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Open Source Programming Software

Getting Young Women Interested In Open Source 545

New submitter Jason Baker writes "It seems like a perennial question: 'How do we get more women involved in tech?' The open source community, like any other part of the technology industry, is grappling with finding solutions that are more than just talking the talk of diversity, but actually make some demonstrable difference in the numbers. While there have been numerous success stories, the gender gap is still rampant. The answer, at least to one freelance entrepreneur, is providing strong role models of women using open source to have fun and make money. But is that enough to make a difference?"
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Getting Young Women Interested In Open Source

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  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:02PM (#46156321)

    I too would like a strong role model for someone using it to make money. Anybody? Anybody?

    • Re:I'm male but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by duckintheface (710137) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:08PM (#46156387)
      The OP talked about women. The title moves that to "young" women. So as you seek to remove gender bias you add age bias? How about getting everyone interested in open source. And if there are obstacles that apply only to young women, then you can focus just on them.
      • I'm sorry but he lost me at 'getting young women.' I didn't really register anything after that.

      • Re:I'm male but... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ravaldy (2621787) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:46PM (#46156787)

        It always amazes me how we attempts to entice a gender to gain interest into something they generally aren't interested in. Women's brains are wired differently than mens.

        I'm sure the car industry attempted to entice more women into working tech jobs but it just didn't work out. Most women I know end up in social service positions such as teaching, nursing, health and retail. I'm not saying women can't, I'm just saying there's a minority of women that like the industry and it's not lack of trying.

        • by Jakeula (1427201)
          I agree, we cannot force women into any work force. What I want to understand from this article is why are we looking at such a specific road of tech? We all know that tech is lacking women, so duh Open Source is no better. Lets focus on figuring out why women arent in tech, then if they don't end up in Open Source with some ratio, then we can look at it. I see no way that Open Source specifically will help this situation. I mean I know we all like to think Open Source is the end all, but this is just ridic
        • Brain Change (Score:5, Informative)

          by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @07:11PM (#46157047)

          So... how was it that women's brains were "wired" for programming from 1940 to 1985 [1], but suddenly around 1990 they stopped being interested in "coding" and "IT"?


          [1] From 1940-1950 approximately 100% of programmers were women; from 1950-1980 the percentage was still very high and probably a majority. 1984 was the peak year for women graduating with engineering degrees since WWII and a large percentage of those women took CS degrees.

    • Re:I'm male but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:18PM (#46156503) Homepage Journal

      Grace Hopper, USN Admiral - Creator of COBOL. If she wasn't a geek, nobody is. And she was coding before Open Source, Closed Source were a twinkle in RMS eye.

    • It's an app, app, app, app world now. There aren't many creative types programming in Assembly any more, even among males.

      The key to getting the females interested is killer apps.

  • 1. Add a question mark.

    2. Hell yes.

    3. ...

    4. Profit!
  • To be quite frank, a lot of the reason why you don't get many young women in STEM - and Open Source projects - is you insist they have lots of experience.

    Open Source used to be mostly rolled out by students and people between jobs, but nowadays a lot of Open Source coders have full time jobs at various tech firms.

    Those tech firms tend not to hire women with non-tech degrees and without extensive experience.

    There's your problem.

    Originally, you only needed some form of 2 year or 4 year degree, of any type, no

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlphaWolf_HK (692722)

      I think that a lot of them, mainly by happenstance, just aren't interested in that kind of job. It's like asking why most men aren't interested in interior design.

      Men and women have differently wired brains, more news at 11.

      Anyways why is it such a "social problem" that they aren't interested? And I don't think that forcing them to be interested is a good idea either. That is like introducing programs to make more white people interested in hip-hop.

      • Not true. I happen to know at least one young women who has been trying to get into programming, and what I said are the most common complaints she has about the whole process.

        (yes, she has a Bachelor of Science, just not in STEM, and she has work experience but not in programming, and she is a native English speaker born in America)

        • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:39PM (#46156711) Homepage Journal

          yes, she has a Bachelor of Science, just not in STEM, and she has work experience but not in programming.

          So that would be quite a risk for anyone to hire her to do any coding - gender and age has nothing to do with it. You have to start either with internships or be able to show some successes in open source projects. And you still have to be willing to start out making less than you do working in whatever field you currently have experience in.

        • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:47PM (#46156801) Journal

          So she's not very qualified relative to the other applicants. She's no worse off than a man with the same qualifications. When the labor supply is so much larger than demand, employers just keep raising the bar. If we were struggling to find programmers, things would be different. This push to make more and more people into programmers is only going to worsen the situation for people seeking their first job, and will depress wages for the people who do get hired.'s almost like that's the point.

