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Tackling Open Source's Gender Issues

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the bringing-balance-to-the-force dept.

Open Source 589

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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589 comments

Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, but (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (1, Offtopic)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729426)

Ok so you were going for the oh so funny 'all women are gold diggers' stereotype.

I'm not sure where you go to meet women, but you're definitely doing it wrong. My first girlfriend, although highly motivated by money, wanted to make her own. That is to say she was career oriented. My fiance is an academic/bibliophile type, and is one of the least materialistic people I know. It's a very attractive quality.

Can we lay off the stereotypes? And if your post reflects your actual life experience then I feel sorry for you.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729488)

Saying something is a stereotype is not the same as saying it's never true. People often forget that.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (0)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729536)

You know a stereotype is based - usually - on the behavior of the majority of a group. In other words, the fact that you have two counter examples doesn't prove any more your point than the OP did his. Not mentioning that one of your examples actually gives credibility to his point.

Note that I'm not taking a side here - yet. Just pointing out you made a very poor job at debunking the OP.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729698)

The conceit that all stereotypes have a grain of truth at their core is one that is mostly championed by the people who are both unaffected by stereotypes and also enjoy being prejudiced against others. Not to mention it's incorrect.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729854)

That's quite a stereotype you've got there...

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729622)

I think this misses what the parent's point actually was. He wasn't saying that all women are gold diggers and want your money, he said that women generally are motivated to work for money as opposed to working for free (love of the project) on an open source project. Your first girlfriend being motivated by money and wanting to work for her own would actually play right into that. Still a stereotype, but not quite the one you may think it is.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729670)

Perhaps it's that women aren't dumb enough to give away the fruits of their labor?

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (1, Offtopic)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729486)

Try offering your women something other than money. Maybe culture, personality, ... . You'll attract a different, better type of woman.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729626)

<Harry Kalas voice>
Swing and a long drive! That ball's outta here!
</Harry Kalas voice>

You smacked that baby right out of the park.

Re:Okay this may get me modded down to infinity, b (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Community resistance (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729194)

"-probably not the most palatable spokesperson to get behind in the first place"

It's probably safer than to have him behind you.

Re:Community resistance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729276)

probably best to have him downwind of you

Re:Community resistance (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729224)

This. Also note that the first comment above was a sexist slam about gold-digging wives, thus providing yet more evidence that the reason women don't get involved in nerdy or geeky things is because nerds and geeks are often awful to women.

Re:Community resistance (0, Offtopic)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729294)

If you think calling my ex-wives gold diggers is sexist, it's because you've clearly never met them.

Re:Community resistance (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729332)

It's not that you called two of them gold diggers that's sexist. It's that you said that there's no such thing as a woman who *isn't* a gold digger.

Can you spot the difference?

Re:Community resistance (0, Offtopic)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729484)

It's not that you called two of them gold diggers that's sexist. It's that you said that there's no such thing as a woman who *isn't* a gold digger.

Can you spot the difference?

Chances are he is the type of person who never will get the difference.

Re:Community resistance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729566)

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Slashdot is what it is. If you don't like it here gtfo. If chicks don't like it they can gtfo.

Re:Community resistance (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729674)

> is because nerds and geeks are often awful to women

Compared non non-nerd men, who are... good to women?

Re:Community resistance (1, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729264)

I'd have shortened this to "the movement is largely made up of male computer nerds who pursue programming as a hobby, regardless of its income potential". While women in the field generally went there for the profession, not the hobby.

YMMV, etc. etc. But men seem far more inclined to indulge their inner geek while at home. Even ignoring open source software in particular, I do not know many women in technology in the workplace who spend their free time on ANY hands on technical pursuit. I know plenty who like to do research or follow technical journals though.

Re:Community resistance (3, Insightful)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729282)

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 questions in class, but everyone wanted to be the one girl's personal at-home tutor bow chicka wow wow. 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.

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729528)

everyone wanted to be the one girl's personal at-home tutor bow chicka wow wow.

