The Tech Community’s Diversity Problem

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Take gender diversity, for one thing. By most counts, the average open source project has 49 male participants for every female participant. Women at conferences - rare enough already! - are assumed to be significant others, designers or visitors from planet marketing, with disastrous consequences for all involved.

This is a problem, for lots of reasons. The worst is that it’s self-perpetuating - women will (wisely!) avoid hostile environments, and through some broken-window-like mechanism, environments without women will quickly become environments that are hostile to women. (The same holds for other visible minorities.)

In discussions about "how to fix this", community leaders often appear to be at a loss, unsure how to progress. Their early efforts are often met by criticism on both sides - techies have a strong libertarian streak that tilts at all sorts of windmills, and the women who do "blaze trails" aren’t always much better than the men. (In fields like physics, chemistry and finance - fields dominated by men for ages - which are, these days, however, beating our numbers by a wide margin - the first generation of women to brave the hostilities and pierce the glass ceiling are often later generations’ harshest critics. "What? You want to have a career and a family? I didn’t have that option. Why should you? You’ll need to learn to drink scotch and smoke cigars like I did, or you’re through.")

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