Open doors in Open Source

a month ago

I spent last weekend at DrupalCamp Colorado 2008, where 100+ Drupal enthusiasts gathered to meet each other, share knowledge, and spread the word about Drupal. And I always come away from these events with a charge of energy from being around so much enthusiasm and passion for open source. But I also come away with a bit of wonder at why there aren't more women involved, at least in a public way. The only barriers to entry are self-imposed. No gatekeepers. No glass ceilings. I haven't figured it out yet. But maybe others have.

Look Who's Talking

Emma Jane Hogbin recently did a presentation (notes) at OSCON 2008. Slides:

In comments, emmajane writes:

I think there are lots of reasons why women don't participate in FOSS projects (and each reason will be unique to that individual). I think we need to start looking forward to find new ways to encourage women into being comfortable using software instead of focusing on where the problems have been in the past. For example: there are lots of jobs available now to work on open source projects. It's no longer just a hobby!!

Her slides are much more ... unambiguous, e.g.:

My vagina is not relevant to the functionality of my computer or any other computer.

Slide 39 is especially surprising:

72% of proprietary developers are male
98.5% participants of FOSS projects are male

[Aside: For a good laugh, check out slide 50. Emma Jane blogs at]

I wasn't at OSCON and did not have a chance to peruse the presentations. This find was via Shelley Powers on Burningbird:

I want to spend more time with Drupal, because I've only scratched the surface of this application. I am extremely pleased, nay tickled to see Angela Byron from Lullabot win an award for Best Contributor at OSCON for her work with Drupal—affirming that my move to this software was the best move for me. In fact, in sounds like women made significant inroads in the open source community at OSCON this year, aided, in part, I think, because of software communities, such as Drupal, which are decidedly woman friendly environments.

In particular Emma Jane Hogbin's Form an Orderly Queue, Ladies presentation at OSCON provides details of a dastardly plot to infiltrate women into the ranks of the tech through open source. I love evil plotters, like Dr. Horrible, and evil plots, like women invading open source through innocent seeming applications like Drupal.

Feel the Sunshine

Maybe times, they are a changin', and yes, you have come a long way. In a slightly different context, Liz Henry maybe summed up the picture best:

So who are we and what are we? Women who are speaking, who are consumers who talk, sort of like journalists, sort of like authors; we are conscious, individually and, more and more, collectively, of our power to speak and be seen in the world of public discourse. We have jobs and we're in public, we're out of the domestic sphere, but our thoughts, the way we're framed in public conversations, in the media, isn't yet all the way out of the domestic sphere. My point is that we are no longer containable by old style media. We aren't an elite of "influencers" to be courted and co-opted. We're journalists who write about who we are, not what we're told to write, like a million mommy-blogging Hunter S. Thompsons writing The Curse of Lono instead of their assigned sports article.

And we're women who are designing and coding and architecting, and we don't need to ask permission to do it.

Cheers to the Inspirers!

Let's pause for a moment to restate what Shelley mentions above: Angie Byron was named Best Contributor of the Google-O'Reilly Open Source Awards. Check out the comments on the announcement last week.

Angie was at BlogHer, you may recall.

If you ever met Angie, you would know why she has garnered such accolades. Congratulations, Webchick!


In case you missed it, Emms Jane's notes are posted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. There's stuff there. Check it out!

Brenda Wallace has built Geek Speak Women. Are you registered as a possible speaker?

Have you taken the A List Apart Survey yet?

BlogHer Tech & Web Contributing Editor blogs at pingVision and rare pattern.

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