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Women don't have the same passion for open source men do? Really??
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:10 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Are you seriously trying to equate "There are few women engaging in this activity" with "Women are not interested in this activity"?
Since we last corresponded, Jon posted the number of people answering the LWN survey as "female" being 2.9% and 12% didn't state. This, I think, is roughly parallel to the statistic for Amateur Radio.
Can we say that women aren't joining because they, as a population rather than as individuals, are not interested? The other alternative would be to say that men in the field had established mechanisms which were astonishingly effective at keeping them out even though they really were interested, and which still stood today.
Now, I do think that men don't help the situation with their acerbic nature and the way they might talk about women. A specific offense is the telegraph abbreviation for "married woman", "XYL", which means "ex young lady". This goes back to the '20's, I guess, and is still used today, even by people who are speaking rather than using telegraph.
But I just don't accept that such treatement is enough to keep the vast majority of women away even if they really are interested.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:09 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Based on the evidence? No. HTH, HAND.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:25 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:38 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:51 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
You could propose a more representative sample of Free Software participants than the LWN subscription roles. There are many projects, mailing lists, etc., that you can scan for participation of women. Good luck showing that more women participate that way, I'll be astonished if you do.
Or you could propose a cause other than interest.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:01 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
You can ask that, yes. It's still not a supportable supposition. You can't make statements about the general population if your evidence is based on a non-random subset of that population. Ever. Identifying why there's such a small percentage of women involved requires spending time talking to the women who aren't as well as looking at the number who are.
(I should possibly point out that I have a fairly reasonable set of experience in statistical analysis, experiment design and criticism of unsupported conclusions, including teaching that at the undergrad level)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 1:50 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:40 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
I would think the number of responses listed on the Geek Feminism Wikiato when he said it at GCDS would show that at least a handful of us were put off by the statement.
Now, I wasn't there. If I was, though? "Ugh, why do they always assume all the geeks are guys? *roll eyes*" The issue with assuming and perpetuating the assumption that we don't exist is that it creates an atmosphere where some [asshole] male developers think they are well within subcultural norms to say some pretty nasty things to female developers (when they encounter them). Things that include telling us we don't exist, crediting the men we are in relationships with for our successes, assuming we must be there to get picked up by male developers since we're obviously not there to be developers ourselves...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:15 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 8:12 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:13 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:43 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
(I actually disagree with Matt -- I think your data is fine for showing that women are rare in FOSS and ham radio. You don't need more data. The problem is that you want to conclude from this that the reason they are rare is that they're uninterested. For that you need *different* data. Like data that tells you something about why they are rare, or whether they are interested. There's lots of that available, including stuff written by Real Scientists, and we even did the googling for you. It doesn't support your conclusion. In the mean time, in this game you're playing about which evidence you have to listen to, you're denying that it matters that actual, individual people were actually, in reality, hurt.)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:02 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
What googling? I didn't see anything dealing with technical volunteerism. I submit that there are differences between this and technical employment.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:31 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
I just wanted to point out to him that he is not arguing under the same rules he demands of me.
What googling? I didn't see anything dealing with technical volunteerism
Posted Aug 28, 2009 4:41 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I have already explained that to do so was not meant to deny anyone's pain, but to point out to Matt that by his standards he could not make any statements from the data either.
Now that there are women contributing to the discussion, you might do better to let them speak for themselves.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:15 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
I agree, and have never claimed otherwise. You have every right to say whatever you want.
I was pointing out that the things you chose to say were, perhaps, problematic, and that choosing to exercise your right in that way might be causing collateral harm in order to pursue a (relatively) trivial point. When I do things like that, I like to be informed -- not because I'm worried that I'll overrun my rights and get arrested or something (?), but because I generally prefer not to be an accidental asshole. It isn't necessarily a big deal in this instance, but there was an underlying principle there that I thought you might want to have pointed out.
> I have already explained that to do so was not meant to deny anyone's pain,
I heard that, and I appreciate it. But should I therefore not point out the problem? If I punch someone in the nose, and it was an accident, then 1) their nose is still broken, 2) they may be legitimately unimpressed if I say "oh well but my intention was good!", 3) I'm still responsible.
Again, I don't need an apology or something. (I can't, of course, speak for others either way.) But you've used your good intentions as a defense several times on this page, and so again, it's a general principle you might want to consider.
> Now that there are women contributing to the discussion, you might do better to let them speak for themselves.
I speak for myself, about things that I see and believe. Certainly I don't mean to co-opt or silence any women in doing so. Nor do I see evidence that they think I have. I've seen two comments from women about my participation here: Liz Henry said I "rock". Skud said that one of my comments described "*exactly* why [she hadn't] dived until this thread until now". (Ironically, she was talking about my explanation of why your demanding to talk to a woman was uncool, with the links I referred to above.)
So far, you're the only one who's objected. If people -- esp. women -- find my contributions problematic then I'll absolutely listen. But perhaps you should let them speak for themselves?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:12 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
I'm not denying that your figures show that there are few women involved in free software or amateur radio. I'm just saying that it's impossible to deduce *why* there are few women involved from that information.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 14:25 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Are interest and involvement different things? It seems to me that for an activity that has no direct monetary cost, is conducted online and internationally, and about which information is readily available, they are essentially the same thing.
Compare with eg. sailing. I'm interested in sailing but not involved, because the monetary costs are high and I can't do it in odd bits of free time from home or work, but have to go far out of my way to do it; also, many kinds of sailing I'm interested in require certifications/licenses/training that take extensive time and money to acquire, and for which I can't self-educate.
So if you have an activity where interest and involvement are very close to being the same thing, the question "why aren't people involved" is almost exactly *the same question* as "why aren't people interested".
Posted Aug 28, 2009 15:03 UTC (Fri) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 21:38 UTC (Fri) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
So bear with me here: maybe it's time to rethink this whole thing. Maybe all women who are
interested are already involved, despite having to deal with crappy behavior from time to time,
and we need to work to shift our attention to what makes women not be interested in the first
place, which I think is what Bruce is saying.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:44 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
I'm not sure what you meant to say.
But what you said is "maybe we shouldn't do anything about existing crappy behavior -- or even bother noticing it -- since a few women seem to put up with it". (Not to mention ignoring all the women who say that no, they really would be interested if it weren't for the crappy behavior.)
