[ I was working on a blog post about the Women In Open Source roundtable I ran, and then Brenda Wallace tweeted: "it seems reasonably easy 2 get women involved in opensource documentation, ui design, and even management. Why is it hard 2 get women coding?" Here's my longer response, mostly with ideas I got from the roundtable. ]
I ran a panel discussion about Women in Open Source at the PostgreSQL Conference East (last weekend). I talked about all the conference events that I’d seen in the last 1-2 years specific to women, and a pair of researchers talked about communication patterns among women on the KDE women’s list. Then we had a 2 hour discussion with the 10 people in attendance.
Three issues that stuck with me from the discussion were:
Sunday’s keynote at SCaLE was given by Stormy Peters. She talked about open source, business contributions and the social and financial economies driving development.
Three of her research questions were:
- What is the initial motivation that encourages people to contribute?
- How do companies pay for open source contributions? (and what’s the effect?)
- How do companies change projects when they join?
Her conclusion was that the developer community needs to teach businesses how to do things right for the community. We canâ€™t wait for businesses to figure it out on their own. The call to action was a good one, but it seemed to leave some audience members scratching their heads. One audience member asked, “How do we do that?”
A few interesting figures she mentioned:
- 1/3 of all developers believe that software should be free
- Average number of open source projects a developer works on: 5
- 40% of open source developers are paid to contribute
- 10-20% are paid but their bosses donâ€™t know it – that probably was a joke
One quote that stuck with me was: â€œTypically people have been divided between left and right brain [professions].â€ I donâ€™t agree. I think you only have to look briefly at the history of science to see that creativity (â€œright brainâ€) and reason (â€œleft brainâ€) have often gone together.
The developer community just like many others – regular people who want to be useful, and inspired by their work. Creativity may not be asked for in a person’s work. But people invent, dream and create regardless of whether their profession requires it.
Thanks to one of Audrey’s RSS feeds, I read Women in Computer Science – An Endangered Species of a New Kind? this afternoon. About the same time, I received email from a professor at UMD who is helping organize PostgreSQL Conference East. She would like to hold a Women in Open Source Focus Group session during the conference, and we’re looking for participants.
To Sir, with Love: How To Get More Women Involved in Open Source
I think we IT folks share a passion for fixing things. We solve problems other people find impossible every day. Just a small amount of that energy directed toward encouraging women to join in openly would go a long way.
It’s finally out! http://www.oreillynet.com/womenintech/
I’m not sure what day exactly my article will be published, but the first one, titled Social Engineering came out today.