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Tackling Open Source's Gender Issues 589

Posted by Soulskill
from the bringing-balance-to-the-force dept.
angry tapir writes "Women's participation in open source development is at a far lower level than women's participation in proprietary software development. One of the groups that aims to change this is the Ada Initiative: A non-profit organization formed last year. I recently caught up with its two founders, Linux kernel developer Valerie Aurora and comp sci PhD student Mary Gardiner, to discuss the project."
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Tackling Open Source's Gender Issues

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:32PM (#38729100)

    Good luck trying to find a woman that doesn't care about money.

    And if you do, please tell her that I'm looking for a new wife to help me support my first two.

    • I think... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrEricSir (398214)

      ...that says more about *you* than the female sex.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:23PM (#38729840)

      Good luck trying to find a woman that doesn't care about money.

      Hah! That's easy! Just find a woman with a rich husband.

      [ducks]

  • Community resistance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:32PM (#38729106)

    The reasons for the lack of female participation in open source are a touchy subject, and I probably risk offending some folks, but the fact is that the movement is largely made up of male computer nerds with few social skills and little female contact. My guess is that women fare better in proprietary software development because it implies a level of professionalism, since if you can't interact well socially with co-workers, you usually don't work there anymore.

    Richard Stallman made some infamous remarks [blogspot.com] at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit about "EMAC virgins", explicitly defining them as women who needed to be "relieved" of their EMACS virginity as a "holy duty." RMS defended it as a parody of religion, missing the point that the complaints were about the sexism and not the religious satire (RMS also believes in legalizing pedophilia and possession of child pornography [wikiquote.org]--probably not the most palatable spokesperson to get behind in the first place).

    If you're a man who rarely hangs out with women, it's easy to forget what it's like for the other side, especially if they're in a field in which they're practically outsiders. Women didn't take too kindly [wordpress.com] to being singled out like that at a tech conference. The bigger problem is the backlash from male techies [alcor.net] that always flares up when this issue is discussed, which was amplified in the case of RMS because his core supporters tend to be so rabid.

    I'm subscribed to the Cocoa-dev mailing list, and one of the regular members there began submitting messages under her real name, revealing that she had previously been posting under a male name because they found that they got more direct responses and less obnoxious comments. And this is Apple platform development, where you might assume the more liberal elements of that particular demographic would lend itself to increased tolerance.

    I really can't imagine what it must be like to be a female developer and hope some of them voice their opinions here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djdanlib (732853)

      This is why networking and making friends is important. People turn into shut-ins or otherwise forget how important friends are, and wind up with this mentality of "he/she's being nice to me? omg he/she wants my body or is otherwise such a creeper"... That's extremely off-putting to the person who's just trying to be decent. I only took a few computer science classes, but when I was there, I could forget about social interaction. Nobody wanted to be the guy who got straight As, or be the guy who answered qu

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Really? That's called doing it wrong on so many levels. If you have healthy friendships with both men and women, you won't need to single out that one person at work or school or wherever else. Don't treat everyone like a potential mate or threat, and life is a lot better.

        There's a big problem with this idea: if you're a male CS student, for instance (or worse, in my case, a male EE student), there usually is precisely one female in any class, if you're lucky. How are you supposed to have these "healthy f

        • by djdanlib (732853) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @08:43PM (#38732688) Homepage

          It was totally like that in all of the CS and engineering classes I took. So you have to look outside the classes, in that case. It's easy, and I'll tell you about it. You have a lot of windows of opportunity for these things in college. Some of them are still viable if you're not a college student, too. If you're afraid to be social, because you're too shy... well, figure on never seeing any of these people again, and it's a lot easier to not care what they think of you. Who cares, you have other things you can check out if it fails horribly. A lot of people have the capacity to break out of their shell, you might too! If you're technologically inclined, wouldn't you want to experiment and find out what you're capable of? You do the same thing when you build a new PC, you have to see what it can do. See what YOU can do.

          Here are a dozen ideas to get started.

          1. Freshman orientation classes - talk to the other students.
          2. Going to the cafeteria with people on your floor.
          3. Participating in floor/building events.
          4. Going to Student Government sponsored events.
          5. Putting your own events together (other than LAN parties and drinking parties) and actually creating those social opportunities college students are always complaining about. Movie night! International food night!
          6. Local community service organizations. Not just fraternities, but the other ones in town. You'd be surprised at how few men actually participate in those.
          7. Student clubs on campus, other than wargaming or other predominantly male clubs.
          8. Take a few classes outside your discipline, like photography for non-majors, or a wellness class like some sort of dancing or exercise.
          9. Young adult groups or smallgroups at a local church. Most of them have these and they're really social.
          9b. Religious clubs on campus.
          10. Start or attend something from meetup.com.
          11. Start a Reddit meetup.
          12. Look for events in your local City newspaper.