Perhaps we can put attention *both* on fixing the crappy behavior *and* working on the problems women face before they reach FOSS?
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:33 UTC (Sat) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 1:35 UTC (Sun) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 2:27 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
I think that "lack of interest" is not a good metric, as I think there are a lot of social pressures at play outside of Free Software which cloud "interest" to the point where it's meaningless. Similarly with male "interest" in traditionally female-dominated professions like nursing - have you ever considered whether you were interested in nursing? It doesn't even cross most guys' minds.
That said, of the few women who are already explicitly interested, not all are already involved. I know for a fact that there are women who are already doing CS / IT / programming work in various capacities who look at what kind of crap takes place in free software and say "thanks but no thanks".
> Do you think there are actually women who are interested (as in, working with the code, and who would really like to contribute), but not involved in the projects because they tried and hit a barrier?
I think there are both men and women who have been interested but have hit barriers and not gotten involved. I personally know examples of both. I think there are additional barriers to women's participation relating to the various things that have been discussed over this thread - being hit on, being talked down to, being harassed, etc, which men don't deal with to the same degree or at all, in some cases.
I hope that answers your questions. I'm watching the RSS feed of the comments, let me know if it brings up new ones :)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 3:31 UTC (Sun) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
I have in fact. I have absolutely no interest for that, though I was quite interested in biology
while I was at school (I would have liked being a biologist, but certainly not a medic or nurse).
While I was studying Social Sciences I did consider whether I would have interest in another
female-dominated profession (at least in Brazil), which I think is called 'Social Assistant' in
English, and I decided I certainly didn't have any. The one female-dominated area I did
consider once was psychology, but I decided I preferred more practical stuff, in the end. Being
female-dominated areas was not what pushed me out, mind you, I just don't really like dealing
with people day to day that much =).
> I think there are both men and women who have been interested but have hit barriers and
not gotten involved. I personally know examples of both. I think there are additional barriers to
women's participation relating to the various things that have been discussed over this thread
- being hit on, being talked down to, being harassed, etc, which men don't deal with to the
same degree or at all, in some cases.
OK, thanks for the input =). I have seen some of that myself, and like I said, I think it's
important to deal with this kind of stupid behavior. My original point was that we should try to
not blind ourselves by looking too closely at the issues we face in out day-to-day lives, and
forget about the more general issues.
> I hope that answers your questions. I'm watching the RSS feed of the comments, let me
know if it brings up new ones :)
Coolie, I am watching replies, so same here.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:41 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
That's a perfectly valid reason, and I'm glad that you did at least consider it. I think if you ask around your male friends you'll be surprised at how many never even got that far. It's the same with women and the "hard" sciences - in both cases, "interest" just never comes into play because it's not on the list of professions folks consider.
> My original point was that we should try to not blind ourselves by
> looking too closely at the issues we face in out day-to-day lives, and
> forget about the more general issues.
I hear what you're saying there, but I also think it's super important to be able to make the link between the issues that we face in our day-to-day lives and the society we live in, or as second-wave feminists put it, that "the personal is political". As a specific example, the most interesting way that this works that I've seen lately is the way gender affects negotiation, and how this has a broad impact on the lives of both women and men. It ranges from the big-ticket issues like women's ability to negotiate pay, to the every day interpersonal interactions - how many times have you heard a woman ask "Would you like to do $foo?" when she really means "I would like to do $foo, is that amenable to you?". There's a whole book on the topic called Women Don't Ask, and let me tell you, it was a life-changing read for me. I've got 4 copies on my desk because I've been giving it to all the women (and some of the men) I know. http://womendontask.com is the interweb site for it.
The flipside is that our experiences of oppression or difference do not map perfectly, and we may not always be able to judge them accurately; there's a phenomenon called "denial of personal disadvantage" which basically means that even if we see that discrimination exists, we may not believe that it happens to us. Here's an interesting study on the topic: http://www.ur.umich.edu/9394/Feb07_94/15.htm
Although I don't think we should expect to live in an ideal world, I do believe we need to keep
addressing stupid behavior in our communities. People will still sometimes strongly disagree,
and some discussions will keep being heated and not that civil. I think this is normal in any
community of people. Working towards making sexist behavior go away keeps being a very
important goal, nevertheless.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 12:50 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
Those are the words that my response was based on; I don't see where I'm extrapolating. Is there some other way to read your words? Can you explain?
> People will still sometimes strongly disagree, and some discussions will keep being heated and not that civil. I think this is normal in any community of people. Working towards making sexist behavior go away keeps being a very important goal, nevertheless.
I definitely agree. I hope it's clear that I'm not trying to attack you personally with my remarks above, but just continue educating people on how to understand and deal with these issues. (Not that I know everything about it either, but apparently I know more than some, and that's enough to be useful...)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:24 UTC (Mon) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
I believe we need to rethink our belief that there is a large number of
women who are interested and got held back by these issues - perhaps that
is not the larger issue, and would even be comparable to that of men who
are not attracted to the community. It doesn't mean we should stop fixing
this issue, at all.
When I say shift the atention, I actually mean shifting our focus. It
doesn't mean 'drop everything else'.
I believe seeing the world as black and white is one of the problems we
usually have in these discussions, and I can see how my words could be
misinterpreted if you use a binary view of the world.
In some cases, we are so passionate, and so frigging tired of meeting
people who are just dumb, and who think this is a male area by definition,
that when someone questions anything, that one is surely one of the dumb
guys who are our enemies.
Why am I saying this? Because I think lots of interesting ideas have been
raised here that not necessarily mean 'women do not exist', nor 'this is
not your place', nor 'there is no problem', but these ideas have been
mostly shot down on the spot because they _looked_ like ideas you would
hear from an enemy. I mean, when one says 'maybe the main problem is not
this one', this is very different from saying 'there is no problem at all'
Posted Aug 31, 2009 22:15 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
That's... very generous of you?
If you re-read my original post in this thread, you'll notice that my point was that we *don't* have to choose. I'm not making things up because I have a binary view of the world; I'm pointing out that the plain meaning of the original term "shift our attention" -- and also your clarifying term, "shifting our focus" -- is to *reduce* the attentional focus we give to one matter so as to give it to another. Not drop to nothing, necessarily, but de-emphasize. You think that maybe there aren't actually all that many women who "got held back by these issues", and maybe we shouldn't worry about them as much as we are.
