OSCON Talk, Women in Open Source, What it means...

Jul. 29th, 2009 | 08:56 am

The morning find for me was this written out entry of Kirrily Robert's OSCON keynote Standing Out in the Crowd :
http://infotrope.net/blog/2009/07/25/standing-out-in-the-crowd-my-oscon-keynote/

Some of the highlighted quotes strike home with me:

I’d never contributed to an open source project before, or even considered that I could.

but the barriers to entry seemed high.

One of my main concerns with Drizzle is that we make sure that both of the above does not happen, for women or men. I want people to feel that contributing is something that is very easy to do. We have been setting aside tasks in a group called "Low Hanging Fruit" on Launchpad just to give people a place to start. We have several active committers who just work on refactoring code (doing C to C++ cleanup... and fixing bits of the design which are hard to follow). The bar to contribute is very low, and trying to make it simpler to get your code in is an ongoing task for us.

We, as in Drizzle, have very few women contributors at this point. Off the top of my head I believe we have exactly two in regards to programming, and in other related work maybean additional two. In MySQL's entire history I believe there have only been four women who have committed code. There might be more now. The database group at Sun added at least one woman after the acquisition (I don't track MySQL closely enough to know who is committing what anymore).

If Drizzle has had more then a hundred contributors at this, but only two have been women, then its obvious we have failed at attracting women (which sucks... DB internals are a lot of fun).

I really don't have much of a clue as to how to change this.

While at OSCON I talked to Selena about this for a bit, and talked a bit more about hiring in general. I hire from those of known quantity. If you haven't shown up and worked on the project I am hiring for, you will not get the job. It is so much simpler to hire people you know can do the work.

The flip side of this, and what Selena pointed out, is that this rules out a lot of people. If we don't find a way to encourage women to work on Drizzle, then there will always be a Catch-22 occurring when it comes to jobs. At this point I am getting asked for hiring recommendations, but I only recommend people for Drizzle positions if I know their work.

The bottom line is we need to find a way to attract more women engineers.

I'm not sure if this means we need to change how we operate, or if we just need to be more active in recruiting.

We should be doing something about it though.

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