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

It hardly seems surprising that in a community of hackers, hacking is
considered to be the most important activity.  It's a bit like going to
a convention of model rocket enthusiasts and decrying their focus on
model rockets.  But no one thinks that the translators, marketers,
documenters, web site maintainers, administrators, etc are unimportant,
whether male or female.  Everyone contributes to the success of the

Of course, I see no reason why women can't be hackers.  I don't see
anything in the culture that should keep women out.  In fact, from what
I can tell, most IT organizations and schools bend over backwards to try
to get women.

The reason there aren't many women appears to be simply: women, on the
whole and on the average, don't want to be hackers.  As to why this is
true, we can really only speculate.  Cultural stigmas, fear,
uncertainty, and doubt all spring to mind as reasons. Perhaps they lack
the peculiar sort of insanity it takes to want to be a hacker.  But
really, who the hell knows?  Unfortunately any discussion on the reasons
for this, as was demonstrated in the case of Harvard's besieged
president, is immediately stifled as sexist.  What's going in at Harvard
is just the latest form of McCarthyism.


On Tue, 2005-03-08 at 17:52 +0100, Anne Østergaard 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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