Brainstorming on Increasing the Ranks of Women in Drupal

kristabradford's picture

In an initial post to the group. I suggested that it might be interesting to discuss ways we might increase the number, the percentage, and the influence of women in Drupal. I head an executive search and recruiting research firm and have worked on diversity initiatives to increase the number of women technologists at some of the most powerful and successful companies in software. Despite the best of intentions, increasing the number of women in technology has proven challenging for a whole host of reasons.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has touched upon the issue of women who lean back when they should lean in and engage. She has pointed to research that indicates women are, in effect, punished for their success. The more successful we are, the less popular we become . . .we lose support when the opposite holds true for men. Then there's the whole bro-grammer culture and recent study of the Silicon Valley 150 documenting how Silicon Valley tech companies are less diverse than Fortune 500 companies, which are not all that diverse to begin with. Women make up 50% of the population. Yet we remain in the low single digits at the senior executive and board levels. And apparently the percentage is just as low in the Drupal universe.

There are 831 members of Women in Drupal. I'd like to think with that amount of brainpower here, we can cook up a few ways to increase the percentage and influence of Drupal women. As a possible approach, we might want to do the following:

A. Create a list of all the things that discourage, impede, create barriers, or dissuade women from getting or staying involved in Drupal

B. Problem solve on ways to eliminate or reduce those barriers.

C. Create a list of things that might attract more women to Drupal and help those who are involved to gain influence in the Drupal world and in the universe-at-large. Let's think out of the box . . .

D. See what idea can be implemented.

I look forward to your thoughts. As a newbie, I defer to the collective wisdom of those of Drupal women who have lived it and have insights and observations to inform the discussion.


Drupal barriers not unique

jhodgdon's picture

I've been part of the low percentage stats for a long long time -- I was a physics major in college, then a physics grad student, then worked in the derivatives industry on Wall Street, then worked as a software developer, then as a freelance software developer -- Drupal is only the latest step for me in a rather winding career path, but at no time have there ever been more than a small percentage of women that I worked with in my field/job.

Obviously, I managed to survive all of that, so I may not be the best person to address the question of what the barriers are. But I've certainly participated in enough "Women in Physics", "Women in Software", "Women in Drupal" discussions over the years about how to attract and retain more women; I wouldn't say any of them really reached valuable conclusions or made big changes...

Some themes I've heard over and over:
- More women as role models and mentors
- Get girls started early (middle school, high school) with mentors and role models and learning about how much fun our nerdy techy careers are [this is more about getting women into tech in general than applicable to Drupal in particular]
- Having a critical mass of women

Regarding that last one (critical mass)... I chose where to go to grad school at least partly because of the critical mass issue: Princeton had 1 other woman grad student in physics, and Cornell had a lot (well, like 10%) ==> I went to Cornell because at least I wouldn't be a completely "different" person there. I also kept my last regular job at a software company a long time because that particular company had quite a few other women developers, and again, not being the odd one out is a good thing.

Also, when there's a critical mass of women present, especially prominent women, and they stand up and say "This is happening, and it's not OK", the whole community atmosphere can change, and even if those things don't completely stop, it becomes unacceptable to everyone, and the men also get behind the issue, and at least think about what's happening and how to make it better. I've seen some of that happen in the Drupal community -- at least it seems like it to me -- over the past 7+ years I've been involved.

Who are the Top 100 Women in Drupal?

kristabradford's picture


Your points are spot on and your contributions serve as inspiration, particularly since you have been "part of the low percentage stats for a long long time" . . . . That you wrote the Programmer's Guide to Drupal is awesome. That said, I had to click on your user name, and do a little digging to discover that you wrote the book I'd already downloaded into my iPad. I mention that as but an example of a larger issue: Why are we hiding drupal women talent under a bushel?

I did a quick check and there really isn't a list of the leading women in the Drupal community that I could find . . .

So here's an idea: how about figuring out a way to come up with a list of the Top 100 Women in Drupal -- the most accomplished women in Drupal? I don't know about you . . . but I would find it inspiring to read such a list and to learn who those women are.

