Gender doesn't matter in Linux and Open Source

Today in Open Source: Gender ratios don't matter in open source software. Plus: Specs for the Revolution phone, and Mageia 4 features

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Women in technology

Linux Journal has a refreshing take on women in open source software.

I came to the Open Source world because I liked being part of a community where my ideas, my skills and my experience mattered, not my boobs. That's changed, and it's changed at the hands of the people who say they want a community where ideas, skills and experience matter more than boobs.

Do not punish the men simply for being here. "Male privilege" is a way to say "you are guilty because you don't have boobs, feel ashamed, even if you did nothing wrong", and I've wasted too much of my time trying to defend good guys from it. Yes, some people are jerks. Call them out as jerks, and don't blame everyone with the same anatomy for their behavior. Lumping good guys in with bad doesn't help anyone, it just makes good guys afraid to interact with women because they feel like they can't win. I'm tired of expending time and energy to protect good men from this drama.

More at Linux Journal
Xena: The Warrior Penguin
Image credit: Tiny Pic

Kudos to the writer at Linux Journal for her excellent take on gender in open source software. I found her perspective to be a breath of fresh air, given all of the inane and often ignorant media blather about gender inequality in technology.

I've been in technology for more than twenty years. Along the way I've worked for and with many different women that have served in different roles. Some wrote or managed editorial content, while others were focused on the business side as marketing managers or vice presidents, and still others managed the back end and programming parts of the company.

They all had one thing in common though: THEY. JUST. DID. IT.

Yep, I never heard any of them say "OMFG! There are too many men in technology! What should I do?" These women just jumped into technology and they all excelled in their fields. They didn't ask anybody's permission, nor did they need a government program to "encourage" them to start their careers.

This seems to cut against the grain of many of the rants by some that "there aren't enough women in technology" as pointed out by the article. I wonder sometimes if the people who are saying these things have ever actually worked for or with women in positions of responsibility and power in technology the way that I have over the course of my career.

I can also tell you that I never heard any of the other men that I worked with disparage or otherwise criticize any of the women I worked with because of their gender. None of us cared about that, we were focused on doing the work we were hired to do and if a woman was part of our group then she was just another coworker.

My mentor in online community management was a woman, and she was one of the best in the business at a profession that was quite new at the time. She also served as vice president at a different company and went on to do some great things in technology in education.

Katherine found me toiling away in the ZiffNet Software Library back in the CompuServe days. I was an associate producer and my job focused on processing software uploaded to ZiffNet's software library. She took me under her wing and taught me a tremendous amount about how to manage discussion forums and online communities in general.

She was enormously patient with my obnoxious twenty-something self. Of course I thought I knew everything and stumbled badly here and there when my arrogance got me in trouble. She gave me the freedom to fail, and then helped explain where I went wrong and how to do things better. In short, she was a terrific mentor and I might never have had my career without her guidance and help. Thanks, Katherine!

And remember that this was around twenty years ago. Katherine and the other women I've worked with over the years have prospered and done very well for themselves in technology careers. If they could do it back then, the younger women of today can surely find similar success if a career in technology interests them.

A more recent example of working with women in my career is here on ITworld. Jodie is the Editor in Chief of ITworld, and Amy is the Managing Editor. How it must rankle those who think there aren't enough women in technology that a publication called ITworld is run so well by two women!

Jodie and Amy have both taught me a lot about producing technology tips, and these open source news roundups I do each day. You know you've got a great gig when you find yourself learning new things as you do your job. My thanks to both ladies for their editorial guidance and patience.

You might have noticed that I used a pic of Tux: Warrior Penguin for this article. I picked that image partly because I'm a big fan of the Xena TV show, but also because I think it's a funny way of demonstrating a role model for women in technology.

If you've ever watched the Xena: Warrior Princess show then you'll know that she fought gods, battled monsters, and pretty much did whatever she wanted to do. Oh sure, she got a little carried away from time to time with the sword-swinging (hey, who doesn't want to lop off a few heads now and then), but the gist of it is that she was her own person and she never thought of herself as a victim.

That's the sort of attitude that serves girls and women very well in technology, as well as any other field they are interested in. It's really about having confidence in yourself, and persevering in your career and in your life on your own terms and no one else's.

So my recommendation for any young girl or woman is to just jump right into open source software and any other technology field that interests you. Tune out anybody who wants you to adopt a victim mentality. That's not going to get you anywhere. Focus on learning, and build the skill sets necessary to succeed.

Like anybody else, you'll earn the respect of your peers based on your knowledge and performance, not your gender. Consider yourself to be a life-long learner, constantly update your knowledge base, and you will do very well indeed in any technology career.

And be sure to find a good mentor. Your mentor might be a man, or she might be a woman. The person's gender doesn't matter. What does matter is what they can teach you, and what you are willing to learn from them.

Gender only matters if you let it matter.

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