Katherine Maher

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Katherine Roberts Maher (born April 18, 1983) is the chief executive officer of Web Summit and chair of the board of directors at the Signal Foundation. She is a former chief executive officer and executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Maher worked for UNICEF, the National Democratic Institute, the World Bank and Access Now before joining the Wikimedia Foundation. She subsequently joined the Atlantic Council and currently serves on the US Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board.

Katherine Maher in 2016



What we stand for is not just Wikipedia, but the open ecosystem of free information across the world. The need for us to create information. The need for inquiry. The need for sharing. The need for transparency and accountability. The need for presentation and celebration of languages and cultures.
Our vision statement says: “Imagine a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all human knowledge. That’s our commitment.” At best, this is an aspiration; in reality it is a beautiful, if slightly mad, ambition. But even knowing the challenges, we forge onwards because we believe in people — the contribution every human can make, and the things humanity can do together.


  • In a given month, I might fly to New York to meet with the Metropolitan Museum of Art about making its collection more accessible online to Wikipedia, then head to Tunisia to meet members of the Wikipedia community. A big reason why I spend so much time on road is that we support nearly 300 languages. We’re committed to the idea that Wikipedia should be this essential knowledge infrastructure for the world. ... I used to be really aggressive—walk off the plane and go straight into meetings. Because we’re a nonprofit, we travel economy class everywhere; getting off a long flight can be tough.... If I need a nap, that’s OK. You have to be nice to yourself. ... One of the first things I do in a city is go for a run. It’s a great way to orient yourself—even if it’s just for a mile or two.


  • Rather than replacing humans, A.I. is best used to support our capacity for creativity and discernment. Wikipedia is creating A.I. that will flag potentially problematic edits — like a prankster vandalizing a celebrity’s page — to a human who can then step in. The system can also help our volunteer editors evaluate a newly created page or suggest superb pages for featuring. In short, A.I. that is deployed by and for humans can improve the experience of both people consuming information and those producing it... We must defend a web that is free and unfettered, and improve connections that allow creativity and collaboration.
  • Women are just as competent in technology as men; it’s just that we’re not socialized to believe so... On English Wikipedia, for example, 18 percent of our biographies are about women... One of the reasons for the imbalance... is that men outnumber women roughly 9 to 1 among the site’s unpaid contributors... Another part of the problem is that if you actually look at representation of women in the broader public sphere, Wikipedia is a tertiary source... It requires secondary sources for an article to exist, which means that in order to write about a notable woman, you need to actually be able to find a newspaper article or a book or something that talks about her accomplishments and achievements. And we know that gender representation of women in all forms of media is actually not great. Women are less likely to be quoted in articles; women are less likely to be covered as the subjects of articles, even really notable women...
  • At the same time, women make up a majority of senior leadership at the Wikimedia Foundation — including the chief executive, chief operating, chief advancement, chief creative, and chief engagement officers as well as the vice president of human resources... we’re just willing to hire people who, perhaps when we first see their resume, are not necessarily the exact right fit for the job... If you believe that a bunch of amateur, volunteer, nonspecialists can write an encyclopedia and then have it be the fifth most popular website on the planet, then you also have to believe that there are talents that exist within society that may not match what we actually think a COO or a CTO should look like.
  • Wikipedia’s content [is] freely licensed for reuse by anyone and that’s part of our mission: that every single person can share in free knowledge... We want people all over the world to use, share, add to, and remix Wikipedia. At the same time, we encourage companies who use Wikimedia’s content to give back in the spirit of sustainability.
    • Quoted in Why Amazon’s One Million Dollar Donation To Wikipedia Is a Lesson For Us All, By Justin Bariso, ThriveGlobal, (25 October 2019)
  • If our vision is a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, then all knowledge has to be written by all people, which means that it has to represent all people... We really need to think about what kind of language we are using to talk about the value of free knowledge, because free knowledge is valuable to absolutely everyone and we want to make sure that we are communicating that in a way that resonates...
    If we have more women editing Wikipedia, do I expect more articles about women scientists and novelists? Absolutely... But do I expect more articles about things that are just of interest to anybody. Yeah, I expect that too.


