[Linux-aus] Draft grant proposal - women in open source 'tour'

Paul Wayper paul.wayper at anu.edu.au
Fri Jun 1 06:51:59 UTC 2007

Colin Charles wrote:

> > Rather than saying there's a problem, why not assume that when the
> > time CLUG meets, is just incorrect for women to attend? Maybe it
> > clashes with something else they'd rather do, or they don't see value
> > coming to a meeting?
They certainly won't see any value in attending if everyone either talks
to their friends exclusively or stares at the newcomer, the talks are
aimed primarily at people who have already been in the FOSS scene for
years, and no other women are attending.

> > We have ladies attend the LUV meetings, so I personally don't see any
> > signs that things are not actually good
I think you misunderstand me - I'm saying that CLUG meetings are not
even attracting the 1.6% average women in FOSS participation.  We get no
women coming along, despite the fact that Canberra has a large sector of
IT jobs to draw from.

> > There are even ladies turning up to Microsoft events. How about we
> > find out why they go to that, rather than CLUG meetings
Did you by any chance read the FLOSSPOLS gender equity report?  In that
you will observe that around 29% of people in the IT industry as a whole
are women, but only 1.6% participation in FOSS projects.  The report
points out that the environment is unfriendly to women - women pick up
the feeling that they're not wanted and not welcomed.  The report
outlines many reasons why this is the case.  I suggest you read it
rather than pondering afresh.

> > The excuse that men are weird towards ladies, is very weak
And yet somehow it's true.  Men in FOSS projects are weird toward
ladies.  They stare, they make inappropriate jokes, they ask them out on
dates without more than a hello, they assume they're unskilled, and they
then deny that there might be a problem.  Not _all_ men, of course. 
Maybe just a tiny fraction, maybe less than half - who knows.  But if
all the other men stand around and say nothing when these people are
'weird toward ladies', and in fact actively deny that the behaviour is
wrong, then us (other) men are just as complicit in the bad behaviour.

> > The idea that there is a problem is flawed. Lets look at the Microsoft
> > world. Or the Oracle world. Or even the Apple world. They have women
> > attending, and I doubt the men in their communities are "problematic".

There are two flaws in your logic.  Firstly you assume that because
women attend the other 'worlds', the men in them are not problematic. 
There is no way that that can be true, and I'm sure a trivial search
could find plenty of examples of sexual harassment or 'glass ceiling'
effects in proprietary software companies and communities.  Secondly,
you assume that women have the same motivation to join open source
communities as to work in the proprietary software world.  That is also
false; women and men work in the proprietary software world because it
pays them.  They do things that they don't like, work with people they
hate, and support companies that abuse them simply because they get
money out of it.  In the open source software community, their
commitment usually comes solely from their own personal devotion to the
project.  There are lots of examples of developers walking away and
withdrawing their time and energy because they've been personally
offended by something that's happened in their project or community. 
It's much harder to walk away from the same situation if it's also your
sole income.

And, as has been pointed out on this very list not so very long ago, it
is the denial of a problem that causes a lot of the withdrawal of women
from FOSS projects.  Your own statement "the idea that there is a
problem is flawed" is effectively saying "if you can see a problem,
we're going to deny it even exists.  You're wrong even to bring the
topic up.  We're just going to continue treating you the way we always
have and you've just got to shut up and like it."  It is exactly that
kind of behaviour that the report makes clear is driving women away from
the FOSS community.

I want more women to participate in FOSS.  They bring experience, ideas,
ability and wisdom, and we need diversity and breath of experience.  I
extend this to wanting _anyone_ of any persuasion to feel like they can
contribute to FOSS projects and the FOSS community without feeling like
an outsider or that they are less valued.



More information about the linux-aus mailing list