Looking for women? - Something wrong with the numbers?

Looking for women

Something wrong with the numbers?

"IT-studies are looking for women".

Business Newspaper in DK:

"The IT-studies in this country is looking for more female students, but
their numbers are decreasing in stead of increasing. This is a concern
both to Universities and in businesses."

Why are there so few women in computer science and informatics?

Universities and professors explain that they do not know the reason why
so few women actually studies IT.

Why are there so few women in the GNOME and FLOSS society?

If you really want to know, I will try to tell you at the end of this

GNOME Foundation has a lot of active members both developers, users, and

Some statistics: (I did not make a count because I feel quite confident
that someone will do this to make sure:)) - GNOME Foundation has about
380 male members and about 10 female members.

I order to become a GNOME Foundation member one should have contributed
to the GNOME Project and this should be documented and you might in
addition need to have recommendations from more than one member who
knows you and your work well.

Only GNOME Foundation members can cast their votes and elect the GNOME

The GNOME Board of Directors has 11 seats. All of them occupied by men
at the present time.

GNOME and Free Software is for everybody and since long ready for the

This freedom as well as the free- and open source software should be
shared with all -  men and women alike.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to ask Jon "maddog" Hall - when
he was expecting to be able to speak to a balanced audience? The
occasion was the yearly event in Denmark LinuxForum
http://www.linuxforum.dk where about 1000 persons were gathered on
Saturday the 5th of March to celebrate the mutual interest in Free- and
Open Source software.

About *1%*  in the room were females.

Do you recognize the picture from similar events you attend?

"Maddog" had no answer.- Only the experience of the reverse situation.

In Malaysia where nearly all the listeners were women. They were
thinking of having a program to quote in more men in the IT-education! 

It is generally recognized that until there is about 30% of the under
represented sex present in any group there can not be an attempt to
reach equality in decision making.

Guys we have a long way to go. What do _you_ suggest that we do about it
and what on earth can the explanation be?

My explanations:

I have been doing some thinking and made some serious field studies for
the past 8 years to find out for myself.

It has been interesting studies and I actually learned a lot about IT as
a side effect. 

It has also been a little easier to "infiltrate" the world of the
hackers and the nerds than I imagine it would have been for me to
infiltrate the football league or the catholic church :)

To be more serious: First one has to learn about the culture and the
norms and no one explains this to you over a beer. Then you have to
learn the "geek" language and the special IT-vocabulary and some common
abbreviations. I can add that it would not hurt you to be good at
mathematics and have some "technical genes".

This done and because, I learned so much and made some very good friends
and a few enemies along the stony road. I have tried to give something
back the the FLOSS society.

But the question is, Can the FLOSS society use what I can offer? Perhaps
not always if your skills are to different from those of the mainstream
hackers own virtual world and focus. But I am sure this will come in a
not to distant future.

To the professors at the universities and the businesses I can recommend
that you take the advise of some women in the IT sector and the outside
world when you make up the curriculum and your courses.

Men posesses the decision making positions in government and

Up till now it has been men_defining what it hot and what is not_.
Writing good code is very high ranking. Doing documentation,
translation, bug fixing and writing manuals is lower on the staircase to
software heaven and stardom.

Administration, law and economics can some times be left to females. 

One of the main reasons that women are not attracted to IT might be
simply because we- not unlike men -  do not like that all the things
that we know to do well are lower ranking and sometimes considered only
as services to the leading hackers. 

Just like in the "Tour De France": Some are the stars and some are
fixing food and water to the cycelists!

If you play with this metaphor and turn the roles at the present time
around - I am sure you get the picture.

My inspiration to write this article was this article from The New York

"Furor Lingers as Harvard Chief Gives Details of Talk on Women"

"Among his comments to a conference of economists last month, according
to the transcript, Dr. Summers, a former secretary of the United States
Treasury, compared the relatively low number of women in the sciences to
the numbers of Catholics in investment banking, whites in the National
Basketball Association and Jews in farming."


So let's do something to break the mono culture within the GNOME family.
We have everything to gain and nothing to loose by doing it.

The "De facto standards" in this respect should disappear any way!

Because code is law and it ends up defining our infrastructure in the
digital information society it should not be decided by the IT
architects and coders alone. At present this tends to be the case.

My conclusion

Actually my main message is more in the direction of:"Let thousand
flours flourish".- It is when persons of any sex and all kinds of
formation, experience and back grounds join in and inspiration is in the
air that the new ideas and results springs like water from a fountain!

Warm regards 


Legal Consultant,
GNOME Foundation Member and 
Free Software Afficionado
Anne Østergaard <anne oestergaard nu>

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