I’m at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (note that its not just a conference, its a celebration!). There was a great panel today on Open Source:
* Danese Cooper, Sun Microsystems and Open Source Initiative
* Mitchell Baker, Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mozilla.org
* Leslie Proctor, Gnome
* Katie Parlante, OSAF
It was postively inspiring for a gal who comes from a background of proprietary coding and is embarking upon a brave new journey into open source with Laszlo’s recent announcement. I particularly liked the answer that Mitchell Baker gave to the question of how the industry was changing in response to open source initiatives. She said that the industry is overdue for a change and open source is one response. We have a relatively young industry that sells products that are very hard for people to understand how to use and that often need to be combined in ways that are seldom documented and sometimes incompatible. In addition, people pay real money for this software that comes with licensing agreements which expressly do not guarantee that the products work at all, let alone work together. She’s right. The software industry is crazy. Maybe open source will help.
Its inspiring to be amongst over 800 technical women, knowing that this is just a small group of women in the field. I’ll never get used to the occasions when I am the only woman in the room. I hope that we’ll achieve Anita’s goal of 50/50 in 2020. Whenever it happens, I believe change is inevitable in this respect as well. It was both amazing and unsurprising to hear that of people contributing to open source projects, women represent only 2%. It seems to me that open source projects represent a great opportunity to write code, get involved, and make a difference. Danese Cooper talked about quilting by early American women who would create masterpieces that would be passed on for generations. They took the time to craft these works of art because they were something that would live on beyond their time. This is a wonderful analogy to open source software. Unlike proprietary software which often becomes obsolete in a few years, open source software is a contribution to the greater community and can live on beyond our individual participation. In addition to the practical value of writing source code that you can show to a prospective employer and prove your cred without a hiring manager as a gatekeeper, open source appeals to altruistic ideals and offers community values that are traditionally appealing to women.