No, not everybody. That's the thing though. If you're one of very few women in a male dominated field, then it's easy to see everything as a function of male-female relationships. Women should be strong and seek the colleagues who they can work with. They have an overabundance to choose from. Instead they focus on the worst cases. Well, that's set theory for you: Map a big set to a small set and you'll find that the chance of the worst elements of the big set being mapped to any one element of the smaller set is much bigger than if the sets were more evenly sized. The same is true for the good elements though, so change your focus if you can't change the set size.

Re:Community resistance (2, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729324)

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. Open source is either something you do as part of your job, (intel, ibm) or it's something you do in your free time. If it's part of your job, why would you put up with discrimination and harassment when you can do something else, and not. And women look at free time differently than men. If they want to have kids, which is most of them, they have a ticking biological clock of 'another year lost is a lot of time', whereas a 35 year old guy can sit in his family room coding away and think 'meh, another year, no big deal'. If women want to have stereotypical lives they have to get on with it sooner rather than later. If you have kids your free time is much more about spending with the kids than it is writing code for some project, unless you're doing it professionally. It's not that you cannot contribute if you have kids, but you have a lot less time for it until your kids are getting grown up. And well, then we're into 'how many women were there in computer science in 1990?' sort of questions.

Re:Community resistance (1, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729642)

to be a tad sexist

I'd like to nominate this comment for "Understatement of the Year." Here's what you just wrote, more or less:

"Girls need to have babies, and this overwhelming urge drives them to seek out a mate so that he may plant his fertile man seed in her receptive girly parts. Who can blame them for not being interested in contributing to open source?! Also, those bitches need to raise mah babbies, not pretend like they can write software!"

Sexism is not biological, it's cultural - as you've just illustrated in amazing detail.

Re:Community resistance (2)

phrostie (121428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729356)

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

very impressive.

Re:Community resistance (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Community resistance (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729386)

Surprisingly well written comment with links posted within 60 seconds of the article being up...

In general I have no issue with "encourage women" type schemes. In fact any effort to encourage people into OSS is fine by me. I do take issue with how whenever women are under-represented in any field or activity, it is always the fault of everyone else. I'm sure there are troubled elements in any community, and OSS is no different, but honestly perhaps women are just rare because women are rare in technology/engineering disciplines in general?

I'd like to see a comparison between OSS contributors (by gender) and women in CS programs. I bet there is a relationship...

Re:Community resistance (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729878)

Indeed. They just don't care.

Now, that said - there's a lot of things they really do care about that I couldn't care less about.

Shocking! This just in: gender roles actually have a basis they are... based upon. (just like stereotypes generally have a small grain of truth hidden away inside them)

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729402)

your grotesque misquote of Stallman at Gran Canaria utterly fails to mention that he NEVER MENTIONED GENDER in the comments, and was referring to MALE AND FEMALE ie HUMAN virgins. You also fail to mention that Stallman has always encouraged female participation in FOSS, and has made thousands of statements in support of women and AGAINST gender discrimination. Basically, you are a foul fucking liar who deserves a Singapore style caning for libel.

Re:Community resistance (4, Insightful)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#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".

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729750)

Can you explain what's inaccurate about it? RMS really did make that statement on his blog, as cited in Wikiquote. You're attacking the messenger but not the point, which suggests you don't really have a valid response.

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729814)

Stallman never referred to women in the Gran Canaria statements, which were from a dumb joke he has done thousands of times for 30 years. The comments were entirely gender neutral, and not aimed at women at all.

Re:Community resistance (4, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:Community resistance (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Community resistance (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729754)

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 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.

Re:Community resistance (4, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729510)

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? :(

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729762)

"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."
Last time I checked gcc didn't demand to see my gender credentials, Xcode didn't care one iota about what was dangling in my pants, Emacs didn't even want to look. What you are demanding is that somehow men don't get to decide what people and what jargon they accept in their own spare time.
You have no right to barge in on somebody else's spare time and demand they make special accomodations on your behalf.

And just as I don't get to decide what people and what language you are comfortable with in your spare time, you don't get to decide for me.