  • When it became clear that SARS-CoV-2, or simply, the latest coronavirus, was spreading globally and likely to become a pandemic, we took it seriously. Our responsibility is to keep Wikipedia online and available for the world, especially in moments of crisis. A world that is changing requires changing how we work.
  • A month ago, we were planning for the future. Today, we still are — just a different future than any of us expected... At Wikimedia, we live by a mantra: everything that happens in the world happens on Wikipedia. And when things happen, the world looks our way.
  • We operate Wikipedia as a public trust. Our vision statement says: “Imagine a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all human knowledge. That’s our commitment.” At best, this is an aspiration; in reality it is a beautiful, if slightly mad, ambition. But even knowing the challenges, we forge onwards because we believe in people — the contribution every human can make, and the things humanity can do together.
  • It’s a good thing to do the right thing today. It’s a better thing to recognize the people who did it yesterday, when it was hard.
  • Churchill is my favorite example to use with western audiences about the nature of truth in popular histories. To millions, a liberating hero. To yet millions of others, oppressor and genocidaire.
  • Ran without pain for the first time since quarantine! Yes, only a mile, and yes, it was very slow, and yes, I am woefully out of shape. But it was a run and it was glorious.
  • In 8 hours I’ll put on a mask, leave my home, head to the airport, fly for 6 hours, quarantine for 14 days, and hopefully by mid-July I’ll be able to see my mom. I would not be going if there were not urgent family issues, but I won’t lie: I am afraid.
  • Lowkey excited about all the innovation in videoconferencing. We went from standard-awful to Brady Bunch to multi-grid to Together in about 3 months. Keep it up.
  • Why why why Manhattan are you all eating and drinking and walking around with no masks. Why.
  • This election is the most important election of our lifetime, and potentially will determine how many lifetimes our children and their children have to come. Vote Climate.
  • Big organizations do good work. So do small organizations working with specific communities. Often, they work together. Please support both for #Beirut
  • Our 87-year-old neighbor has no power, so we’re storing his food on a freezer hooked to a generator. Our family friend is dying of pancreatic cancer and had to be transferred from home hospice, because he has no power. Hope your shareholders feel good about their dividends.
  • Hey @EversourceCT! You made $909.1 million in profit last year. But Connecticut residents are going into night six without power in the middle of a pandemic. We all saw the hurricane coming for days - why didn’t you?
  • It’s easy to forget how much has changed during how dark these past four years have been. But to hear the Democratic candidate for the VP of the United States speak about structural racism from the convention podium is unprecedented.
  • Yeah, this is 100% BS. California, the most fire-prone state in the country, contracts prisons to fight our deadly wildfires. When prisoners are released, their firefighting experience does not usually qualify them for salaried (unionized and pensioned!) work... Furthermore... it is our imprisoned fellow citizens who are at high risk of Covid-19 exposure. They're 40% of CA firefighters, and they’re fighting for basic preventative care... As I’ve said before, my much-bigger little brother is a firefighter in CA. He sits with the weight of 60lbs of gear and fear and frustration with the multitudinous ways his profession is our society’s last resort for everything from addiction to policing to climate change... It doesn’t work. We cannot stop our lands from burning by exploiting a burning injustice of our nation. We cannot douse our apathy by sending in the engines.
  • I truly cannot wait to be sardined back on BART/MTA with all you stinky wonderful mouth breathers, my personal space is yours, read over my shoulder, I truly don't care, I love you all.
  • Access to information is essential to healthy communities and should be treated as such... This becomes even more clear in times of global health crises when information can have life-changing consequences. All institutions, from governments to international health agencies, scientific bodies to Wikipedia, must do our part to ensure everyone has equitable and trusted access to knowledge about public health, regardless of where you live or the language you speak.


  • If you look at 6 million articles in English, it sounds like an awful lot. But the number of potential notable things in the world, at least calculated by one Wikipedia editor, is above 100 million.
  • In my experience, it is perfectly possible to have opinions and also produce valuable, fact-based information for the world.
  • It’s never exactly a good time to step away -- transitions always have some rough edges -- but it’s always best to do so when the organization is strong, and before you’ve overstayed your welcome. The movement is in a good, strong place. Our communities are growing, our readership is too
  • Love you, SF. EMTs walking through Dolores Park handing out free, cozy cotton masks, without judgment, as everyone enjoys the sun (and enjoys their open containers and other things...)
  • Til that LBJ telling MLK to “make me do it” on civil rights is apocryphal. Funny, because I’ve definitely said that in my work at Wikimedia, though I was encouraging community activists to keep the pressure on for change at a movement level.
  • (That incident) led Wikipedia to realize that we’d gone from being an experiment to really something that had an impact on the public discourse... That really set the stage for a close appreciation for Wikipedia editors for ‘What does it mean to hold the responsibility of not just being this public, free resource, but also perhaps the primary resources in many instances? We don’t always get it right, but by and large, as soon as something comes to the attention of the Wikipedia editing community or the public, editors are extremely responsive and are able to not only go in and lock that article down, but also to correct the record and make sure that it’s reverted to the most accurate and most recent form.
    • Wikimedia CEO on facts, hoaxes and the promise of Wikipedians by Luke Ottenhof, Canada's National Observer, (March 19, 2021)

Quotes about Katherine Maher[edit]

  • In mid-March, Katherine Maher, the CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, sent an email to her organization outlining changes to mitigate stress, including: “If you need to dial back [work hours], that’s okay.” She also committed to paying contractors and hourly staff on the basis of their typical hours, regardless of their ability to work. When you make changes, be explicit that you are doing so to support the mental health of your employees, if that is the goal.
    • 8 Ways Managers Can Support Employees’ Mental Health by Kelly Greenwood and Natasha Krol, Harvard Business Review (7 August 2020)
  • The women behind Wikipedia believe it will continue to be a force for good, despite all they have weathered as its custodians. Maher sees Wikipedia as tasked with “ensuring that the general public has access to a baseline of context and information to be able to interpret the day’s events.”
    Right now, Americans have a general skepticism, not just of the media but of any kind of authority, she points out. Wikipedia, for all of the pedantry and nerd-outs that go on during late night edit-a-thons, isn’t pretentious. “It’s very open about the fact that it’s a best understanding of the world as we know it, and we make mistakes,” she says.
  • Katherine Maher, the Wikimedia Foundation's CEO, will step down as of April 15, she tells Axios, leaving the nonprofit in a vastly stronger position than she found it when she joined in 2014.. Wikipedia is growing to become the most global and trusted source of knowledge in the world. Its base of active editors is rising, its number of women editors has increased by 30% just in the past year, and it has upgraded not only its website but also its app, which is now available for feature phones as well as smart phones... Financially, the Wikimedia Foundation now has an endowment of more than $90 million, and has doubled its annual budget to an estimated $140 million in 2021. It's hard to think of any other tech nonprofit that has been remotely as successful... One area that Wikimedia has been particularly successful is in garnering trust... Driving the trust: Maher is proud of her new Universal Code of Conduct, but also credits the diversity of Wikipedia's editors as a key ingredient creating trust in its content.

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