I disagree with that. I think that we as a community don't put nearly enough effort into dealing with "these issues". I also think we should put more effort into dealing with other issues, sure, but that that's no reason to reduce our (already paltry) efforts in this area.
> when someone questions anything, that one is surely one of the dumb guys who are our enemies.
I definitely see where you're coming from here. But I think you misunderstand our position. Dumb guys aren't enemies, they just need to... learn some stuff so they aren't dumb anymore :-). Everyone's a newb at some point, no shame in that.
> Because I think lots of interesting ideas have been raised here [...] but these ideas have been mostly shot down on the spot because they _looked_ like ideas you would hear from an enemy.
I don't know which specific comments you're looking at, so I can't respond to them. But I can say that in general, when I personally have critiqued people's responses, my goal hasn't been to shoot them down and make them go away. My goal is to draw out problematic assumptions and show just how unconscious and common they are, in the hopes that people will learn something, dust themselves off, and do better next time.
And I know that sometimes having someone do that to you is painful and sucks -- I've been on the other side of such comments, and probably will be again! -- but I don't see any alternative.
> I mean, when one says 'maybe the main problem is not this one', this is very different from saying 'there is no problem at all'
And the other problem is that on the internet, it's hard to tell who has good intentions. You're right that those are different statements. But people who argue in bad faith will often bring up some other issue as an attempt to change the subject and stop discussion of the original issue. And even people arguing in good faith will do this accidentally. In either case, the end result is that the conversation wanders around and doesn't accomplish anything. Since this is so common, and since these conversations are so exhausting in the first place, those of us with more of an investment in accomplishing something will therefore tend to jump on such topic shifts very quickly.
Posted Sep 1, 2009 23:39 UTC (Tue) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
> If you re-read my original post in this thread, you'll notice that
my point was that we *don't* have to choose.
Exactly! We don't have to choose to forget an issue for the other, but
there's no way we can make everything the focus, otherwise we have no focus
at all. We are tired of knowing that if everything is a priority, there's
no priority (specially if you have to deal with customers who have no idea
of what planning actually is =P).
Our current focus is on looking to the inside; I don't think we should
shoot down questioning whether this is helping we further our common goals
as well as we could. Doing that by no means denies problems; questioning
status quo is essential to improve.
> In either case, the end result is that the conversation wanders
and doesn't accomplish anything. Since this is so common, and since these
conversations are so exhausting in the first place, those of us with more
of an investment in accomplishing something will therefore tend to jump on
such topic shifts very quickly.
This is exactly my point. Just look at the threads. People spend so much
time saying "that's not what I said", that many times questions or points
that would otherwise have produced useful ideas are forgotten.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 16:10 UTC (Thu) by pyellman (guest, #4997)
Men are more inclined to be "tinkerers" than women. Period. "Where's Dad?" "Oh, he's down in the basement fiddling with the broken volume control." Interest in free software development, progress, etc., is a classic tinkerer's refuge. In fact, the same phenomenon could be observed about the MS Windows enthusiast community, especially in its heyday in the 90's.
I'm absolutely, 100% positive that even if you removed most or all the "barriers" you and others see to women's participation in this activity and community, their participation rate will NEVER come close to their representation in the general population, or even in various other technical fields -- unless, of course, you and others are talking about fundamentally recasting the nature of free software development and community into something that does not appeal to the tinkerer, in which case your success would of course be self-defeating.
This is in no way intended to suggest that I think people in free software, or people anywhere for that matter, shouldn't make efforts to be more polite and welcoming.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 4:44 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
That may or may not be true. Given that in the mean time those barriers (I am not sure why you felt the need to use scare quotes there?) have been exhaustingly described, demonstrated, and clearly *are* driving many people away, I don't see how relevant the possibility is. The only way to find out whether it's true or not is to fix the stuff we need to fix anyway.
I also don't see how you can possibly be so sure -- to be that certain about such a complicated issue, you must either have information that the rest of us are missing, or be basing your judgement on something other than empirical reality.
But here's a more specific question: science is more or less distilled tinkering. If women are so incurious, then why are the technical sciences so comparatively full of women, including computer science?
> This is in no way intended to suggest that I think people in free software, or people anywhere for that matter, shouldn't make efforts to be more polite and welcoming.
Good to hear.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:19 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Dreamwidth (http://dreamwidth.org/) is a fork of Livejournal's code, which differs from LJ as an open source project primarily in the fact that it values diversity and welcomes and supports anyone who wants to develop for it.
The percentage of women working on the LJ code is unknown, but is certainly small (I would guess under 10%, probably under 5%); the percentage of women working on the DW code is 75% of its 40-something developers.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:20 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:01 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
So when does Inspector Fox show up and arrest you guys? :P
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:09 UTC (Thu) by jspaleta (subscriber, #50639)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:17 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
Many women who currently participate in FOSS claim that yes, this is exactly the case.
That may or may not be correct, but I am a bit astonished that you can dismiss the possibility as ridiculous, unworthy of consideration. Have you ever *talked* to women? Do you care what they say?
I'll also point out that your argument -- that women almost never do <whatever>, therefore they must not be interested -- has an extraordinarily poor track record. Within the last 70ish years, people have made that argument about essentially every field of human endeavor, and in every case it has either turned out to be wrong, or the jury is still out. (With FOSS in the latter category.)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Many women who currently participate in FOSS claim that yes, this is exactly the case.
I'd be a lot more comfortable if I heard it from them, and if they explained what the mechanisms were and how they were so effective that even people who were interested were barred from participating with almost total effectiveness. And why this was not so for a number of other fields.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 10:13 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
Well, obviously I cannot satisfy that request myself. Perhaps someone with the required chromosomes will chime in.
In the mean time, though, can I point something out that you may not have considered?
In FOSS, there are about 60 men for every 1 woman. Imagine that that one woman sees problems, and is trying to speak out about them. And suppose that -- as we see in these threads -- they can write dozens of comments to one man and yet fail to communicate those problems. Now multiply that by 60, and realize that's unasked-for work piled on top of, you know, actually hacking.
Many women in FOSS do make heroic efforts to communicate what they see -- they form organizations like LinuxChix, Debian Women, they write essays, give keynotes, found blogs, curate wikis, etc.