          • "The bar" at my employer for an entry-level development position is basically: CS or related degree and the ability to write simple algorithms (like binary tree traversal) in C++, C#, or Java. We're struggling to find programmers when we want them.

            Maybe other parts of the country have a more saturated market; Southern California seems to have more developer openings than people to fill them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745)

        "Men and women have differently wired brains, more news at 11."
        That. Is. False. Stop propagating that myth. Young girls get told that lie, then believe it and don't go into STEM becasue "they aren't wired for it"

        "Anyways why is it such a "social problem" that they aren't interested? "
        That's not the problem, the problem is there are directed away from it, usually by idiots saying things like "Men and women have differently wired brains"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Seumas (6865)

          "Men and women have differently wired brains, more news at 11."
          That. Is. False. Stop propagating that myth. Young girls get told that lie, then believe it and don't go into STEM becasue "they aren't wired for it"

          "Anyways why is it such a "social problem" that they aren't interested? "
          That's not the problem, the problem is there are directed away from it, usually by idiots saying things like "Men and women have differently wired brains"

          You don't know it to be false anymore than the commentors know it to be true. Especially considering studies that assert there are differences in, if not behavior, possible wiring of brains between the sexes. That isn't to say they are conclusively "wired differently", but it's bullshit for you to dismiss it as "propagating a myth".

          http://www.scientificamerican.... []

          How about the myth you seem to be propagating? That somehow men and women only populate the fields of interests and careers they do, because of b

        • No. It. Isn't. Study some biology instead of SocSci. Brains are more than circuitry, they are also hormonal baths. Different hormones.
        • Shit have you seriously been in a relationship with one before?

          I do not say this to make you look bad, but damn is it obvious in that kind of situation. They do not think like we do at all PERIOD. It is now politically incorrect to say this but it is the truth based on real scientific studies.

          It does not mean women are inferior or that I am somehow and sexist asshole on the contrary. Womens minds have more neurons and less brain cells. Womens minds use both hemispheres more (with the exception of lesbians w

        • I've met too many women who were good at science growing up. And were strongly encourage to work in STEM. And once they started working, they realized that they HATED it. Not enough interaction with people, mostly. So they ended up switching to careers like teaching or physical therapy.

          I think people should be encourage to enter whatever career THEY prefer. Not whatever career best furthers someone's vision for restructuring society.

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      To be quite frank, a lot of the reason why you don't get many young women in STEM - and Open Source projects - is you insist they have lots of experience.

      Who insists they have lots of experience? If you submit a patch to an open source project you don't attach your resume to it.

  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:03PM (#46156331) Homepage Journal

    It's Nixie Pixel: []

    She's very articulate, and the technical depth is there, if you can keep yourself from getting distracted.

    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:27PM (#46156607)

      I think you're inadvertently making another important point. Attractive women aren't just distracting. They can completely disrupt many men's brains for long periods.

      I recognize Nixie as smart and insightful. I also can help spending 80% of the time I see her daydreaming about sleeping with her.

      If I had to work with her, this would be a serious problem for me. I'm not saying that's grounds to not hire attractive women, but it might be why I'd have to look for another job myself.

    • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @07:27PM (#46157189)

      So you want your daughter to be a tech blogger that quotes press releases from the latest cell phones and tablets and throws out occasional tech tips or howtos for a living? Regardless of gender, the whole gizmodo/engadget type of profession doesn't really qualify as a STEM career in my mind. It's like saying that someone assigned to reporting on local crime for the local paper is in the law enforcement career.

      If people really need role models (I don't really know why they do, but okay), then maybe someone like Jeri Ellsworth [] would be a more compelling one? Someone who doesn't make her living regurgitating current tech news and subjects for a crappy blog or youtube videos, but actually -- you know -- makes stuff. Using a strong engineering and mathematical and science background to do so.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        All good points.

        But from the standpoint of "providing strong role models of women using open source to have fun and make money" I can't really think of anyone who does it better, including any male tech "vloggers" I've seen awkwardly hemming and hawing their way through a device teardown or interface demonstration.

        And yes, I'd also hope that my daughter would aspire to eventually be more, but at this point, just seeing someone on "TV" who talks enthusiastically about computers in general and Linux in partic

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nemyst (1383049)
      I'll preface this by saying I do not know Nixie Pixel at all. My first impression however was quite negative and for one particular reason: when I come to a site looking for a person's ideas and thoughts, I don't want to see cartoons of the person peering at me (in revealing clothing even) and pictures of her face everywhere on the page. I also very much doubt that a persona similar to this, but male, would use the same sort of techniques to drag an audience in.

