Can I say this?

Diversity is not a good thing.

Everybody complains when there’s more than one Open Source project for a given purpose – GNOME vs KDE, Swfdec vs Gnash, … And we all agree that the Internet is fine with IP and doesn’t need support for Appletalk or IPX. So why is diversity suddenly a good idea for i18n and l10n?

We don’t need more women in Open Source.

See question above. Also, I’ve never seen any studies on this. Is gender equality something important for progress in Open Source? All the papers I know only point out that there’s too little women. I’ve never seen questioned if that’s maybe a good thing.
After all, we know that proprietary software is worse than Open Source. And more women work on that.

The current ways Open Source attract women are a failure.

There are lots of very vocal groups about women in Open Source. But I’ve not seen them make a difference. There’s still way too little women. How come?


#1 Andrés G. Aragoneses on 02.14.10 at 18:11

Agreed partially. I think in general that the virtue is in the middle. But FLOSS devs are generally in the extreme you blame.

I agree that diversity is bad, but, usually when the number of projects is > 2.

I agree that if women are less in this world, it’s maybe because of a reason. The same reason why there are less men as nurses. We simply cannot change it, it’s an issue of culture, evolution and motivation. (But trying to get more women on this is not bad either; otherwise, it may be rewarding if some success is made ;) )

#2 Anonymous on 02.14.10 at 18:22

Epic troll is epic methinks.

#3 Jaap on 02.14.10 at 18:23

Hi, I think you would enjoy reading the Black Swan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He is extremely sharp on falliacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall.

#4 anonymous on 02.14.10 at 18:32

I think women are scared away by the tactics that are in use by those groups about women in Open Source.

In an exaggerated illustration are these groups usually portraying the situation as if woman are a kind of precious beings that need to be protected against the atrocities of Open Source people.

The biological fact is, however, that women have always survived pretty well. To claim that women are some sort of weak beings that can’t stand up for themselves, that women must be encouraged in a special way for them to join something, is prejudice.

I think it’s what scares women away.

It doesn’t help that a bunch of feminist programmers are cheering at such slogans, either.

You can say it, but you’ll now probably be slandered by them.

Good luck

#5 Paul W. Frields on 02.14.10 at 18:33

It’s one thing for lack of diversity to exist through some natural phenomenon. But it’s not acceptable when it happens because of artificial barriers. Free and open source software doesn’t need to be a perfect mirror to the diversity of humankind in general. But it shouldn’t be less diverse than it could be if we simply did a better job of showing anyone how they can contribute and be involved.

#6 ozamosi on 02.14.10 at 18:34

It’s obvious, isn’t it: all else being equal, a bigger community is better than a small community, since there are more hands to help out. Right?

You did post a while back about how you didn’t really want to continue working on swfdec, since nobody else seemed interested in it — would it really have been a net negative if a few women had been contributing as well?

50% female contributors is most likely way more than what is achievable in the close future for open source projects in general: there simply aren’t as many women as men who are interested in these things.

However, as long as we’re as ridiculously far from there as we are today, it’s unlikely that the lack of women is due to there not being any interested women — more likely, it’s due to some kind of problem with how women are welcomed.

And this is not necessarily something that only puts women off. If the welcoming is putting off most women, but only some men, then it would be a good thing to fix the welcoming, even if we only care about men. For instance, I’ve seen it being suggested that women often need, at first, slightly more personal guidance (like GNOME Love provides) than most men. However, I, as a man, still started writing GNOME code thanks to GNOME Love.

Things like the GNOME Women Outreach Program looks a bit ridiculous when viewed in isolation, but if you hope that these women, through their different perspectives compared to most of us, will end up helping GNOME attract more contributors, then it’s resources well spent.

#7 ulrik sverdrup on 02.14.10 at 18:40

Women in FOSS is about feminism, it’s not some utilitarian project with improved FOSS as its only goal. I can’t see how it would not improve FOSS should the gender equality work have some progress, though.

#8 Sandy on 02.14.10 at 18:47

I hope our community is a safe place where you can voice your opinion even if it’s unpopular, so yes, you can say this. :-)

I think people (like myself) who think we need more women in open source might make the following arguments:

1) More women -> more people -> more contributors, etc. In other words, they are a largely untapped contributor pool.

2) Women have unique abilities that might be helpful to us. These range from social abilities like empathy and communication, to technical abilities like art and design. We greatly value the people (regardless of sex) in our community with these abilities because they are so rare. If they are more common in women than in men, then it might follow that having more women in our community would bring more people with these abilities.