          The thing is, if you stay in your comfort zone of your computer chair the whole time, you'll find that comfort zone gets smaller and smaller as you get older. You have to take charge of your life and get out there and do things. It's not really that hard and you don't even have to spend money or drive for most of these things!

          You can always make smalltalk with random people waiting in line with you at places, or whoever sits around you. The opportunities are there, waiting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sir_Sri (199544)

      In a proprietary workplace there are also a lot of other women who may not be 'developers' but they're on business, production, accounting, etc. With OSS it's basically a bunch of programming nerds talking to other programming nerds. That has its place, but there's no professional filter, a great programmer who sexually harasses female coworkers loses his job, but he can be on an OSS project with relatively little impediment.

      I suspect, to be a tad sexist, women look at open source differently than men do.

    • by phrostie (121428)

      I have to ask, How do you get in a 300+ word post withing a minute of the article being posted?

      very impressive.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:53PM (#38729382)

        the asterisk next to his name means he pays real money in order to see the articles a few minutes before the rest of us.

        • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:26PM (#38729928)

          It's also key that he's cutting and pasting [slashdot.org] the same post [slashdot.org] with minor rewrites and doing it without addressing the topic on hand in any serious way. Hell; this entire discussion is about "open source" which is something that RMS would likely disown anyway, making him completely irrelevant to the debate.

          That bonch posts get anything other than -1 redundant/flamebait/off topic, let alone that he regularly gets moderated +5 within seconds of posting is pretty clear evidence that the moderation power of the shills in the moderating system.

    • by Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:54PM (#38729404)

      RMS also believes in legalizing pedophilia and possession of child pornography

      This is as accurate as quoting Ahmadinejad as wanting to wipe Israel off the Earth... And actually both dudes make more sense than their insecure indignant "critics".

    • by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:55PM (#38729422)

      Well, I'm not going to say "turnabout is fair play", but before you heap too much criticism on socially inept nerds, consider that one reason they are that way is that women universally reject them. Tell a woman you're a computer programmer, and her eyes glaze over. Tell her you like playing computer games, and she leaves. Tell her you like her, and she'll say "ugh". And now other women want to come to communities dominated by these kinds of men, who have been despised by women since the day they were old enough to be, and then wonder why they are not made as welcome as they'd like to be? Who is really the problem here, the nerds, or the culture that inculcates contempt for them?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:04PM (#38729560)

        Tell a woman you're a computer programmer, and her eyes glaze over.

        You're talking to the wrong women. I've met many women who are quite excited by technical talk from intelligent, educated men. I've dated a few of them, and married one of them.

        Tell her you like playing computer games, and she leaves.

        Well, yes, that can be a big red flag. Most women are looking for a mature adult, not an overgrown child. If you can demonstrate that you are definitively the former, despite still playing games, then she will likely overlook that trait. But if you're like most gaming nerds, who tend to be useless children in grown-up bodies, then yes, she will walk away.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Funny, I've never seen that response from a woman simply from telling her "I'm a software engineer."

        Though I *have* seen that response when a "So what do you do?" turns into a 60-minute-long exegesis on the history of computer science and the critical role of the computer programmer in modern society, replete with references to Star Wars, Firefly, Lord of the Rings, Babylon 5, and Star Trek in the hands of some friends and colleagues.

        Here's the thing: they're turned off by you because you're an aspie bore

        • by Chemisor (97276)

          they're turned off by you because you're an aspie bore who fixates on topics of interest to you with no understanding or awareness of how uninterested in that topic they really are. It's not because you work with computers, it's because you don't know when the fuck to
          shut up about computers.

          And this is precisely the problem: they are not interested in anything that we're interested in. If I talk about computers, it's because I find it an exciting subject. Yes, I am excited about other things too, but all of

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Tell her you like playing computer games, and she leaves.

        Here's the trick: Do you play games to the expense of most other things? That's bad. Do you enjoy games when you have nothing else better to be doing? That's not so bad.

      • by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:27PM (#38730872) Homepage

        Well, I'm not going to say "turnabout is fair play", but before you heap too much criticism on socially inept nerds, consider that one reason they are that way is that women universally reject them. Tell a woman you're a computer programmer, and her eyes glaze over. Tell her you like playing computer games, and she leaves. Tell her you like her, and she'll say "ugh". And now other women want to come to communities dominated by these kinds of men, who have been despised by women since the day they were old enough to be, and then wonder why they are not made as welcome as they'd like to be? Who is really the problem here, the nerds, or the culture that inculcates contempt for them?

        I've never had that problem (and I know many quote-n-quote geeks would say the same.) Seriously, the generalizations presented herein are such an overused cliche. It's all about communication skills with members of the opposite sex, presentation, etc. If you have experienced these problems, that's on you, not them.

