Women in Open Source - Ruth Cheesley - CMS Africa 2014


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A talk delivered at the first CMS Africa Summit held in Nairobi on 7-8 March 2014. The talk explored the opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and how Open Source can be a door into a career and/or hobby in these subjects.

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  • Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me to speak at CMS Africa
    Joomla! Community Leadership Team for just over a year
    User Group team,
    Marketing Working Group
    experiences within Open Source communities, and particularly around the topic of getting more women involved in technology.
    Passionate about promoting Science Tech Eng Maths as an exciting and interesting career choice for women.
  • So, before the guys in the audience think this talk doesn't concern them, it does!
    We're talking about open source communities, after all, and you're a part of that community as much as the women are.
    If you don't currently have many women involved in your community, it's going to fall on your shoulders to invite and welcome women into the community. To set up those conditions to help women shine.
    You are just as able to help make a community a welcoming place for women as the women in the community, so no snoozing in the back row!
  • So for starters, let's look at women in technology – the big picture, if you like.
    Traditionally the STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – have been under-represented by women. Some of the statistics are really quite staggering – less than 15% of positions in some areas are filled by women.
    When you consider women who are in leadership roles in STEM organisations, the percentage is even smaller. In some cultures it's still unusual for a woman to be CEO – even in the UK this happens.
    In the Open Source world we have a better proportion of involvement from women, but it is still very much a minority population in pretty much all projects.
  • The good news is that things do appear to be changing.
    The first fundamental shift has to be in the perception of and respect for women, and the way in which society views the role of women, and this is changing.
    Thankfully, there is light at the end of this tunnel and things have changed even within my short lifetime.
    It is becoming more 'normal for women to be involved in technology-based subjects, and in the Open Source world, projects are actively reaching out to women. I recently started to get involved with the Ubuntu Women project, for example, and there are similar projects within the CMS communities.
  • There are lots of different ways that as a community we can work towards be supportive of all genders – and it's also important to recognise that at times we can be less supportive, sometimes without realising.
  • I was hoping I'd get to to spend the two weeks working in a shipyard, perhaps being able to see inside the workings of real ships, work alongside engineers and get a feeling for whether this was what I wanted to do.
  • Then my letter came through, and to my dismay, I was not being given an engineering placement, I was getting placed in a technical drawing office of an engineering firm.
    Immediate problem here, I cannot draw for toffee at the best of times, let alone when they have to be mm perfect and straight lines!
    So, for two weeks I had to try and draw schematics of salt water straining devices, when I wanted to be out in the engineering room tinkering with the engines. It was a real disappointment.
    The sad thing is that directly or indirectly this happens all the time.
  • That was a pretty extreme case and nowadays hopefully would not happen, but here is a more subtle case.
    A doctor noticed when doing ward rounds, when a question was asked that the male students would be raising their hands and the females would not.
    Didn't mean they didn't know the answer. Even if he called them out, the women wouldn't put themselves forward unless nudged.
    Decided to stop the hands up approach and choose the person to answer insteadI would probably never have put myself forward to join the CLT unless I was given a gentle nudge by somebody, given the confidence to go for it.
  • To me, as a 14 year old interested in engineering, I was furious. My male friends in my class were at Sunseekers Yachts working on the most amazing engines and ships, while I was trying to work out how to sharpen a pencil and draw lines that were straight.
    You see, there was no real issue as to why I couldn't be placed in the same location, but there was at that time a societal conception that girls did not do hands-on engineering, especially in the male-dominated marine industry.
    Gender shouldn't matter – it should be about whether you can do the job, but again we're talking about a community. People coming together, working together – and women are different to men. - communicate differently, feedback, ways of working, respect, cultural considerations