But those aren't what you want. You asking one of them to take the time to explain things to you personally. And after they do that, honestly, it also sounds like if you don't find their explanation sufficiently complete with regard to mechanism, with I don't know, charts and lists of people who never became hackers and circles and arrows on the back, then you reserve the right to ignore them and continue blithely on talking about how it's a shame women just don't have passion for programming.
If someone posted a demand on some random mailing list, "I'm not going to believe that Bruce really thinks <...>, unless he shows up here and tells me so himself, and in *full detail*", what would you think of that person?
You're an old school hacker, community leader, prominent person. It's easy to assume that with all that expertise and experience, if you can't see a problem then oh well, there must not *be* a problem. Please consider the alternative possibility that you are a good person, have the best of intentions, and also a big of unconsidered privilege that is making you part of the problem.
Here are some quotes to start with:
Posted Aug 27, 2009 17:30 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Bruce, I started using Linux in 1993 with slackware installed off a stack of floppies. I ran X with fvwm and kermit for dialup Internet. I learnt Perl a couple of years later and have worked professionally and full time with Open Source (mostly LAMP stack) since 1996. I've done all-nighters and adrenaline-fuelled hacking runs and totally fscked my PC with broken kernel recompiles. I have founded user groups, hosted mailing lists, launched open source projects, etc. I have contributed to major and minor projects all over the damn place; I regularly get email thanking me for writing one of the best known Perl manpages. I have spoken at conferences all over the world. I am well known by certain segments of USENET, IRC, and mailing lists, and geeks all over the world recognise my name when I travel; friends of mine threaten to get tshirts printed saying "Yes, I know Skud" because of this. I have been chewing people's ears off about why open source/free software is awesome and world-changing since I was 18 years old. And most of the above information is readily available online. About half the first page of Google results (from where I'm sitting right now) for "women in open source" mention me.
Recently, I have also been documenting issues that women face in open source, linking and discussing and synthesising and summarising and KEYNOTING OSCON. (I started doing this a bit in 1998, but stepped back from it for a while, so most of my women-in-open-source work is more recent.)
And then I look at this thread and see that a) "women are just less passionate about open source than men" and b) that nobody seems to believe us when we say there is a problem.
Fuck that. Follow some of those funny little blue underlined words and DO SOME READING.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:02 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
In lin3_gender, there is discussion of a text-based environment as somehow more gendering. And the causes given are 1) perhaps they've had less IT training in general, 2) schools aren't teaching those environments, and 3) there is more reliance on externalized memory, but you're not implying that women are poorer at externalized memory.
All of this seems to imply a nurture-based bias in early-to-middle education. And I'm very willing to believe in such a bias, but it's not Free Software's fault!
Regarding why textual environments are seen to connote more expertise, rather than being a simple preference, it is true in many fields that the person who can function in a less supportive environment is seen as expert.
It is also possibly the case that to those males with sensory-motor integration disfunction (I am a sufferer or ex-sufferer and anecdotal evidence is that such is common in technically-oriented males), a textual environment is definitely more comfortable. But I don't yet see the support for this as a female weakness rather than a male deficit.
So, I agree that a more supportive environment for women is desirable. This is in part social and maybe part technical. I think you would need good experiments to support your theory that some software is inherently less supportive of women, and you don't have those experiments yet, and I'm still dubious.
You don't seem to disagree with the early education differences, as far as I can follow. I feel this is where the most progress can be made. Unfortunately, it takes a generation to pay off.
There is still the nature aspect. You narrate your own passion as an argument against this, but isn't there some chance that you are an outlier?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:11 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:43 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
So, going from your content instead of Lyn's, I would guess that you feel women in Free Software are marginalised, uncomfortable because you are seen as sexual objects, and excluded.
Marginalization is to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is cured by the presence of enough women that they can't be ignored. Certainly we can help by being more welcoming, but unfortunately the greatest load is on the women who choose to be pathfinders.
Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object. And I've been treated that way by a gay man too. I agree this is more of a problem for women, but you aren't alone. Also, I suspect some of the problem with actions of men in our field how strongly they have been effected by a lack of approachable women who are interested in the things they are. That will improve over time. The college program where I reported there was one woman is doing better now.
And excluded. I do notice that in-groups of any kind tend to exclude outsiders - regardless of sex. I've seen this most powerfully in a group of railroad motorcar enthusiasts who very strongly excluded interested people who did not yet own a "speeder".
Is this so very different from RMS' own problems into fitting into a society that - in the large - does not accept and understand him, and which he can not understand? I don't think so.
But having been in another group that tries very consciously to attract women (we even make commercials about it! http://www.arrl.org/pio/ARRL709D.mp3), I am still not seeing that all of the issues are under our control. We still have a nature or nurture problem - either early childhood education or hard-coded gender issues. Of course, these have outliers.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:55 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:29 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:09 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I can't even begin to imagine why that's not working for you....
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:29 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:56 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:17 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Bringing a guy with you when you go to tech conferences usually helps. Then it's clear that someone else has already called dibs. But it doesn't always work. Sometimes it just results in inappropriate things being directed at you both. Obviously my partner will not disagree with me on a technical topic because then "he won't get any tonight," according to a fellow developer (note: this is utter bull. he is quite ready to correct me on any technical matter where he has more expertise...which is most of them, since he's been at this since I was in elementary school).
Posted Aug 28, 2009 20:34 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 19:07 UTC (Fri) by eon (guest, #60489)
>Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object. And I've been treated that way by a gay man too. I agree this is more of a problem for women, but you aren't alone.
Dude! really you haven't a clue what women have to deal with! Not a freakin' clue. I can not forget that I may be a target, on the street, at work, at the doctors office. And while you may feel "uncomfortable" I have to worry about rape. Dude, unless yr in prison or some other extreme situation you don't have to think about rape. You just don't. As women we modify everything & weigh the risks at all times. It's part of city life. And yea, I had a male, *MARRIED* co-worker who went out for drinks with other co-workers & told them he was gonna kidnap & rape me cause I was unavailable to him. I left that job.
And dude, I'm sooo not hitting on you cause I look you in the eyes while I talk to you. I'm not hitting on you cause I appreciate the cool things yr doing in tech. I'm just not hitting on you. So get a grip, be polite & treat me like the rest of the guys.
Don't trivialize the violence women have to deal with. It makes you look stupid.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 19:20 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
The main thing that I go through is other's perception that I am physically or emotionally intimidating. And once in a while I've made women scream through no intention of mine. I guess this is the opposite of what is happening to you, but be assured that it gets old.
