[NBLUG/talk] SVLUG: Women in FLOSS

S. Saunders sms at sonic.net
Fri Jun 9 13:05:23 PDT 2006

On Fri, June 9, 2006 10:24, Suzanne Aldrich wrote:

> I know it seems like not a big deal, but women
> feel uncomfortable in situations like that.

It seldom "seems like a big deal" to people on the other end
of such interactions; the feeling that the other party is "just
over-reacting" is IMHO among the most-common responses
to being informed of having harrassed someone, said/did
something racist, etc.

This is, IMHO, just human nature; nobody likes to be "wrong."

> 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.


No offense to you, Suzanne, but aren't you being overly-narrow
here?  Isn't it equally-correct (at least in the main) to say,
   "The people I ended up becoming friends with... were the
   ones who addressed my intellect and not my booty."
(I mean, modulo going as a single to a party where you WANT at
least a few of the MOTAS'es to be at least a LITTLE bit gawky over
your booty, and/or similar dating/flirting/etc type situations).

> Learning about computer systems, especially open source, requires
> being in the old boy network.

It *helps*.  But it isn't *required*.  In my case, I knew *of* the old
boy network of hackers/geeks, but was never part of it; their hacking
and geeking sessions never included me.  I largely bootstrapped
myself, but I had some lucky breaks (e.g. getting in on the ground
floor when CoM moved from their old punchard systsems to UNIX on
a VAX).

> ... learning is more than RTFM.

But it can often depend on the M.  ;-)

> How do you know what to learn? You
> have to be connected.

The most important thing in the FLOSS world, IMHO, is learning how
to research items via RTFM & allied methods...  repeat after me:
   "The man pages are my FRIENDS!"
   "Judge me by the size of my shelf of tech-ref books, do you?  And
    well you should NOT, for Google is my ally, and a powerfull ally it is!"

Silly LotR / SW / Illuminatus / etc quotes ALWAYS help, of course.

> The worst thing for any learner, not just women,
> is to be in an environment where you're expected
> to know everything already.

Absolutely.  If you're "expected to know everything already" then
you should be a consultant...  ;-)

> 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

Also the built-in "network."  Many OOSgeeks do a lot of "what they do"
in isolation -- other people & the typical "office" setting are actively
destructive to their productivity.  While it's a GROSS generalization, it's
also true (as a generalization, not about every woman) that women
tend to be more social.  Geeks antigravitate away from corporate 

> ... and more consciousness of sexual harassment.

Sadly, I'm more cynical here -- I'd express it as "...more fear of..."

Hanging around with corporate types, I've actually heard MUCH
more female-disparagement (when it was "just the guys" and no
women were there to mention "harassment") than I have hanging
around with geeks (who, in an informal situation, had no fear of a
"disciplinary action" if someone complained).  The corp guys clean
up their act in a mixed-gender setting, though, and the geeks tend
not to (at least, not very much)...

- Steve S.

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