GNOME Outreach Program for Women is now open for applications

If I’ve seen you in person since I’ve started at GNOME it’s fairly likely that I’ve talked to you about the Women’s Outreach Program. I’ve been so impressed at the work that Marina, Stormy, and the rest of the GNOME Community have done in setting it up. It amazes me how the program systematically provides paths to overcome so many of the problems that we identify as possible reasons for the lack of involvement by women in free software.

Last year I was interviewed for an article about the topic, and when discussing this with Alex Skud Bayley (formerly Kirrily Robert – congrats to Alex on the name change) at last year’s OSCON, she said something like “if you are a woman in free software at some point you will be considered an expert about women in free software.” I wanted Alex’s thoughts because her 2009 OSCON keynote on the topic was really great. And while I like telling my story and giving my thoughts about the participation of women in free software, I think Alex was right – I’m mostly speaking from personal anecdotal experience. What I love about the Outreach Program is that it’s something concrete. It takes proactive steps to get women involved and try to keep them involved. And it has gotten great results.

I met many of the last round of participants in the program at the Desktop Summit and even listened to a few of them give presentations about their work. I was extremely impressed. Even better, some of these women stick around in our community after their internships are over, which is especially exciting. A couple of the women I talked to said that they believe that their careers have been kickstarted by the program and they’re not sure if they would have gone down that path otherwise.

As Marina writes, in the last session there were seven female interns among the 27 GSoC interns in GNOME. The most it had in previous years was one female participant. She noted that all of the women who applied for GSoC in 2011 found mentors and project ideas, made a first contribution, and navigated the application process with the help of the resources available through the OPW.

Extra thanks to outside funders of the program: Collabora, Google, and Mozilla. They make it possible for the program to have the reach it does.

The new application period for the program is open right now through the end of October, so if you know someone who may be right for the program please send this information their way!

GNOME is an innovative Free Software desktop. It is easy to use and is the most popular desktop distributed with free operating systems.

In an effort to get more women involved in Free Software, the GNOME project is sponsoring several internships for women from December 12, 2011 to March 12, 2012. The application deadline for the program is October 31. The applicants need to get in touch with individual GNOME projects ahead of time to decide which project they are interested in working on and make a small contribution to the project.

Participants will work remotely from home, while getting guidance from an assigned mentor and collaborating within their project’s team and the rest of the GNOME community. The projects include developing software for the core desktop, file management, messaging, popular applications, educational activities, and the platform libraries. There are also non-coding projects, such as graphic design, documentation, and marketing. The stipend for the program is $5,000 (USD).

Please visit http://www.gnome.org to learn more and apply. The mentorship opportunities are also available throughout the year for anyone interested in getting started contributing to GNOME outside of the internship program.