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 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?

#2 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.

#3 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.

#4 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.

#5 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.

#6 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

#7 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?

#8 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.

#9 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.

#10 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.

#11 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.

#12 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???

#13 Sandy on 02.26.10 at 00:30

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