18 Dec 2013 aicra   » (Journeyer)

Sexism: Wikimedia Foundation – We will keep you in mind for “LESS CODE RELATED TASKS”

As a woman in the FOSS communities for over 15 years, I know the issues and have experienced sexism within and from without the community.

Some are ridiculous to me. Some are serious offenses. This time, I was offended.

In fact, one of my best friendships was forged in IRC in 2000 with someone who had no idea I was not male and made the statement that “women belong in the kitchen”. Of course, I demanded an apology, thus exposing myself as female.

You see, that is the great thing about IRC. That 1337 programmer giving assistance with C++ or Java, that could actually be a female and you had no idea!

I saw there was an opening for a Technical Writer at Wikimedia Foundation. You know… the Wikipedia people.
I had all the qualifications. So, I applied. Sounded righteous. It was remote with a few days in San Fran. I met all the requirements. On the first interview, I was asked if I used IRC. IRC! Of course. I was using IRC when lilo was running freenode. Tragic.

So, imagine my surprise when I received a reject notice from Wikimedia Foundation.

I was surprised. I had the experience and skills.

What happened here?!

Keep in mind, I have worked as a programmer, have a degree in computer science and a Masters in IT from ASU. I have written more programs than I can ever count in C, Java, C++. I have written a few database driven apps for work, using PHP and SQL. I have several Droid Apps I created on Google and I also have written Linux installers and ported software to GNU/Linux distros. In fact, I am working on a mobile Moodle app right now and have a distro PicLE (Pic learning environment) I am working on. I have embedded (mostly microcontrollers from Microchip) and know 8086 assembly. I could go on and on, but I won’t. All of this is on my resume and was emphasized in the interview.

Yet, I received a rejection letter. A nice one… So I found Quim Gil, the Lead who was available in IRC, and asked him what happened.

Around 2:13pm MST 12/17/2013

I hoped, maybe they didn’t go with the project. So, I decided to find the lead, Quim Gil (qgil) on IRC and ask him.

aicra: Hi Qim. I was wondering. Did your team decide not to go with a technical writer at all for the 3+ month contract or was there some reason I was not selected

qgil: we haven’t selected a candidate yet, and I can’t comment anything to anybody at this point

qgil: or.] wait

qgil: did you receive a notifcation?

aicra: yea

aicra: I was surprised

qgil: what is your real name?

aicra: and disappointed but from your response, I see that there are possible candidates so it was probably me

aicra: Marcia Wilbur

aicra: worked at the FSF

aicra: Community minded

aicra: Free speech advocate

aicra: :)

qgil: I remember, not all the details but I remember

aicra: I was hoping it was that your team decided not to select a tech writer. But I see. It was something I lacked, something about my qualifications that did not fit

aicra: Appreciate your time

qgil: you can send me an email asking for details, I would need the time that I don’t have now to reply properly

qgil: I think your qualifications are good, but this 3 month contract has a very precise goal where developer experience is appreciated beyond technical knowledge

aicra: No, Funny thing was I was trying to reach out to you on irc earlier but never saw you on until today. Maybe we have different IRC hours

aicra: Appreciate it.

aicra: Good luck. If it doesn’t work out, please keep me in mind

qgil: I actually marked your application as someone to keep in mind for more community and less code related tasks. True it is! :)

qgil: tech community, I mean

aicra: Great! Thanks!

aicra: :)

qgil: thank you for your interest in contributing to Wikimedia

aicra: hold on a second

aicra: Sorry but did you write less code related?

aicra: I see

aicra: Can I ask what language?

I did not receive a response. I waited several minutes. Had to run anyway.

So, I did email him as a follow up before running out the door. Here is my response.

Hi Quim,

I just wanted to follow up on the comment made about “less code related tasks”.

In fact, that is more disappointing than if the reason had been something else.

I have a 2 yr. degree in computer science with data structures, assembly and database which means I am very knowledgeable and experienced with:



I also worked on the Gentoo fork. I have created database driven applications and Linux installers as well as Android applications.

I have not worked as a programmer, except at Aries and my resume does not reflect a lot of programming but unless it is Python (which I haven’t touched since 2005)...

However, I would think that with a degree in Computer Science one might know that I have coding skills.

Very disappointing.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email that my reject letter was a mistake. Actually, I received an email that the reject letter was an “ACCIDENT”.

Hi Marcia,

I am so sorry – I rejected you by accident! We actually want you to have a conversation with Quim this week if you are available?
Akshata will get you scheduled once you send us your availability.

Sorry again for the error.

Was it really? Or was it to cover themselves so people wouldn’t learn about what transpired?

Seriously, though. I started to wonder about how many female developers are at the Wikimedia Foundation? What was the attitude toward female developers in our community?

I kept thinking about those words:

…developer experience is appreciated beyond technical knowledge.



So, before committing to an interview, I asked about diversity. The response was as professional as any corporation or organization.

They do seem to have somewhat of a diverse workforce.

All the while, all I could think of was…


I believe that Quim’s first response when he saw my name was female was to let me know I didn’t have the coding ability they wanted. Really?

Great assumption! Am I to give him the benefit of the doubt?

…developer experience is appreciated beyond technical knowledge.

I don’t think my developer experience is appreciated or could be appreciated!!!

No. I’ve been a female developer within this community for well over a decade. There were no females at Slashdot, Tina was the lone female at NewsForge and the only reason I got as far as I did was because in the beginning, these guys had no idea I was female in IRC, I was a computer science major at Arizona State and I love to code.

So, thanks Wikimedia, but no THANKS!

Side note: I believe Wikipedia has lost it’s connection to our community and the support. The point is, “Why are they paying someone to do this gig if they had community support!” Forking has already been suggested and as I write this, Wikipedia is being decentralized and will soon be available P2P as a community effort, not managed by Wikimedia Foundation.

As for me, I’ll keep focusing on Free Speech, censorship and maybe scandalous behavior (cough – Wikimedia)!

P.S. Not to be crude, but really, just because I have the ability to Quim, doesn’t mean I can’t code… Quim!

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