2011: The Year of Women in FOSS
In my last blog post, which dealt with an issue tied deeply to testosterone and its effect on the faces of human males who deal with FOSS, it has been brought to my attention that I had ignored a significant portion of the FOSS population; that is, those in FOSS who are not bearded and, for the most part, not male.
Oddly enough, one might think that I’m writing this item as a form of penance. Quite the contrary: To be honest, I had written this before the beard item — writing most of this as a lead-in to the beard issue. Then I thought better of it: I could have gone that route and, in the process, belittled the issue upon which this item is based. I realized while writing then thought that this issue was too important to trivialize, and could — not to mention should — stand on its own.
Funny how that happens, huh? But I digress.
There has not been an agreed-upon grand announcement that 2011 is “The Year of the $UNEQUIVOCAL_TREND” — Android and Tablets aside, with which yours truly might agree on the former, but not on the latter — though it is convincingly arguable that 2011 is shaping up to be “The Year of Women in Tech.”
Exhibit A that shows the promise that this might be shaping up to be a breakthrough year for women would be the Southern California Linux Expo SCALE 9X. Both keynote speakers — Leigh Honeywell and Jane Silber — marks the first time that two keynoters at a major expo were of the same gender where the gender in question isn’t male. Exhibit B might be the widespread adoption of a new anti-harassment policy that has been making the rounds of shows like SCALE in order to avoid incidents outlined by writerpar excellence Bruce Byfield in a recent item.
This is a good — no, a great — thing on many levels, especially as a father of a daughter who is tech oriented; this same father who now worries just a little less about what the future may hold for her, while continuting to work toward a day where Mimi and her teen counterparts grow up to be recognized as equal to the males writing programs and/or doing the things they do in the tech realm.
Is it the be-all and end-all to ending sexism in FOSS? No. Is there a significant way to go in gaining gender equality, both in attitude and practice? Yes. Do you hate it as much as I do when people answer their own questions? I hope so.
But 2011, when we look back on it later, could be the point where we say, “Yep, back then folks had enough and that’s about the time we started to move beyond it.”
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)