Women in Open Source

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Through the labyrinthian links of twitter, I found myself reading a post by Kirrily Robert, open-source coder extraordinaire, on women (or the lack thereof) in open source.

It's disappointing to see these same issues of exclusion and closed-mindedness popping up again, especially in communities whose stated mission is to fundamentally change the mainstream.

As with many technically focused communities, a lot of the problems that Kirrily points out stem from a lack of supportive attitudes towards newcomers or those with less experience. As a woman who studied mathematics at the college level, I can definitely say that I have seen a hostile environment for questions and trial and error turn away countless talented women (and probably men as well). Many famous advice gurus and entrepreneurs talk about the importance of failure, yet these attitudes prevent such experimentation from happening in the first place. (Why these seem to affect women more than men is a topic for a whole other blog...)

The other simple solution is to 'be the change' yourself, and just have more women as role models. Icons such as Obama show us just how powerful having someone look like you as a role model is. Kirilly points out a truly meaningful comment on an open source community catered to women,

"Deep down, I had always assumed coding required this kind of special aptitude, something that I just didn’t have and never would. It lost its forbidding mystique when I learned that people I had assumed to be super-coders (surely born with keyboard attached!) had only started training a year ago. People without any prior experience! Women! Like me! Jesus! It’s like a barrier broke down in my mind.

It's amazing that in progressive societies, with all of the meaningful progress that we've made, we still haven't seemed to learn these basic lessons.

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