Women in Open Source, or Shortage Thereof

Google Summer of Code has released stats on women participation in this year’s GSoC. Only four percent of students in the program are women. Apparently, that’s twice the percentage of female representation in the open source world.

I guess it’s not surprising. In 2004, I was the first woman to be on the dev team for Coppermine Photo Gallery. I’ve been the only woman since then, except when we had another woman join for a few months but we haven’t heard from her after that.

The questions are why are there not more women participating, and how can we get more women to participate?

In one of the comments in the blog post, someone left a link to an article called Open Source, Cold Shoulder. There was one passage that I found interesting from my own experience:

There are two possible explanations for this: Either women are concealing their gender online, or the forces that discourage women from entering computing in general are operating far more powerfully in FLOSS. There’s much anecdotal evidence for the former. For example, after a post about gender issues in his weblog, columnist Jon Udell received mail from several women saying that they used gender-neutral pseudonyms online to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention.

I don’t try to conceal my gender online, actually. I am very proud to represent women, and showing that men aren’t the only ones who can provide technical and coding help.

However, it just so happened that my real and nick names are gender neutral. Even in second grade, I got a letter from National Geographic addressed to Mr. Thu Tu (note how traumatizing it must have been for me to remember all those details). :P I chose my username because I thought it was cool, not because I was trying to hide anything. I got annoyed with people assuming that I was a male in the forums so I use a female avatar. I guess it doesn’t always work since some guys actually use women in their avatars.

Thu Tu / tranzndance avatar

I don’t know what could be done without knowing the true cause of the gender gap. All I can do is, as a woman, encourage other women to participate. I’d love to hear what else I can do to help. I’m on the lookout for mentorship opportunities, and tried to sign up for one a few weeks ago but got turned down because I didn’t have experience with breadboards.

Hopefully next year we can have more female representation in Coppermine and GSoC in general. :)

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