[NBLUG/talk] SVLUG: Women in FLOSS

Suzanne Aldrich aigeanta at sonic.net
Fri Jun 9 10:24:38 PDT 2006

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: matt <matt at cfxnetworks.com>
> To: "General NBLUG chatter about anything Linux, answers to questions,
> etc." <talk at nblug.org>
> Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 13:33:09 -0700
> Subject: Re: [NBLUG/talk] SVLUG: Women in FLOSS
> On Thursday 08 June 2006 00:47, Stephen Cilley wrote:
> > I just got back from my first SVLUG meeting, and I
> > thought their topic of discussion was very
> > interesting.  It was an overview of a study done by
> > the European Union into the gender differential in the
> > FLOSS community and why it exists.  Why do you all
> > think that while women make up about 30% of commercial
> > software developers they make up little of 1% of FLOSS
> > developers?
> > One of the overarching issues was arrogance.
> > Apparently we as a community are arrogant (I don't
> > know what that's all about, after all I've never made
> > a mistake and I've never been informed of anything I
> > didn't already know for sure!)  And it's really
> > off-putting to women, whereas men take it better.  The
> > presenter also talked about how originally hardware
> > was a male field and the first programmers were women,
> > and about how women could even be experiencing some
> > forms of sexual intimidation (there are some very
> > revealing stats about male FLOSS community members
> > making advances on female members.)
> Well, with only 1% of women for the 99% of men, you'd think there would be
> a
> supply-and-demand issue. That may explain the intimidation and "advances"
> being made =).
> --
> Valê,
> Matt
> matt at cfxnetworks.com

For my high school senior project in 1997 I researched the state of women in
Computer Science:


The three main barriers to women entering the field are probably the same,
in general, as for FLOSS:

1. Cultural Stereotypes
2. Educational Barriers
3. Lack of Role Models

On a personal level, the first time I ever went to a BBS meeting (micronet)
the reaction to me was purely sexual.
I think there was one other woman there. Everyone was playing Doom and in
between fragging each other, the
players would comment to the guy friend I'd made, "Are you sprung?!" So even
associating with a woman netted
sexual harassment for him. I know it seems like not a big deal, but women
feel uncomfortable in situations like that.
The people I ended up becoming friends with and learning about Linux and
Apache from were the ones who addressed
my intellect and not my booty.

Learning about computer systems, especially open source, requires being in
the old boy network. If you don't have a friend
who has configured the thing before and can explain to you how to do it,
good luck. Documentation is getting better in many
cases, but learning is more than RTFM. How do you know what to learn? You
have to be connected. The worst thing for any
learner, not just women, is to be in an environment where you're expected to
know everything already. Of course, no one in
existence knows everything, or even a miniscule percentage, but that's the
attitude you can be up against in the nerd community.

Perhaps the reason women make up a larger percentage of corporate
programmers as opposed to OSS is that it is a more
formalized situation where there is a built-in support network for learning
and more consciousness of sexual harassment.
I know I would rather be put on an assignment where I have the proper
resources and co-workers who are focused on completing
the same project than set loose in the wild west of competing egos.

Anyway, I don't claim to be an expert, I've just done a little research and
had the experience of being a female Stanford CS dropout.
Suzanne Aldrich
aigeanta at gmail.com
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