    • by snowgirl (978879) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:01PM (#38729510) Journal

      Pretty much this. Males seem to excel at making an environment hostile towards women, which ok in the locker room, gentleman's clubs, and other places where men have every right to be alone.

      Unfortunately, this often ends up happening where men don't have a right to be alone, but just are alone for any of the myriad of reasons that it happens. Suddenly, programming is a boy's club, or any other particular profession or hobby. Now, women have to overcome not only "crossing gender roles" in order to participate, but they find themselves in a hostile environment where men seem to expect that no women are allowed.

      And then, heaven forbid any woman comment that such an attitude is sexist, lest they be roundly shouted out with anti-PC arguments, when asking for people to be PC is different from asking people to not be sexist.

      Is it any wonder that the only women who make it into the highest levels of programming have learned to cope by pretending to be a guy, or acting the bitch just to get their way? :(

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:11PM (#38730620)

        This varies a lot. Most of my jobs in the past have had some amount of women engineers, higher in some lower in others. And definitely I can say that the lower the number of women the more rude the behavior from the men. But when there are more women then men tend to behave better however I rarely saw any pushback; no one complained that they were being stifled by having to use mature language (ie, not swearing) or being quieter when telling the latest joke. And I have never seen any woman in engineering pretending to be one of the guys or acting bitchy (that's more a stereotype in upper management).

        I would put a lot of blame on management when these problems come up though. Just don't let the team act like frat boys, keep the competition in check, etc, even if there are no females around.

        If anything I would expect the corporate world to be worse, because in open source you never need to see the other person and they don't know anything about you in return. Face-to-face meetings in open source are relatively rare.

        • by Shinobi (19308) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @07:02PM (#38731366)

          Less competition in a female-dominated work environment? You are wrong.

          There's just as much competition, it just takes other forms, it's less direct. That's one of the great things with the arrival of computer networks and stuff like shared calendars in for example Exchange and other groupware servers..... Secretary dominance fights are less crippling for a company nowadays... Though it still happens, and when it does, it wreaks havoc on entire departments. Same happens in medical care, the sniping, backstabbing and character assassination there is legendary....

      • Oh, the "hostile environment" idea. Any environment where the boys grossly outnumber the girls is automatically hostile to the girls. I should think however, that nerdy though we are, we are a tiny bit more respectful than other boys clubs such as the military, and the average sport. But maybe we are worse because we're so starved for a bit of affection. And we certainly don't have neat uniforms.

        Many single women act as if just looking at them is some kind of horrible crime, and are so ready to see mo

        • by Shinobi (19308)

          Uhm, can't talk for the US, but here in Sweden, it's less hostile for women in the military than in many tech/science fields(And computer/physics/math sciences are the worst), and it's less hostile than for men in quite a few female-dominated professions such as nursing for example, though the military has only grown like that in the last 10 years or so, which coincides with the fact that women aren't automatically made NCO's etc, and the fact that unlike in many other armies in the world, female soldiers a

        • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @07:16PM (#38731566) Journal

          Oh, the "hostile environment" idea. Any environment where the boys grossly outnumber the girls is automatically hostile to the girls. I should think however, that nerdy though we are, we are a tiny bit more respectful than other boys clubs such as the military, and the average sport. But maybe we are worse because we're so starved for a bit of affection. And we certainly don't have neat uniforms.

          Indeed, the whole reason this keeps coming up on slashdot seems to be to kick the (male) geeks in the shorts for being sexist pigs. And of course like Pavlov's dogs a few sexists and a few trolls (and probably some sexist trolls) show up to prove the point. The problem with the "sexist pig" theory is it requires computer programmers to not only be sexist, but to be the most sexist of all professions excluding sports. More sexist than men in the military. More sexist that salespeople. More sexist than advertising people. This is a bit hard to believe.

          Note in another post the typecast dig at RMS for supposedly being smelly.

          No, he's really smelly. I only have that information secondhand, but it's from a female programmer, so it's reliable :-)

      • by Shinobi (19308) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:47PM (#38731146)

        Trust me, female-dominated professions are just as bad when it comes to sexism. The nurse profession for example. As a male, it's ok to be a paramedic, or a doctor. But if you even start studying to become a nurse, you're told from the get go that your only purpose as a male is to do the heavy lifts, you get marked down on exams, essays etc merely for being male. As a male, you can be top of your class in actual knowledge, with years of practical experience from warzones, traffic accidents etc, the woman who's afraid of needles, faints at the sight of blood etc will still get a higher grade, and be hired before you when you go looking for a job as a nurse.

