Standing out in the crowd… in PHP

Elizabeth Naramore has knocked it out of the park with Gender in IT, OSS, and PHP, and how it affects us *all*. It’s honestly the best article on women in open source that I’ve read in the last five years.

Not only does she lay out the situation incredibly clearly, but she backs it up with references to research that supports her points. For instance, here’s what she says on the “standing out” issue:

I did a bit of research and found that it’s not just women who feel uncomfortable in the gender minority, but men do also. Studies have shown that “being in the numerical minority in a mixed-sex team is not a favorable experience for either women or men (Powell & Graves, 2002; LBS, 2007). Men report feeling uncomfortable, somewhat alienated and highly aware of their minority status when faced with being in a female majority group. (Spelman, et al, 1986). As well, numerous studies have shown that when anyone is in the minority in a group, they are more apt to place more emphasis on and be more self-conscious of the quality or trait that makes them distinctive from the rest of the group (O’Leary, et al, 1985; Kirkham, 1985). Bottom line is, it’s human nature to feel out of place when you’re in the minority regardless of gender, and if that means you’re the only female around, you’re going to be even more acutely aware of it. So ladies, do not adjust your set. There is nothing wrong with you.

She also goes into the research behind retention rates, the effects of the free time gender gap, and how diversity affects group effectiveness, creativity, and innovation.

I wish I’d had this article a month ago. I’ll be leaning on it heavily going forward, and I recommend that everyone who’s interested in this stuff bookmarks for quick reference. It’s going to become a standard.

3 thoughts on “Standing out in the crowd… in PHP

  1. Liz Henry

    I disagree with the very point that you quote here. Yes, men feel uncomfortable when they’re the only man in a room or a profession full of women. But that is situational discomfort, not institutionalized oppression. So, I would not equate feeling uncomfortable in a situation with a larger social dynamic, which I’d call… patriarchy. So, I have to be contrary here.

    However, I do think that having more women in the room helps us situationally feel more comfortable and then more likely to work collectively to figure out ways to counteract some of the things that work against us.

    I regret anyone feeling uncomfortable or alienated to some extent, but, when a guy says he is uncomfortable in a room full of women, my real response is “Oh cry me a river.” As a dude no one has ever acted in his technical job interview like he’s going to get pregnant and leave and thus not hire him or pay him 30K less, for one thing.

    I like the rest of Naramore’s post a lot, though.

    1. Skud Post author

      Mmm, yeah, but I also think it’s important to recognise that we’re not just uncomfortable because we’re delicate flowers who can’t handle the situation, you know? The discomfort is real, and universal, even if women’s discomfort comes as part of a whole bigger package that doesn’t apply to men.

  2. Liz Henry

    No I’m totally with you in not being a delicate flower, instead what I feel is justified political anger.

    I think part of what I object to is that in our world, women-only and women-majority environments and discussions are very useful. And men use the fact of their discomfort to disrupt the conversations women have with each other for their benefit, as if it’s a national emergency when the spotlight isn’t on men’s total comfort 100% of the time. I also think that men could productively examine that discomfort and learn something from it. Men in our society have a pattern of behaving as if they’re entitled to women’s attention and labor. And bodies. I see Sodini as being the extreme of that spectrum, that starts with men being jerks and feeling entitled. So when I’m like, Hey, I’d like to ask a question in IRC about Drupal without being sexually harassed, I think I’ll go hang out in #drupalchix, I am just in no mood to hear some guy saying that he wants drupalchix to devote their time and attention into making *him* comfortable.

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