The WoMoz survey team has led an internal survey amongst women Mozilla community members and have analyzed the results. As promised, we are now making the analysis of the survey public.
Intro and Background
The goal of the survey was to get a better overview of the profile of women contributing in Mozilla, as well as to gather their activities and perceptions. The main purpose of the survey was to detect areas of improvement related to gender issues in Mozilla and FLOSS communities. Now that we have the results, the answers are helping us to determine Women & Mozilla’s further actions and to give more visibility to women’s work.
First of all, I wanted to note that it was quite hard to find the active women contributors in Mozilla. As for contributors in general (so women *and* men), it is not easy to know exactly how many members there are in a community. In fact, we don’t really know the *exact* number of people contributing to Mozilla. So to find the women amongst them was already a really tough task. We contacted community leaders and local communities in order to gather a list of the most active women contributors. We were able to contact 30 really active women contributors, out of which 18 replied to the survey (so around 60% of them answered the survey). Therefore, we would like to highlight the fact that the results we found are to take with precaution. The results are qualitative rather than quantitative and therefore no further percentages will be quoted below as it would be a bit misleading. The analysis only illustrates trends and tries to draw conclusions from the data.
Analysis and Findings
- Most of the women who took part in the survey already have experience with other FLOSS projects, mainly with Ubuntu. That suggests WoMoz could reach more to the Ubuntu community to attract more women to the Mozilla projects or we could learn from them and their experiences.
- Most women joined Mozilla projects after getting in touch (or being contacted by) current Mozilla volunteers and employees – be it directly or during various events. Events attendance and help from other community members and interaction with them have also positively affected women in contributing and joining the community.
The above suggests that the best way to attract women is to reach to them either by directly asking for help or by inviting them to various events and organizing introductory workshops or presentations for them.
Further research would be useful to find out more details about how women have come to joining Mozilla projects and what exactly has prompted them to do so (e.g. if it was during an event, what exactly has happened? if it was after chatting with a volunteer, what exactly was said? which topics and issues were mentioned?)
It would be interesting to be able to compare these results with how male members of the community have joined the project, to see if we’re more biased towards needing to be contacted by a local community, a conference or some event before deciding to give a project a chance. We suspect that the number of men being contacted in the same way before joining a project will probably be also high, but probably a little less than these numbers. In any case, it seems that contacting women in local communities and conferences works, so WoMoz should keep doing that.
- Among those that currently contribute to Mozilla projects, a majority of survey respondents are involved in Localization and WoMoz, Education/PR/Events, Drumbeat and Advocating/Evangelizing. As in many other FLOSS projects, only a small proportion of women who responded is involved in more technical activities like testing (3 respondents), QA (2), Code, Documentation and Product Support (1 each). This could suggest that the easiest way to reach towards women and gain more contributors is via non-technical teams. It would be worth further researching why survey respondents are participating in projects they have selected and whether they would like to get involved in other projects as well (and why). As coding and other technical projects are usually perceived as male activities, getting women involved in non-technical projects first could help to build their confidence and show that they can get involved in more technical projects as well. However, we also should be careful not to automatically redirect women to localization or marketing, as it has already been seen to be done (voluntarily or not) in other FLOSS projects.
The results also show that WoMoz should find further actions in order to incite women to participate more in technical fields, and ways too attract more women developers. This probably involves leading projects in educational areas, in schools and promoting technical fields to young girl students. We should identify the reasons for such low numbers and find concrete solutions to them. There might be a lot of different reasons for this, and maybe it shows that getting hands dirty with code has a higher entry barrier for women than for men.
- The biggest issue that holds women back from contributing more to Mozilla projects is the lack of time. It would be interesting to find out why time is the issue. Work commitments were mentioned a couple of times and almost all respondents work, although it’s not clear whether this is full or part-time work. The fact that most of the respondents fall into 20-30 and 30-40 age brackets. Could this be due to familial obligations? Further investigation on this should be done.
Additionally, “language” and “too technical” or “not enough information” were mentioned; to help with those, following solutions were suggested by survey participants: clear guides and tutorials for newcomers, support mailing lists where all “silly” questions could be asked, mentoring programs, and more local events – and all that preferably in local languages. Current Mozilla online documentation was mentioned only by two women as something that had positively affected their contributing and joining the community, which confirms that resources should be written with new contributors in mind and preferably available in their native languages.
Also, maybe creating a list of projects that don’t take that long to contribute to, that permit a contribution even if one has few hours to dedicate, might be helpful. We shouldn’t only propose long-term tasks or projects that take a lot of time to finish -short tasks can still be gratifying!
- Survey respondents in general don’t have any issues related to their relationships with fellow contributors. The only thing mentioned were delays in correspondence but with lack of time being the biggest problem and, as mentioned earlier, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
The good thing is that the current contributors seem not to be too affected by sexist issues. This can be a good thing, because it can mean that those issues are not really a problem in Mozilla, but it also can mean that for those for who it is an issue, do not even join the FLOSS community in the first place. As it seems that most of the respondents are also in other FLOSS projects, and taking into account that probably Ubuntu and Mozilla are among the most women-friendly ones – at least that seems to be the common acknowledgment – it seems quite logical that in general the answers match this. In any case, it is not clear that sexism is not a general issue in the FLOSS world. But, on the other side, it is probably out of WoMoz hands to solve that in the short term.
It is important to note that sexism has not been considered an issue by anyone. According to our feed-back, Mozilla is among the most female-friendly communities in FLOSS. But it is important to note as well that the average women in FLOSS have already developed some thick skin, so there might be a bias. But it is still good news, as we have noted from gathering impressions from women in other open source projects that there are some sexism issues in their communities and projects.
- Majority of respondents (12 out of 18) said women accounted for less than 10% in their local communities. A regularly updated list of female contributors (or just numbers and percentages) could be useful, since there are regularly new contributors arriving
- All women who responded to the question about their education level have degrees and this includes: 8 undergraduate degrees, 6 Masters and 2 PhDs. A huge proportion of respondents have a technical degree (Computing, Science, and Engineering). It is interesting to see that even though so many of respondents have technical background, only half of them is involved in technical projects. It would be interesting to interview them further and find out why that’s the case.
- According to survey respondents, WoMoz could get more involved in local events and raise its profile within Mozilla communities. It could act as a support/information/resources network for all female Mozilla contributors and help to raise their profile.
Attending events and interaction with other community members somehow seem to be the trigger for joining the community. We should definitely keep on being present in events, and we need to mingle and get in touch with women in local communities, related events and organize more on-site open WoMoz meetings. We need to continue spreading energy and synergy!