        Hence, many men drop out of nurse school and study to become doctors instead, which has lead to a rather hilarious policy which has even been used in official proclamations here in Sweden... It goes like this: A study finds that female nurses are heavily overrepresented when it comes to back injuries, due to heavy lifting. As a result of the physical requirements, more men need to be hired for those wards. Meanwhile, female nurses are heavily encouraged to train as lab nurses etc...

        I only took those courses for 6 months, then I left, RIGHT before the would-be nurse afraid of needles and blood phobia could leech off of me in the group project where she had been assigned to me by the teacher, without me having any say whatsoever.

        Institutional sexism is not limited to men. Women do it just as much.

        I had been planning on switching profession from developer to nurse or similar, but I cancelled those plans. I still remain a volunteer paramedic.

    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      I happen to know some of them, and yes, it is not easy quest. Very often, she said, when she goes to an interview, the moment they see her, their reaction is: Ohhhh, you are ahhhh., i see......k, lets start then.......... And she knows that it is already over, before even starting it. The funny thing is that it is not even discrimination but STUPIDITY. For some strange reason we, the male alpha wolfs, are failing to use half of our limited pool of talented developers. HALF. Can you imagine what it would be
    • by ilguido (1704434)

      The reasons for the lack of female participation in open source are a touchy subject, and I probably risk offending some folks, but the fact is that the movement is largely made up of male computer nerds with few social skills and little female contact.

      This is a bad generalization at best. Not too different from the first post.

      My guess is that women fare better in proprietary software development because it implies a level of professionalism, since if you can't interact well socially with co-workers, you usually don't work there anymore.

      As far as I could see there aren't much more female closed source software programmers than female open source software programmers. Obviously some closed source software company employed female workers, but not extensively as programmers or server admins or the likes. Closed source software legendary programmers are all men as far as I know.

      In my opinion it should be easier for a female programmer to develop for open source softw

    • by ezweave (584517) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:54PM (#38730372) Homepage

      You touch on something, but I think there are deeper issues at work here.

      (FWIW, I welcome their involvement in OSS. There is quite a bit of historical social machinery that stands in the way and someone needs to do something about it.)

      Every few months (YMMV), it seems that there is a story on /. about a lack of women in science and engineering. Some posters on this particular topic have also suggested that very few women pursue "geeky" endeavors in their free time. From a very arm-chair/anecdotal position, I think these both have some of the main root cause: from a young age women are not encouraged to pursue technology or science in the same way boys are.

      There are many factors for this, it's not as simple as saying that "the parents are doing a bad job" or "it's the schools". Like most things, it's not that black and white. As a boy, for a variety of reasons, I spent many hours reading books, tinkering, and generally "being by myself" that led to how I solve problems and spurred me on my way in my interests. My sisters, under the auspices of a very liberal, slightly disconnected intellectual, were given the same sort of options, but followed their peers more: socializing, etc. But I cannot rightly claim that this is what happens to everyone. What I can say is that it does seem like even children are encouraged in different paths by the whole of society and that this is hard to fight, but should start somewhere. Did my teachers encourage males to "be nerdy" and females to be social? Are there different pressures exerted on young girls, not just by their families, but by media?

      If we take that disparity between male and female at an academic level (that is, the difference in enrollment/matriculation under science and technology by the sexes) and then envision those graduates as working professionals, the numbers make more sense. If (these are purely made up numbers to illustrate a point) 75% of graduates in, say, Computer Science are males and only 20% of graduates go on to contribute to OSS, there is a good chance that the make up of the OSS contributing graduates will be predominately male (there is no guarantee, of course... it could well be that that 20% is part of the 25% of female graduates in my made up scenario, but ceteris paribus you'd not expect that).

      I don't think this has as much to do with salary as it does these other social rules and the existing social frameworks that exist. That is why groups like the Ada Initiative may seem backwards to some, but are needed. Someone needs to encourage the young (and old) women on the fence that they can contribute to OSS, that it's okay to be geeky. Someone needs to set these examples for girls so that they don't fall into the age old traps of misogyny.

      Additional food for thought: I do many technical interviews and I see very few females who contribute to OSS in them, but a sad majority of the men are often quite bigoted and not as liberal as they would like to believe. That is to say, anecdotally, there is sometimes a correlation with OSS work and poor empathy skills which result in these types of problems (groping, etc). Sometimes this social outsider "dive into books" sort of thing that may contribute to the division to begin with, also makes some men who's social skills are undeveloped (to put it nicely) and pathetic (to put it bluntly).

  • by Tekfactory (937086) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:37PM (#38729178) Homepage

    I mean come on that's been a problem for years right?

