WordPress 5.6 Development Kicks Off with All-Women Release Squad

WordPress 5.6 Development Kicks Off with All-Women Release Squad
photo credit: Brodie Vissers

5.5 has already been downloaded more than 4 million times after its release earlier this week, and it's time to kick off work on 5.6. Josepha Haden will be leading the release alongside coordinator Dee Teal, with additional leads for Triage (Tonya Mork), Core Tech (Helen Hou-Sandì), Editor Tech (Isabel Brison), Design (Ellen Bauer and Tammie Lister), and several more women managing documentation, accessibility, marketing, testing, and other important aspects of the release. The full squad includes 46 women so far with a couple of roles left to be decided.

When Josepha Haden officially proposed the idea of having an all-women release squad, she emphasized that this doesn't mean the release can only include contributions from women. In addition to the general objective of shipping a stable and enhanced version of the WordPress, Haden outlined a few more goals for this historic release:

My hope is that with a release squad comprised entirely of people who identify as women, we'll be able to increase the number women who have that experience and (hopefully) become returning contributors to Core and elsewhere. This doesn't mean the release will only contain contributions from women. And if our current squad training process is any indication, it also doesn't mean that we're asking a squad to show up and do this without support.

Francesca Marano, who worked as release co-lead for WordPress 5.3, published a post announcing the squad as well as the scope of the release. Two major items are already complete: conversion of the widget-editing areas and removal of support for PHP 5.6.x. The squad plans to deliver an impressive array of new features that are still in development:

  • Navigation menus block in Core
  • Automatic updates for major WordPress Core releases (opt-in)
  • New features from the block editor upgrades.
  • Widgets-editing and Customizer support in Core
  • Default theme, including an FSE compatible version
  • PHP 8 support
  • Public beta of Full Site Editing

A recent tweet from a woman who works as an iOS developer at Quicken Loans, asked if there have ever been women in software development working in leadership roles. Although many projects and organizations have women in such roles for many years (as seen in the replies to the tweet), the question demonstrates why representation still matters. WordPress 5.6 is an opportunity to make many more women leaders visible for people who need to see others like themselves in leadership roles.

So far the community has been very supportive of the plan for an all-women release squad and is rallying around the idea. WordPress 5.6 is the last release planned for the year and is expected to land on December 8, 2020.

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