3) We have lots of evidence of women trying to join our communities and being pushed away or discouraged by our behavior. If this behavior is not vital to our success, than we should be willing to change it so that we can attract these potential contributors. This is why we have *-women groups, just like we have language- and region-specific groups.

Of course, I’m not a woman. I’m just a guy who has the above reasons for thinking it is a worthwhile effort to try to get more women involved in open source.

#9 Shane Gordon on 02.14.10 at 19:26

1. Of course it isn’t a good thing. It’s one thing to offer a decent set of choices, it’s another to use the concept of diversity to spin-off several half-baked implementations of the same thing.

2. I, for one, cannot stand the feminist movement. Perhaps that is a fault of my own, or a flaw or whatever. But gender should NEVER be a determining factor of who’s doing the program. Just program. Just fucking doing it. I don’t care if you’re male, female, transgendered, black, white, asian, latino, Christian, Atheist, or Satanist (and so on.). I think the Feminism community that popped up around FOSS just likes to toot it’s own horn.

3. Incidentally enough, I notice a lack of transgendered and gay people working on FOSS projects. Is there a failure to attract them, too? Are they discriminated against? Of course not. There’s just simply less of them out there contributing to FOSS, but they exist. All in all, this failure to address the community as a whole and splitting hairs between trivial things such as gender is really disheartening, and in my opinion is destructive to the FOSS community in and of itself.

#10 You on 02.14.10 at 19:37

Industries can have a gender bias – in the UK 90% of the primary school teachers are women and even the head of the teachers union supports that that is not something that should be rectified.

(I disagree with her on that though as the unwritten assumption is disgusting – that all men are either peadophiles or rapists.)

#11 Richard on 02.14.10 at 19:38

Sandy, while I agree that women represent a large pool of developers that we currently don’t attract, women do not uniquely have the abilities of empathy and communication nor design. Qualifying those with “unique” is actually rather sexist.

I do agree that overtly unwelcoming behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged, but some complaints, like some (but not all) of those regarding Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote, were excessive.

#12 Sandy on 02.14.10 at 19:44

Richard, since I heavily qualified my statement, I can only assume that you are disagreeing with the idea that women, as a group, have a larger tendency to possess the abilities of empathy, communication, and design.

I also must assume you’re not just nitpicking the word “unique”, as that wouldn’t add much to the conversation. So this leads me to believe you find it “sexist” to acknowledge differences between men and women.

I think we probably disagree about a lot of things.

#13 trace on 02.14.10 at 20:00

sandy, it is very strange to make a blanket statement ….like women are good for social skills and art, completely ignoring that women are just as capable of programming or other “non-art” activities.
and sandy when you trumpet the differences between men and women, for anyone to believe you , you would need a large peer reviewed scientific study, not a one off blog comment.

really it was completely unsubstantiated,

#14 Jeremy Bicha on 02.14.10 at 20:08

I think that since computers are used about as much by women as by men, that it’s valid to ask why women are significantly under-represented in deciding how computer interfaces work. Perhaps, computer engineering is something that men tend to enjoy more than women but I think a lot of young women could do well in this field but are discouraged from participating.

And this blog post is an example of diversity as you’re not just repeating the “we need more women Linux developers” that fortunately is becoming more common these days.

#15 dré on 02.14.10 at 20:31

i think there’s more than one implementation for ip. as there’s for flash.

#16 Zun on 02.14.10 at 20:34

You *do* realize you could be excommunicated for this?

#17 otte on 02.14.10 at 20:53

@Paul: If Behdad wouldn’t have to spend all of his time implementing new shapers and font formats, he could spend his time on coding things that are useful for everyone instead…

@ozamosi: I challenge your assumption about a bigger community resulting in more helping hands with and in particular the slides 9 and 10 of the pdf at
And I challenge the sentence “it’s unlikely that the lack of women is due to there not being any interested women” with andy Pausch’s last lecture: “I believe brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. They are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” So if the women don’t stick around, doesn’t that mean they don’t want it badly enough?

#18 Andrés G. Aragoneses on 02.14.10 at 21:21

Jeremy says “I think a lot of young women could do well in this field but are discouraged from participating.”

ozamosi says “it’s unlikely that the lack of women is due to there not being any interested women — more likely, it’s due to some kind of problem with how women are welcomed.”