  • No thanks. The open-source movement has a hard enough time without having the effort split on the gender line.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:42PM (#38729256)
    They just don't post stupid questions to message boards because they RTFM.
  • by chuckfirment (197857) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:51PM (#38729354)

    Living in the San Francisco Bay Area and working in software, I know many developers both male and female. I have a few personal female acquaintances that were (past-tense) previously active in the open source community, but left.

    They were aggressively harassed by a very vocal online minority. This vocal minority would trash the ladies name on a large swath of online forums while using different names and accounts. Two received multiple anonymous threats of violence. This went on for years, and the ladies in question finally left the open source community.

    This went above and beyond 'normal' flaming in online forums. This involved many forums, each cross referencing each other to lend validity to their (entirely fabricated) claims. And it went on for years, including insinuation that the female developer would come to harm at conferences.

    It's very unlikely this happens in every case, but it takes more than a single nutjob attacking someone, or even many nutjobs attacking, to make someone leave the community. It takes good people like you and me to ignore the nutjobs, to not step in and say, "That's enough."

    • by pclminion (145572)

      It's very unlikely this happens in every case, but it takes more than a single nutjob attacking someone, or even many nutjobs attacking, to make someone leave the community. It takes good people like you and me to ignore the nutjobs, to not step in and say, "That's enough."

      Excuse my incredulity, but is this attitude really helping? You are continuing to promulgate the idea that women need the help of men to survive -- like it's YOUR job to step in and say "enough."

      If I received a threat implying I'd come

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:08PM (#38729624)

        There is always room for men to be allies to women without degrading, patronizing, or creating dependence. Doing it skillfully can take some consideration and actively consulting with women about how they'd prefer to work with male allies. It also means backing off when women say your help isn't needed or wanted. But there's nothing sexist about standing with someone who's being attacked. The same goes for straight people and gay people or any other majority/minority situation: having members of the majority who really "get it" absolutely matters.

      • Not speaking up (Score:5, Informative)

        by warrax_666 (144623) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:12PM (#38729690)

        Not speaking up signals to these fuckheads that their behavior is acceptable. It's not.

      • by mjr167 (2477430) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:23PM (#38729862)

        One of the reasons women do not sometimes speak up when harassed or threatened, etc is because sometimes it is felt that the community supports the harasser. It is often simply easier to leave a community that does not want rather than attempt to change it. Why do I need the headache of putting up with bigots so that I can participate in a optional community that doesn't want me? If you do not value me, I can go elsewhere. The open source development community is not something that is essential. It is purely optional.

        Another reason is that often when you do speak up people respond by complaining that you are an overly sensitive whiner and how typical of a woman to not have the balls to take it. So again, why bother? I don't need you so if you obviously don't need me, fuck off. I have better things to do. Like my real job that pays me.

        It's not that women need the help of MEN, but that when people are being asses it is the job of other PEOPLE to step up and say "No! We do not treat people that way!" The same call for decency applies to all kinds of harassment, not just gender. It is your job as a member of the community to represent the community and make sure the people you want to be there feel welcome and the people who step out of line get put in their place. This has nothing to do with men protecting women, but for decent people standing up for what is right. All that is required for evil to flourish is for good to do nothing.

        The attitude that you need do nothing because a woman should stand up for herself all on her own only supports the asshats and serves to isolate the woman. This proves to her that the community does not want her and she is better off going someplace else.

        • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:31PM (#38730008)

          I apologize if my post made me sound condescending or unconcerned, but I've spent a lifetime receiving mixed signals on this topic. The worst, which actually makes me feel like dirt when it happens, is getting shouted at for holding the door. I hold the door for people, not women. The look of loathing I have on occasion received, simply for trying to help another person out, is enough to make me want to dig a hole and drop into it.

          • Dude - they didn't ask you to hold the fucking door. They asked you to speak up when someone was acting like a dick to someone else. If you can't see the difference, I don't know what else to say. Here's a clue - the last one takes balls.

            • by pclminion (145572)

              They asked you to speak up when someone was acting like a dick to someone else. If you can't see the difference, I don't know what else to say. Here's a clue - the last one takes balls.

              Well then let me relate another anecnote. I'm in the corner convenience store buying a beer. The regular clerk is behind the counter -- an older, Russian lady who reminds me a lot of my mother in law. There's a woman in there shouting at the clerk because she was unable to park in the parking lot as it was full of cars. The

      • by jjohnson (62583) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:25PM (#38729914) Homepage

        Way to set the bar pointlessly high. So women, in order to participate normally in the community, have to demonstrate super-fitness to participate by beating the shit out of those who threaten them? Why doesn't the community simply agree that this behaviour is unacceptable?

        It's not that men need to protect women. It's that, in a room of 100, if five or so are working diligently to prevent another two from participating, those two can't really be expected to be successful at participating if the other 95 just keep their mouths shut and shuffle their feet when the two complain about how they're treated.