Re:Community resistance (2)

jemmyw (624065) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729512)

It wasn't until I attended university that I realized the gender disparity in the IT community. Both of my parents are in IT, and both are programmers.

The company I work for now has about 15 programmers, all male. I think it'd be great if we could get a bit more of a mix, but there are problems. We're not a rowdy ladish type of company, so I don't see any positive bias. We've talked internally about passive bias; if we bought a woman in for an interview and they saw a room full of guys that is passive bias, and there's not much we can do about it (hiding under the desks until they're on the team is probably a no go).

The other problem of course is that we just don't get any female applicants. Because we're a small company, doing application development with Rails and other such like technologies, we tend to attract slightly more niche programmers who find us, rather than us them.

Of the women I've met who are programmers they've been as good, if not better, than their male counterparts. This might be because they need to prove themselves, or because only the very best actually persevere. I'd love to see more women enter the field. The only way I see them doing so at present is by taking the route that I took, which is self taught due to interest at a young age, and avoiding much of the community, because until there are more women the community is going to put them off (it puts me off and I'm a man, but I don't much like people, or the one upmanship when a group of geeks gathers).

Re:Community resistance (0, Troll)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729898)

We've talked internally about passive bias; if we bought a woman

Talk about your Freudian slips! [wikipedia.org] Ladies if you ever wanted to know what 99.99999999999999999999 of men really think about women I think jemmyw has summed it up quite nicely.

Re:Community resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729516)

You are quoting the blog 'opensourcetogo' which is run by David "Lefty" Schlesinger aka 'stonemirror', a known and hideous troll, sexist and stalker who puts up whole web domains with sex photos he has purchased of his enemies (male and female) in a most shady manner. This pornographer and sexist is certainly NO ONE you should be quoting as a supporter of feminism! He puts never before public photos of men and women nude and having sex on his own websites, against their will and at their extreme protest, to which he says "sue me!"

Re:Community resistance (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729868)

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 if we had 2 times more developers? All that is required is just to change our thinking. Oh, wait, forget it.

Re:Community resistance (2)

ilguido (1704434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729890)

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 software because when you post some patch to a project you are pretty much anonymous: there is no race, gender or else, just an email account and a pseudonym. If it works, it is accepted; if not, it is rejected. Simply as that.

They can't walk the walk. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729156)

Women have a hard time being obnoxious, arrogant, self-centered fuckheads. They are willing to make compromises in the interest of forward progress. They also are not as good as men at doling out sexual innuendo and juvenile potty humor. In short, they are completely unsuited to the task.

Re:They can't walk the walk. (-1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729392)

Actually the first part of that statement "obnoxious, arrogant, self centred fuckheads" pretty well describes most of the women I know professionally. Or at least who managed to achieve anything professionally (caveat, not usually professors though). They're usually unwilling to make compromises, and would rather complain about someone else, or blame someone else than actually solve problems. It's men who make compromises and get over grudges, but it's also men who want women out of the room so they can scratch their balls, make juvenile jokes, and want to go to a strip club over lunch. In the end the time wasted complaining is less than the time wasted ball scratching and going to a strip club, and far less than the time wasted posting on /. at 4 in the afternoon on work day.

Won't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729174)

Nerds alienate females badly enough. Nerds who don't shower at least once a month are worse.

First up, rename Man command (2, Funny)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729178)

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

Re:First up, rename Man command (3, Interesting)

Creepy (93888) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729604)

You mean info? According to a female geek friend of mine, man has been deprecated for years (and she is married to my best friend...).

This again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729182)

Why does it seem like this comes up every few months?

Re:This again? (5, Insightful)

superdana (1211758) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729222)

Because for women, it comes up every day.

Re:This again? (2)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729346)

I still have yet to see a rational explanation of why we should expect to see uniform involvement of people with characteristic X across all activities Y.

Put another way: just because the general population has a makeup of a certain distribution, why do we assume some activity Y with a distribution different to that global distribution indicates some kind of undesirable situation?

