Dear users, developers and other contributors of Open Source,
I write this letter as a contributor of Ubuntu, and as a member of the Ubuntu Women project.
As a Woman and an Open Source contributor, I see a number of behaviours within the Open Source community that are quite counterproductive to the community. Many of these behaviours often go unnoticed, and this is a shame.
These counterproductive behaviours of which I write, may seem common-place to many people, and they may even be humorous to some. However these behaviours, to many women, are discriminatory, offensive and discouraging. Considering women represent approximately 50% of global population, which is approximately 3.35 billion people, these behaviours are not behaviours that a community that thrives on growth, should be allowing or encouraging. We should not be discouraging 50% of our potential users and contributors.
Currently, according to FLOSSpols, in 2006, the average female representation in Open Source is 1.5%. This is compared to 28% female representation in the proprietary software industry. You can read the FLOSSpols report at http://www.flosspols.org/deliverables/FLOSSPOLS-D16-Gender_Integrated_Report_of_Findings.pdf
You see, this is not merely a rant, there are real reasons for this letter. We are seriously lagging behind proprietary software, and many other industries, in the area of gender equality. We can do much better than that!
There are a number of ways to curb the discouraging behaviours and all it takes is vigilance. One must be vigilant in their communications, and discourage or admonish bad behaviour. Unfortunately, there is no single demographic guilty of these behaviours, as they are not solely perpetrated by Men. Yes, you heard me correctly — some women are guilty also! This makes the task of vigilance ever so much harder, but for the sake of potentially doubling our community, it is well worth it!
As a Woman and an Open Source contributor, I implore you. Do not make jokes about us, just because we are female. Do not belittle, stereotype or patronise us, based on our gender. Do not assume that we are using Open Source so that you can ask us questions of private nature, or out on a date. Most importantly, do not stand by and watch as other people do these things.
This is a big thing I am asking of you, I know. But it is not only for me that I ask. It is for the 3 and a half billion mothers, daughters, sisters and friends that I share this earth with — that WE share this earth with. This is for everyone.
This is for Open Source.
I sincerely Thank You for reading this letter, and encourage you to pass it on.
Open Source advocate, and Ubuntu Member
edit: corrected population guesstimate. Please disregard this notice.