I’m in Buenos Aires this week for Wikimania, the annual conference for the Wikimedia community. Also in town: Richard Stallman. Today he gave a public talk at the Teatro Presidente Alvear about Free Software, and reports are that he made his virgin joke again, only this time in a non-gender-specific way. For whatever it’s worth, one woman who was present told me, unprompted, that she found it weird and uncomfortable.
Tomorrow morning he’s keynoting the conference itself. I’ll be sitting in the front left area with a bunch of other geek feminist types. If you’d like to join us and see what transpires, please do!
This is a remix of a post by the same name I made after running a BOF on attracting women to open source.
One of the most interesting suggestions I’ve heard on how to get more women into open source is pretty simple: Pay them.
As someone who loves doing this as a volunteer, I want to protest. Shouldn’t we all be doing this for the betterment of the world or something? But the more I think about it, the more I love this idea.
Think about the challenges women face getting involved with open source projects.
Feeling like they don’t belong? Paying someone is a pretty strong “we want you” signal, both to the woman herself and to others who might challenge her.
Not having enough time because of other life-work commitments? Making it your paid gig makes this the “work” part of that equation, rather than some part that just doesn’t quite fit.
Fewer opportunities for mentoring? Again, having the structure of a company behind you can make it a lot easier to ask for help within a known structure rather than trying to guess the social norms of an open source project.
There aren’t many women? Well, hiring a few is a great way to get the ball rolling, hopefully making it easier for future women. It’s an interesting way to handle the bootstrapping problem.
Paying women to do open source work isn’t going to solve all our problems, but it cuts through a lot of the Gordian knot that’s there. It just might be a useful tool for changing the status quo.
In cereta’s words, “Oh yes, I’m going there.”
After George Sodini went on a misogynist shooting spree, killing three women, a lot of people were making comparisons to the Virginia Tech or Columbine shootings. But among women in the tech world, the comparison I most often heard was the Montreal Massacre.
This is only the second blog I’ve written for, the other being my personal blog.Â I’m still getting the hang of it, and look forward to learning a great deal from the other contributors here.Â I’m excited to see how quickly things are picking up, and grateful to Skud for inviting me here.
After quietly using free software for some years, I became personally involved with the free software community when I joined the Debian project in 1999.Â Through my work in Debian, I met and collaborated with developers of many other free software projects, and became a founding member of the Ubuntu project in 2004.Â I presently work for Canonical as Ubuntu CTO.
Earlier this year, I began writing about problems affecting women in the free software community, inspired in part by friends in the Debian Women and Ubuntu Women projects.Â Along the way, I have found the geekfeminism wiki to be a valuable resource in exploring feminism, and have tried to help improve it with references and information from my own experiences.Â I have never lived as a woman, and have only very basic knowledge of feminist history, theory and ideology, and so am conscious of being out of my depth at times here.
I hope that by being a part of this conversation, I can help to promote higher standards of behavior and dialog in geek communities, especially in free software, which is my passion.Â I would like to see more men listening, questioning themselves and their peers, and recognizing the necessity of change.Â Many discussions about women in geekdom seem to revolve around changing women to bring them into the community: inspiring them, instructing them, converting them.Â Instead, I think we need to focus on changing our community, to make it a place where women are welcome, to stop excluding and driving away women who are already interested.Â This begins with changing ourselves, and setting an example for others.