Women in open source panel at Grace Hopper

A couple of weeks ago I got to go to the Grace Hopper conference for women in computing. It was a great conference. My favorite talk was one I happened on by accident, "I’m an imposter," where some of the most successful women I’ve ever met in person got up and talked about how they often feel like they are in the wrong place or got there by accident or are being asked to do something they have no idea how to do. It was really funny and very motivating. (If they have self doubts and got to where they are at, well then … For example, the president of Harvey Mudd College talked about how she sat between two billionaires at lunch and asked for $25 million for her school. If she can do that, I should have no problem asking for very modest – comparatively – donations for the GNOME Foundation!)

I was on a panel about women in open source. We weren’t as funny but hopefully we were as motivating. Our goal was to encourage women to participate in open source so we all started off by sharing our stories of how we got involved. A good many of us originally got into open source through our jobs, as opposed to as a self started hobby. I wonder how that would compare to how men started.

Our session was standing room only and there were lots of questions – hopefully we talked at least one person into working on open source software!

Here’s the panel.


Kristen Carlson Accardi
(Intel), Meenakshi Kaul-Basu (Sun Microsystems), Stormy Peters (GNOME
Foundation), Valerie Fenwick (Sun Microsystems), Zoë Slattery (IBM), Kathryn Vandiver (NetApp)

(Picture from Meenakshi’s camera taken by somebody in the hall. 🙂

Imagine twice as many developers

I didn’t see Danese Cooper‘s talk

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.

Learning not to cry in today’s work place

One of the things I'm passionate about is encouraging women in technology. With that in mind, I'm going to talk about something that's never discussed in mixed company: crying at work. Or rather, trying desperately not to cry at work. I'll tell you how I try not to cry at work and I'll tell you how you can help someone who's trying not to cry: create space. Tell a joke, change the subject for a minute.

I cry easily. I cry when I'm frustrated, mad or hurt. I used to not worry about it until one day a roommate told me – after an argument – that when I cried he assumed I was sorry. I was so mad – I cried!

Trying not to cry has always been really hard for me. The tears come, you discretely try to wipe them off, you stare at the ceiling, you think about something else, … it wasn't until I got pregnant that I figured out how to get rid of them. Most of the time anyway.

I did once have the chance to ask a psychologist about trying not to cry. He said he could teach me through lots of role playing and different skills to just not cry. But he wouldn't want to – crying was healthy.

Crying changed when I got pregnant a couple of years ago. When I first got pregnant, if I started to cry, I couldn't stop. There's nothing worse than being in a sales meeting, arguing about whether book covers should be blue or green, and all of a sudden you're crying. And you can't stop. And everyone is looking at you. And they don't know you're pregnant, they just see you bawling about some stupid book covers. I went for a lot of walks there for a while. I think the janitor was really worried about me. Thankfully the next stage of pregnancy set in quickly. During that stage I felt like I was set apart from discussions – maybe it was the eight inches of stomach between me and them – but I just didn't really care. I mostly felt detached humor.

Feeling detached works well for not crying and I can still recreate that feeling (without getting pregnant) but it doesn't work well when you're passionate. And I'm passionate about a lot of the things I work on. I don't want to feel detached. Humor's ok, but not detachment.

So I've worked out two things that help me not cry. (Now consider that I think that the best thing would probably be just to cry and let people deal with it. I'm me. But if the other person is going to think I'm sorry, well, I guess for now I'll work on not crying. Next we'll work on teaching the world there's more reasons to cry than I'm sorry.)

