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

James Purser jamesrpurser at gmail.com
Tue Feb 22 12:43:08 EST 2011

Hi David.

On Mon, Feb 21, 2011 at 9:48 PM, David Newall <david at davidnewall.com> wrote:

> 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.

Just to clarify, "Affirmative action" programmes generally go with the  "all
other things being equal, hire the person from the minority". This means
that if you have two equally qualified candidates, you select the one from
the group you want to encourage into the industry.

> 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.

So from this can I assume that you don't find the fact that there is such a
massive imbalance to be a problem?

Given that such a massive imbalance isn't automatically assumed in the IT
industry itself (especially in non-western nations such as Malaysia and so
on), I don't see a problem with trying to encourage more women into the
industry and the FOSS community.

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.

So rather than point out the many different areas that exist in ICT that
could possibly interest them you rather dismiss their interest out of hand
and push them towards a more  "traditional" industry. Nice.

Programming isn't the only area that new comers can get involved in with
ICT. Testing, QA, Documentation, UI/UX design, System Administration,
Hardware Design, System Architecture and so on.

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

Then you'll suspect wrong. People with talent and desire will only push so
far if the push back they get is too much. Why should they continue to push
and push and push if the only reward they get is being dumped on from a
great height.

 I'd rather see young people
> encouraged into a healthy hacking culture, regardless of sex,

And funnily enough that's the goal of the Ada initiative. We would all love
to see a day when the gender of a contributor has no relevance to the way
the rest of the community interacts, but that day is sadly not today.

> 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.

Umm, with all due respect, but you pre-judged in your first paragraph. You
call into question whether the imbalance is in fact a problem in the first
place which gives the impression that you view the Ada initiative as a waste
of time to fix a non problem.

James Purser
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