Pragmatism in the real world

Women in open source communities

An incident occurred at a Rails conference recently where pictures of scantily clad women were used on slides. The attitude behind the use of the images disturbs me. To be clear, this is not a Rails issue as I aware of a similar issue in the PHP community and it is prevalent in the the entire IT industry.

Martin Fowler has summed up pretty much how I feel about it:

The nub is that whatever the presenter may think, people were offended – both in the talk and those who saw the slides later. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think the slides were pornographic. The question is does the presenter, and the wider community, care that women feel disturbed, uncomfortable, marginalized and a little scared.

I find it discouraging that we need to ask this question in this day and age, but I’m assured by women I know in the IT industry, that they deal with prejudice because of their sex day in day out in their working lives.

Martin goes on to say:

I have a different vision – one that sticks it to the suits so hard it will make their eyes water. How about a community where women are valued for their ability to program and not by the thickness of their skin? How about a community that edgily pushes new boundaries without reinforcing long running evils? Perhaps even a community where women reach equal numbers? Such a community would hand the suits the defeat in the long battle women have been fighting for centuries. I’d love to be part of that.

Hear hear! That’s what I want to be part of too.

I recommend that you read all of Martin Fowler’s article as it provides a good grounding in a lot of the issues involved, especially if you read the other articles he links to.

3 thoughts on “Women in open source communities

  1. they should do one with buff bronzed male models and see if people make the same defences. Somehow I don't think they would.

  2. This is an issue I feel strongly about too. Those slides are, at best insensitive and at worst: offensive. It's unfortunate that our industry is so male-dominated. Slides containing such imagery and metaphor would, probably, not make it to the presentation at an industry with a more even playing field.

  3. I guess it depends on the content of the picture and how it was used.

    In other news, I have a elePHPants calendar for 2009 in which the majority of the subjects are naked MALE PHP developers.

    I’m keeping it in case I have to blackmail a core developer to get a bug fixed.

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