Of course those are their opinions. But opinions are formed from experiences. Jeremy, ozamosi, tell us the experiences you have lived for saying that please. As for me, I didn’t have any experience that demonstrated me this is true thus I don’t think women receive worse welcoming or are discouraged.

#19 Rodney Dawes on 02.14.10 at 21:33

I like how everyone always concentrates on the women aspect of any posts like this, by anyone. Women not being in FLOSS right now isn’t a major issue, and it will resolve with time. The diversity problem is a bigger one here, but it of course always gets overshadowed.

Diversity in general is a good thing. The problem here isn’t that there is too much diversity. It’s that there’s too much divergence. Why in 2010 does any developer anywhere have to even think about window management? Or widget drawing? These are the kinds of things that drag development down. And there is no such thing as a desktop in this context. We need to move beyond traditional limits in the context of client applications on different device types.

#20 ethana2 on 02.14.10 at 21:50

Maybe women care about usability.
It always seems to be a tertiary concern in FLOSS.

#21 Justyn on 02.14.10 at 22:51

Your statement above, “So if the women don’t stick around, doesn’t that mean they don’t want it badly enough?” is quite inconsiderate really.
Please really think about the implications if we accepted your premise.

Imagine if we applied this statement to every situation where a minority is at a disadvantage. A few examples:

“If children from disadvantaged backgrounds can’t get access to university, they don’t want it badly enough.”

“If people with disabilities can’t get into the building, they don’t want it badly enough.”

You could add the following to each of the above: “Yes it’s harder for them than for the rest of us, but they could certainly manage it if they really tried.”

It is not to much to ask for a community to work towards equality by giving consideration to those groups for whom, for one reason or another, it is harder to be involved.

#22 Greg K Nicholson on 02.14.10 at 23:25

“But I’ve not seen them make a difference. There’s still way too little women. How come?”

Largely because the vocal attempts to attract more women are met by equally-vocal assertions that they’re wasting their time—i.e. by men saying “We don’t need more women in Open Source.”

“After all, we know that proprietary software is worse than Open Source. And more women work on that.”

Proprietary software isn’t worse. Even if it was, it still wouldn’t follow that having more women leads to bad software.

“So if the women don’t stick around, doesn’t that mean they don’t want it badly enough?”

Does this apply to voting in Zimbabwe too?

(If you think women trying to participate in open source don’t face threats of physical violence, you’re mistaken. And you don’t remember Creating Passionate Users.)

You seems to be suggesting that we shouldn’t even *attempt* to remove oppression from the open source community because the total of the potential contributions by everyone from the oppressed groups is so minuscule as to be worthless.

So, yeah: you can say all of that, but you’re largely wrong.

Shane Gordon:
“I think the Feminism community that popped up around FOSS just likes to toot it’s own horn.”

…sounds much like

“Incidentally enough, I notice a lack of transgendered and gay people working on FOSS projects.”

I notice a higher-than-usual representation.

It’s a lot easier for someone to be LGBT without being explicit about it—you may just be assuming everyone is cis (non-trans) and straight until they mention otherwise. By contrast, it’s impossible to be quietly female without being outed by having to correct a misplaced pronoun.

“All in all, this failure to address the community as a whole and splitting hairs between trivial things such as gender is really disheartening, and in my opinion is destructive to the FOSS community in and of itself.”

Absolutely. A lot of men don’t realise that we *accidentally* fail to address the community as a whole ‘cos we’re so used to assuming that everyone is male. We each need to put effort into correcting that.

#23 James Cape on 02.14.10 at 23:50

Excellent trolling. You’ve hit all the bad points very clearly: pseudo-science with a muddled, mis-applied analogy, refusing to even acknowledge any opposing viewpoints may have merit, the assumption that no women are actively doing anything, anywhere, and that women are some kind of homogeneous, faceless blob. The subtle appeal to your own victimization. No really, top-notch.

As a fourth-generation, native-born, straight, white, male, American (from the US: the only *real* America) engineer, I applaud you for defending me.

Just one question: what the hell kind of last name is “Otte” anyways? Sounds foreign to me…

#24 Juanjo Marin on 02.14.10 at 23:52

Well, there are few women out there interested on contributing on Free Software, so I think is good to attract their contributions to GNOME.

