PHPWomen Pairs with FOSS Projects to Encourage Diversity

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 03, 2010

The topic of the difficulties women face in the open source community comes up often. Here at OStatic we've discussed everything from the gender bias and harassment some women say they face, to highlighting the projects that are helping change the way females experience the developer community.

A new project has gotten underway recently that aims to foster a healthy and respectful environment between female PHP developers and the PHP community. PHPWomen has teamed up in a partnership program with six open source projects that it feels represents the best the community has to offer in terms of an open, respectful, and friendly community.

The current list of projects involved in the PHPWoemn Partnership Program includes:

  • Habari

"We work with project leaders for these projects to identify specific areas where they can use the most help, then we, in turn, promote these opportunities to PHPWomen members. The result is that we get more women involved in contributing to open source, open source projects get the help they desperately need, and everybody goes home happy," Elizabeth Naramore, President and Co-Founder of PHPWomen, said in her blog post announcing the program.

Naramore says she got the idea while talking with Ed Finkler, lead developer of open source microblogging platform Spaz. "I help Ed with organizing his support team. We were discussing how to get more people involved in the project, and how great it would be to involve women (as I think the last statistic I saw showed that only 3% of open source contributors are female). From there, it branched into an idea that would help not only involve women in more projects, but it would identify the projects that have open and welcoming communities for all newcomers (male and female alike), and it would help bring them the help they desperately need. Everybody benefits, and it just made sense."

When asked to pinpoint what the biggest type of discrimination or harassment women face in the developer community, Naramore suggests it's time for more current research on the matter. "From the women I've talked to, it's more along the lines of gender bias, and women having to doubly prove themselves to their male counterparts to be taken seriously. Sexual harassment does still exist, but my personal opinion is that because more people are aware of it, and have little tolerance for it, it's not as prevalent as it used to be. That being said, I would love to see some current research done that sheds a little more light on this."

Regardless of the difficulties female developers have encountered in the past, Naramore says the climate is changing. "There are so many women (and men!) working hard to keep this discussion of "women in technology" alive. Although we don't all agree on the causes or the solutions, we can all agree that women are still pathetically underrepresented in the industry. However, in recent years, I see more women making themselves visible through writing, speaking, educating, and reaching out to others. I see more men sticking up for women who have been discriminated against. I see more people embracing diversity, and I see less of the good ol' boys club.

"As more OS projects bring this concept of 'open and welcoming communities' to light, and as they make this more of a priority, I see the ones who don't being left behind. Regardless if you're male or female, or who you are, this is a great thing for everybody."