The two things that help me not cry when I don't want to be crying are:

  1. It's not about me. I'm going to write a whole blog post about "It's not about me" but for I'll talk about it briefly here. When I get so frustrated that I'm about to cry – when I'm so upset that he doesn't understand why the covers have to be blue in order for us to be successful – I remember it's not about me. He's arguing that the covers need to be green because every company he's ever worked at, the covers have been green. And he told his kid all covers should be green. And he's never seen a blue cover – what kind of crazy people would make blue covers? And … you get the picture. (Substitute "proprietary software" and "open source" for green and blue …) So I'm not just fighting that he thinks these covers should be green – I'm fighting 20 years worth of green covers. It's not just about me and now.
  2. Space. If I can create just a little bit of space, I'm usually good to go. Humor is really good for this. Recently I went back to HP for a meeting and realized how much I miss the humor they inject into their meetings. There's a continuous undercurrent of good natured banter. I use that now whenever I need it. So just recently, a colleague questioned the value of my work. (Actually, I thought he questioned the value of my work. See number one, it's not all about me.) While he was trying to back peddle himself out of a hole I'd put him in, I felt those tears coming, so I clapped both hands to my chest and whispered "But it's me!" It wasn't very funny but one other person in the room laughed and I was able to chuckle, the tears were gone, and I could listen again.

In an ideal world, I think I would just cry when I felt like it. In today's world, if I start crying, I'm spending so much energy worrying what the other person is thinking and trying not to cry, that I'm no longer effectively listening or discussing. So in the interest of being able to work effectively in today's environment, I work hard not to cry.

I figured my story might help others or might encourage others to share their tips and tricks or experiences.

Related posts:

Photo by nyki_m.

Pioneer Woman featured on CNN

I really enjoy reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog and I even bought her calendar because I like her pictures so much.  This is the woman who left Los Angeles, married a rancher and now home schools her four children.  And takes 75-150 pictures a day of life on the ranch.    I’ve wondered several times what she sounds like in person and what she looks like.  Well, she was featured on CNN so now I know!

Are you always hot? Or always cold?

Cognitive Friday got some interesting data about who is always hot and who is always cold.  As most of us would have guessed, women are much more likely to be cold than men.  (As I type this my hands are freezing!)  Thin people and young people are also more likely to be cold. 

One related theory I heard is that women have a much smaller range of "comfortable" temperatures because their bodies need to be able to regulate a fetus’ temperature.  I no longer believe this one because the one thing I really loved about being pregnant was always having warm hands!  So obviously I was much warmer when I was pregnant than when I’m not pregnant.

Cognitive Friday also discovered that exercise didn’t change people’s answers at all which surprised me.  I wonder if you could measure muscle mass if that would coorelate to feeling warmer like being overweight does?

Do you fit the data?  If not, how are you different?

Would you prefer a homosexual president or an atheist one?

If you are like most people, you picked the homosexual one, but let us know below!  As James Joyner writes:

A recent Gallup poll
reveals that Americans are much more likely to elect a black man or a
woman president than a Mormon or an old man. More interestingly, they’d
rather be governed by a homosexual than an atheist

I continue to be surprised at how anti-atheist Americans are.  It makes me laugh (in an ironic way) because so many people aren’t actively religious, and if people went around preaching, they’d annoy a good many people – probably more than those that are anit-atheist!

The good news is that things are looking good for women and blacks.  See all the data here:

Yes, would
vote for

No, would not
vote for












A woman









Married for the third time



72 years of age



A homosexual



An atheist



What do you think?  Who would you vote for?  Or not vote for?

Small businesses: More Generation Y, Women and Baby Boomers

Intuit published an interesting study about small business trends.  According to the study more small businesses will be owned by Generation Y (1981-2001), baby boomers, women, and immigrants.  Generation Y because they don’t believe in trusting a company to take care of them and they are quite comfortable with all of the new technologies and able to easily start not just one business but multiple ones at once.  Many high schools have now started small businesses.  I personally interviewed a Generation Yer who had started his own company in college – a website for trading video games online.  Baby boomers, according to the study, are more likely to start business with social causes in "retirement."  Women owned business will grow – maybe as they become more disillutioned with the glass ceiling.  Immigrant owned businesses will grow as the number of immigrants continue to grow.

It’s an interesting study, an easy read and well worth reading.