SCALE 7x: Women in Open Source report

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Feb 25, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Friday, February 20, I attended the Women in Open Source day at SCALE 7x. This year's event saw increased attendance and a nice mix of men and women. And a couple of Moms: Speaker Danese Cooper and attendee Beth Lynn Eicher (see photo) each brought their mothers to the event.

Danese kicked off the event with her Women as Alpha Geeks talk. She discussed some early alpha geeks, including Ada Lovelace, Adele Goldstine, and Grace Hopper. Danese outlined principles of open source, including: participate, release early and release often, SHARE, be inclusive, innovate, build community, go modular, and document. Then she introduced examples of modern alpha geekesses, such as Alison Randall and Dana Boyd.

What can you do? Danese recommends the following:

  • Show up
  • Be brave
  • Speak
  • Teach a girl to code
  • Invent something
  • Mentor

Next, Emma McGratten spoke on the topic Do women approach coding differently to men? Her talk was a follow-up to a previous Slashdotted interview that received negative attention. In short: the answer is No, there is no research to back up the idea of women and men coding differently.

Cathy Malmrose spoke after Emma and drew comparisons between the women's suffrage movement and women in open source.

Stormy Peters talked about how to get things done in open source:

  • Do a lot
  • Believe you are empowered
  • Recruit others early
  • Think the best (about what others mean and say)
  • Be yourself
  • Be flexible

Sharon Levy discussed PHP and JavaScript and provided specific examples (with music!) in her slides.

Next, Dru Lavigne talked about open source for the Noob (see photo). It's cool! It's free! She also provided useful links, including and

Finally, yours truly gave her talk. I discussed why you might want to consider doing a better job of self-promotion and made suggestions for how to do it. One of my tips is to promote a fellow woman in open source – What are you waiting for?

After the scheduled talks, Danese helped lead an open discussion in which male and female attendees talked about women working in open source, as well as planning for next year's SCALE WIOS event. Emma Jane Hogbin recommended that the 2010 theme be mentorship, which seemed to go over well with the group.

I think the SCALE organizers are looking forward to passing the torch to a new planning committee next year, but it's clear that the WIOS event at the past three SCALE events has been a success – participation by men and women increases each year, and the SCALE event probably attracts more female speakers and attendees over the entire weekend thanks to this focused women in open source mini-conf.

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