Ubuntu Open Week - WIOS - Issues - Elizabeth Krumbach - Thu, Nov 5, 2009
(03:01:35 PM) pleia2: Hi everyone! Welcome to the Ubuntu Open Week Session on the Ubuntu Women Project: Women in Free Software Issues (03:01:53 PM) pleia2: My name is Elizabeth Krumbach. I currently work as a Debian and Ubuntu Systems Administrator for a Philadelphia-based Linux-centric technology services provider. I became involved in the Ubuntu Women project as soon as I found out about it in the spring of 2006. (03:02:22 PM) pleia2: Aside from Ubuntu Women work, I'm a member of the Community Council. I'm currently heavily involved with the LoCo Teams projects, specifically with my own state of Pennsylvania and the greater work of the US Teams Mentoring program. I also work on the Ubuntu Community Learning Project (which I did an UOW session for Tuesday). (03:02:53 PM) pleia2: On also I contribute upstream some as a Debian Package Maintainer and am the sysadmin for the Ubuntu Pennsylvania Team Linode. (03:03:07 PM) pleia2: In this session I'm going to give a general introduction to the Ubuntu Women Project, explain why we feel such a project is important. (03:03:26 PM) pleia2: Then we'll go into a Q&A session. Following this session Mackenzie Morgan will be hosting a session about ways to resolve some of the issues I will discuss - so if you have questions about actually solving the problems, I suggest you wait for her session :) (03:04:05 PM) pleia2: So, I am going to start out by saying that I am not speaking for all women in F/OSS or all women Ubuntu, that would be impossible! The opinions of women inside and outside of the Ubuntu Women project vary widely. (03:04:37 PM) pleia2: While discussing "Issues" I am drawing from my own experiences and experiences of other women within F/OSS communities that curb or prevent participation, these experiences are not shared by every woman who becomes involved, but do impact many. (03:05:21 PM) pleia2: Now, to the resources! The official website for the Ubuntu Women project is http://women.ubuntu.com. From there you can get to all our other resources, including our Mailing list, Forums, Launchpad and Wiki. (03:05:57 PM) pleia2: History-wise, the project was loosely founded on the forums and in IRC in the summer of 2005. It was extended by Vidya Ayer to mailing lists and a website, and became an official team in early 2006. (03:06:34 PM) pleia2: Intitally it was modeled closely after the Debian Women (http://women.debian.org) project, but since their focus was primarily getting women to become Developers it quickly became apparent that the Ubuntu Women approach would have to have a much broader focus, encouraging women to be a part of every facet of Ubuntu. (03:07:03 PM) pleia2: Before I get into the details of why we have the project, I want to emphasise that we have a very serious committment to not being separatist or exclusive. (03:07:39 PM) pleia2: If you join our IRC channel, mailing list or forums you'll find both men and women involved in the project. We have no gender requirement placed upon our members, anyone who is interested in getting more women involved is welcome to join us, so please do! (03:08:23 PM) pleia2: The main goal of the entire project is to get more women involved with the general Ubuntu community. As such, separatism would defeat the whole goal of this project. (03:09:08 PM) pleia2: And really, the "#1 Bug" in the Ubuntu Women Project is the need for the project to exist. We would like to be able to dissolve the project in the future when more women are comfortable getting involved themselves. (03:09:22 PM) pleia2: So, why do we feel this project is important? (03:09:47 PM) pleia2: Simply put, those of us who are involved with Ubuntu Women believe that everyone has the potential be a valuable resource for the Ubuntu project and we should work to be inclusive and encouraging. (03:10:15 PM) pleia2: We've chosen to focus upon becoming well-versed in the issues currently facing women specifically in the community so we can shape our project to cater to those issues. (03:10:58 PM) pleia2: Does anyone have any questions about the premise of the project before I discuss what kinds of issues many women encounter? (03:12:26 PM) pleia2: ok, I'll move on then... What are these issues? (03:12:42 PM) pleia2: We don't want to dwell on the past because we want to move forward in a positive and encouraging way, but for the record, there have been a few incidents which have caused women within the project to either leave or pull back involvement, these are documented here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Ubuntu (03:13:31 PM) pleia2: Looking at these incidents by themselves may not seem like much, but the culture within F/OSS is such that such incidents compound an already very male-dominated space where as a minority many women feel uncomfortable. (03:14:23 PM) pleia2: This discomfort comes from a variety of things, but frequently stems from being (or feeling like) you're the only woman in a room/project/irc channel/etc (03:14:42 PM) pleia2: As much as I love and appreciate the men I work with on projects, it's comforting to not be the sole representive of a minority within a community :) (03:15:44 PM) pleia2: Many women in F/OSS also frequently receive tongue-in-cheek marriage proposals from strangers upon learning they use Linux (it's not really that funny, we've heard it before, and at this point it's off-putting), among the frequently less flattering comments asking for pictures or assumptions being made about your looks. (03:16:56 PM) pleia2: Many have been exposed to situations where they were part of an audience at an event where the speaker or audience member makes remarks assuming the audience is all male (please, please don't start another presentation at a tech event with "welcome, gentlemen!") (03:17:38 PM) pleia2: There are often assumptions