Women in technology and Ubuntu

March 3, 2006 at 12:37 am | Posted in linux, tech, ubuntu | 5 Comments

Looks like there is a new drive afoot to recruit more of us girls to the great Ubuntu cause. The Ubuntu group have recently launched ‘Ubuntu Women‘. The aim of which is to initiate more women into Ubuntu, open source software and technology in general, through mentoring and encouragement.

A quote from the Ubuntu Women wiki page on one of the reasons for the project:

“[to] Transcend the technical barrier which will empower women to create new software and think out-of-the-box.”

Despite the arguable overuse of metaphors, encouraging women in technology is a really good idea. Its no secret that a lot of women do feel intimidated by this mainly male centric industry, there are many reasons why this should be so.

One article on how to encourage women in Linux that has an interesting analogy, comparing the fear to going into a sports bar with a t-shirt saying ‘I hate sport’. Now I don’t personally believe this is entirely correct, while I completely understand that if you are starting out it sometimes feels like everyone is talking a different language, its not trying to be different, you just are.

Some men, and even some women may think it wimpy, perhaps sexist to even admit there is a difference between the genders and their attitudes; but its true, we are not the same, it is sometimes a struggle to prove yourself as a female geek.

One huge difference that has a significant effect could be that women are less prone to self promotion; while this modesty trait may be good in polite society, it doesn’t work well in the geek world. Men are quite happy to promote their ideas, share there excitement and unashamedly display the cool things they have made, this is a great thing and I’m not generalising without exception, there are many women who are able to overcome this and be proud of what they have done. Myself and many others I spoke with are less forthcoming with our enthusiasm and this may well be to our disadvantage.

Another great barrier to entry is a partner with similar interests in the field, naturally a common occurrence due to similar social circles and shared interests, it can happen many people overlook the female partner’s geeky credentials, unintentionally perhaps but noticeable none the less. From personal experience I can confirm this is true, I would never claim to be better than my other half – nowhere near – however a few people who meet me at geek events just think I come along for the ride, and not knowing I work as a web developer and just automatically talk down to me.

Although not being recognised for our abilities as women geeks, is partly our fault for not being outwardly proud enough of our achievements and accolades, the lack of women in technology is not helped by assumptions of others that we have none to be proud of.

Further Reading

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  1. […] Natalie has written an excellent article about women in technology and more specifically female developer involvement in the Linux community. She makes a bunch of great points (so go read her post!), but the one that I find particularly interesting is this: “One huge difference that has a significant effect could be that women are less prone to self promotion; while this modesty trait may be good in polite society, it doesn’t work well in the geek world. Men are quite happy to promote their ideas, share there excitement and unashamedly display the cool things they have made, this is a great thing and I’m not generalising without exception, there are many women who are able to overcome this and be proud of what they have done. Myself and many others I spoke with are less forthcoming with our enthusiasm and this may well be to our disadvantage.” […]

  2. So, having just met you among 10 men and at SXSW with your male geek partner, I’m curious how I came off?

    As you say, I could be totally unaware. :-/

  3. I always think of this story about origin of the term bug read down to “Grace Hopper” which I only just realised wasn’t true that and a Girl friend (note the space) of mine has been a firewall tech for a long while, so I can understand in some ways its seen as a male orientated role but perhaps its more perception than reality since Women have been involved since the beginning and if that was represented more, more Women would feel they could join the Geek Brigade?

  4. Natalie,

    The linuxchix group as been running for ages I think – although the name is a bit weird I’m pretty sure it’s real.

    There’s been some general concern in GNOME for some time about lack of women involved with the technology. Don’t know where it’s come from – perhaps a general concern about usability–>technology–>accessibility–>how come we’re missing 50% of the population.

    See for example Murray Cummings post http://www.murrayc.com/blog/permalink/2006/05/12/women-in-open-source/

    Steve

  5. Hi .. this is a brilliant find. Thanks for
    sharing the great info with me.


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