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:12 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
I do not mean to trivialize what you go through in any way...
You'd be well-advised to stop doing it, that being the case.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 12:05 UTC (Sat) by omnot (guest, #60509)
You say that you have had women and gay men cause you to feel uncomfortable in the workplace. I ask that you use that experience to conduct a thought experiment:
Imagine that your industry has 98% female participation. These are the women who made you feel uncomfortable only, on average, they are stronger, more arrogant and more notoriously horny than you are comfortable with.
Imagine that of those 98% 4% are overtly misogynistic and hostile, loudly mocking of your contribution, males in general and you, personally. Only a few of the other women ever spontaneously chide them and ask that you be treated fairly. 80% of the women don't even notice the bad behaviour.
Imagine also that your overall impression is that about half of the women you have ever worked with (still the mooted 98% of all workmates ever) have been overheard making casually derogatory remarks about the sexual proclivities of men -- specific and general -- and some of those comments have been made about you, personally. Your objections are dismissed as irrational: you should be a "good sport".
Sexually explicit questions are routinely asked of you directly, by women you are trying to work with, in any form of media with which you communicate. Some of the women are unnervingly creepy and persistent, and get disturbingly hostile when you do not respond as they would wish.
Imagine that suggestive to semi-pornographic images of impossibly handsome men, and lewd "clever" captions are used widely to promote the product you are working on. Imagine that when you suggest that the imagery is not cool, your teammates tease you, deride you, ostracize you and talk about how uptight you are behind your back.
Imagine that whenever you arrive at an industry conference some harried organiser snaps "Deliveries around the back". Once they let you in, a few people will ask you who your partner is (you must be accompanying a woman because men don't work in the industry), and almost everyone who does not ask makes that same assumption.
Imagine that walking into the conference involves wondering which of the women there -- women you are not attracted to, do not know and only wish to interact with on a professional level -- are the 4% who have nothing but contempt for men. Who are the 50% who see men in your industry as a bit of a joke? And who among them are going to try hitting on you over the course of the conference? And, when you decline their unwelcome and inappropriate advances, will they graciously accept 'no' for an answer? Whether you say yes or no, will they lie or exaggerate to their friends, to your cost?
Imagine the appeal of asking a female friend to accompany you to such an event so that you don't feel like a gazelle in a lion enclosure? Can you imagine the disgust and despair you feel that such a precaution should even cross your mind in such an honourable, well intentioned field of endeavour?
So, Bruce, how good is your imagination? How long would you tolerate marinating in that before you could not be bothered volunteering your spare time and earnest efforts any more?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:06 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
Early education does make a difference, and there is bias there, but there is also prejudice in open source, as well as prejudice in the IT industry in general. All of those things need considering. However, here, we were talking about open source, not early education, so please don't derail the conversation.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:15 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:27 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
(There are 'I know Skud' t-shirts? where? ;) )
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:48 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:04 UTC (Fri) by jamesmrh (guest, #31622)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:10 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Oh, I think you want to be careful, there, Kirrily: Bruce is likely to accuse you of being "sickly nonlinear".
In point of fact, in my attempt to discuss the issue with Bruce at the Community Leadership Summit, I found myself being interrupted in mid-sentence by Bruce over and over so that he could provide me with an apparently endless series of reasons why I was wrong to bring up RMS' behavior at GCDS: "He's got Asperger's, he's incapable of perceiving when he's offended anyone, he's incapable of apologizing when it's pointed out to him that he's offended anyone, he's been doing the same joke for fifteen years, you're not a girl, and there's really not a problem, anyway."
At which point I decided "this wasn't a discussion", and left to find someone more interesting to talk to. Fortunately, there proved to be no shortage.
For the record, I personally view this "outreach effort" on the FSF's part, absent any acknowledgment of past bad behavior and any commitment to do better in the future, as being in essence a whitewash.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:17 UTC (Thu) by Myrtti (guest, #57414)
But I know all too well that my existence is a matter of pure faith, a bit like the existence of Invisible Pink Unicorns.
So never mind me...
// Myrtti - http://myrtti.fi
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:43 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Since you are one of the people summoned to a thread already in progress, I feel it my duty to inform you that nobody was attempting to say that you don't exist.
The topic is why there are not more women involved, and whether this is due to internal to Free Software issues or external ones.
I believe that some of the problems, and indeed the most significant ones, are external to Free Software. I think one significant problem is early childhood education serving as a demotivator of women to participate in technical volunteerism as well as technical occupations.
Beyond that, the question is whether there is something different about women - not you obviously but women as a population - that make them less interested in technical volunteerism. We have more data regarding technical occupations.
I would be really glad to see a serious discussion of this.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:18 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
It's like if I showed up on the Debian mailing lists and suggested that Debian would be much more popular and successful if it would only include a Flash player in the distro.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:23 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:57 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:00 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:28 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
(Do I need to put emoticons here to make this clearer? Would ";)" help?)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:46 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Well, I would swear that when I ran gnash as a mozilla plugin, I saw the not-HTML menus and animations that were supposed to use flash. Just slowly, and using a lot of memory.
Posted Sep 6, 2009 8:09 UTC (Sun) by email@example.com (subscriber, #14112)
Your line of argument sounds, to someone with a working knowledge of
feminism, just as absurd as Skud's line of questioning about Debian.
With apologies for spoiling the joke by spelling it out...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:34 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
A: There is! The GNU Gnash player is installed by default, and it supports the Flash file format. Unfortunatly, it's not 100% complete in its support yet, but progress is being made.
Q: Why isn't Adobe's proprietary Flash player distributed on Debian media, such that it is installed by default?
A: You'd have to ask Adobe about this. Their licensing terms forbid it.
Q: Why doesn't Debian provide an installer that fetches Adobe Flash Player from adobe.com?
A: It does. The package is called flashplugin-nonfree.
Q: Why is flashplugin-nonfree in 'contrib' instead of 'main'?
A: Because it relies on non-free software, which prevents it from going in 'main' per the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
Q: I don't care about the DFSG. Why isn't installing packages from 'contrib' enabled by default on my debian system?
A: Because when asked, during installation, you said that the 'contrib' repository should not be automatically enabled for you.