        That's why men should speak up against sexism.

      • by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:04PM (#38730536)

        It's very unlikely this happens in every case, but it takes more than a single nutjob attacking someone, or even many nutjobs attacking, to make someone leave the community. It takes good people like you and me to ignore the nutjobs, to not step in and say, "That's enough."

        Excuse my incredulity, but is this attitude really helping? You are continuing to promulgate the idea that women need the help of men to survive -- like it's YOUR job to step in and say "enough."

        If I received a threat implying I'd come to harm at a conference, I'd show up to the conference with some brass knuckles, and anybody trying to make good on that threat would be leaving the conference minus a set of front teeth, and perhaps minus their complete set of cognitive abilities.

        Women cannot gain independence via dependence.

        If you put the strongest black man in the world in a room with 100 white supremicists bent on his destruction, the fact that the black man now needs help doesn't make him weak.

        And in the OP's case, it is YOUR job to step in and at the very least say "this nutjob does not represent me".

  • A possibility (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Riceballsan (816702) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:56PM (#38729442)
    From my experience in the tech world, I would say there are far less women who live and breathe computers even among those who work with them. While finding females in the IT industry is far less rare than it used to be, one thing I do notice is a larger portion of them tend to prefer specializing in one area, rather than an overall knowledge of subjects, and even fewer that I find that actually continue to enjoy spending time on computers outside of work. That is not to discredit or claim any of them are less smart than their male counterparts, in many ways many of them are far smarter in their respective specialization, but very few women that I have worked with tend to be the types that will sit on a computer at work all day long, and then go home and work on their personal computer related personal projects.
  • by Xanny (2500844) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:57PM (#38729454)

    But I don't care what dangly bits are in your pants. I will probably never see you in person, you are just an ally, possibly a friend, in development.

    I mean, the fundamental problem is that there are thousands of (general case) engineering major men who never interact with women because there IS a cultural divide on the front of women in engineering. Until the early years problem of women being indoctrinated into thinking the only way to live life is through socialization and pop culture knowledge dictates how good of a person you are, the fundamental problem won't be fixed. The open source community is full of people in the general sense that love developing software for everyone to use. That isn't a sex deterministic thing, and attraction to open source development shouldn't be sex derived.

    The basic answer is that you won't change the thousands of men who think it is ok to sexually harass anyone with two X chromosomes on the internet. They just need to take the same stance on it that everyone else does on everything else - ignore them and they go away. If there are active developers on a project that would harass someone for having a 50% chance at birth roll one way instead of another, I wouldn't want to associate with them either.

    But like I said, the problem is cultural. We might have laws saying women are equal in the workplace, but modern families raise kids on two distinct tracks depending on their chromosome composition, and it breeds this behavior. That needs to be fixed rather than trying to do damage control after the fact.

  • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:04PM (#38729552)

    A project carrying an "open source" or "free software" license is not necessarily an "open source" project. Plenty of "Cathedral" projects with paid developers with an open source license that may (or may not) get downstream patches kicked up. Those projects are going to look like any other corporate development group. These are really the core projects.

    The "open source projects" of people hacking code make up the bulk of developers in open source, and is the hobbyist developers. People that have a lot of time to devote to a hobby are either single, or older empty nesters. Men can hang out in the single realm and start a family @ 40, women cannot. This limits women from engaging in serious time commitments like open source projects.

    The pool of women available to do this is pretty small.

    That's without dealing with the fact that women tend to have tighter deviations from the norm in various areas, which means that any group that is selected from extreme outliers is going to be disproportionately male. This is true whether you are selecting politicians that reach Federal office, people that are extremely interested in programming to pursue as a hobby, moving to America as a day laboring immigrant, or criminally oriented men to form a gang. The outliers are predominately (but not exclusively) male.

    In local politics, where the time commitment is NOT as extreme and the skill set needed to be elected is NOT that extreme, we have a pretty good mix of men and women on city counsels, school boards, mayoral seats, etc. Not 50-50, but a pretty good representation. We have plenty of female mayors, but we've NEVER had a female governor. Outliers in general are predominately male.

    • by slimjim8094 (941042) <[slashdot3] [at] [justconnected.net]> on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @07:24PM (#38731668)

      That's without dealing with the fact that women tend to have tighter deviations from the norm in various areas, which means that any group that is selected from extreme outliers is going to be disproportionately male. This is true whether you are selecting politicians that reach Federal office, people that are extremely interested in programming to pursue as a hobby, moving to America as a day laboring immigrant, or criminally oriented men to form a gang. The outliers are predominately (but not exclusively) male.