      She might be great at what she does, but by
    • by Nixie Pixel (3526853) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @02:35PM (#46165025)

      It's Nixie Pixel: []

      She's very articulate, and the technical depth is there, if you can keep yourself from getting distracted.

      I really don't know if there's protocol on responding to a post when you became the topic, but we'll see.

      Just wanted to say that I had been struggling with creating content lately. Over the last 4 years you'd be surprised how hard it is to come up with new, even semi-intelligent topics! Having taught myself Linux in the early 2000s, it's been a learning experience all around... I like to think I'm doing my best. In the end, I'm a one-woman-show, and I know I can be a tough act to follow.

      I've received thousands of negative comments like the ones seen below. Even though I know better (don't feed the trolls, right?), sometimes they discourage me. Then I read ones like the one you posted here and I have to say, it makes it all worth it.

      Thank you. ^.^

    • by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @02:58PM (#46165243) Homepage

      She seems to know her stuff. I show some of her videos to my daughter.

      If someone cannot separate their libido from their technical and work related duties, then the problem is not Nixie Pixel's.

      Does she lose credibility because she's attractive? I dunno. If anything, I'm more critical of the bubble-headed, "I played ResEvil so I'm a geek grrl!! lol" type. And actually, those types irritate the crap out of me. But looking at her vids, she has technical knowledge that's no worse than many others that I respect.

  • Or... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by E++99 (880734) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:04PM (#46156341) Homepage

    ...we could just let people do whatever the fuck they want to do.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As an actual woman programmer, I gotta tell you, most of the guys I encounter react really weird to me at first. There's the assumption that I must be an idiot (I'm not) or I can't POSSIBLY know how do this (I do) and of course all the off-color jokes (which I happen to find funny). Basically the environment isn't always friendly to young women. I've worked plenty of places as the only woman. One of my first jobs, the sales guy came up behind me, stared, and said it was "SO COOL to see a chic crank out code

    • by ezdiy (2717051)
      Tech fields are meritocracy at its best, yet most "nerdy" women underestimate the concept, take a shortcut: "look, look, I've got boobs.". And are like "hurr durr, sexism." in turn. If you want credit, simply omit the fact you're a female for a while, and try to garner it on merit alone. The after-shock "A 'mere' girl did $THING?" effect is priceless and will earn you an actual respect/street cred.

      C&H explains it well []

      PROTIP to deal with sexism IRL: Start a rumour you used to be a man until recentl
  • The Life We live (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:23PM (#46156553) Journal

    Spending 8+ hours a day isolated at a computer, forgoing human contact to spend most of your free time researching and learning, interacting with machines and electronics at the lowest and least intuitive levels, willing to be on call almost 24/7--takes a certain constellation of personality traits. For whatever reason, these traits skew male; not entirely, but heavily. You can debate about whether this is cultural, environmental, genetic, or some combination. Open for discussion is even the question if we should be concerned at all. You don't hear the same kind of panic about the lack of men in early education or nursing.

    There are probably as many women in tech as want to be there. What's really stopping them other than themselves and their own preferences?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's a fight for girls to get into IT. I have had to go to the mat many times with morons trying to direct my daughter away from science and engineering. They don't even know they are doing it. Oh she doesn't like math, clearly it's hormones. WTF! Maybe it's your crappy ass teaching.

      • by sqrt(2) (786011)

        Were you able to find a teacher or educational paradigm that fostered her success in mathematics? What does your daughter say she's interested in?

    • Re:The Life We live (Score:4, Interesting)

      by scamper_22 (1073470) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:51PM (#46156855)

      I think preference is a big part of it.

      However, this does not mean systemic issues cannot be a factor. There are a lot of things about STEM that are not inherent to STEM or anyone being interested in STEM.

      1. Be willing to be on call 24/7... why should this be the case? Maybe this should change.
      2. Spend free time researching and learning? Really... I need this for my job? No I don't and companies can train people.
      3. Forgoing human contact? There is no reason for this again. Many tech jobs heavily involve communication be it for product planning, support, design meetings... ...

      I would dare say these are issues for many men as well.
      Many more woman have become doctors as well for example. It has been documented they don't work as hard or as crazy as their male counterparts.
      http://www.schoolofpublicpolic... []

      But is that a problem? Sure, they can and probably are paid less. Yet, they still serve patients very well.
      I'm sure there are many young men as well who would want to be a less overworked doctor as well.

