Re: Looking for women? - Something wrong with the numbers?

Hi Anne,
I agree that it would be great to attract more women to the GNOME
community, but I am not sure what you are proposing as the way to do so.
There was a Women in Debian talk at the Ubuntu conference which talked
about the issue in that context and also there I ended up wondering what
the exact solution was meant to be. While I accept that a macho culture
and under-appreciation of non-coding contributors is part of the picture
I do not believe it 'explains' the problem. I mean under-appreciation of
non-coding contributors is a general problem that leads to lack of such
contributions from members of both genders, and do not explain the fact
that also among such contributors there is currently mostly males for
instance (unless you want to propose a theory that men don't mind being
under-appreciated while women do mind).

Personally I think the problem in GNOME goes back to the problem the IT-
studies listed, that there are few women doing computing related studies
(and thus work) in general, and when you draw from a pool that is 90%
male (or whatever the exact number is) it is not suprising that the
sample you get is around the same percentage. 
Of course there are non-coding tasks needing doing, I know as someone
not being a coder, but people with little interest in software in
general is not very likely to join a project making a desktop software

If I understand you correctly you want us to figure out ways to allow
more non-coders (especially women) into the project in a way that makes
them feel like equal partners in the development. This is in theory a
good idea, but one that is very hard to implement, just figuring out how
to do the technical infrastructure to make these people able to get
involved and start working is something needing someone to come up with
some bright and new ideas. And considering how much we want new
contributors in general, and all the attempts which have been made to
accomplish it, I don't think the lack of such infrastructure comes from
lack of will.

There are cultural problems to, I guess Eugenia's treatment on desktop-
devel do showcase why women and non-coders sometimes feel the project is
not very welcoming. On the other hand I think what do motivate a lot of
coders is being able to implement their own visions through their own
work, and as such would not be very interested in contributing their
spare time if they feel the project would be about being told what do to
by others.

Personally I think that GNOME (and all other free software projects)
attracts male contributors because we are able to offer males 'rewards'
that they want. Be that peer prestige, professional skills, technical
challenges, social networks or whatever those rewards actually are.
This also makes me believe we are failing to attract women because we
have not been able to offer them the 'rewards' they want. If this theory
is correct then the solution to get more women involved is figuring out
if there are any 'rewards' we do offer but 'undersell' or 'rewards' we
do not offer, but could start offering. 

I don't know what these 'rewards' need to be, a random example of an
approach would be downplaying the technical parts of the project is part
of the solution and re-branding GNOME an effort to bridge the digital
divide and help the 3rd world become computer literate is something that
maybe would increase our female appeal. The 'new reward' being doing
something for the underprivileged in the world. Of course doing such a
change might just lead to the project losing its way, countless examples
of failed attempts of re-inventing oneself.


On Tue, 2005-03-08 at 17:52 +0100, Anne �tergaard wrote:
> 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
> article.
> GNOME Foundation has a lot of active members both developers, users, and
> others.
> 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
> Board. 
> 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
> desktop.
> 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
> 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
> administrations.
> 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
> Thimes:
> "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 
> Anne
> Legal Consultant,
> GNOME Foundation Member and 
> Free Software Afficionado

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