I make this suggestion knowing that "best of" lists force a kind of artifice. (So please don't hate me . . .) I'm fully aware that the selection process inevitably excludes some as it includes others. I know Drupal is about community and inclusion. Yet lists are a great way to raise consciousness and to increase mindshare as Buzzfeed has proven. Our brains find numbered lists easy to digest. With the right frame about what the list represents, it could be a great way to celebrate and publicize the achievements of top women in drupal. If the list were updated annually, it would also be a great way to keep Drupal women in the spotlight. Moreover, the list would be relatively low maintenance. The end product would be a web page featuring the top women and their profiles.

So how do we come up with a Top 100 list? We could simply ask the Drupal community at large to pay it forward and nominate those women they most admire in Drupal. In so doing, we'd explain that this is not about logrolling or favor-trading but rather an effort to honor those women who are the most deserving -- those who have achieved a level of mastery -- or however we collectively decide to define the rules. (Later on, in addition to BOTB, you could have another list devoted to rising stars . . .)

If the top 100 women in drupal catches on, it might even grow into an awards event and raise money to support women in drupal tech. But to start, all you'd need is a way for people to vote (a survey) and a way to get the final list up on a website . . .with bios/profiles.

(I for one would nominate you for inclusion in the BOTB list, given your contributions and your amazing book on programming.)

Who else would be interested in seeing a list of the Top 100 women in Drupal?


-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)

And... do we actually have a problem as a community?

jhodgdon's picture

The other question is: Do we actually have a problem at all that we can address in the Drupal community to make things better?

By this I mean: Let's say (as an example) that we're counting the % of the patches to Drupal core that are made by women, and (I have no idea what the actual number is) let's say it's 15%. This would seem to indicate a problem, because the % of women in humanity is 50%. But I think this is not the right number to compare with: to contribute most patches to Drupal core, you have to already be a PHP programmer, so probably rather than comparing 15% to 50% and thinking it's horrible, we should be comparing 15% to the % of all PHP programmers who are women, or if we couldn't get that stat, the % of all programmers in general who are women. Or, we could compare to our peers: the % of patches at other open source projects that are contributed by women.

So... I guess what I'm saying is, before trying to solve the "not enough women in Drupal" problem, let's first check the stats and identify whether the problem is in the Drupal community (as compared to the pool of people the Drupal community draws from, or as compared with our peer organizations), or is a problem in society as a whole.

And also let's check the stats for different aspects of the Drupal community, such as % of accounts on held by women, % of project maintainers (themes, modules), % of patch authors, % of documentation edits, % of forum posts/comments, etc. Another thing to look at would be the retention rate, which I think we could measure as the % of people who create an account on but don't log in again after a certain amount of time, or who haven't logged in recently -- we could, for instance, look at how that is different (if it is) between men and women who make accounts.

Anyway... I'm not saying that I think we do or that we don't have a problem, just that I'd like to see the numbers, in context, before deciding.

Women in Drupal: Not a Problem, but an Opportunity

kristabradford's picture

I am also interested in the numbers. I'm hoping they prove out that Drupal's numbers are better than the average and that can be women in drupal can tout as part of "our story".

Newbie that I am, I went to my first Drupal bootcamp at Yale a week ago. I was pleasantly surprised and then number of women who attended. It did seem to be north of 10%. I have been to other tech gathering where being female is definitely alien . . .more in the 2% zone. So I suspect the community aspect of drupal is more welcoming to women. If true, that's huge. That is something to continue to cultivate.

And yet . . .

So much gets baked in to our collective consciousness that holds women back. At that same conference, I don't believe a single male attendee introduced himself to foster colleagueship. I went to them . . .

There were cliques of male developers huddled together who only networked with other guys. If I had to venture a guess -- they did so because they assumed -- and you know what assumed does -- that the women in the room lacked the power to support their success. The irony is that in addition to pursuing developing a web application, I make it a practice to help entrepreneurs and have on a few occasions introduced startup CEOs to venture capitalists who turned around and provided millions in venture capital funding. So methinks the community (and the world at large) could use a little reminding that women in drupal have mojo . . .

In other words, we can keep it light. This is not a problem, but an opportunity to have a little fun and to celebrate the success of women in drupal.

Question: have any of you been told you code "like a girl"?

If so, there's a hugely viral video about that that's worth checking out. A number of advertisers targeting women are doing you-go-girl kinds of campaigns because they do resonate. In July, the video hit number one in AdAge's Viral Video chart. 47-million views so far.

