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There are more female doing CS in Malaysia is because the males (of a particular ethnic group) are quite lazy and fail their courses. The females are good but by no means geeky, so do not embrace FLOSS.


Sounds like ... no fun at all :)

Serious, I am happy with the current situation and do not see a problem with it. Political correctnes is what catholicism used to be in the past, the fun killer number one. You present a lot of figures and quotes, but your article fails to make a strong link between fun jokes and the ration of women in FLOSS. Also, you seem to rely on the implict assumption that ratio of Women in FLOSS matters. And that, in general, a lack of women is problemantic. But you fail to motivate these assumptions as well, and I wonder, are they maybe wrong? Why should all that matter in the end? Just to make same statisticians happy? Yet another geeky obsession with numbers? I guess so :)



Hello Adrian,

Thanks for passing by and taking the time to comment.

Political correctness and Catholicism: Fun killer? Nope. Remember: a virtue that relapses goes beyond any vice :)

- Fun sexist jokes:
1- FOSS culture is one of strong identity. Sense of belonging is important
2- Sexist joke refers to the person as a female, not as a hacker.
3- If you're often reminded that you're not really viewed as a hacker, you can easily start to understand you're not welcome.

Why the number of women should be more balanced:

Well first the question is: do they choose not to join or are they practically prevented to join? Clearly the latter doesn't play well with FOSS ethics.

Would you ask why do we need Finnish or South Africans at all in open source?




I'm a guy.

I've spent my whole life being told:

() I'm a mysoginist.
() I'm a rapist.
() I'm a child molester.
() I'm a dead beat dad.
() I'm a criminal.
() I'm the bad guy on tv.
() I'm a dumb ass jerk on commercials.


So when I hear women whine and complain, I just say FUCK IT.



So basically you're taking your anger on women because you've spent your entire life letting people tell you things you don't like?

Obviously you have the choice between growing up and ... a career on commercials?

Zbigniew Lukasiak

- hacking is also very competetive and women seem to not like that.



Yup, I like this other one too, worth reading:

The Free Software Phenomenon


If a comment perceived negatively was actually sent with neutral or even good intentions, perhaps someone just wasn't 'listening'.

Its a bit troubling to think that a critical mass, a majority, is needed for benefits to be reamed in IT. First, there is no evidence to support that and secondly it becomes too easy for trends to devolve again to the rates their at now.

Wynand Winterbach

Thanks for taking on this topic.

It's interesting how much resistance one gets by mentioning that sexism exists in the FOSS world exactly because those in the fold don't think of themselves as sexist and are deeply, deeply offended by the suggestion that they're subconsciously sexist.

The situation in South Africa (and elsewhere I suspect, but I can only speak of what I know) concerning racism is similar. Liberal, well meaning people take incredible offense at the suggestion that they're subconsciously racist. They're enlightened after all and they've worked so hard at not being racist and now you're just being mean by suggesting that maybe they (and I'm one of them) still have some way to go.

Part of the problem is perhaps that the labels "sexist" and "racist" have become so synonymous with being unenlightened, bigoted and uneducated that people will avoid the labels at all cost. After all, these labels can seriously affect you social standing. So many of us (myself included) continue to be racist and sexist in much more subtle ways instead of admitting that we are.

So I say, "hear, hear", let us stop throwing away so much human talent because we're unwilling to change our behaviour in the name of "fun". Increasing the FLOSS hacker pool means less bugs and better software for everyone. And we can easily increase it by 20% very soon.


you rock!!!!!
Always wanted some of my female friends to share the fun of doing foss.........


Do I behave different with women than with guys? Sure. What you are asking is to deny what I am. A male looking for a partner to reproduce :)

Think about it: you're a single geek and you "meet" a women in a FLOSS project. So you mean I should not be interested ?
If I can step over my shyness and ask her out for a date then from my point of view that's a achievement and I don't need another reason to "hold back" now.

I mean really, what is all this about? Men can't be men and women can't be women?
And about the jokes: really geeks don't know that many jokes and all the jokes they know are about computers :)
Really, my jokes are innocent ones. The other "non geek" friends have jokes that could offend women.

In fact I think is the other way around: women know! we are not a good match/partner and that's why they don't join FLOSS. Most geeks are shy, socially inept, don't know how to show a "gal" a good time. I believe that's the reason we have this situation.

Did I say all that out load? Boy I must be having some issues or something :)

And now on a more serious note (sorry if the above offended you or anyone else): I did think about this and talked with my friends (no-geek-ones) and I really don't think women are in lower numbers in FLOSS because of the "FLOSS male attitude". I think part of this can be explained by the fact that women have better aptitudes towards social sciens and men over applied science (maybe you will clasify this as a stereotype but I think there is truth in it).

Also there is one more thing: FLOSS allows anyone to contribute "anonymous". I mean you don't have to "socialize" to be able to do FLOSS. You can write code/documentation/start your own project and just keep a low profile on "social" activities if you are not interested in them or you feel offended or whatever. The other guys will just think you don't have time or are more private person and won't give you "hard time".



Thanks for commenting.

So on the first paragraph you're arguing you should have the right to behave "naturally" and on the second you're arguing that women should work anonymously and of course watch everything they say or comment so that not to give away their gender?

But the icing on the cake is "my jokes are innocent ones.".

