Ada Lovelace Day: One day late

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009

As Gorkem mentioned, yesterday was Ada Lovelace day. Thank you Gorkem for mentioning me among women in the Eclipse community. There are a few more I'd like to thank for their excellent work.

  • Kim Horne is uber talented Eclipse UI developer who recently moved on to work at RIM.
  • Sonia Dimitrov is an amazing release engineer who now works on Jazz.net by day, while playing violin by night.
  • Carolyn MacLeod is a very accomplished SWT committer who is an authority on accessibility.
  • Susan McCourt is responsible for all the work with the P2 user ui, and in the past provided her many talents to the Platform UI team. The p2 user ui is substantially changed in 3.5 as described in today's talk.

Unfortunately, I can't think of many more women in the eclipse community, although I'm sure there are quite a few more :-). (Please add more in the comments or in your blog). Only about 2% the people in most open source communities are women. This makes me sad. Why does gender matter? There have been many discussions at eclipse with respect to diversity in terms of company representation among committers. Diversity in terms of gender is important too. Diversity lets us see things from an different viewpoints and that's healthy for our community.

In Canada, over 60% of new medical school graduates are women, so obviously it's not an issue with women not having the prerequisites to get into engineering and CS. They simply don't choose to enroll in these degrees. Some of the research regarding this issue can be found here.

So what are steps that we can take as a community to ensure that the committer class of 2020 has more women?
  • Talk to your the kids in our your life about working in open source and how much you enjoy it. Computer science is often perceived as a solitary pursuit, when we all know the truth is that the work is very collaborative. Emphasize the community aspects, and how we all work together to solve problems.
  • Be a mentor. There are many kids in the community who don't have a exposure to a role model who works in the high tech sector. Therefore, they don't know anything about the industry other than the stereotypes. There are many opportunities to volunteer at local schools for career day, helping kids learn to read, or develop math skills. Some companies such as IBM sponsor a camp each year to expose middle school girls to science and technology. Volunteering at this camp allowed me to get paid to build Lego Mindstorms robots for a day. I highly recommend it!
  • Throw away gender based stereotypes. Don't assume your 12 year old niece won't want to learn how to compile a kernel, solder a board, or read a book about web design. You have to start them young :-) Don't call young girl who is interested in engineering or science "geeky", "a tomboy" or "weird". It's normal.

The purpose of Ada Lovelace day was to for female bloggers to write about a women in technology who inspired them. Here's a list of some other people that have inspired me even though I haven't met them in person.
  • Valerie Aurora was one of the first female Linux kernel committers. She is an expert on Linux file systems and writes on women in open source and building communities.
  • Kathy Sierra is the co-creator of the O'Reilly's excellent Head First line of books. She is also a well known speaker, instructor and blogger who has written on how create users who are passionate about your products.
  • Scienceblogs is an aggregator for scientists who blog about new research in geology, climatology, medicine, math, physics and many other new frontiers of science. Many of the female bloggers write about how they are breaking down gender stereotypes in the ivory towers of academia. Very interesting!

2 comments:

Jesper Steen Møller 4:39 AM  

There's also Amy Wu on the WTP project, she's always helpful in getting patches through.

That doesn't change the general picture that the Eclipse community is as gender-skewed as the software is in general.

pookzilla 4:24 PM  

Thanks for the shout-out Kim! :D

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