Debian group encourages women developers

Builder: The number of female developers working on Debian is set to rise in the next few months thanks to the work of Debian Women
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor
The Debian Women group, which was set up in March this year to encourage the participation of women in Debian's future development, is already making progress in encouraging women to apply to be Debian developers, it says.

Helen Faulkner, a member of the Debian Women group, said there are few female Debian developers at the moment -- mirroring the situation across the software development sector as a whole.

"Debian is way male-dominated," said Faulkner. "There are something like 1,000 Debian developers and we know of only three of those that are women."

But she hopes this will change in the near future as there are nine women, including Faulkner, who are applying to become Debian developers. Others have expressed an interest in following suit, and the Debian Women group hopes to make more progress narrowing the gender gap over time.

As well as encouraging and advising women who want to apply to be Debian developers, Debian Women also helps with a wide variety of queries -- from how to install Debian to how to write a bug report. It is also encouraging Debian to become more welcoming to women by flagging instances of sexism.

In August, Faulkner filed a bug report to highlight sections of Debian documentation which she felt were sexist as they assumed that Debian contributors would be male.

"I have noticed some examples of sexist language on the Debian Web site, looking at the English-language pages," said Faulkner in "target_blank"="" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">the bug report. "Most examples take the form of assuming that a developer will always be male, a project leader will be always male, etc. This can be off-putting and potentially offensive to women like myself who wish to become Debian developers, and encourages people make the assumption that all developers are male."

After filing the bug report, the majority of document maintainers were quick to fix the problem, said Faulkner.

More recently, Fernanda Weiden, another member of Debian Women, filed "target_blank"="" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">a bug report protesting against the addition of the hot-babe package to the Debian project. The package shows a girl who undresses as a PC's CPU activity increases.

On the whole the wider Debian community responded positively to the Debian Women group, according to Faulkner, although one person had to be "actively discouraged" from participating in the Debian Women mailing list a few months ago after "bothering" members, she added.

"Most of the people in Debian are supportive of the project and understand there is a problem [with the lack of women in Debian], even if they don't understand why there is this problem," said Faulkner. 

Debian Women is not the only group trying to encourage women to participate in open source projects. The Linux desktop KDE has a group, KDE Women, which aims to build a community of female KDE contributors and users.

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