Open source’s diversity problem | InfoWorld


Tech has long had a diversity problem, but in open source, it’s even worse. U.S. Bureau of Labor data shows that 19.4% of software developers are women, but according to a 2017 GitHub open source survey, 95% of respondents were men and just 3% were women (1% identified as non-binary). The reasons are various, but one key reason may simply be that open source communities can be unfriendly to women developers.

According to that same GitHub survey, it’s not that women developers don’t want to contribute to open source projects. Actually, 68% of the women surveyed said they are “very interested” in contributing to open source, but are significantly less likely to do so than men (45% compared to 61%). Even so, we do have a rising number of women open source stars who are contributing to and/or maintaining open source projects.

Comcast’s open source chief, Nithya Ruff, asked for examples of great women open source builders. Among many impressive women, here are a few to watch.

We are all made of stars

“In open source, the maintainers working on the source code are the scarce resource that needs to be protected and nurtured,” Tobie Langel once told me. This is true, generally, of open source contributors and maintainers, but it’s perhaps doubly so for women developers. Given how open source pervades all software (upwards of 90%, according to Sonatype data), if we want our software to reflect the interests and requirements of those who will ultimately depend on it, we should improve the diversity of the open source communities writing that software.

Although we have a long way to go, there are indications that many projects have already recognized the quality of contributions from women developers.

Some people who made Ruff’s list are well-known developer rock stars. It’s hard to talk observability, for example, without mentioning Jaana Dogan. Dogan is a force of open source nature, contributing extensively to the Go programming language, Open Telemetry, Prometheus, and more. Or consider Michelle Noorali, a shining light in the Kubernetes constellation. She spends considerable time making it easier to develop and manage containerized and distributed applications on Kubernetes, with significant contributions to Helm, Draft, Cloud Native Application Bundles (CNAB), and Service Mesh Interface (SMI), among others.

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