There was recently a discussion on the coreboot mailing list about coreboot being more welcoming to female developers. What follows started out as a short reply and blossomed into something that was just begging to become a blog post.
I think that our discussion raises a very important question: Why should coreboot (or any Free Software project) specifically state their support for women to participate?
Semantically, saying that everyone is welcome to contribute does indeed include women as well as three-toed sloths, children, and any sentient beings we don’t know about yet. But I think it can be very welcoming for the coreboot community to mention, even if only briefly, that we are supportive of female developers.
Traditionally the Free Software community has been mostly male. If you look at the subset of the community that is Free Software developers, I’m going to guess that the group is even more heavily male. There just aren’t as many girls and women out there hacking on stuff. I’m not saying that it’s desirable to have equal numbers from each gender, I’m just saying that the skew is so high that it wouldn’t hurt for us to put a little effort into encouraging women who might not otherwise contribute.
Having more women developing Free Software is a good thing because (1) it means more Free Software hackers and (2) it means that more girls will have female role models that they can look up to. Having strong, visible role models that use and develop Free Software is great for us, no matter their gender, but it wouldn’t be half bad to have a few more strong, visible female role models in the community.
Here’s a quick thought experiment: Name 5 male Free Software developers. Now name 5 female Free Software Developers. Much harder to name the women, eh?
When was the last time we had a female DPL? How about a GNU/Linux distro with a female lead? Who is the highest-ranking female officer/employee of the FSF?
Given that women make up 50% of the population, I think it would be great to see more women involved in Free Software. I don’t want to make any quotas or to give preference to women over men when picking positions or anything like that. I just think that we should spend some time trying to figure out why there aren’t more female participants in Free Software. It’s definitely worth our time.