Jono asked about thoughts on why women are such a minority in open source communities. I already talked with him and Matt about the topic during GCDS, but I would like to write down my thoughts and experience.
From my point of view, there isn’t just one reason. I will talk about the reasons why I don’t feel completely comfortable in the FLOSS communities. I cannot generalize, extrapolate and conclude that those are the reasons why women are a minority, but I can offer my experience as an example.
ONE MERIT – Meritocracy is one of the greatest things (and one of that I love most) about free software communities. At the beginning you don’t need to be someone, or know someone or know someone who knows someone. You just do and get credit for it. Theoretically no matter who you are, your gender, sex orientation, race or origin. Problem is that normally only one merit is taken into account: hacking hours. “Show me the code!” is the motto here. Nobody says: “Show me your strategic plan!”, “Show me your documentation!”, “Show me your funding efforts!”. Although it is now changing a bit (a great example would be the Ubuntu Hall of Fame, which gives credit not only to developers, but also to translators, PR people, and the alike), the motto is still “Show me the code!”. All-night-long hacking? 95% of the times that person would be a man.
SEXISM – Maybe is not that relevant, at least for me, because there is sexism everywhere. We have to fight against it, but we have to continue with our lives in the mean time. But it does exist. Oh, really it does. Let’s transcript a conversation I had during GCDS as an example (my thoughts while it was happening, in brackets):
Guy: Mmmm, it only took me two days to realize that chicks from Barcelona are way hotter than those from Gran Canaria
Me: Yes? Only two days to arrive to that conclusion? That’s fast! (What???? Why is he telling me this?? Talk to me about weather, please)
Guy: Yes. I pay a lot of attention.
Guy: So, what did you study at university?
Me: Computer Science
Guy: What??????? Since when *chicks* are starting to study Computer Science?
Me: … (Mmm, people like you make me think that I made the wrong decision)
LACK OF AFTER-WORK BEER SPIRIT – When I worked for software companies outside the free software world I used to love Friday after work beer. We’d go to a pub, have a couple of beers and talk about anything but work. OK, sometimes we talked about work, but it was more in the sense of complaining about the bosses and things like that. Normally conversations were about love, life, future, past, present, etc. When I go to conferences now, after all day hacking, listening to new technologies, plan new projects and/or collaborations, which is great, what I need at 6pm is a break. Sometimes I feel that the only way to have that break is just going for a walk on my own. Going to a pub for a beer and keep listening to conversations about CouchDB, GNOME Shell, Clutter, OpenGL, pro Mono rants, against Mono rants, etc. does not seem like a break for me.
OH, IT’S A GEEK WORLD – It is a pity that free software communities are so geek. Not in the sense that I don’t like geeks, I would consider myself a geek, but in the sense that if you’re not, it is difficult to enter (or if you enter, to survive). It is a pity because free software is great. It is great because of the technology, it is great because is open, it is great in the sense of libre. People should be willing to know more about it, but I understand the entry-level barrier. I consider myself a geek, and I find difficult to survive because I am not *that* geek. For a non-geek it has to be even harder. And, let’s face it, men are geekier than women.
I guess these are the main reasons why I don’t feel 100% happy about being in an open source community. And that’s a pity, because I love the spirit and theory about software libre. I should feel like I was in the best job ever.