#25 ozamosi on 02.15.10 at 02:54

@Andrés I do remember being at an academic open source conference (side fact: the percentage of women there was way higher than at any other open source conference I’ve ever been to). I was sitting with a group of grad students, and the women at the table started talking about contributing to open source projects. None of them contributed. All of them said they wanted to, but they didn’t want to deal with all the idiots (I don’t remember their exact words, but it was something to that effect). That’s an insane ratio.

I’ve also talked to women who refuse to use gender specific nicknames in open source communities, because they’re sick of being harassed. You don’t see it, because the harassments are being carried out in private messages. Sandy’s nick looks female — you could ask him if you don’t believe me.

@otte I believe you’re not thinking big enough. There is an upper limit on how big a team can be before the communication overhead becomes to big, true, but there are still areas where we need more good open source solutions, and there are still many projects that are nowhere near that size.

Why would we want to put a brick wall around the open source world?

#26 Daeng Bo on 02.15.10 at 02:57

Standards are good. Diversity is good. Diversity of implementations of standards is not necessarily good.

The Linux desktop is in a much better state now than it was ten years ago because we have specifications like the ones form which allow desktops to interoperate. I can switch from GNOME to LXDE and back again without having to redefine all my preferences for autostart apps, etc.

As to point #2/3, women are human beings and should be treated as such. They shouldn’t either be especially encouraged or discouraged from joining the community. They should be welcomed when they want to join. We should give them the same respect (or lack thereof ;) ) that we give every member of the community. Statements like “women are more empathetic” or “women care more about usability” treat them as something separate from the regular community, which they aren’t.

#27 Bucky on 02.15.10 at 05:02

The underlying presumption of most of these “attract women” drives is that women–for some reason–travel through life as mere spectators in the world, and need some man’s permission, invitation, or whatever, to participate in some activity.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble here, but no woman needs any man’s permission to do anything she wants to.


End of story.

#28 Andrew Bennetts on 02.15.10 at 07:13

Um, April Fools Day is still ages away.

Your attitude horrifies me, and your sloppy reasoning appalls me.

#29 nicu on 02.15.10 at 08:42

I am already targeted by some group of radical feminists, so I won’t comment about women in FOSS, but I disagree about diversity: it is *good*.

Look for example at the Windows monoculture, which makes it an easy target for malware. But back at FLOSS: one good example for the benefits of diversity is about the web browsers: Firefox grew too large, stopped to care about Linux, we now have a slew of native WebKit browsers to give them a cold shower. Another example: what I saw of GNOME Shell is so alarming that I am glad there are projects like Xfce giving an alternative if GNOME 3 will prove to be *that* bad.

#30 mdz on 02.15.10 at 09:29

Yes, of course you can say that. It’s just not very flattering to you. It makes you seem like a troll, because the answers to your questions are easy to find by searching the web.

You seem to say that because it’s valuable to standardize on networking protocols, we should also standardize on a certain type of person to inhabit our community. The trouble is that people are not protocols, and the same logic does not apply.

I think that you know all of this, though, and you are merely looking for attention. You’ve got it. Now what will you do with it?

#31 otte on 02.15.10 at 10:49

@mdz: It’s so easy to label someone a troll and then building a straw man around it, isn’t it?
To give you a better example: In recent times, a lot of high profile OSS coders started to ignore non-Linux OSs (“They can fix it if they care to”) when they previously wrote code for at least the BSDs, too. Also, everyone’s dropping CPU architectures left and right (Fedora only supports 2 these days). A good thing?
I’d be happy about links answering the other 2 questions, too.

@Justyn: Yes, it’s sometimes bad if there are people that cannot participate because they are actively locked out. But you are saying that Open Source communities actively lock out females and I totally do not agree with that. I especially do not agree with the idea that we should advertise to women.

#32 John Stowers on 02.15.10 at 11:31

@James Cape: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

#33 James Duncan on 02.15.10 at 13:07

“But you are saying that Open Source communities actively lock out females and I totally do not agree with that. I especially do not agree with the idea that we should advertise to women.”

Why wouldn’t you want to advertise to a somewhat untapped pool of potential users, testers and coders?

#34 otte on 02.15.10 at 13:11

Because advertising to women as opposed to advertising to everyone is selective. I’d much rather advertise to everyone and be sure to include women in it.

#35 Martin on 02.15.10 at 13:28

I am a full time home dad with many years of open source background.

My main “work” is to travel to what ever country my wife happens to work in at the moment and then take care of our home and kid. I am able to do normal work when these tasks reaches a stable state from time to time.

