[Linux-aus] The Ada Initiative - Should Linux Australia support it?

David Newall david at davidnewall.com
Mon Feb 21 21:48:45 EST 2011

I'm generally opposed to discrimination on the basis of irrelevant 
factors, such as age, race, sex, sexual orientation, and religion.  So 
called "affirmative action" policies fall clearly into this area in 
that, despite how they might be worded, they do seek to employ a 
minority even when a better candidate is on offer.

The Ada Initiative is different yet similar.  It presupposes that 
there's something bad about the ratio of women to men in FOSS, a 
proposition I'm uncertain of as a person's sex is irrelevant.  It 
proposes to engineer ("encourage") a solution without any apparent 
understanding of the cause of imbalance.

When young people ask me if they should choose computing as a 
profession, I ask why they think they want to enter it, what sort of 
computer they currently have and how they use it.  Invariably the 
answers are: high-income; and none, or a PC used for gaming and 
web-browsing.  My answer to these people is to look for another 
profession; plumbing, it seems to me, is awfully lucrative and much 
under-rated.  Certainly we need no more programmers of little ability 
who are only in it for the money; not even if they are women.

I suspect that people with appropriate talent and desire will find their 
way into the profession regardless of encouragement.  People from a poor 
socio-economic background might need a gentle nudge but not, generally 
speaking, young 21st century women.  I'd rather see young people 
encouraged into a healthy hacking culture, regardless of sex, than to 
give scarce resources to the purpose of attracting women who might 
better enjoy working elsewhere.  I do not say this to pre-judge the Ada 
Initiative's outcomes, merely to express a concern.

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