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Saturday 28 March 2009

Women in foss

live blogging the oekonox conference.

gender gap in technology. Starts from childhood socialization. Leads to life long work division.

There is unequal access to tchnology and imbalance in participation in development.

The number of women in computer science falls every year. Researchers in belgium interviewed girls, who mostly thought that cs sounds boring. Men control the production and distribution of nachines, and thus hey contain a male logic, said the researchers.

Foss is both a social and technical phenomenon.

Researcers mostly look at core developers and less at co-developers or users. Gender is rarely investigated.

The context of foss includes inequsl participation in core development. Andd foss projects tend to be homogenous and masculibe. 1.1% of women are in foss, but do we mean cire, co-dev or active users?

Foss participation has a steeper learning curve. Also hacker culture is male normative. Jargon can be exclusive. Beginner questions are met with irritation. Time is volunteered. Finally, sexual harassment is a problem.

The same forces that exclude women from cs are intensified in foss.

Women are less likely to have help / friends working with them to learn or use foss.

There is a false concept that programmers are the entire story. Not all developers are programmers. There is product management, i18n, testing, documentation, etc.

Discussion of foss must include social activities. The over valuation of coding discourages many people.

What is the specific contribution of women in foss?

Research example in Quebec:

All respondents considered themselves part of a foss community. 15.5% of partcipanrs were women. Half were from the most remote regions of Quebec. Women tended to rank activities: training or promotion, users, community participation, then finally, development.

Half were trainers. A third went to conferences. Only 1 self ided as a coder, but when interviewed, several more spoke of writing code. One, for example set up networks and installs ubuntu in community centers. Is she a 'user?'

Question from the audience - are the catagories any more suited to men? Answer seems to talk about men having more confidence and possbly overstating their participation vs women understating.

Important conclusion: reduce the emphasis of programming.

Non technical tasks are a gateway drug to more techincal participation and a way to do outreach.

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