I do agree that in some cases the difference is due to some kind of discriminatory behavior, but in others its just simply due to differences in interest. Has either situation been confirmed in this case?

Re:This again? (4, Insightful)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729550)

You expect to see proportional involvement across all activities because that's the way statistics suggests they should. If you selected people at random from the general population to fill 10,000 programming jobs, you would expect that the gender & ethnic composition of that 10,000 would largely be reflective of the population the random sampling was drawn from. When your composition varies - in this case widely - from the expected results, there is an interesting question of, "why?"

Is it because girls are bad at programming? I see no reason to think there's a gender-related basis for programming... do you? How do you explain it, if "being a woman" doesn't automatically mean someone's probably bad at programming? "Differences in interest" sounds like a nice way of saying "girls like dolls, boys like guns." There is no particular biological basis for this, so again, there'd be no reason to expect this to be the case, unless there is a cultural reason for it.

Now, you can certainly argue whether or not culturally-reinforced 'gender roles' are desirable or undesirable, but you've got a long way to go to establish any sort of *biological* reason for the disparity.

Re:This again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729734)

You obviously have no idea what statistical conditioning or marginal distributions are. Go get an education before you post any more on the "rules" of statistics.

Re:This again? (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729784)

I see no reason to think there's a gender-related basis for programming... do you?

Given the physical differences between male and female brains, I see no reason not to think that there's a gender related basis for programming.

"Differences in interest" sounds like a nice way of saying "girls like dolls, boys like guns." There is no particular biological basis for this

But, there is. Raise a biologically male child to play with dolls and he'll make them fight. Raise a biologically female child to play with action figures, and she'll play house with them.

This experiment has been done, and the results are in. Male psychology is different from female psychology for reasons that are unrelated to nurture. That leaves nature. The fact that we haven't pinpointed the exact brain structures that cause the difference is only due to our lack of understanding of the brain at this time.

Or, to put this another way... what you are claiming here is equivalent to claiming that transexuals have a choice.

Re:This again? (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729594)

So we shouldn't study the matter because you haven't seen a "rational explanation"?

Shouldn't investigating be the first step? Which is what it sounds like they're doing. Do you have a problem with that? Or did I miss something? It's hard to confirm anything if all you do is ignore matter and pretend it doesn't exist.

Re:This again? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729706)

Put another way: just because the general population has a makeup of a certain distribution, why do we assume some activity Y with a distribution different to that global distribution indicates some kind of undesirable situation?

Because, in trying to explain it, you end up with a few undesirable/lacking/weak answers:

  • One group is inherently better at that type of task due to a specific trait
  • One group doesn't like something because they've been socialized that way
  • One group doesn't like something because it's a cultural thing

In the end, most of those are found to be lousy answers ... it seems preposterous that one group should be inherently better at the task if there's no provable difference in that kind of task ... if they've been socialized that way, they can be socialized the other way ... why should it be cultural?

It seems absurd to assume a normal distribution in all populations being measures ... but it also seems bizarre to see something grossly skewed to one side or the other.

So far, there's no credible evidence that women should fare less well at programming than men simply because they're women ... but, there's also not much in the way of a good, definable reason why women wouldn't be interested in it either, other than socialization or the fact that they've not done it yet.

Even in the early/mid 80's when I was getting into computers, people were wondering why it was that it was largely men who were pursuing it. Now almost 30 years later ... we still are.

Re:This again? (3, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729790)

It's usually somewhere between difficult and impossible to determine before the effort has been made to integrate people of characteristic X into the community of people doing Y. I'll certainly say after reading replies on Slashdot to various stories regarding women, I can see where I might find the climate here and on similar sites hostile if I were a woman. Just look at the replies so far here. They're split about 3 even ways between: reasonable people who think that women avoid OSS because of reasons that are the fault of the community (Deliberate or inadvertent hostility, sexism, etc), reasonable people like you who question that assumption for fairly good reasons, and blatant woman hating or sexism. Granted there's always trolls in a Slashdot discussion, but the level of sheer vindictiveness always seems to go up when females in "geek" activities are the topic.