Hope that clears things up. ;)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 5:00 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
But I haven't tried yet because I keep getting errors about my video card. I tried changing the permissions but it didn't help. What kinds of idiot designed this? It's a *brand-new* nvidia g10000, it works fine in Windows. Linux sucks :-(
I think I'm going to try this thing my friend told me about called "automatix", do you know it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:23 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I really do appreciate having you attach some data to this issue. The LWN discussion was not terribly factual with men telling other men what was going on with the women.
Like many newbies, I think I have something to contribute to the issue. The proper reaction is not to smash me down before I have a chance.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 5:12 UTC (Fri) by rictic (guest, #58655)
Like many newbies, I think I have something to contribute to the
proper reaction is not to smash me down before I have a chance.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:41 UTC (Thu) by zrusilla (guest, #60475)
I attend Perl Monger meetings, gave lightning talks at YAPC and OSCON, read copiously, expand my skills on the job, take classes, and dispense advice to fellow geeks of any sex. What I don't spend my free time doing is butting heads to establish alpha geekdom on IRC. That might explain why you've never heard of me.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:51 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:19 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:46 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
You went and tweeted that I'd said women don't exist in Open Source? That's sort of inaccurate, isn't it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:42 UTC (Thu) by garethgreenaway (guest, #60483)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:52 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:46 UTC (Thu) by selenamarie (guest, #60476)
I started using Linux in 1994, installing Slackware from floppies on a home-built machine some friends of mine from the dorms helped me pick out parts with. I screwed the motherboard into a case myself and tried not to bend pins when I put the cpu in for the first time. I was terrified I was going to break something, but my friends wouldn't do it for me.
More recently, I was the co-chair of Open Source Bridge (a conference for open source developers and "citizens" in Portland, OR), and am very involved in PostgreSQL.
Anyway, I have written a lot about the topic of women and open source -- primarily from angle that mentorship and social circles really impact women's participation.
I think your comment could be an example of this effect. :)
When more of the men who lead and code the core open source projects start to know and are friends with the women who participate, I think we will see a huge shift in perception and reality around recruitment and participation of women.
My approach is to just do stuff - start user groups, write code, tell people what I think - rather than argue about whether there are or are not enough women.
When people ask me how to get more women involved in their software projects, I tell them to look around, start talking to the women around them and ask the women they find who show interest to participate directly. This, oddly enough, tends to work. I live in Portland, OR -- which some people think is some kind of techno-communal utopia. But we're just like everyone else.. We just have a bit more energy around bringing social activity and tech together right now.
I'm not very interested in discussing the barriers to participation at this point. They are there, *shrug*.
I think it is far more productive to just take action, measure the results and adjust accordingly.
If you're interested in some of what we've done, I've got a blog post about a specific group that's was successful in the last couple years: http://www.chesnok.com/daily/2009/04/29/whats-changed-por...
And here's something I wrote for O'reilly a while ago:
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:16 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Reasons women avoid open source
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:31 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:06 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
From the top two, it seems that these are general, rather than gendered, barriers. The need to build a whole development environment has kept me from hacking on some code at times.
I really cringed at the fact that mailing lists were prefixed baby- . Women will take that, eh? I would have considered it to be abusive of beginners.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:08 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 15:32 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:28 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:34 UTC (Fri) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Those 'Dummies' books are trash of course, but that's true of 90 percent of tech books.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:39 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:02 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:31 UTC (Thu) by selenamarie (guest, #60476)
Thanks for reading! I appreciate it.
Honestly, trying to figure out why there are a lot of women who never will be interested isn't really a priority for me at the moment. If we look at *open source hackers* as a slice of the population of the entire world, we're a minority - no question. So addressing the issue of why more *people* aren't interested in hacking on open source -- I think the same reasons apply to women.
The stuff that Nat Torkington (and many others) have talked about and done -- volunteering at schools, and finding ways of integrating interesting/fun technology into curriculum, and starting very early (primary school) -- are important. But those aren't the only ways that we can change our culture. We can actually change how many women are involved *now*, by simply looking around for the people who are on the fence.
I think it is counterproductive for hackers to throw up their hands and say, "Well, most women just aren't interested" when the due diligence has not been paid to encourage people who are interested, but not participating -- for whatever reason.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:34 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:46 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Sure, there will always be women who aren't interested. Just like there will always be men who are honestly just not interested in going into nursing. But at the moment, "interest" is so clouded by cultural expectations around gender roles - "computers are for dudes, nursing is for chicks" - that the idea of "interest" is effectively meaningless.
A more important point to focus on, that I think you're missing in this whole discussion - how is Open Source / Free Software <i>missing out</i> because women aren't participating? How can we change that, as a community?
Then go read the various link posted around this thread, where many suggestions regarding that have already been made :)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:57 UTC (Thu) by talbutt (guest, #60477)
So you don't have to guess: I'm a woman too.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:58 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
As for women being harassed at trade shows, it's horrible. It's not restricted to our field, though. Consider this, perhaps the worst example known.
On the internet? Yes, I'm sure it happens there too.
I am just having trouble with the idea that this is almost 100% reliable in keeping out women. No other cause at all, eh?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:20 UTC (Thu) by ShinyShiny (guest, #60486)
There's plenty of women, right here, right now, on this thread saying the sexist shit that happens does drive them away.... Are you deliberately ignoring and discounting them?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:26 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I am not against fixing the problems within the free software community. I am not convinced that those are all of the problems or even the worst problems.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 7:34 UTC (Fri) by koipond (guest, #60493)
You're surprised that sexism has been effective in keeping women away?
Just stop on that comment for a second and then realize that this is privilege. You don't have to worry about this kind of thing at all and because you don't it is a symbol of your privilege. You are free from this kind of fear and frustration.
What had been increasing other people's frustration is that what you've been saying though your words is the whole, "I don't see it, ergo it must not exist." When people point it out you still have that hat on your head and there's nothing women comment makers and experience sharers feel that they can do to dislodge it because you're denying their experience.
It is a large problem because the people who are affected by it say it's a big problem. You can't tell people who are experiencing the situation that it's not a big deal because that's making their problems seem invisible.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 17:54 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:01 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
You appear to be repeating urban myths that have long since been disproved. Please go and read some of the 101 and FAQ entries on the GeekFeminism wiki.