I am now the male “mum” and “home wife” in a Arab country.

Most male do not live like this, but it shows that a few do think and live different lives than others.

#36 Zun on 02.15.10 at 15:16

Gee, Martin, that’s fascinating. Really.

Remind me, though, what the hell does it have to do with Free Software, again?

#37 R on 02.15.10 at 15:18

Perhaps addresses the point that men are capable of “female” qualities, too.

#38 Nobody Important on 02.15.10 at 15:25

If you haven’t noticed, females are about 50% of the population. That’s a lot. And as for as i can tell, 99% of Linux development is male.

If there is something keeping away half of all contributors to open source, don’t you think, maybe, just maybe, there might be a problem that needs solving?

Blogs like this certainly don’t help. If you don’t want to advertise to females, fine. If you think females don’t bring anything to the table, fine. If you would prefer not to work with females, fine. Let somebody else do the work and shut your mouth so that their work doesn’t go to waste and scare people off.

The general attitude from people I get from reading the Planets and bug reports is “we don’t care.” It’s prevalent here and when Shuttleworth made his comment in his speech – if there’s a concern, they shrug it off and ignore it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think it’s offensive. That doesn’t make the issues go away. Ignoring it and calling people hyper-reactive just emphasizes the complete lack of character and empathy toward females. When a guy gets offended in this ecosystem then people pay attention.

You can name any demographic that Fedora could possibly advertise to, but it will not be as big, helpful, and untapped as the female gender. There is no reason not to advertise to or welcome them.

A troll may be a troll, but I can’t say I didn’t try.

#39 otte on 02.15.10 at 15:44

Here’s a nice demographic: Everybody. It’s roughly twice as big as females only.
I also do think you claiming Open Source is “keeping away half of all contributors” is insulting. There is no exclusion of females in Open Source. There is an exclusion based on language, as bugzillas and mailing lists often insist on the English language. But there is none I’m aware of on gender.

#40 Alejandro Nova on 02.15.10 at 16:08

I really don’t want to be sexist, but a) it’s a FACT that ~95% of IT students and professionals, at least in South America, are male; b) Free Software communities are almost fully populated with IT engineers and professionals, and c) Free Software isn’t interesting for anybody outside the IT circle.

So, if you have something that is interesting for a universe composed of 95% males, you’ll have very few women there. Make FLOSS interesting for people outside IT circles and men clubs and you’ll have more women.

#41 Stormy on 02.15.10 at 17:32

Otte, perhaps you should study some of the racial diversity issues that the US has had.

Just saying a place is open to everyone, does not make the half the world who is not there feel welcome. If you went into a restaurant that was full of black people or full of just women, you would probably wonder if you were in the wrong place. Given a choice, you probably wouldn’t go back to that restaurant. You would pick one full of people more like you.

Women feel that every time they come to a free software project. Most of them leave. We lose all those contributors.

#42 P Diddy on 02.15.10 at 18:19

“Women feel that every time they come to a free software project. Most of them leave. We lose all those contributors.”

Yet they don’t go and start their own either. Why not?

#43 Sandy on 02.15.10 at 18:37

@P Diddy: Are you serious? How many projects are started by complete n00bs?

Some of you people are just being intentionally obtuse.

#44 Justyn on 02.15.10 at 19:31

You respond: “But you are saying that Open Source communities actively lock out females”.
I didn’t suggest that! I don’t think you got my point at all.

So I suspect I was not clear enough, sorry.

With women in open source, as with various other groups, the issue is not being “locked out”. The issue is that it is naturally *harder* (not impossible) for these minorities to “get in”.

No one is intentionally making it more difficult for children from poorer backgrounds to go on to higher education, or for disabled people to get into buildings.

We are not intentionally holding back women from engaging with open source either.

But these groups and other examples absolutely do have a harder time getting to where those in the majority can go so easily (all for completely different reasons).

Don’t you think that for any community to try to make it easier for those at a disadvantage to become involved is laudable?

Saying “if they want it enough then they’ll get through these issues” certainly isn’t.

#45 otte on 02.15.10 at 20:57

@Stormy: But does giving the out-of-place people special treatment make them feel less special?

@Justyn: I’m all for making it easier for people. But making it easier for minorities at the cost of majorities?