When the topic is an actual female geek, who has actively done something cool (Like that girl who did a "howto" on building your own iPod charger a couple of years ago), the comments jump from the creepily fawning to completely dismissive like a bipolar Chihuahua on a cup of espresso. I'm not saying that this is the only reason women don't participate much in OSS software. There might also be issues of interest or that sort of thing. The general attitude certainly can't be helpful though.

Re:This again? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729620)

Because for women, it comes up every day.

Please cite one instance of a woman not being able to contribute to open source software because she was a woman.

I'm going to wager that it has NEVER come up, and the fact that there is a difference between number and men and number of women in open source software is because of a corresponding difference in desire.

I'll go one further and state that the reduced difference seen in the "proprietary" (corporate) development world is most likely due to a misguided attempt to create some sort of gender balance, i.e., affirmitive action for "diversity".

For the past 3 decades we've been trying to get women in to math, science, and engineering. The bottom line is that they don't want to do those things as much as men. Striving to achieve some sort of diversity quota, of any kind, in any industry, is assinine. Barriers should be removed, but the prime incentive for pursuing a field/career should always be the individual's own desire, and the prime criteria for hiring should always be ability.

Re:This again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729808)

So, switch to other specialization. How about men and nursing?? Or how about men and kindergarden teacher??

Sorry, but if there is an issue of sexual harassment in one's workplace, maybe that needs to be addressed. It certainly is easier to get this problem addressed today for women than it is for men.

http://www.bing.com/search?q=men+kindergarden+teacher&form=OSDSRC [bing.com]

and first result,

I know it is 2009 and all, but I don't think men should be kindergarten teachers. They are just not patient and capable of dealing with small children.

Re:This again? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729228)

Why does it seem like this comes up every few months?

Or every month...

Fragmentation of open source into gender, race... (2)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729218)

No thanks. The open-source movement has a hard enough time without having the effort split on the gender line.

Wat do? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729246)

I'm a nigger, and I just happen to also be gay. I feel excluded from the open-source movement.

Re:Wat do? (1)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729314)

I somehow doubt that the open-source movement is the only place you feel excluded from.

Re:Wat do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729832)

I somehow doubt that the open-source movement is the only place you feel excluded from.

I somehow doubt that the open-source movement is the only place from which you feel excluded.

If you're going to feed the troll, at least do it grammatically.

CUZ WE AINT STUPID LIKE DA BOYZ !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729242)

We get paid for what we do !! Sukaz !!

Who cares? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729272)

When I use a piece of software the gender of its developers is the last thing I care about.

Re:Who cares? (0)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729370)

Shut up! This is no place for reason. There's a waaambulance parked here, and we're obligated to listen to its siren wailing.

Clearly, it's because the IDEs and tools are too complicated, so they need to be "adjusted" to be more female friendly, like all those college CS curricula... ~

Nothing turns me on... (1, Insightful)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729280)

....like a woman with geek creds. [Looking at you, Jeri Ellsworth.]

Re:Nothing turns me on... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729330)

Jeri doesn't like little nerd cry babies who cry about how to get into the field.

Some are harassed and attacked into leaving. (5, Insightful)

chuckfirment (197857) | more than 2 years ago | (#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."

Re:Some are harassed and attacked into leaving. (2)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729480)

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.

Re:Some are harassed and attacked into leaving. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

warrax_666 (144623) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729690)

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

Re:Some are harassed and attacked into leaving. (4, Insightful)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

A possibility (4, Insightful)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729450)

It should come as no surprise that the participation of women in open-source projects is low. It's hard enough trying to keep up with men in paid engineering jobs without dividing the effort by contributing to open source as well.

I dunno how common my stance is (2)

Xanny (2500844) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

What are the current stats? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729458)

I must confess, after well over a decade in the industry, plus school before that ... the number of female programmers I've known is quite small.

I've known one or two women with PhDs who were more like the architects, not sure how much they coded any more. I've worked with a couple of women who were consultants ... very technical, again, very smart ... but I'm only talking about 1-2 people over 15 years. In university I remember a maximum of about 5 women who were pursuing CS as a major, and I'm pretty sure at least half of them transferred out.