Obviously you haven't read the post:

"The exclusion happens among people who often do not mean to appear, and who do not interpret their own actions, as hostile to women."

That's the problem. You don't realize it.

What you're saying is not offensive to a given man or a given woman. The problem is two-fold:

- It's offensive to women, in that it creates an atmosphere of exclusion

- Every other guys thinks exactly like you

Just imagine if all of a sudden you'd start to do (non-offensive) racial or religious joke/allusion.

Now that might not be very offensive as such, it could be even funny, but if EVERYBODY or so do the same then we have a problem. A big one.



A least one point in your article is just wrong: the dating statistics has nothing to do with FLOSS, it's just a normal statistic linked to the gender imbalance.

T Nat Buitenhuis

For the few years I considered myself a member of the Free Software community, I've always been asking "where are all the women?". An ideology of community, sharing, cooperation, freedom, etc etc should appeal to both genders, right?

The thing is, my perception of the Free Software ideology doesn't match reality. The truth is that Free Software people tend to be short sighted and put a lot of effort into solving the few problems they can see within their small world. For a typical example, consider the current noise about KDE 4 no longer having desktop icons (which is false, but it seems people don't care to read before flaming hard working developers). By analogy, perhaps there are more important problems to solve in ones spare time than making a perfect Free desktop OS?

My point is, a lot of Free software is created because of frustrations of "things not working quite right". Such frustrations are part of "angry young man" behavior. I guess that isn't named "angry young PERSON" for a reason?

All that said, the software produced by the Free Software community is of course very useful, and I'm happy it exists. Good things can come from a "bad" attitude, too.

When solving a "real" problem (OLPC?) involves writing software, of course that software should be Free. There simply is no excuse for making any software anywhere proprietary. I don't have any statistics, but I guess there might be relatively more women working on projects that don't seem of trivial importance to non-geeks.

So, in conclusion, I think that more women (and men as well) should Free the software they write, but writing Free software doesn't automatically make one part of the angry short sighted bunch we call the "Free Software community". Unfortunately there aren't quite enough people outside the community writing Free software, if the gender statistics tell us anything about that.



on the second part I'm just saying that if women would really want to do FLOSS and would really feel "oppressed" they could chose to not talk about their private life. There is no need to socialize to be able to do FLOSS.
FLOSS is about writing free software! It's not about telling offensive jokes or whatever.

Also you spoke so "generally". Please give some real examples of FLOSS male jokes, attitude, or something they do/write that would offend a normal person.


Thanks for commenting guys? :)

@Mike: It's already in the post: http://rocktreesky.com/reacting-sexism

But remember what matters is NOT what's deemed offensive (or whether or not YOU find it offensive) but mostly the fact that the perception of it is offensive BECAUSE it amounts to denoting :) women as women instead of she-hackers. In doing so one is somewhat denying them the right to belong to the community as she-hackers...


I've read the link, I've read then http://tldp.org/HOWTO/Encourage-Women-Linux-HOWTO/x28.html
The example given there was pertinent to this discussion. Yes, that Steve that posted there was a jerk. I grant you that.
OK, now give me some statistics of that kind of attitude. If it's just a 1% thing then is irrelevant.

What they propose there (3.x) is that men invite women to "dance". Well that won't happen. Writing FLOSS is not a simple "dance" that takes 3 minutes and you're off. FLOSS is something someone does because is passionate about it.

I believe that the decision to start writing FLOSS comes from within.
If you look @ projects from SourceForge for example you will see that the majority of projects are small, with just one developer. That developer is alone, there is nobody to tell stupid jokes or act stupid to drive the developer away. Most projects start because one person had an itch. Most of the projects start small and stay small. Few FLOSS projects create a big community (where maybe what you say could happen).

What I'm saying here is that all I see is equal opportunity for both men and women to do FLOSS.

Annie Onimouse

Mike, the fact that you call a female hacker a "she-hacker" is offensive. The word "hacker" has no gender. It does not even imply a gender. It is a trans-gender term and should be used that way. It does not matter who you are, everyone doing this activity is just a hacker.


No-one I know that actually has children holds much stock in the 1970's gender-conditioning fad. In my experience babies come out of the womb to a large extent pre-wired for certain traits. This was crucial for the survival and growth of the human species. You need to read the studies you site again. Women in Malaysia are choosing careers in CS because the jobs are clean and don't require physical force, their other choices are less desirable: They are not choosing CS jobs out of passion or interest. If you give the women of Malaysia the same career choices that are available in the US and you'll find they won't choose CS.

A few years ago I was involved in an audit of hiring at a global software/services company. Net: within the development organization 95% of the applicants were male and 93% of the job offers were made to males, so there was no gender bias in the hiring process. So your figures are not astounding, they are just representative of the software development industry.

Stop worrying about everyone else's feelings. Remember that while all those male geeks are sitting behind their keyboards, the females of the world are probably enjoying not being pestered by them.

Al O'Pecy

@mtg "a full Playboy-style double page" is usually called a centerfold.


For what its worth, I helped my mother install Ubuntu and she continues to use it. I have written before on my weblog that Ubuntu is "easy enough for a grandmother to use" but I haven't seen this as a slight on my mother's intelligence.

Instead, it is a recognition that most people (especially those who have more grandmotherly pursuits) aren't interested in tweaking their system endlessly. It is a recognition that Ubuntu lets you use your Linux on your computer as a tool rather than a toy.

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