  • I take a lot of inspiration from the strong women I am fortunate to have as role models in my life– my nan, and my mum. These two women are just incredibly strong, and inspire me on a daily basis.
    They encouraged me to widen my horizon and see where there were opportunities rather than complain that I wasn't being given them. If none exist they encouraged me to set up the conditions for them to come into being, to ask for help to make that happen.
    There are so many opportunities within open source communities to get involved regardless of your gender – there are opportunities waiting for you, just jump in and get living your life!
  • Don't forget that if you don't have opportunities available to you, there is no reason why you can't build your own door.
    This is definitely something that being involved with open source projects can help you to do. If you have access to a computer and an internet connection, you can get involved. GNOME, GSOC, Hackathons, PBF
    You get to work with people from all over the world, learn some useful skills like communication, patience! Leadership, and of course make friends.
    You'll often be working with the latest technologies – which you might not come across at university – and with people who are experts in their field who are willing to help you.
  • So at school I decided to figure out what was out there that would help me learn. I wanted to get involved, I wanted to follow my interests in technology, but I had no idea how..
    I really believe that the open source community can make a difference here.
    We have the potential to inspire other girls and women to get involved, have a go, and see what happens. Anybody can inspire others, regardless of your gender.
    To do that, we need to have a community which supports people of all genders, from all walks of life, and encourages people to grow into their own tall poppies. When I was asked if I would join the Leadership Team, I jumped at the chance. Interestingly, it was another women who recommended me. I have the chance to inspire others
  • The Joomla community is actually pretty diverse, we have quite a lot of women involved within the Leadership Team and Working Groups, and around 20% of attendees at JWC identified as female. Here are some of the women who were recently interviewed by opensource.com in 'women in open source' week.
    We have our own peer support groups on Facebook, which is an incredibly supportive environment which is helping women in our community to thrive.
    We're encouraging involvement in programmes like the GNOME outreach programme and GSOC, and I would really love to invite any of you to come and find out how you might be able to get involved – you don't have to be a coder to contribute to an open source project.
  • You can be as involved as you want to be
    Take things at your pace
    Lots of areas – from coding to leadership and everything in between
    Opportunity to learn from people who have a lot to give
    The ethos is about sharing – give what you can, take what you need – you can share what you learn with others, paying it forward.
  • Just jump in – there are several representatives from different content management systems here today, why not find out how you can get involved?
    We all have to start somewhere!
    What are you interested in?
    What do you need to support your development?
    Who can you ask for help?
    Who or what do you aspire to? Keep your inspirations alive!
  • How welcoming is your community for women? How supportive are you personally in helping to engage people from all walks of life, regardless of gender?
    Is there anything we can do as an OS community to encourage more women both to get involved and stay involved? I'd love to talk with you about this later.
    Finally, It can take a lot of courage for someone to knock on your door and ask for help or volunteer to get involved – please respect that!
    please make sure they feel welcome, and perhaps consider a buddy system to help newcomers find their feet
  • Women in Open Source - Ruth Cheesley - CMS Africa 2014

    1. 1. Women in Open Source © Chiara Aliotta – Until Sunday Ruth Cheesley - @RCheesley
    2. 2. Stay with me, guys! © andrewgenn - Fotolia.com
    3. 3. Women in Technology © Michael Brown - Fotolia.com
    4. 4. Things are changing © Mangojuicy - Fotolia.com
    5. 5. How do we support all genders? © graphicsdunia4u - Fotolia.com
    6. 6. My expectation ... © Michal Adamczyk - Fotolia.com
    7. 7. The reality ... © Apop - Fotolia.com
    8. 8. Men and women are different © Gennadiy Poznyakov - Fotolia.com
    9. 9. Should gender be an issue? © Michael Brown - Fotolia.com
    10. 10. Take the initiative © Cheesley Family!
    11. 11. And don't forget …. © maxmitzu - Fotolia
    12. 12. We all need role models © akulamatiau - Fotolia.com
    13. 13. Meet the Women of Joomla!
    14. 14. Why get involved in Open Source? © kentoh - Fotolia.com
    15. 15. How to get started?
    16. 16. To the community ...