Open source needs more women, women react



Translated from Thierry Noisette’s French article published on, with the author’s authorization.

Numbers are unflattering towards Open Source software: women represent 28% of proprietary software developers, against … 1,5 to 2% in Open Source software (see in particular the sources listed in Angela Byron (Drupal)’s excellent June presentation, PDF 139 pages: “Women in Open Source“).

In a recent article, entitled “Sexism: Open Source Software’s Dirty Little Secret“, IT Management observed: “Look at the boards of prominent FOSS projects. No women sit on the Free Software Foundation’s board of directors, nor the Linux Foundation’s board [actually, it seems that there is one, Ed]. KDE e.V’s board has one woman, and GNOME’s board one.”

This imbalance is not systematic – an example amongst others is the Mozilla Foundation, led by Mitchell Baker, who furthermore received the Woman of Vision Award from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in May. This Framablog post written in October 2008 is a must-read: “Women and Free Software” (in French).

Women in FLOSS

Image from «Women in open source», by Angela Byron (Drupal): Yes, there are women in FLOSS!

Also, several FOSS women – Deborah Nicholson from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Stormy Peters from the GNOME Foundation, and Hillary Rettig, Free Software activist and author of The Lifelong Activist (and of this interview of an “activist throughout his life”, Richard Stallman) – have recently organized a ” mini-summit “ around the women in free software issue, on September 19th.

Purpose of the “Women in Free Software” meeting? Discuss ways to increase female participation amongst communities of developers and free software advocates. The first notes from this meeting can be found online here.

Were present: Mairin Duffy (Red Hat and Fedora), Leslie Hawthorn (Google), Adelaida McIntire (FSF), Deborah Nicholson (FSF), Hillary Rettig, Christine Spang (MIT, Debian), Hanna Wallach (Debian Women, GNOME) and Marina Zhurakhinskaya (GNOME), and the more remote Stormy Peters (GNOME).

The group has started a wiki, prior to a FSF campaign around the issue and to the Free Planet Conference that will be held in Boston in six months.

And while we’re talking about meetings and summits: the homepage of the Open World Forum– held in Paris this week from Thursday 1st to Friday October 2nd – displays the pictures of nine speakers and names eleven… of which no women. There is still much work to be done…

(Translation by Julia Buchner and Delphine Lebédel)

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  1. Pingback from Seems like it was a woman’s week… « Women & Mozilla on ::

    […] Thierry Noisette has published an article on (French Business and Technology Website), entitled “Open Source Needs More Women – Women React” (”Le logiciel libre manque de femmes, des femmes réagissent”). For the original version of his article on ZDNet, please click here. For an English version of the article, please click here. […]

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