Always #LikeAGirl

-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)

Is gender a field on

kristabradford's picture

As a research nerd, I like what you are suggesting regarding determining what the stats actually are. The whole reason I mentioned the Silicon Valley study is that it actually documented the extent to which women were being left behind at SV companies . . . without that data, discussions devolved into whether it was really all that bad.

Regarding what we should compare women in drupal numbers to. In the ideal world to which I aspire -- I'd say go for the 50% percentage. I'd use that as the "frame" . . . Everyone understands we make up half the population. Consequently, logic holds that ultimately that we should make up half the population in tech and in Drupal. While it isn't immediately realistic -- not in my lifetime -- that should be the gold standard.

In diversity circles, you'd compare women in drupal numbers to similar populations. So what other talent pools in tech would be similar? DIversity numbers and percentages are closely held. That said, you can sometimes piece it together from percentages and numbers that are reported in some places. You put the two together and you've got data you can use.

As an aside, I came across that appears to be involved in boosting diversity numbers in tech. I'm touching bases with its co-founder Laura Mather who also co-founded Silver Tail Systems, part of RSA.

Regarding the stats you mention -- Is gender recorded on user accounts so that we could calculate stats in the Drupal community. If not, can we add the field and then message everyone to self-identify? Failing that, one can do best-guess based on names. However, that is a one-profile-a-a-time brute force exercise . . .so what might be the easiest way to get this done? Thoughts?

Last, in addition to measuring the problem, is there something we can do collectively as a group of smart drupal women to demonstrate our collective awesomeness to attract interest and gain critical mass? Perhaps measuring the numbers is a good way to begin (!)

I look forward to your thoughts . . .


PS Jennifer great to e-meet you. I just downloaded your book a week ago (!) When I checked your profile here and discovered you are the author, it made me smile. Kudos.

-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)

Gender is a public profile

Greg Boggs's picture

Gender is a public profile field on The options for the field are none, male, female, transgender, and other.

There is some powerful research on various communities summarized here:

Hello Greg, Thank you for the

kristabradford's picture

Hello Greg,

Thank you for the pointer on the public profile field. So where, exactly, is said info "public". Interestingly, I had to dive out of the community into to look at the settings in my own public profile.

Also, how does one get at gender or other public profile data to tabulate current numbers? When I look at the Member Directory, it only allows search by name . . .

My apologies in advance if I'm missing something screamingly obvious . . .


-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)

If you click your name on a

Greg Boggs's picture

If you click your name on a comment, there is a link to your profile.

There is a new API for, but it doesn't have user profile fields yet. I will direct someone from the Drupal association here to see if they can provide the information.

Thanks for posting this.

lizzjoy's picture

Great questions, @jhodgdon.

I also think that the new API could prove useful when the public profile fields are included. This is a work in progress, but here is the link with more to come.

I'm checking on this now to see what research has already been done and have asked @danigrrl to say some things based on her research.

kristabradford's picture


Thank you for offering to send someone our way for access to gender info. That's incredibly helpful.

I would think difficulty accessing public profile information may make it hard to organize and actively engage women in drupal -- if they haven't joined this group. So one suggestion might be enable searching on other fields besides Name in the Member Directory, as long as people have permissioned it as public info.

I'd love to be able to filter on other fields to find people who live nearby. While there is a Drupal CT group, I I can't search for Drupal members in the 'hood.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to suggest that a Diversity field be added to Public Profile with EEOC values for users in the U.S. I honestly don't know what it would take to do that or even if it is practical. However, doing so would shed additional light on just how diverse Drupal is. (I would like to think it is more diverse than, say, the average tech company.) While women remain the primary diversity category globally, within the US capturing ethnic/racial information is relevant.

So to sketch this out a bit . . .If such a field were added, all users in the US could be invited to self-identify as part of an initiative to facilitate diversity and inclusion. They could be told the information would be use for statistic purposes and that they would have the added option to share that field with the public.

Fair warning -- while revealing one's race/ethnicity facilitates inclusion, it also makes it possible for unenlightened people to discriminate. That's the stuff of which lawsuits are made. So this is sensitive territory. However, when is unrelated to actual job openings and when it is meant to facilitate diversity -- and inclusion, there is little risk. Of course, the organization would likely want to run all this by an attorney. (I am simply paraphrasing info I got from someone far smarter than me who headed diversity for a global Fortune 500 company and also was an atty.)

