participation in open source, any worse than the rest of the industry?

tech gender gap

One criticism I’ve heard about my article is that I should have addressed the computing industry as a whole, rather than targeting Open Source. That the problem of women participating is much more general.

I chose to write about Open Source because that’s my community. I installed Slackware in 1995 and learned about operating systems from a Linux command prompt, years before I took a class about it. When I worked at Intel, and there were a lot more women in my systems administration group (about 20%) than I saw on the Linux Kernel mailing list, the Cricket developers list or BugTraq. That’s part of where I formed my opinion.

Here’s a little graph showing the number of bachelor’s degrees granted in computer science. We’ve had a 15% drop in degrees granted since 1985. I wonder what we were doing right in the early ’80s.

There are other resources: FLOSSPOLS, salary studies that show gender breakdowns. I’ve also read figures on conference attendance and observed the difference in open source and system administration conferences. I do admit that I have not seen studies that directly compare open source participation to closed source participation.

How about you? Anyone out there have a study they can refer me to?

2 thoughts on participation in open source, any worse than the rest of the industry?

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  1. I don’t have a study, just empirical observations. While I can’t say there are less women “in open source,” there do appear to be less *women at open source conferences* than at other tech conferences I’ve been to.
    I have rotating theories, but right now, Open Source conferences, and OSCON in particular are feeling really insular to me, and like everybody there shared a tent at Burning Man or something.
    I don’t really feel left out because I’m a girl, but more because everybody there seems to be friends/party buddies/etc. I think their diversity problems extend far beyond gender.

  2. I don’t know if we’ve talked about this – but I also think that the idea of OSCON has maybe turned into too big of a tent to have a conference under. Rather than people coming together primarily for the technology, they’re coming there for the social scene – a scene they’re already part of. So when the rest of us get there, it definitely does feel like we’re crashing a party.

    That the problem “extends far beyond gender” was the other criticism I heard. I liked danah boyd’s interview because she said something about the other diversity problems. I didn’t know it was going to happen, but my article did end up sparking a surprisingly long diversity conversation over on Well, at least partially about diversity.