      There is nothing intrinsic about being a doctor that involves working crazy hours or 24 hour shifts in the ER.

      The same is true for software/engineering.

      We can and we should be legislating and addressing these lifestyle issues in regards to careers. If after that is all done people still choose gender like jobs... well that is all fine and dandy.

      • by sqrt(2) (786011)

        1. Be willing to be on call 24/7... why should this be the case? Maybe this should change.
        2. Spend free time researching and learning? Really... I need this for my job? No I don't and companies can train people.
        3. Forgoing human contact? There is no reason for this again. Many tech jobs heavily involve communication be it for product planning, support, design meetings... ...

        You're competing against people (mostly men) who ARE willing to do these things.

  • Oh, wait... wrong gender.

  • Why should we try to pursue women to work in tech? We have to accept they are different and the majority doesn't like working in tech.

    I cringe every time i see something being specially tailored for them. In Venezuela, they even have their own bank. It's stupid, what happened to equality?

  • How to get women interested in some geek shit. We must have a quota on slashdot for crap like this.

    First, who cares about gender. We are all equal.

    Second, most women are just not interested in geek shit. And that's ok. They like long walks in the park, they like dudes that listen to them and leave love notes in their purses. So go try that approach.

  • Stop forcing shit and let the person choose what he or she wants.

    • by Zaelath (2588189)

      As if, not only should we death-march women into tech, we need to get young men into child care.

  • In what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:33PM (#46156669) Homepage Journal

    It's not "open source" that I'm looking to get them interested in...

  • by nevermindme (912672) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:41PM (#46156739)
    There is no glass door, ceiling or anything, anyplace or anywhere. You don't even have to give your real name to be involved in a project. If you cant stand working in a boys club open an account on one of a open project 100 sites, write a doc, compile and make a installer and you can be the top of the FOSS world if you its useful to 20 million people. Write the next app everyone needs, wants and uses daily and then give it away for no reward but complaints from everywhere, then perhaps be the one of hundreds of free products that make a jump to commercial success.
  • Gender Balance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inhuman_4 (1294516) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @06:48PM (#46156819)

    According to the BLS 95% [] of workplace deaths are men, even though men make up only slightly more than half of the workforce. So how come there is no push to get women in high risk jobs, like oil wells, private security companies, mining, etc?

    It's got nothing to do with gender balance. It's about feminists finding things to rail against.

  • Sure, just as soon as this bright spark also puts some money into getting more men into nursing, human resources, and primary education, all fields as dominated by women as IT is by men. Maybe more so. I don't think my kids' elementary school had a single man on the staff other than the janitor.
  • by gwstuff (2067112) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @07:20PM (#46157113)

    Why does society feel compelled to force the population of a profession to have 50-50 split, or generally a 1/n * n split with n groups involved. From an algorithmic standpoint, having such equitable fits across a large number of professions is extremely improbably, and the effort required for society to do so correspondingly large. It is comparable to the class of hardest problems out there.

    The intuition here is this - imagine that you need to come up with multiple parallel activities to engage a group of children. It's easy when you give the children the option of which activity to join. Now imagine if you had to make sure that every single activity had an equal split of boys and girls. It might be ok to come up with the first few - you would attract relatively open-minded boys and girls. The problem becomes harder as you fill activities, to the point that after going through enough activities, differences in tastes have grown so much that it is nearly impossible to fit people from both groups into the same activity.

    Women and men are epistemologically different. This doesn't mean that women can't do tech - the most capable person in tech I know - my role model - is a lady, and there are a good number amongst the best people I have encountered. Correspondingly it doesn't mean that men can't be good grade school teachers, because they make up the smaller fraction. It's just the way it is, and from a statistical and social standpoint, it is unsurprising.

  • Really tired of hearing the same "but it's their choice" rhetoric about women in tech. The fact is, women's brains aren't more or less "wired" for anything, and most preferences are learned through socialising. I'm sure plenty love tech, programming, gaming and everything, but simply can't stand the "community", where misogynistic bullshit is unfortunately the norm rather than the exception. And I'm not just talking about outright exclusion, but harrassement, sexist joking around, stereotyping, etc. But don
    • by Tanuki64 (989726)

      Who voted this misandristic bullshit up?

      The fact is, women's brains aren't more or less "wired" for anything, and most preferences are learned through socialising.