I don't make the suggestion to come off as Miss Bossypants -- though I do have a bit of that going on, no doubt. Rather as long as we're discussing ways to boost the ranks of women starting first with seeing where the numbers/percentages stand -- and as long as gender information is captured in the Public Profile and accessibly through the new API, it seems only fair to suggest Ethnic/Diversity data be captured there too.


-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)

To give you some background

Greg Boggs's picture

To give you some background on what the effort level required to change profile fields on, here is the thread where the gender field was improved.

The person who started the thread, webchick, is a (the?) Drupal 8 Core development lead. The thread had 144 comments and took a lot of time from her and other leaders in the community to make happen.

The Drupal Association is hard at work on improving to make it more accessible and useful to the community. I'm sure they appreciate the suggestions, and I have no doubt that they will be taken seriously.

jhodgdon's comment about

Mixologic's picture

jhodgdon's comment about 'critical mass' resonates with me.

My personal opinion, not backed up my data, is that the Drupal community is in general more inclusive and has better diversity than most large open source projects. We have our issues too, but I think that we've done a lot to show that we're at least working on making an open, inclusive environment.

Perhaps we could compile a list of successes we've had that shows people who might be interested in participating all the ways we strive to make our community more welcoming? Advertise that we have a critical mass ? (unless Im wrong, and we're actually not that diverse)

Things like this:, or this:, or pointing out that one of the three keynote speakers at drupalcon austin, was a speaker promoting diversity.

As far as the statistics go, the data we have in the gender field may or may not be that valuable, or representative of active community members. A cursory glance at the database shows that less than 10% of the users ever fill out that field, and a significant portion of those users choose "none" as their gender option.

For quick data munging

webchick's picture

For quick data munging purposes, I usually just compare the pager count at and What that tells you is, of the users who elected to fill out the gender field, there are approximately 11,800 women (20 users per page x 590 pages) and 73,460 men (20 users x 3673 pages). That's 85,260 in total (Mixologic is correct that that's less than 10% of the 1,099,603 users on more like 7%), of which women make up ~13% (11800/85260*100). The number peaked at 17% sometime in 2010-2012 and has been declining since. Not exactly sure the reason for that, but most of this group moving to Facebook I'm sure has not helped. :(

On your actual topic...

webchick's picture

Hi, Krista! Love your enthusiasm. :)

A. Create a list of all the things that discourage, impede, create barriers, or dissuade women from getting or staying involved in Drupal

There have been some good discussions in the past in this group that have touched on this topic. Some relevant ones are:

There might be others, but those are the ones that popped up for me when I was browsing the archives.

Also, in case it's of interest, from the "other side" of the coin, I asked male allies what was the reason they became advocates for women in tech, and this is what they said:

B. Problem solve on ways to eliminate or reduce those barriers.

The overriding theme I get from these discussions are basically to make gender a non-issue. As long as women are valued for what they're bringing to the table in terms of discussion points, code, etc. and not for their looks, how good of a girlfriend they might make, etc. we tend to not have any problems, really.

This can be accomplished in lots of ways, including:

  • "If you see something, say something." Speak up if/when you see someone say something sexist or offensive to women, especially if you are a dude! Obviously, in a community the size, scale, and diversity of Drupal's, we will never all get along in a blissful nirvana of sunshine and unicorns, but the 10 seconds that occur after someone gripes that a woman contributor "must be on the rag" in IRC (for example) are critical: they will set the "community tone" for the woman to whom the comment was directed, as well as for everyone else who witnessed the event.

  • If you're comfortable doing so, be "out and proud" as a woman in tech. This helps with Jennifer's "critical mass" point, which I also have heard echoed by other women.

  • Make the women who are doing valuable work visible, via leadership positions (Jennifer and I as core committer, Holly Ross as DA Executive Director, etc.), via DrupalCon speaker slots, via channels like Community Spotlight. Particularly important are the channels that help raise profiles of "up and coming" women in tech, to dissuade the idea that you must be a "rockstar" to be awesome in Drupal.