      This. A hundred thousand times this. Any genetically-influenced trait is going to show a wider bell curve for males. Biologically, it seems to be due to the fact that men with an extraordinary (for better or worse) X chromosome have it expressed, while women have two. Since the second is probably normal, this tempers the effects of the first (it has to do with X-deactivation happening basically at random in each cell). Hence, there are more male geniuses than female - but equally more male retards (in the technical, not perjorative, sense) than females.

      Brains are staggeringly different in structure, male vs. female. There's substantial evidence that on the balance they each come to the same level of intelligence in nearly everything, but through surprisingly different ways. Given the genetic differences, coupled with hormones, upbringing, society, and history - it's really shocking that sex differences are as small as they are (3-5 IQ points on average, which is well within the noise of measurement). However, when talking about rather subtle differences, it seems preposterous to suggest that there couldn't be rather enormous differences across sexes in specific areas.

      There is sexism everywhere. Mostly misogyny, but an increasing amount of misandry. Neither is acceptable, and most of it is due to nonexposure. If there were more female programmers, there'd be less sexism. I suspect there was quite a lot of sexism in medicine and law as well, before women became dominant.

      It's worth noting that the text of your post could have been paraphrased from a speech given by one Larry Summers. They fired him for saying pretty much what you did (time commitment issues due to family raising, combined with variance differences)

  • by Prune (557140) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:04PM (#38729556)
    The fact that brain function related to intelligence is not identical in men and women is well established, despite similarities in generalized intelligence measurements and political correctness. It's more nature than nurture; don't blame society. This has been debated by the experts, and the nature side won: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.html [edge.org] (also note Pinker's references), as much as an inconvenience this is to some people. I expect to be modded down for this, as it's always easiest to shoot the messenger... cheers anyway, folks.
  • Some thoughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quantaman (517394) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:08PM (#38729628)

    1. A lot of the creepy sexist behaviour in the open source community is more a result of the lack or women rather than the cause.

    2. There seems to be a subset of communities, new atheism, rationality groups, loud political activism, that seem to have a mixture of exclusivity and deliberately being an outsider. For whatever reason (culture or biology) these tend to be massively male dominated. The Open Source movement feels like it belongs in this group.

    3. Combining 2 with programmings pre-existing male dominance and you get a very skewed gender distribution.

    I have no idea how to fix things, but that's my perspective on some of the causes of the issue.

    • by snowgirl (978879)

      Indeed. Unfortunately, once a culture grows up that is very single-gender heavy, it can become hostile to anyone not conforming with the expected gender roles.

      It almost becomes a feedback loop, mostly men get into a field, and pioneer it, as a result the field ends up male-dominated, as a result, females feel excluded when joining, and elect to drop out rather than swim against the current, so field ends up more male-dominated. :(

      • by quantaman (517394)

        I want to make clear at the start that I'm not arguing nature vs nurture as it doesn't affect my point, and I'm making broad generalizations because that's the entire point (and people love to start side arguments about those things).

        It's a feedback loop, but I don't think it's a self-sustaining feedback loop. ie I think there are other issues keeping the women away, and if those were gone more women would start trickling in and the male dominated culture would evaporate fairly quickly.

        Consider an analogous

  • by John Jamieson (890438) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:12PM (#38729678)

    Society has to get over the preoccupation of having a 50/50 gender split on everything.

    As a married father of a girl and two boys it is very clear that every child at a very early age (6 months) starts displaying very different interests and abilities. My two boys both took to boy things instantly but one loved swords (guns, sports etc) and the other took to mechanical stuff (cars, thomas the train etc.)

    A rule is just a general principle, but, as a rule girls move into IT for reasons other than the love of coding. Claim that they are too smart to work for free, that they figured out that IT staff are abused, that nerds scare them away or whatever you want... but the truth is they just have other interests, get over it.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Well 50/50 is a bit too much to expect everywhere. But sometimes there's a 99/1 split.

  • by JumperCable (673155) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:41PM (#38730160)

    I don't really think there will be much of a change in the percentage of female involvement in open source coding no matter what we do (unless Mattel introduces Open Source Coding Barbie).

    But barring that how about:

    * Starting an all woman coding project.

    * At conferences, instead of having evening happy hours with 100-to-1 guy girl ratios, split them up to hit the local bars to hit on women who are actually interested in being hit on and better looking that the ones that are of only interest because they are the only ones there. This will help take the focus off of the women beyond their coding competency.

    * Level up the socially awkward geeks who are bugging these women because they are pretty much the only female contact in their life. Direct them to resources on how to lose weight, get in shape, dress better and improve their social skills & social life.

    Any other solution I hear out there consists of yelling at men and calling them neckbeards instead of actually trying to find solutions. Of course this approach isn't well received and ultimately results in idiotic yelling matches between people who want nothing more than to insult each other based on gender issues. And yes, this is why most people ignore this shit. The people involved are more focused on degrading other people than building them up.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @05:57PM (#38730426)

    Everything is a gender or race issue. Why is this so important? No one is forcing women out of open source. Pretty much anyone can participate that WANTS to be there.

