Tuesday, 22 May 2007

On gender equality and discrimination

Disclaimer:
1. Tackling a sensitive subject in a non-native language. Please bear with me.

2. A respectful attitude towards all wonders of {God,the flying spaghetti monster}'s creation. That is what I try to develop. If you ever notice me not behaving up to that motto, please tell me.

Now on to the subject of discrimination against women and gender equality within the Ubuntu community.

I've read the aims, findings and recommendations of the FLOSSPOLS report quoted by Melissa Draper. About two years ago, I've also had the opportunity to listen and speak to one of the contributors to this report, Hanna Wallach, at FOSDEM.

The way I read the FLOSSPOLS report is that it has found the FLOSS community averse to discrimination and very gender unequal at the same time. Related research by people like Simon Baron-Cohen and Peter Lawrence hints at similar conclusions. In addition, it hints at biological foundations (autism spectrum) underneath part of the male dominance.

My conclusions regarding gender equality and discrimination:
* The word "discrimination" should be dropped except in very clear cases.
* As a community, we should focus on the gains to be made from gender diversity.

Let me try and translate to male geek speak:
* You've always been respectful. Keep it that way.
* Female contributors will make Ubuntu kick arse even more. They'll help us solve problems in areas where geeks have limited vision.
* Women on average need to make a bigger a mental jump than men to start contributing. Helping some of them make that jump can be a good investment.
* More female contributors will attract more female users. We'll be able to fix bug #1 faster.

4 comments:

Rob said...

Indeed, the term discrimination is passé.

If someone has beef, they need to send a friendly email telling the appropriate party they were hurt (not offended), and if they persist in the objectional behavior, name names and grievances.

Herman Bos said...

Great, thats the way to go. Much better then whining.

Anonymous said...

"They'll help us solve problems in areas where geeks have limited vision."

Assertion #1 : a women can't be a geek -> False, thus you discriminate women with this affirmation.

Mark Van den Borre said...

While I normally don't react to anonymous comments, I'll make an exception and react to the general public on this anonymous one.

Please reread the paragraph the anonymous poster quoted from in its entirety. The first line says: "Let me try and translate to male geek speak".

But even if I hadn't limited myself to male geeks, this would still have been far from "unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice", which is what wordnet 2.0 and I consider to be discrimination in this context.

I don't consider people who treat others unfairly on the basis of prejudice part of the community, so not a big problem there. With people not part of the community who use our infrastructure, the problem of discrimination seems limited from my limited perspective.

Is there prejudice within the community? Certainly. Is it conscious prejudice or subconscious? Mostly subconscious.

I see a possibility to grow a more healthy ubuntu community by improving gender diversity. This can probably be achieved through making people aware of subconscient prejudices, be they positive or negative.

I'm willing to participate in gender diversity action. In fact, I'm really curious about subconscious prejudices. Finding out about them will certainly make me a more mature human.

But does not participating in gender diversity action equal discrimination? No. If one decides the mental effort is not worth the result, that's his right. And that doesn't make him a bad person.