C. Create a list of things that might attract more women to Drupal and help those who are involved to gain influence in the Drupal world and in the universe-at-large. Let's think out of the box . . .

I'm sure we could be doing a lot more, but first here are some things we have done over the years to foster more inclusivity:

  • Started this group, which basically serves two functions:
    a) Acts as a kind of a "safe space" to talk about these sort of issues, but discussions are done in the public view so that it can act as an educational resource.
    b) Acts as a way for women new to Drupal to have a "welcome mat" to the larger community among people they may feel more comfortable with (always with the goal though to help them become a part of said larger community, not apart from it. :)).

  • Removed all gendered pronouns from the UI text/help text of Drupal core.

  • Changed the "Gender" drop-down on to include both a "Transgender" and "Other" option.
  • Implemented a Code of Conduct both for the overall Drupal community and for DrupalCon conferences specifically
  • Put emphasis on increasing gender diversity at DrupalCons. Here are historical stats:
  • Put together a comprehensive mentoring program for contributing to Drupal core (this is gender-neutral, but since women seem to disproportionately suffer from imposter syndrome it's important for that audience).
  • Established a Community Working Group so if stuff does hit the fan, and you can't work it out, there's a place to report it.

Some of these are inline with what other communities have also done to increase diversity, others are places we sort of blazed a trail. Unfortunately it's very difficult to correlate any one of these things to an actual increase/decrease in the number of women in the Drupal community, though.

Anyway, sorry for the brain-dump. But hopefully there are some things in there of interest, and for newer members of the group who may not have taken part in those discussions it's nice to read some of them to see where we've been and how far we've come.

Stats! I has them!

danigrrl's picture

So, I realize I'm a bit late to this conversation, because you know, grad school and toddler and things.

As Lizz mentioned, I've actually been able to run some stats on who we are as a community, based on what information is in the profile field. I'm also working on improving the User Profile in general to better highlight the diversity of contributions that people actually make in the Drupal community, women inclusive.

To back up @webchick's point, my own experience as a woman in this community has been positive, and that the Drupal community in general has been more welcoming to women and people of color than many other communities (although, as with most communities, we can always do better).

To give you the numbers, as of March 2014 (when I actually was able to run the numbers, we had 3,863 of 10,140 (~38%) active users elect to fill in something in the gender field. Of these, 324 (~8.5%) identified as female, while 3529 (~91.5%) identified as male. Contrary to the assertion that a significant number choose transgender or other, only 10 had that designation. The majority just don't put anything.

Now, to put this in the broader context, these are only people with active profiles on, and do not reflect contributors. We do have some of those stats, but none would be very useful, as there are many contributions to Drupal, e.g. running events, mentoring others, etc. that aren't tracked very well (we're working on that). If we factor in contributors, we may find very different results.

To estimate some contributor numbers, we may be able to look to the 2013 FLOSS Survey, which surveyed over 2050 contributors from a variety of OSS projects. In that survey, females made up 11% of the total responses.

In a survey of Drupal contributors I'm currently conducting as part of my thesis research (which can be taken here), 159 of 274 responses included a gender identification; of those, 49 (~31%) identified as female. This is likely not completely reflective of the overall community, based on the fact that I distributed the survey partially through the Women in Drupal Facebook group, but it does back up my own observations that a significant percentage of people involved in various aspects of Drupal contrib, including working at sprints, running events, and other forms of contributing to the project, are female.

Hope the numbers help!

A Look at Google "Women Techmakers"

kristabradford's picture

Hello All,

I came across this site by Google on its developers website. I thought it might be good to inform thinking around language to use and the "linguistic frame".

The visibility thing is one that I think is important: one must be visible to be a role model, to be "discoverable" so that opportunities can come to you, and to raise the profile of women collectively . . .

It offers 3 things:

Showcasing the work of women leaders in the tech industry by providing a platform to celebrate their talents and produce more female role models.

Curating and creating a supportive community in which women can connect around the world, become inspired by one another, and encourage each other to continuously strive to realize their passions.

Providing women with opportunities to develop technical skillsets, aid in career development and personal growth.

It then ties into their discussion group on Google+

Hope you find it interesting . . .

  • KB

-- kristabradford

Krista Bradford
CEO, The Good Search | Intellerati
(Developing web app on Drupal)