[nycbug-talk] Re: Women in Open Source (fwd)

Isaac Levy ike
Tue Aug 3 04:06:32 EDT 2004

Hi Dru, All,

On Aug 2, 2004, at 8:30 PM, Dru wrote:

> A few months ago, I was asked to partake in an email survey, the 
> results of which are to be officially published tomorrow (and later in 
> a print magazine) at:
> http://pyre.third-bit.com/wios/
> My final feedback to the surveyor (and their response) follows. 
> Personally, I
> find the results alarming and am interested in hearing the perspective 
> from
> the group.
> While it won't come out in the article, it did bring up another slant 
> that should be pursued (though I don't know how yet...) The uninformed 
> perception
> re: open source and geekdom seems to be unfairly tainted by slashdot 
> moronics
> and programmer tantrums. I've found the perception of BSD to be far 
> more
> mature. Sounds like some sort of opportunity here.
> Comments?
> Dru
>>> It's sad that these were your findings. I guess BSD users live in a 
>>> more
>>> sheltered part of geek-space. While I've had to wear my flame-suit a 
>>> few
>>> times over technical disagreements, I've never experienced anything
>>> close to sexual harrassment. My name maybe gender neutral, but the
>>> community certainly knows that I'm female.
>> I'm just speculating here, but I wonder if there are any connections
>> between the BSD community's friendliness, the fact that it didn't
>> bandwagon nearly as dramatically as some other projects, and Apple's
>> adoption of it.  Apple certainly has a long history of caring more 
>> about
>> "soft" issues than most other computer companies; it's hard to imagine
>> that culture co-operating with the slash 'n' burn of Slashdot...

With direct regard to the article-
I'm extremely shocked and disappointed to see an assessment of IT 
culture giving anyone such an extremely portrayed 'cold shoulder', 
though I have survived a few boys-clubs around Tech/IT over the years- 
(dodged them, is more like it...) and well, I walked away and went 

I mean, to be honest, Theo DeRadt, politically, is a great example of 
this.  If women get the cold shoulder in Open Source, one always has 
the source code and the ability to participate in the greater dialogue 
by proactive involvement, i.e. just go make something...  I've 
personally gotten some disturbing cold shoulders in my time- gone 
elsewhere, and made stuff- and I'm a white male.

With that, I have to say what most frustrated me are the definitive 
conclusions the survey seems to draw about FLOSS and tech culture at 
large- the 'slashdotters' represent a serious and highly visible 
minority from my experiences.
 From my male perspective, I am surrounded by extremely mature, 
intelligent men in a world where I rarely think about gender- (note 
that in my last sentence does note that the overwhelming majority of my 
world is men [and yes, perhaps noteworthy, the majority are BSD heads 
or unix oldschoolers or apple folks]).

I have no idea how or what to make of all of this though- seeing as 
hacking itself isn't about gender, it's about hacking- in the myriad of 
manifestations that make up 'this world'.

Dru- after reading the survey, I'm reminded of a conversation we had in 
Ottawa at BSDCan, (at that Black Thorn pub that everybody filled 
over-capacity that one night...), we were talking casually about just 
this thought- women in IT/OS.

I told a somewhat silly personal story which I'll repeat here just 
because I thought it relevant...  though I feel somewhat uncomfortable 
with it because I am only 27 years old, and have no kids, and well, 
would rather be talking at length about how much fun I've been having 
with your recent hardcore book- not about gender politics in IT...

My grandmother starts off with,

   'So have you met anybody new lately?'
basically, being nosy about weather or not I was seeing anybody, and at 
the time I was simply working/hacking a lot and not dating anyone.

   'Sure Grandma, I've met a few CIO's, lots of great programmers from 
all over the place, and some really hardcore sysadmins- all really cool 

She then noted,

   'There simply aren't any girls in what you do, are there.'

Nope.  In my work, in NYC, (perhaps biased by my age and lack of 
experiences), I have only worked with one female unix hacker, or any 
kind of female in tech for that matter.

So I thought to ask my grandmother why SHE thought there are no women 
in my world?  I mean, when thinking about it, it's pretty imbalanced... 
and after her thinking it over, she came up with the following 

- Basically, she theorized, that at about the time kids really learn 
mathematics and science in schools, it's right around puberty- an age 
where the girls are developing far ahead of the boys.  With that, she 
said she remembered being clearly taught NOT to get more right answers 
or compete with the boys in class, and her being much more aware than 
the boys, letting her clearly see quite clearly the boys ego's being 
hurt by any girl who would trump them...

So, she said she simply remembers stepping back from anything 
intellectual, and pursuing the boys- and diving into 'girly' 
pursuits... (and persuing boys),  and from that, she felt was the 
clearest reason why her grandson wasn't meeting more girls in his daily 
life- because culture and circumstance happened to direct things that 

With that, it's her take, though after all her years of experience- 
seeing a few generations grow up, I tend to listen to it- though 
really, I'm not sure.  (perhaps I need to have some kids eventually and 
take some notes...)


More information about the talk mailing list