I didn’t see Danese Cooper‘s talk "Why Whinging Doesn’t Work" but the title has really been bothering me. I almost titled this post "stop telling me to stop whining!"
I should start by saying I have never complained about my career in technology. (And I’m sure Danese wasn’t thinking about me personally when she wrote her title!) To the contrary, I feel like I’ve lived a charmed life in technology. Not only have I had very few negative experiences but they’ve been outweighed ten times by all the positive ones. And as I tried to point out in my lightening talk, in every negative gender related experience I’ve had, it’s always been guys who’ve jumped in to straighten things out.
I really credit the people in technology for my great experience. It started in college with the guys in the lab (we didn’t have Linux on a laptop), the graduate students I met at happy hour, and the professors who spent hours helping me, asked my opinion and took my feedback seriously. (To be fair, I should note that some of the exact same people gave my college roommate a very different experience. She left computer science, but no worries. She got a PhD in electrical engineering from MIT and now balances a career in technology with not one, but three, toddlers. I’m in awe.)
So I’m not whining about my experience as a women in open source – it’s been great – but I talk about women in technology all the time to try to get more women in open source. Think about the best developers you know, those superstars that you admire, the ones whose code and ideas you use every day … Now imagine there were twice as many of them. That’s what bringing more women into technology could do.
We’re making good progress – there were a lot of amazing women at OSCON – but there’s still a long ways to go – I was the only woman at the GNOME mobile meeting.
Now I do think we are usually talking to the wrong crowd. If I had told the GNOME mobile meeting guys, "hey, there’s no women here" they would have gone "yeah, we know." We need to be out talking to those women, and girls, who might join us but haven’t yet.
10 Replies to “Imagine twice as many developers”
You know stuff like this kind of irks me. Yeah it would be nice to have more women involved with Gnome. I’ve been trying to contribute but I can’t even get my patches looked at. I’ve had stuff rotting in bugzilla for six months. Others have had their stuff forgotten there for much longer. How about before you guys think of ways to try to attract new contributors you make a few minutes for people who already want to and are trying to contribute.
Absolutely we need to encourage people who are trying to contribute, in addition to recruiting new people. The chances of getting new contributors by helping those that are already trying is much higher than going out looking for random people! My point wasn’t a GNOME specific point, it was technology industry in general point. We’re leaving the girls out.
Do you know who maintains the part of GNOME you submitted a patch for?
Alex, this unfortunately especially happens with larger projects. Maintainers often have several projects to maintain. We are currently working on establishing a Patchsquad for this to improve the patch review process, see http://live.gnome.org/PatchSquad for more information and how to join the mailing list.
In any case I understand that it is totally demotivating to not get any feedback. Please tell me one of the bug numbers that you have attached a patch to (should be enough for me to also find the rest of your contributions) and let me see if I can improve the situation a bit).
To comment on the original issue, the problem starts much earlier. If I look around at my university in the Computer Sciences related courses, the amount of girls is always less than 10%. Now is GNOME “even worse” than the average CS values, or other software projects?
I don’t think so.
To me it’s the school system that somehow gives girls the feeling of not believing in themselves, especially in technical courses where also boys are present – at least that’s the case in my home country according to studies.
For the sake of completeness, there’s http://live.gnome.org/GnomeWomen and we had an outreach program in 2006, see http://www.gnome.org/projects/outreach/women/ . This is of course not meant as an excuse that there couldn’t be much more done to push this.
So I really wasn’t picking on GNOME! (I do tend to use examples from my company, project or organization because that way I’m not picking on any one else.)
It’s not a GNOME problem. I forget the percentages but I could look them up: by high school, there are less women than men interested in math and science, in the university, it’s even a smaller percent, in graduate school and jobs, it’s even smaller and in open source, it’s even smaller.
So I agree, we need to make changes at the kid level. At home, in school and in the community.
Maybe the following recording of a talk of Fernanda G Weiden on FSCONS is of interest for you: Free Software with a Female Touch: http://www.fsfe.org/en/content/download/34051/210133/file/fscons-2007-fernanda-weiden-female-touch.ogg.torrent
Whatever the reason, being a “geeky” area is not the whole explanation or even a major part. Theoretical mathematics is as geeky, as nerdy, as obsessively introverted as a subject can humanly become, and one that’s long been a completely male-dominated area. If anything, theoretical math has a worse reputation for antisocial dorkiness than computer science, and math as a subject has a long entrenched (false) reputation as being something women are not good at. And yet, even this subject today manages to have at least 30% (and increasing) female students, and a similar proportion of graduate students.
So whatever is wrong with our area, the subject matter itself can’t be the whole or major explanation.
In other countries, the gender balance in university theoretical mathematics departments is different. I believe in Malaysia, it is a female dominated subject.
Perhaps the way to bring more women in is to start by looking outside our own countries. Balance things out by courting women that haven’t been socialized to avoid computer programming.
I spoke in Malaysia quite a while ago and what impressed me most was that half my audience was women. I asked everyone about it but to them it was normal. So yeah, including those women in our projects would increase our diversity and help set role models for women in other countries. (They already are role models.)
The maintainer in question is Vincent Untz. The module is gnome-panel.
I believe gnome-panel has quite a few rapidly aging, completely ignored patches.
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