A while ago, I came to the Albanian Open Source Conference. 2017 it was. I hadn’t been on the road to things like this for a while because at the time, and the 2 years preceding, I was very much focused on building up the Coko tech, dev team, dev processes, and community. As well as developing a product or two at the same time.
I wanted to come to Albania in 2017 because I felt I had exhausted my network. I had employed the people I knew and liked as part of the team. Plus I had made a commitment to find a woman dev and didn’t want to bring anyone else on until I could work that out.
It’s pretty hard to find woman devs comfortable working in open source. I have written about this on this blog a few times before (https://www.adamhyde.net/reading-on-diversity-in-open-source/ https://www.adamhyde.net/diversity-and-leadership/ https://www.adamhyde.net/leadership-diversity-and-sector-change-in-open-source/ https://www.adamhyde.net/death-of-the-benevolent-dictator/ https://www.adamhyde.net/things-i-think-open-source-needs/ ). The main problem being that while 33% of all employed developers in the world are women (a disappointingly low %), I believe the total number of women developers working exclusively on open source projects is probably around 1-10%. I believe it is closer to 1%. These figures are perhaps a little old as I did my research for this in 2017. It may have improved but I doubt it. I am sure there are many reasons for sad state of affairs, including the fact that many men with better employment prospects generally and higher paying prospects, have the time and money to be able to dedicate to working on open source. That’s not to suggest open source is a volunteer effort, many many devs are employed fulltime by open source projects these days (or to work on them in collaboration with other orgs) but often the way in is through your first volunteer commit of code or logging an issue etc.
On top of that, many open source projects are toxic cultures and especially so for women. One very good friend of mine will not use her real name in her github code repo because she doesn’t want to be identified as a woman in this community of communities. I’ts no secret that open source communities have had a bad history of exclusion. It’s improving, which is good to see, but I am sure it’s not improving fast enough.
Anyways… so finding women to work on OS projects is pretty hard. I found my network ran out of possible people I could employ, regardless of gender. But also, I like to employ people that are nice. People that are generous and know how to work with each other. These are hard things to determine from a CV. Which is why I generally employ people I already know, or that someone I know knows. So I asked also Jure and Yannis and the Athens team to look around but we really didn’t have much luck. I imposed a kinda informal hiring freeze on devs until we had bought on at least one woman front end dev to work on PubSweet platforms – its been in place for a year or more. I had, by the way, advertised for devs with varying success. I don’t like doing it this way for the reasons above. I prefer to know the folks first. I was almost successful a few times in finding someone but we didn’t quite get there. It is, after all, a very competitive market for developers and has been for some years. To make things a little harder, and ironic, the Free Software Foundation asked me to modify the advertisement looking for women developers because they said it was discriminatory on the basis of gender. Go figure.
So, I realised that I was just going to have to solve this the hard way – my network had dried up and so I had to make efforts to extend my network and if I wanted to employ women developers, I would have to make an additional effort to find them. In other words, I realised the failure was that my network was not wide enough and I needed to take responsibility for that. I would need to hit the road, so I hit the road. Which is why in 2017 I did a few open source conferences around the world. I think I also went to Open Source Lisbon and a few other places – PenguinCon in Detroit (great conf!), Linux Foundation Open Source Leadership Summit in lake Tahoe, another in Austin (Community Leadership Summit) and some others I can’t remember the name of. It was a while ago and I was traveling a lot. I really hit the road hard to extend my network to find more programmers and particularly women devs.
Anyways… so, its a long slow road doing it this way and that is why I am back here. Extending my network so I can bring new people onboard. Its looking good so far, I have met many very nice people and we are looking at collaborations to work together. Let’s see how it goes…more to come on this topic soon!