#46 Máirín Duffy on 02.15.10 at 22:59

“We don’t need more women in Open Source. ”

No you can’t say this. Just like rich old Anglo-Saxon Protestant white men historically (except for Obama and JFK) being the leaders of the United States which is more than 50% women isn’t fair representation, neither is a 99% male community producing software ‘meant’ to be used by all. Seriously.

#47 Justyn on 02.15.10 at 23:00

I am glad that you do not actually feel that it is okay to just let a minority have a hard time getting involved because it will show that they “want it badly enough”.

Your question: “But making it easier for minorities at the cost of majorities?”
I gave some examples of how we take measures to help minorities who have a harder time. Like all measures these clearly have some cost to the majority.
Everything has a cost, even if that cost is just attention.

I have a serious hypothetical question for you: would you give up on implementing these measures, like making buildings wheelchair accessible, because of the cost, a real financial cost, to the majority?

Maybe you think yes, but in my opinion the key point here is that the cost to us as a majority is actually really *small*. But the payoff for the beneficiaries? Enormous.

So I ask you, genuinely, what is the actual cost that has been incurred by trying to help women feel more comfortable in open source communities?

Now please try and seriously rate this cost against the payoff – both for those of us who would like a more diverse community and of course for those women who, as a result, get to take part in the unique experience that is open source.

#48 Justyn on 02.15.10 at 23:07

Just to be clear, I do not mean to suggest that costs may only be financial.

#49 Greg K Nicholson on 02.16.10 at 02:52

Otte, in a perfect world where everyone was already equal, we could just advertise to everyone equally, and then there’d be reasonable proportions of everyone represented.

But the world isn’t perfect. We need to target the under-represented groups to redress the balance.

“But making it easier for minorities at the cost of majorities?”

Sounds like ‘but I don’t *want* to have to accommodate other people!’. The fact that you happen to be in the majority is massively relevant. Clearly, you’re not happy about losing a small bit of your privilege [technical term—defined below]. Tough—you’ve had it easy (as we’ll see below).

“But you are saying that Open Source communities actively lock out females and I totally do not agree with that.”

So: a sizeable fraction of all women in F/OSS independently set up several groups, all of whose aim is to remove barriers to entry for women in F/OSS.

You then assert that these barriers to entry are negligible.

What experience do you have—of being a woman in F/OSS who’s never been alienated—that so overwhelmingly negates the experiences of hundreds of other people?

And what motive might those hundreds of people have for lying about their experiences?

You don’t get to choose to totally not agree with that. Your disagreement is worthless.

Women repeatedly say “you are oppressing us” and your response is “no, we’re not—now shut up about it”.

“You’re not listening to us!”—“Yes we are. Shh.”

If someone says you’re oppressing them, you don’t get to decide that you’re not.

Please, read

Even skim-read it. *Listen* for once.

Suppose—just suppose—that these people’s experiences are real.

Then—please—either help, or get out of the way.

(Or, if you want irrefutable logic, read and replace “Evolution” with “Oppression”; “Camera” with “You being a woman” and “Video” with “You experiencing oppression of women”.

(The Particular Proof you seem to be asking for is “directly experiencing oppression of women whilst being a man”. E1, E2 and E3 are each 100 women saying that they experience alienation. Same logic.)

#50 trace on 02.16.10 at 03:11

sandy is a sexist anti-female bigot

#51 Greg DeK on 02.16.10 at 03:44

Look, it’s simple.

1. We need more *people* in open source. Therefore,

2. We need to work to bring down barriers to contribution in open source projects. Therefore,

3. We need to look carefully at what those barriers are, everywhere we find them; and

4. It’s fact that there are barriers keeping women and minorities out, and since these represent some pretty huge communities, it makes to examine these barriers in particular, because successfully knocking them down will yield large gains in contributorship.

It’s not, as you seem to feel, a bunch of touchy-feely bullshit. It’s pragmatism.

And how is any of this getting in your way, exactly?

#52 Sandy on 02.16.10 at 05:16

@trace I’m glad we can keep this civil :-)

There is plenty of peer-reviewed work backing up that in certain areas, women have tended to excel more than men, and vice versa. It’s not very hard to find references to such studies if you do the least bit of reading on the topic of women in technology.

I didn’t make any judgment on what one sex can or can’t do. I only said that if it’s true that it’s easier to find women with certain abilities than men, and we value those abilities, then trying to attract women is a pretty good idea.

#53 Thomas on 02.16.10 at 06:50

“I also do think you claiming Open Source is ‘keeping away half of all contributors’ is insulting. There is no exclusion of females in Open Source.”

