Short version: If you love women, or even like them just a bit, go right now and donate to the Ada Initiative to show the women in your life that you value their contributions past, present, and future to the wonderful world of Open Source. I’m going to make a donation in my grandmother’s name this year and I know she’ll be happy to have supported such a valuable project.
I love Open Source.
When it first came to my attention, in the first year of my degree in software development at Seneca College, I knew we’d be a good fit. There’s something about the spirit of Open Source that instantly clicked with my existing guerilla activist sensibilities. The way that you just take what you want and make it happen. That you create and give away. That you work with other passionate people to make cracks in the surfaces of monopolies that only want you to be able to do things through their (usually financially) gated communities. It reminded me of how I had approached being a filmmaker – taking $50 of Super 8 film and developing it myself in 16L bucket in a dark bathroom then submitting the results to a prestigious film festival and being accepted. Having my work shown alongside films with budgets bigger than the cost of a house was an amazing experience and taught me that not everything has to be polished to be valued.
Open Source is like that to me, the diamond in the rough.
While I was working on my degree I of course noticed (and was not surprised by) the lack of women in my classes. I was surprised when I started to get involved in Open Source to discover that there were less women in FOSS than in proprietary software companies. That seriously BLEW MY MIND. I mean, if Unlocking the Clubhouse is to believed (and it is very thorough research) then technical women want to do work that is meaningful and helps people. Why that sounds a lot like Open Source doesn’t it? So why aren’t there more women in Open Source? I’ll let you Google that question to your hearts content, there’s a lot written on the subject and so much more could be. The point though is that the Ada Initiative is a new project that is here to take on that very question through ACTION. They will DO things to get more women in Open Source. Women don’t have to be dragged into FOSS kicking and screaming. Trust me, after seeing the overflowing wait list for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing’s FOSS day, there are a ton of talented and smart women interested and able to do work in Open Source. We (all of us who have already drank the Kool-Aid) need to help them get integrated and feel comfortable staying in FOSS.
When I first met my future team at Mozilla in April of 2008 there was a woman on my team (!) and she self-identified herself to me as a feminist within the first 5 minutes we were together. As someone who was coming in as a student with zero experience in professional tech workplaces I was so thrilled to have an immediate feeling of relief, trusting that if she was respected there I would be too. She also introduced me to wonderful internet properties such as GeekFeminism and Sociological Images both of which helped me start connecting with other feminists in tech fields. Almost three years later I am starting to feel like I’ve been successful in building the community in FOSS around me that I want to be a part of. It’s a wonderful mix of the talented people I work with at Mozilla, the folks I’m working on planning the next Dare 2B Digital with, the programmers I organize PyStar workshops with, the Women Who Code, the Women 2.0, and of course – The Ada Initiative.
I’ll leave you with their own words about why you should go straight to the donation page:
We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished already. Since our founding in early 2011, we helped over 30 conferences and organizations adopt an anti-harassment policy, organized the first AdaCamp unconference, provided free consulting on high-profile sexist incidents, wrote and taught two workshops on supporting women in open tech/culture, and ran two surveys, among other things. http://adainitiative.org/what-we-do/ We need your help to achieve our upcoming goals. The Ada Initiative is funded entirely by donations. Without your financial support, the Ada Initiative will have to shut down in early 2012. http://supportada.org/donate Your donations will fund upcoming projects like: Ada’s Advice, a comprehensive guide to resources for helping women in open tech/culture, Ada’s Careers, a career development community, and First Patch Week, where we help women create and submit their first open source patch. You can learn more about how the Ada Initiative is organized and operated on our web site and blog: http://adainitiative.org Whether or not you can donate yourself, you can help us by spreading the word about our fundraising drive. Please tell your friends about our important work. Email, blog, add our donation button to your web site, and tweet. Here’s how: http://adainitiative.org/support-us/spread-the-word/ You don’t have to stand on the sidelines any longer. You can help women in open technology and culture, starting today.