Drupalchix Conversation from DrupalCampLA

Last weekend I participated actively in DrupalCampLA and had the pleasure of co-organizing the Drupalchix track with a really cool colleague from the LA Drupal User Group, Nicole Bluto.

On Sunday we held a "panel-like" conversation with some fantastic drupalchix that we labeled "Women of Drupal, Stand Up!" The conversation raised some really good discussion points for addressing the low percentage of women participating in Drupal and Open Source in general.

Thank you to Crystal Williams, Brenda Boggs and Nicole Bluto for being the principal panelists, and for everyone else who attended and participated in the conversation! Additionally, thank you to Sharon from Linuxchix LA, who brought the broader Open Source community to the discussion.

Following are highlights from the conversation. Attached to this page (and downloadable!) are the meeting minutes in very, very raw form, as well as an edited sound file (in both mp3 and ogg format) of 1/2 an hour worth of the 1.5 hour conversation.

Please continue the conversation here:
http://2009.drupalcampla.com/drupalchix/panel/questions

Highlights from the Drupalchix Conversation at DrupalCampLA, 8.9.09

Question:
Why does it matter that there is a low percentage of women in Open Source/Drupal?

Discussion:

  • Any community that is not diverse is not as strong as it could be.

Question:
Why aren't women visible in the Open Source / Drupal community in greater numbers?

Discussion:

  • Open source has a brutal meritocracy which puts everyone under a high level of scrutiny (it has to have this) - which generates a high barrier for entry. In commercial software, it's easier to be there and do your thing "quietly."
  • Look at the contributions in Drupal from women, and the relative to percentage of involvement from women: those women who do contribute have offered a substantial amount to the community.
  • The amount of "free time" required to participate meaningfully (especially when you factor in kids - when women get off from work they don't have free time).
  • Take a look at the study released on http://www.flosspols.org

Question:
How do we attract and retain women to/in the open source community?

Discussion:

  • Invitations are necessary! Forums, drupalchix, twitter, etc. Clear example of how successful that can be is DrupalCampLA itself!
  • Remove the assumptions that are evidenced by common questions such as "are you in marketing, are you a blogger" - these assumptions are, themselves, a barrier to retention of women in the community.
  • Major solution: increase the number of technical presentations given by women at conferences (DrupalCampLA 2009 did a great job)... note, has to be legit.
  • What about offering childcare at camps and code-sprints or other events?
  • Mentor and be an example for younger women (girls).

Other things that came up:

  • If demeaning stuff is posted on forums or occurs in the community, it needs to be addressed immediately or women will merely lurk at best, and entirely disappear at worst.
  • Use the word "respectful" instead of "protective" when talking creating a mutually inviting atmosphere/community.
  • Do we set our own barrier too high? Women: know that you can help even if you aren't an expert or don't think you are.

Edited Sound File (30 minutes):
Ogg Format - 42.4 mb
mp3 Format - 27 mb

Meeting Minutes (very rough, special thanks to Peter Benjamin!):
OpenOffice Document Format - 16 kb
Rich Text Format - 12 mb

These files are available via the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 General License. Attribution should go to DrupalCampLA 2009 Drupalchix Track. Thanks!
Creative Commons License