderstood the wording in the OP - not much more to add. As I said, I am very curious about the results and if the strategies developed afterwards will lead to a significant increase of women contributing to OSM which would be progess indeed.


In which case you completely failed to read my post. I told you that the community contributed posts in this thread have made me feel sad and embaressed to be part of this project. My contributions to OSM will therefore take a knock until I muster up the energy again. I am however not a woman so maybe my response is not reflective and there is an entirely different reason. But I’d happily bet that’s it’s threads like this that do put my women off OSM.

And with that, I am unsubscribing from notifications from this thread before it drags my mood down further.


For sure not. Maybe I failed to understand what you wanted to express, but I would not give a reply to some post I did not read and with my reply (which I understand to be a matter of politeness when addressed by a community member) I tried to explain that I do support the idea. There ist no topic where one could expect “universal support” - but not everyone putting things into question is “against” it.

I am sorry about that.