Monday, October 11, 2010

Women in Open Source

The SD Times ran an article back in August, "Breaking down barriers for women in open source," by David Worthington. It's an interesting read, and you should check it out.

Free and Open Source Software ("FOSS") is built upon a community of users and developers. That community thrives when everyone is able to contribute, each according to his or her ability and interest. But that community will falter if it cannot achieve a "critical mass" of contributors. It is critical, therefore, for a FOSS project to include everyone in its community. That should be by default, but perhaps should also be by design.

From the article: "Barriers include the perception that the FOSS movement is a "boys' club," a shortage of female role models in the community, the feeling that women are being judged at a higher standard than men, feelings of isolation, sexist behavior, and non-coding roles that are often occupied by women being undervalued." These are serious issues that directly affect FOSS development everywhere.

After you read the article, I encourage you to think about the FOSS projects that you contribute to. Consider if the "culture" of the project community is welcoming of new members, especially women. Is your project a "boys' club" too? Remember, if a project is not open to everyone, it's not really "open", is it?

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