Also, it appears that this website can't cope with the idea that I can develop both proprietary and open source software.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 12:27 UTC (Fri) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
The sort of code I write for business generally has very little technical merit, it's usually just webpages and the required code behind to drive them, the sort of stuff that is so boring and predictable that my eyes glaze over just thinking about it. On the other hand, I use open source stuff to do something that interests me personally. In latter, doing the work is its own reward.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:05 UTC (Thu) by yatima (guest, #59881)
One of the powerful mechanisms at work is invisibility. You know Kirrily Robert and I - two founders of the Geekfeminism blog - in person, but you didn't remember us.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:24 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
How dare you not remember someone you met years ago!
I guess by the sudden influx this thing must have been posted to one of the geekfeminism mailing lists.
Corbet: Why not implement some feature to turn off comments on a article when things get too heated?
I'd say that when you start getting attacked for "silencing women" because you asked someone to quit talking about hymens would be a good place to draw the line.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:26 UTC (Thu) by james_w (subscriber, #51167)
*phew* it's hot in here, someone get me out.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:36 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
And it was posted to Skud's twitter, which you can see for yourself.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:17 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I am not attempting to say you're not there. I am, however, saying that there aren't very many women participating, and I suspect that if we had a perfectly welcoming Free Software community we'd still have a lot less than 50%. And I suspect the reasons are not directly in control of the Free Software community.
Nature or nurture is an old argument, but still going on.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:49 UTC (Thu) by yatima (guest, #59881)
You may well be right: let's try it and see!
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:58 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
We have seen communities that make an active effort to support and welcome women having 10% (Drupal) to *well* over 50% (Dreamwidth, AO3). If you could increase the ratio of women across open source to 30% (a not unreasonable goal), that would effectively increase the number of open source developers by 30%. People have suggested ways in which we could do this, and which appear to have worked in multiple cases. Why are you resistant to it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:05 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I *totally* agree.
What's more, Bruce's HAM community should be doing *at least* as well as commercial radio broadcasting in attracting women.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:22 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Perhaps because they don't feel it's right for their project (might be true, might not be).
Perhaps because they personally aren't good at dealing with newbies (in which case they need to recruit intermediaries first).
Or because it's framed as a women's issue and this puts them on the defensive. Does it work better when you promote it in a gender-neutral style?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:05 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:29 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:12 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:03 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I recommend a woman who has brought up teenagers, or if they can't find one an older man who has brought up teenagers. Of course this is not an automatic qualification for being level-headed, so the corporate PR officer has to judge the candidates individually.
They have lots of hot-headed young men in their software departments. I don't generally find them qualified for the position.
Women expected to take care-taker/support/social/maternal roles
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:31 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:06 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 20:48 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
The reason I your earlier statements about putting women in this position problematic is that you're basically tailgating on a particularly shitty way that women are socialized - to take responsibility for other people's feelings at the expense of any of our own, to mediate, to avoid conflict, to have poor interpersonal boundaries. These are useful forms of social conditioning for this particular purpose, yes, but they are also frustrating ones to see perpetuated as an expected role for women.
I realize this is a bit meta, I hope it makes sense :) Fundamentally, it's socialized behaviour rather than actual skill, and that's problematic.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 21:13 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Is it not possible for a woman to do what I'm asking while maintaining internal strength? I see it as an area in which women often excel and something very powerful that they bring to the table as managers.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:25 UTC (Sat) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:29 UTC (Sat) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:27 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:26 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
As an adult, and particularly since my mid 20s, I've made a very serious effort to try and gain some social skills. It didn't come naturally to me, and I had to do it painstakingly and with lots of errors. I know other geek women who've done the same; one friend of mine treats it as a process of exploration and debugging, for example. It is absolutely possible for most people to do this (I concede that there are a small number who can't), and I don't see why men should be exempted from this.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 7:36 UTC (Fri) by koipond (guest, #60493)
What should be said instead of, "You're better at it" is that "The community could improve on it."
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:18 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I can't take the time to put the male programmers in the company through whatever training (or is it therapy) they need to fill this role properly. Nobody would pay for it.
So, the short-cut is to look for someone who already doesn't base his/her ego on his/her code and doesn't view communication as conflict, and who has long experience with difficult communication. Such a person often turns out to be a woman who has brought up teenagers. It works.
This isn't to say that males can't or shouldn't solve this problem.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 0:33 UTC (Sat) by maco (guest, #53641)
You end up with an inflated sense of what he knows. He ends up thinking you knows less than you do. And well...maybe you're just not 1337 enough for this group he's in. Maybe this isn't right for you. I mean, jeez, you're the same age and he's so much more advanced! You must not be good at this. That's it, this just isn't your thing. Hmm...maybe you'll go become a math teacher...
If you get past that point, you'll learn that in geek circles, overconfidence is the rule in stating your skills. You have to talk yourself up like it's a job application instead of being politely humble. It's intimidating until you realize this.
I spent the first year of university being intimidated of a group of guys in my class. Turns out we're pretty close in programming skills, and for Linux skills there's a range that I'm somewhere in the middle of.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 0:45 UTC (Sat) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:34 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
One very important one is to allow women to behave and communicate in ways that men do -- being assertive, self-promoting, having vigorous disagreements with people, etc -- without applying a double standard and saying that they should be nicer or watch their tone.
Another is to call out people who silence and discourage women, including people who expect women (and girls) to behave nicely as above. (This goes right down to early childhood, btw, so watch how people act around their kids!)
Another is to proactively seek out women doing good stuff and help promote their work to others, by writing about them, nominating them for awards, offering them speaking engagements, etc.
Another is to donate money or time to organisations working with girls and women who are into technology.
Now you know four more ways :)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 14:41 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
allow women to behave and communicate in ways that men do - being assertive, self-promoting, having vigorous disagreements with people, etc
Eek, no! We need to *raise* the bar for communication - not encourage others to drop theirs.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 21:16 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
"Raising the bar for communication" is not the same as "subject everyone to the current feminine bar" -- personally, I'm all for assertiveness, self-promotion, and vigorous disagreements, so long as they're carried out in a way that respects everyone involved. The full rules for female/feminine behavior are weird and nasty -- disagreement may have to be expressed as ostensible agreement, misunderstandings are the woman's fault, things like that. I don't think anyone wants those to be universal, least of all the women who know them best.
