Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Stierch

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Netha Hussain, AdaCamp DC alumna.

Photograph of Sarah Stierch

by Matthew Roth, CC BY-SA

Sarah Stierch (User: SarahStierch on Wikimedia) is an active contributor to Wikimedia, she has been contributing projects since 2006. She is an administrator on Wikipedia and the Program Evaluation & Design community coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. On Wikipedia, she is interested in writing articles about people and places. She was instrumental in launching the Teahouse, a friendly place to help newcomers get accustomed to Wikipedia’s culture and WikiWomen’s Collaborative, a global initiative in increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects. Both these projects she developed as a part of her fellowship program with the Wikimedia Foundation. She has also participated in OpenGLAM initiatives by working with prominent libraries, archives and museums in the US.

On Wikipedia, she performs administrative tasks like cleaning up speedy deletions and emptying the backlogs. Being an OTRS volunteer, she handles issues with images and media by adding appropriate licenses to images tagged for deletion. She does not get involved in controversial admin actions, like closing of consensus driven article discussions. She thinks that it would be a good idea to have more admins in charge of discussions related to women.

Sarah enjoys the work she does as an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. Her experience as an employee is different from that of being a community member. Her experience as a community member always comes to help when she is asked her opinions about implementing new projects and programs. Some people treat her with more respect and interest because of her newly assumed roles. In her opinion, to have a chance to get paid for doing the work you love, with the colleagues you respect, to help Wikimedians around the world is a fulfilling experience. As a full time employee, she now also gets health benefits, which she thinks is nice!

She likes the work culture of Wikimedia Foundation. She finds satisfaction in being able to support one of the most popular websites in the world. Being located in San Francisco, the Wikimedia Foundation’s office is next to numerous tech-companies like Google, Yelp and Salesforce. She thinks that the unifying mission of employees of all organizations in SF to make the web a better place is a meaningful goal.

In the past, she worked as a fellow at the Wikimedia Foundation as a part of which two projects: the Teahouse and WikiWomen’s Collaborative were launched. She is still unclear on the impacts made by these initiatives, but evaluation shows that the Teahouse has helped retain new editors as a whole, a significant number of them being women. It is exciting for her to see her efforts making an impact not only in English but also in other language Wikipedias. WikiWomen’s Collaborative on the other hand has played a significant role in retaining the existing women editors, but have not brought many new women editors into the movement. She recalls that building the support system to help women was one of WikiWomen’s Collaborative’s achievements.

In her capacity as a volunteer, she has arranged numerous meetups and workshops to spread the word about Wikipedia. She recalls that the attitude of the Wikimedia community has generally been supportive, as most Wikimedians want to see more people get involved in the movement. She has been careful in avoiding discouraging comments from a few people who do not support her vision. She finds it tough to see the Wikimedia Foundation stepping back from the supportive role in increasing gender diversity, but she is happy that Wikimedia communities in different parts of the world have stepped up to fulfil this goal by organizing a variety of events and activities to increase the participation of women in Wikimedia.

Sarah believes that the Ada Initiative was critical in helping her become a better employee by helping her learn to handle unsettling and uncomfortable situations. Knowing how to address such situations has helped her to influence the environment at her office, and made it a safer and more inviting space for women. AdaCamp honed her facilitation skills, like making sure that everyone got their say in the discussions especially in male dominated groups. Among AdaCampers, she also found a great network of feminists around the world whom she can call on for support and advice. For her, it is a great feeling to be a part of the amazing community of AdaCamp alumni. The friendly space policies created by Ada Initiative is being used by her for all the events she and the Wikimedia Foundation conducts.

She calls upon all people to click [edit] when they find a mistake or an error on Wikipedia. She invites everyone to stop by the TeaHouse to get help on any aspect of Wikipedia. She wants all people to make a difference by editing Wikipedia.

Sarah’s biography can be read on Wikipedia here. She can be reached at sarah (at) wikimedia (dot) org.