      Proof by assertion against all results reputable (non gender religious) research studies came up with.

      But don't take it from me, ask any group of women already involved in open-source about the challenges they face daily.

      All men should always keep in mind: Women lie. The lie is above all the most important weapon of women. The proof is in

  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:16PM (#46157627)

    How do we know women aren't contributing to open source? Open source outside of the Linux kernel and a few other corporate-supported projects is primarily done at home as a hobby. Open source has a very long tail in that respect.

    So for projects done entirely at home, people publish their results by creating an account on SourceForge or GitHub or Tigris and upload their source. A good many of those account names are gender neutral, and regardless, neutral or not, the account doesn't contain the data concerning the gender of the owner. Male, female, or any of the other possibilities, most of the systems don't even ask, and for those that do, people can pick whatever they want. So how do we know women aren't contributing?

    If anything, I'd say it's likely there are more women contributing to open source than is generally known. Open source publishing is exceedingly friendly to anonymous and pseudonymous contributions (with the exception of projects with paranoid copyright assignment requirements). How do you know fyunkclick783 isn't female? The default assumption is a developer is male, so any woman wishing to avoid notice as a female open source contributor need do nothing at all to maintain that assumption.

    Perhaps you're asking the wrong question. Maybe you'd like to ask, why would a female open source programmer choose to conceal her gender? I can answer that question with a question. Why would a male open source programmer choose to explicitly assert his gender? You realize that rarely happens? Pick any random project on SourceForge. Odds are it's a sole maintainer project. Now tell me, male or female? Odds are they're male, but you don't know. Now tell me, are you likely to stop using an open source tool if you discover the maintainer is female? How about if you discover they're male? Want to bet people who make that decision on that basis are vanishingly rare? So why do you care what the sex of the maintainer is? You don't.

    No one cares what the sex of the maintainer of an open source project is. We care about whether or not the tool does what we need done, whether or not its stable, whether or not it eats our data, and whether or not its available in our Linux distribution. The sex of the maintainer is irrelevant to all of those factors. It's not "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'—it's "Don't Give a Damn."

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:18PM (#46157655) Homepage


    I am so tired of these "how can we get women interested in... " subjects. Science. Math. Programming. Uncle. Women will be interested in those things when it actually interests them. In many ways these discussions are totally degrading towards women as it makes things out to be that "if only we could show them...." or "if we only gave them a leg up..." Do you think women are stupid? They can't figure out what they like or don't like? Or that without preferential treatment they will go elsewhere?

  • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Tuesday February 04, 2014 @08:53PM (#46157913)
    Why, exactly, "should" we try to get people to do what they don't want to do?
  • by whistlingtony (691548) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @07:22AM (#46161051)

    I used to know when there was a new woman hired. There'd be ten guys standing around a cube beating their chest... I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

    A lot of the comments here are pretty foul. A lot of "There's no sexism!" A lot of "Oh yeah, well they do it too!". Oh, there's a "our brains are wired differently!" That's an old standby. There's the old "They just fake interest to get dates." There's a rant against feminists.

    Notice that most of the comments are from dudes, and they're derogatory or dismissive......

    One day I will have a daughter. I don't want her listening to you assholes. Of the posts I read, ONE was supportive and suggested actually listening to women. The rest of you denied the problem, cracked crude jokes, or blamed it on physiological differences. No. The problem is you.

    My daughter will not get any pink shit. No princess shit. She'll be told from day one that she's good at math, and I don't care if she grows up to be a ..... glassblow, whatever, i picked something at random, but she'll have CHOICES and won't be shuttled to the back of the intellectual bus by the likes of you people. You should be ashamed of yourselves. The problem is YOU, you social skill lacking, self problem denying, asshats.

    Little girls get told to be princesses. They grow up watching crappy disney films where the princess gets passively rescued by the prince. They get passed over and thought less competant. They get pushed and force fed images from day one. If they are forceful, strong, self reliant? They get labeled bossy, bitchy, pushy. This pervades every field. But tech IS terrible, and you should all be intelligent enough to know this. But that would require looking at your own part in it.

    My own personal story? We had an opening. For weeks the jokes flew, "man, I hope we don't get a chick, we'd have to stop swearing and telling jokes." Well, we got a dude. My coworkers were discussing this very topic later, and denying it ever existed when I stopped them and asked them if they thought our boss had overheard us (of course he had) and if it had swayed his opinion, even unconsciously. They were silent. Of course it had, how could it not have? At least they had the good graces to show some remorse and take some responsibility.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.