This reminds me a bit of a quote from the movie Good Night and Good Luck:

“…never saying no is not the same as not censoring.”

Paraphrased to fit this circumstance more clearly:

“Never ‘excluding’ women from the Open Source community is no the same as not ‘keeping [them] away.'”

Rights issues — whether about women, racial minorities, LGBTs (that would be me), etc. — are not always about what those groups cannot do, but often about what they are prevented or limited from doing. Cultural bias (and most of the FOSS community is a boys club) can very easily lead to limitations; whether they are intentional or not is irrelevant to their consequences.

It is true that there is a feminist or a pro-feminist element to most of these efforts, but so far as I’m aware, no-one is pestering you inordinately to participate. Just look at this as you would any other project in the FOSS community: If you’re not interested, go work on something you are interested in, and don’t patronize people for having different interests and priorities (and hence, utilitarian conclusions) than your own.

And I’ll have to agree with one commentator above that, if anything, the representation of gays, transgendereds, etc. seems higher than the general population in the portions of the FOSS community I’ve been exposed to. The opposite for women.

#54 Jan Wildeboer on 02.16.10 at 11:32

WRT diversity – your argument is wrong. Yes, we have a communication standard called TCP/IP BUT we have a *lot* of diverse stacks *implementing* it. The Linux stack, BSD stack, Windows, embedded, VMS, … So the real argument is that a defined standard (TCP/IP) creates a fair market for stacks to compete.

#55 otte on 02.16.10 at 14:21

Looking at the latest commets, they are either repeats, nitpicking or insulting, so I decided to stop replying to not make them get even worse.
I’d like to discuss this stuff more in an appropriate medium, so feel free to poke me on IRC or via email.

#56 harish on 02.16.10 at 15:54

Comments and unstantiated statements of the original post are clearly made to illicit knee jerk reactions. I have seen how flamewars run on the newsgroups of the Internet past and frankly, it is best to let these trolls die a natural death by non-comment. Having said that, there are times that one needs to re-check the cages and locks to make sure that they don’t come out again. And this is an opportunity for that.

So, Mr Original Poster, come over to friendly territory (not that Gnome is any less friendlier) at

#57 behdad on 02.16.10 at 18:41

You are assuming that women in Open Source have to fill in the male-dominant roles. That assumption is wrong. I pretty much agree with Sandy that 1) it’s an untapped pool; it’s not like by having one more female hacker we get one less male one, and 2) women can fill roles that are left unfilled right now because men are really bad at filling those. Think of what Stormy is doing. Would you rather we did not have Stormy, or more people like her in our community?

#58 Wei on 02.16.10 at 22:33

This is stupid. Why do you need more women in your OSS development? It is like saying “Military needs more women”, or “Hardcore gamer needs more women”, or “MIT needs more women”. Women are just not good in some stuff, and they are good in others. plain and simple. Programming, or tech stuff in general, is not a women strong suit. You are not gonna find a lot of women in for-profit company’s programmer army either.

You don’t attract people to do stuff that they are not so interested in. Well, you can attract them, but you can not keep them.

#59 Anon on 02.22.10 at 01:43

You can say whatever you like, but given that you posted this on Planet Gnome, it makes me glad I’m involved with a project other than Gnome. Feel free to keep wondering why you don’t have women in your project. :P

You would be smart not to ignore comment #49, btw. All this gender stuff has been studied *to death*. It isn’t someone else’s responsibility to educate you.

#60 Leonardo Amaral on 02.22.10 at 12:30

“Looking at the latest commets, they are either repeats, nitpicking or insulting, so I decided to stop replying to not make them get even worse.
I’d like to discuss this stuff more in an appropriate medium, so feel free to poke me on IRC or via email.”

I would’nt comment this thread, but i have just a thing to remember you: They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirldwind. Offending people you will get offended back.

#61 Andrés G. Aragoneses on 02.25.10 at 11:59

Just updating this with a new comment to mention this blog post from Stormy:

Very eye-opening. It indeed refutes a lot of comments (and maybe the post itself) here. It indeed denotes it’s not the gender, it’s the culture and the society.

#62 Wei on 02.25.10 at 21:06

One thing that is solely missing in all the pro-female-software-engineer comments is Why do we need more female software engineers???

#63 Sandy on 02.26.10 at 00:30

@Wei you obviously haven’t read any of the comments in this thread