But full on 'code monkey' kinda geeks with all that entails? I'm not sure I've actually ever known any. Does anybody have any accurate statistics as to what percentage of programmers are women?

In my experience, it has always been well below 10% .. not saying that's how it "should" be, just that in my experience you're already talking about a smaller percentage of all coders ... and then the number of people I've known actively involved in Open Source projects goes down by another huge jump.

Even the women I have known who work in tech have always manifested as a different 'kind' of geek ... more like the guy I knew who played university football but had a Master's in comp sci; smart, capable, but away from the office didn't have any of the 'geek' traits of the stereotype. Not as obsessed with the minutia of things or Star Trek, and generally with better developed social skills. ;-)

Self Selection From Life Realities (4, Interesting)

alexhmit01 (104757) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Nature is sexist (2)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Nature is sexist (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729838)

If someone disagrees with you, I suspect they have not raised children. We raised ours gender neutral, and by 6 months they already started showing their preferences. One son was fixated by machines at 6 months, the other had to pick a face painting at 1.5 years, never having seen a comic or cartoon in his life - he picked Spider Man, and loved it.(he is very well behaved but loves physical play, sword fighting etc.)

Our daughter plays barbies with my one son, and it fun to listen to. She spends an inordinate amount of time begging him not to kill all the guests at the wedding etc. Yes, they are playing well together but the interests and mental processes could not be more divergent.

Free software development (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729568)

...is ruthlessly meritocratic. Sorry girls, but HERE of all places, you won't be treated like a special snowflake just because of what you have between your legs. Put up genuinely good code and people won't care who wrote it, but the thing is, most of you just can't, and yet also can't just shut up whining and trying to get an easier way etc under the guise of "equality" like in so many other aspects in life.

Look who's talking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729592)

So Mary thinks we should feel sorry for her, and listen to her perspective.
I guess you have all read her take on what is like to grow up as a male nerd?

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:KmgokynecaIJ:geekfeminism.org/2011/09/04/geeks-as-bullied-and-bullies/+geeks+as+buillies&cd=6&hl=sv&ct=clnk&client=safari

Sorry Mary, you don't get to complain and demand we respect your view when you want to dictate everyone elses views.

Re:Look who's talking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729656)

Sorry Mary, you don't get to complain and demand we respect your view when you want to dictate everyone elses views.

Please, tell me more of what I should think about Mary.

Some thoughts (4, Interesting)

quantaman (517394) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Maybe the just can't "hack" it. Did you ever (0)

spads (1095039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38729634)

stop to think of that?

Also, last I checked, OS projects don't have any AA incentives, like their corporate corporate world counterparts.

I know this will get moderated for flaming, but I am so sick of all these patently false, politically correct positions.

Stay technical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729658)

Honestly? Stay technical - everything else is politics and we know where this ends....

Good luck with that (5, Insightful)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729788)

Good point. There are predisposition for each gender and there are exceptions to the rule. I have no doubt that discrimination and misogyny is in play but it's not likely the dominant causation. What is likely primarily at play is the simple differences between men and women. I can tell you in the corporate IT world, there are plenty of successful women and some of the brightest techs I know are women. They are still the minority, however, likely will remain so simply because of gender predisposition.

Pay OSS developers more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729826)

that will surely bring them in, plus we'll have more money to buy shavers, clean clothes, nice shoes, fancy cars.

I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38729860)

Normally I don't post but this has to stop. I don't see men trying to push equality in fields that have no men. I pick up a video game mag. What do I see? Oh shit we don't have enough women in the industry we must get MORE! If more women go into these fields good for them! Another thing is women who post on the internet outside of normal womanly things (common) such as facebook or lookbook. They will get lots of attention because that one girl is interested in a mostly male activity. So males will jump all over that. OMG SHE LIKES WHAT I LIKE. So you better expect some kind of attention if you are using a female name that points you out as a female. Then you are just looking for attention.

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