And the double-standard is enforced by men (mostly) who freak out if women break the rules -- i.e., men who aren't meeting reasonable standards for respectful communication. Raising the bar for them, and fixing the double standard, work out to be the same thing.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 23:22 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
"Raising the bar for communication" is not the same as "subject everyone to the current feminine bar". ... The full rules for female/feminine behavior are weird and nasty
No doubt there are many subtleties of the rules of female discourse that yet escape me, but in general it seems that females are slightly less inclined toward destructive, aggressive argumentation than men (particularly younger men). So to improve the tone in free software online communication from the (generally) young-male-like level to the female level would be an improvement. Perhaps that level again could be improved, but that's beside the point. The point is we should improve, not find a way to get women (and perhaps others) to be more comfortable with the current level.
personally, I'm all for assertiveness, self-promotion, and vigorous disagreements, so long as they're carried out in a way that respects everyone involved.
Ok, that's interesting. Why do you think that? I used to think that too, and I used to be *very* assertive and vigorous in my disagreements with people. However, with time, I've come to see these traits as actually being destructive to good debate. They tend to poison things and increase the risk that people start taking things personally. Further, these traits, I have come to think, do not bring anything positive to a debate.
Assertiveness of personality is a poor substitute for sound reasoning with supporting data, such that the argument asserts itself (to right-thinking observers at least). Vigorous disagreement (as in "direct", "forthright") has a high risk of stimulating egos into taking offence, compared a more indirect and less confrontational approach (no matter how much we'd like to ignore egos, it seems they'll always be with each of us). Etc.
However, I am probably misunderstanding your point. ;) Overall, I do not disagree with your more central point that we should be working toward some higher bar of respectful communication.
Posted Sep 1, 2009 8:17 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
The complaint about the double-standard has nothing to with whether women are comfortable with the current rough-and-tumble of FOSS discourse; it's about men being uncomfortable with women who are half as outspoken as the men themselves are.
Re: assertiveness, self-promotion, vigorous disagreement: Yeah, I think we're talking at cross-purposes a bit. By assertiveness I mean, for instance, speaking up when one has something to say; there's nothing wrong with pointing out one's accomplishments when relevant (rather than as a way to knock others down); and as for vigorous disagreement, it is entirely possible to present one's thoughts in a forthright manner without attacking anyone's ego. "Thanks for the patch! The current version has a few problems that prevent me applying it as is; could you look over the following and see what you think? ..." All those are, I think, good things.
OTOH, there are some people who delight in turning fact-based disagreements into personal fights, and are happy to win through logical rudeness and gratuitous nastiness. One of the usual ways to pick up social status in geek circles, for instance, is by flaming people to a crisp -- these are scored not on whether you happened to be right or wrong, but on how thoroughly the recipient is ground into dust, and how entertaining bystanders find their destruction. Many communities have designated targets for their members to practice on.
All that is just obnoxious, and goes *way* beyond "vigorous disagreement". Often someone who gets called on such behavior will start waving around terms like "free speech", "healthy debate", "vigorous disagreement", as a way to deflect criticism, but pff. That's just more of the rudeness that got them into the mess in the first place, and I'm under no obligation to buy into their self-serving redefinition :-).
One more point about the idea of raising the bar for men rather than lowering it for women: In addition to my concerns about whether that's an accurate description of what we want, it seems to me that by framing it that way, you run the risk of providing comfort to those who *don't* want to give up the double-standard -- you may give them an excuse to stop worrying about habitual sexism while feeling virtuous about working on the "real problem" (whether they accomplish anything or not). I assume that's not your intention, but the possibility makes me uncomfortable, and might be off-putting to other potential allies as well.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:18 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Given that the number of women inolved in computing at pretty much any age is less than 50%, I suspect you're right. Fixing the issues in free software won't magically fix any of the problems that exist in the wider world. That's not an excuse for not doing it, though - we should strive to at the very least be no worse than the commercial software industry or CS intake. And once we're there, any progress in the wider world should be reflected in our own demographics as wel.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:25 UTC (Thu) by ShinyShiny (guest, #60486)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 4:53 UTC (Sat) by yatima (guest, #59881)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:29 UTC (Sat) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:56 UTC (Fri) by eon (guest, #60489)
In 1995 at a conf where I went to find vendors for parts (worked in biotech at the time & the war put a crimp in our budget). A man in a suit handed me a biz card & told me & my older female mentor that we should have "the guy with the screwdrivers" give him a call. I handed him back his card & said "I'm the guy with the screwdrivers & I prefer email".
I'm back to being a DBA. When I made the move to MySQL from Oracle the first thing I noticed was that I was one of a handful of women at the MySQL conference. There are more women there now, but still not as many as in Oracle. And, yea, MySQL suits me better than Oracle & I'm very passionate about it and the open source database world right now. It's a *very* exciting time to be working with open source databases. VERY!
Why aren't more women contributing to open source? There are a lot of women that just don't want to deal with the male b/s after work. We have to deal with it at work, why deal with it in our after hours?
the guy with the screwdrivers
Posted Aug 28, 2009 17:04 UTC (Fri) by jadelennox (guest, #60499)
I hung up on him and called his manager. His manager spluttered and groveled a lot. It felt good.
But that was professional technology. I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of miserable sexism in professional tech, but at least they were always managers who would splutter and grovel, you know? In open source somebody makes comments about virgins (and *yes*, I wasn't there, but here's another woman who has seen record of what was said and is incredibly offended by it), and he keeps getting invited back to get more and more speeches with the same joke.
unicorn herd check-in
Posted Aug 28, 2009 16:57 UTC (Fri) by jadelennox (guest, #60499)
I first installed Linux (Slackware) from 5.25" floppy disks sometime around 1993. I was a systems administrator, and contributed in a small way to a number of open-source projects, never for financial renumeration. Mostly Perl, very early on some C. I left the open source communities for a few years -- burned out by all the sexism, in fact -- and have recently returned because of the much more welcoming environment of the two new predominantly-female open-source projects.
Even when I was young and had much thicker skin I always avoided online open-source community interaction (e.g. mailing lists, IRC, web forums), precisely because I don't have the Sanity Watchers points for threads like this one.
I love contributing to open source projects. But I hate needing to prove myself as something more than a real developer's girlfriend, I hate hearing sexist jokes, I hate the idea that I'm only interested in user interface or documentation, I hate flirtation. So my passion for open source, true, was not as overwhelming as my unwillingness to deal with sexism on the Internet. Now that I have found a place where I can be passionate about open source without all of that garbage, I'm incredibly happy.
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