    First, most participation comes without any idea of what the other person even looks like so the notion of gender or race probably is irrelevant. Am I man or a woman or an orange gorilla who escaped from his cage? You don't know.

    Second, most of these heavily male communities are not lacking for females because they're intentionally driving them away. To the contrary, most of them want women if only to feel less like they're in an isolated research station on the moon. Psychologically men just prefer that. It doesn't even need a sexual component.

    I guess I wonder if people are going to be playing the race and gender card 100 years from now? Does this thing expire ever? What effort needs to be made and then we can say "enough."... ever? Because if it's never enough then just out of simply pique I suggest we reverse that situation and start demanding male participation in female activities ESPECIALLY if men don't want to participate. See, some group is complaining because women have INTENTIONALLY chosen to not participate in certain activities. And this is somehow a male problem. Well, what about all the female groups that men don't have any interest in at all? Demand equal representation. Now you might only be able to get one man for every ten women that want to join such groups. But if you enforce equality it means that nine women have to be rejected for every one that is accepted into such groups and all men are accepted indifferent to any other qualification.

    Sound like fun? Well, the men aren't enjoying this nonsense either. Just stop it. If you're actively being driven away because of your vagina then cite some evidence and we'll deal with it. But if all you've got is correlative gender statistics then please don't waste our time.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @06:38PM (#38731024) Homepage Journal

    An intelligent, educated woman is very unlikely to remain single for long. I suspect the root cause of the disparity between open source and proprietary participation of women on projects is due to the simple fact that once they go home from work, they have real lives to live, while many of "the guys" in the industry are techno-freaks with little or no social life and plenty of spare time to devote to OSS or Free projects.

    Like myself. 47 and counting. *sigh*

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @07:55PM (#38732090)

    There, I said it.

    In fact, ANY barriers of entry into FOSS development - devskills aside - are *very* low when it comes to 'types of people', be they male, female, handycapped, black, asian, white, stutterers, deaf, blind or whatnot.

    The truth is, you can work for years on end without people even knowing that you're a woman, 95% spastic, tied to a wheelchair with no means what so ever to articulate yourselves without a keyboard. A friend of mine worked on a non-trivial FOSS project for a few years, and only after quite some time came to find out that one of the devs had a serious stutter. ... Of course, stuttering doesn't show in E-Mails and IRC.

    The very same thing goes for being a woman. For all I know, entire subsystems of the Linux kernel could be developed by women and we wouldn't even know ... or really care for that matter. After all, in the end, it's the results that matter.

    No, I call bullshit on this whole 'barriers of entry' non-sense. Any women who is interested in FOSS dev'ing is two clicks away from joining a projects mailing list, and if she makes no big deal of her gender until her first 100 commits as a core-team member there isn't even a chance that gender could cause an issue. And even if that should come up, I doubt that in any serious project it would be much of a big deal.

    I suspect stronger evolutionary or society forces at work here. Diving into the minute details of the millionth PHP CMS project or yet another PL for the Java VM is a thing for the sexually frustrated / unchallenged male looking for yet another avantgarde frontier where he can prove himself and grow the self-esteem to eventually, if he is lucky, be able to interact in more generic social situations - i.e. those with sexual subtexts involved - at eye-level with more 'dumb' but handsome men, in places where also the ladies are at.

    Doing what most of us do requires a sort of hunter/ADHD/ausbergers type of brain and those are know to be found more in men than with women. ... But that's just one theory from the top of my head. Maybe in 20 years from now we'll have women dev'ing just like they are playing video-games today. ... Or reading comics/mangas. Also something unthinkable 20 years ago. ... No, the new and avantgarde always has been interesting for excess men who weren't in some womens hands already. Jazz came from black males and not white women, despite black males being way more at a disadvantage 150 years ago, *especially* in terms of basic human rights, spare time and musical education. Goes to show that evolution does still have a little say in things, doesn't it?

    My 2 cents.

  • by metrometro (1092237) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @08:49PM (#38732738)

    Take these little gems as evidence of a real, vicious problem in geek culture:

    "It’s by far the worst coding-related experience I ever went through. That made me retire from Open Source." http://www.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/when-software-offends-the-pantyshot-package-controversy/509 [zdnet.com]

    “I was trying not to, but it needed to be said.” http://skepchick.org/2011/12/reddit-makes-me-hate-atheists/ [skepchick.org]

    "c'mon. you're not a girl if u don't show us pics." http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_17/109-OMG-Girlz-Dont-Exist-on-teh-Intarweb-1 [escapistmagazine.com]

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