Open-source project Fedora has launched Fedora Women, a forum and mailing list, in an effort to encourage more female developers to participate in its community.
"Women who are interested in working with the Fedora Project can work with Fedora Women to get started," explained a posting on the Fedora Web site.
Fedora Women aims to support the existing community of female coders through a dedicated discussion arena and mailing list for women involved in the project.
"A large portion of the Fedora user base is made up of women. They are often under-represented within the community, with many people not even realising how big a share of the community they are. The Fedora Women programme aims to improve that representation and to provide a forum for the women of the Fedora community," the group said.
News of the launch has provoked lively discussion among the free and open source software (FOSS) community as to why women are underrepresented.
"If women, or men, want to develop FOSS, then that's great. If they don't, then encouraging them to do so...really won't help," said one reader on the technology Web site Slashdot.
"I suspect that a number of women have tried to get involved, but been repulsed by the community," the post continued, in a reference to descriptions of sexism and online abuse in the OpenBSD community.
Other open-source projects have tried to encourage more women to get involved in programming. In 2005, the Apache Software Foundation set up a new mailing list in the hope of increasing the participation of women in its open-source projects, while in 2004, Debian set up the Debian Women group to encourage the participation of women in development.
Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.