Women in Open Source – Q&A with Myself

There has recently been a surge of activity to promote participation of women in open source that includes a series of interviews with women in open source in the ROSE Blog, plans to host a women in free software mini-summit, and the FSF and GNOME considering running another women outreach program.

Here are some questions that I was recently asked by friends or asked myself as I was contemplating the subject. Please share any additional questions or answers that you can think of.

What are the benefits of open source?

  • Better and easily modifiable code
  • Internet-connected worldwide community
  • Low-barrier entry as all the educational tools and mentorship is available online
  • Low-barrier for implementing an idea and making it widely available
  • Software products that are available to people who can’t otherwise afford them

What are the benefits to women of getting involved in open source?

  • Being part of a great community, transparent way of getting things done, and a powerful inclusive movement
  • Opportunity to affect development in areas such as education, science, usability, accessibility, and access to computers in poor countries and communities
  • Rewarding and flexible jobs

What are the benefits to the open source of getting more women involved?

  • Input from all segments of population will result in products that appeal to wider markets “The power and capacity of an open source community is determined by the quantity and quality of its social capital. If a community fails to invest in either – if it turns off or away qualified people because its culture (however unintentionally) discriminates against a gender, race or group – then it limits its growth and potential.” From “Women in Open Source – the canary in the coal mine” by David Eaves
  • Bigger community – addressing some of the issues that result in fewer women in open source will also improve the experience for all newcomers
  • More gender-balanced work environment

What are the activities that people take up in the open source community?

  • Software development
  • System administration
  • User interface design
  • Graphic design
  • Documentation
  • Community management
  • Marketing
  • Identifying issues and reporting bugs
  • Helping users
  • Event organization
  • Translations

Why are women staying out?

  • Lack of knowledge about how to get involved
  • Lack of spare time and different cultural hobbies and responsibilities
  • Lack of knowledge about how important and valuable the free software movement is
  • Lack of open source recruitment events

What are the things that can be done to get more women involved in open source?

  • Outreach programs that sponsor women who are considering careers in open source
  • Open source companies hiring more women
  • Promoting open source as a rewarding field to volunteer in to create something that has social value and strengthen the resume
  • Increasing visibility of women who are already involved in open source
  • Documenting the process for getting involved better
  • Publishing comprehensive overviews explaining the process, the products, the industry and the user stories