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

elliott-brennan elliottbrennan at gmail.com
Tue Feb 22 11:47:20 EST 2011

I know too little of the Ada initiative to have a 
strong opinion either way, other than that I 
support mechanisms to improve the statistical 
representation of all groups in any field of 
endeavour, including the IT fields.

> David wrote
> Mon, 21 Feb 2011 21:18:45 +1030
> I'm generally opposed to discrimination <SNIP>...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.

For the sake of clarity, there are significant 
differences between the two.

The first is to ensure that the best candidate 
receives the job by ensuring that irrelevant 
issues are not considered during the job 
interview. It is to ensure a 'level playing 
field'. This includes such things as ensuring that 
those who require wheelchair access are not 
discriminated against because a company couldn't 
be fussed to ensure it's office space was 
appropriately designed.

'Affirmative Action' doesn't exist in Australia 
(to my knowledge) and jobs are not offered to 
'minorities' where a better candidate exists. The 
policies you may be thinking of relate to 
companies (most often Government - which I believe 
is the employer with the best record of 
non-discriminatory employment) creating programs 
to assist disadvantaged groups to enter areas of 
work not previously open to them (in practical 
terms, rather than in lip service).

For instance, AREP (Aboriginal Rural Education 
Program) students are provided access to tertiary 
education without the requirement of proving 
academic ability through an HSC result. They can 
study externally, are provided extra mentoring and 
can attend face-to-face block classes. A student 
who has no ability will still fail. Those who have 
the ability and interest will pass. AREP exists to 
overcome the current and historical circumstances 
which conspire to disadvantage Aboriginal people.

I would suggest that Aboriginal people are 
statistically as intelligent as the rest of the 
community but are under-represented in IT.

BTW I am not female, I am not Aboriginal. I'm your 
standard white, English-speaking, Anglo-Irish, 
middle-aged <cough>, hetero, married-with-children 

Thus none of this benefits me directly :))

<passes hat around in vain hope of money to feed 
my children as I'm now looking to change jobs :))

> 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.

All things being equal, it is only reasonable to 
believe that women would be equally represented. 
As this appear not to be the case, then it speaks 
to itself that something is occurring which 
inhibits or restricts equality of opportunity and 
interest. That alone is of concern to anyone who 
believes in equality of opportunity. There is no 
need to consider this bad. If one considers that 
women are statistically as smart as men, then the 
concern would be that a large group of highly 
intelligent people are unrepresented and that this 
is not in the best interests of the IT field.

 > Certainly we need no more
> programmers of little ability who are only in it
> for the money; not even if they are women.

Can't agree with you more.

> I suspect that people with appropriate talent and
> desire will find their way into the profession
> regardless of encouragement.

This would appear to not be the case. The dominant 
cultural values may well be changing. However this 
does not mean they are ineffective or irrelevant. 
There are multiple examples giving evidence to the 
existing biases, these include female-dominated 
industries which pay less when compared to 
male-dominated industries of similar 
skill/education levels and those areas in which 
skill and intelligence rather than physical 
prowess are required and yet there are few women - 
IT would appear to be one of them.

The questions of 'why not?' is an obvious one and 
beliefs around what women will 'enjoy' or are 
attracted towards are evidence alone that there is 
a cultural bias.  There is on evidence of a 
'natural' inclination of such a high order as IT 
or Teaching.

Without wishing to spend too long on the subject, 
cultural bias is not merely something one group 
imposes on another, but includes the 
internalisation of these biases by all groups. The 
internalisation and expression of cultural beliefs 
is one of the major  mechanisms of the 
reproduction of these beliefs.

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.

...and here we have an example. It presupposes 
that women will enjoy working somewhere else. It 
also presupposes that women will be encouraged to 
enter a field they don't like - how many men does 
this happen to? People are usually attracted to 
what they believe best suits their internalised 
perception of an area they should work in. Few men 
become pole dancers.

I do not say this > to pre-judge the Ada 
Initiative's outcomes, merely
> to express a concern.


Though I would generally support those projects 
which aim to increase the population of those 
groups which are under-represented, as long as the 
money is well spent/gifted/donated etc, I'm not 
familiar enough with LA history or policies to 
express a view based on such.

I agree that monies need to be spent wisely and 
that it should be clear what any money is spent on 
and why.



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