being made that you're attending an event as a "just a girlfriend or wife" rather than an actual contributor - and then there is the resulting shock when people learn you're actually involved. (03:18:57 PM) pleia2: And in some cultures, there is still a stigma against women holding leadership positions, so even in F/OSS a vocal minority of detractors may make it difficult for women in these areas. Even with support from much of the team, these detractors are exhausting and cause many women to avoid getting too involved. (03:20:07 PM) pleia2: There is also an atmosphere in a lot F/OSS projects that's a bit like a men's locker room, or a boys club where crude and sexist behavior is the norm (I don't see much of this in Ubuntu itself, but it is an image within F/OSS that we need to combat) (03:20:36 PM) pleia2: All this boils down to is a culture where you are not only a minority, but you're constantly reminded that you're a minority and when you start being unsure about your committment? It makes it that much easier to give up, or not even start getting involved at all! (03:20:53 PM) pleia2: < highvoltage> QUESTION: I've followed some of the geekfemism conversation, and it seems to mostly focus on what not to do and negative things that people have done, wouldn't it be more effective focussing more on things that do work well and showing why equality is beneficial to all? (03:21:19 PM) pleia2: That's why maco is doing a whole session following mine on Encouragement and how to Do It Right :) (03:22:48 PM) pleia2: So there are few women in F/OSS, you wouldn't believe what a relief it was for me to join Ubuntu Women so I could share experiences and have a network of support from people who understood these challenges. (03:23:15 PM) pleia2: any questions regarding these issues? (03:25:06 PM) pleia2: so I'll be pre-emptive about one question we tend to get (03:25:15 PM) pleia2: Why isn't there an Ubuntu <insert minority>? (03:25:31 PM) pleia2: Because no one has created one yet! The Ubuntu project is very open to other sub-groups like Ubuntu Women if there are people who feel a need to create it. Yes, #ubuntu-men exists, but for some reason nobody ever feels the need to hang out there. (03:25:53 PM) pleia2: And we understand that not everyone shares in these viewpoints, methods or goals, which is really a great thing about F/OSS - you don't have to. And if you're sincerely interested in getting involved we're always open to constructive discussion. (03:26:31 PM) pleia2: One of the things we're working hard to do is have #ubuntu-women be a place where women can come and feel comfortable, as well as others within the project joining us to engage in thoughtful discussion on the issues within the community (03:27:20 PM) pleia2: This is a delicate balance, and one that is a continuing challenge, but we have a really great team of folks from throughout the involvement spectrum of Ubuntu (03:28:06 PM) pleia2: And that's all I've got for the core of this session, so Q&A time! (03:28:18 PM) pleia2: < Gareth> QUESTION: Can offer some advice to men who want to encourage women to be involved in Ubuntu and F/LOSS community but don't want to appear to be patronizing? (03:28:51 PM) pleia2: maco will cover "how do we.." more in her session in 30 minutes, but essentially by treating women with respect and as equals (03:29:02 PM) pleia2: don't make assumptions about her involvent, just as you wouldn't a man, etc (03:29:30 PM) pleia2: < Jesi-Idle> Question: I'm a guy and I support what your doin, I'm not really sure what to say for this session, and I think that goes for most here and is why you're not getting many replies, I've never had a problem when it comes to gender equality and it's something I promote, but I know that allot of my male friends really aren't that sensitive here, but they often don't realize it, (03:29:48 PM) pleia2: cont: what steps can one take to make sure the evironment doesn't seem so male-dominated, because I garuntee you many guys are completely oblivious (03:30:46 PM) pleia2: speaking up when you see other guys making comments is important (03:31:18 PM) pleia2: a lot of guys sit idly by when they see sexist behavior and assume the women will speak up for themselves - a lot of women don't, they just leave (03:31:53 PM) pleia2: < LaserJock> QUESTION: Do you think Ubuntu Women will ever go away? Will it vanish when its Bug #1 is fixed or will it continue on as a social gathering (03:32:06 PM) pleia2: As an official Ubuntu Project, it will go away (03:32:20 PM) pleia2: some of us might drift off into social channels though, at this point a lot of us are friends :) (03:32:39 PM) pleia2: < astechgeek_> QUESTION: How do new folks getting involved help with avoiding some of the issues that have happened in the past? (03:33:18 PM) pleia2: I believe most of the past issues came up simply because people weren't being mindful that Ubuntu is such a diverse community, being mindful is vital (03:33:50 PM) pleia2: there is an example of the "even some wives" mailing list post linked to the wiki page I posted earlier, the fellow who wrote that meant no harm (we all knew that), he just "didn't think" when he wrote it (03:34:11 PM) pleia2: < gQuigs1> QUESTION: I'm pretty sure I refer to "guys" when I give talks (but I mean it as all inclusive) should I try to cut that out? (03:34:16 PM) pleia2: this is a very good question (03:34:28 PM) pleia2: my mother called my sisters and I "guys" :) (03:34:36 PM) pleia2: but it's cultural, and not always acceptable (03:35:03 PM) pleia2: I tend to go with "folks" or other terms that I'm pretty sure are completely neutral (03:35:41 PM) pleia2: < MarkDude> QUESTION: in other words - it is up to ALL of us to 'call out' negative behavior, right? Not just the groups that are the target? (03:35:48 PM) pleia2: right! (03:36:20 PM) pleia2: and there are loads of ways to do this, humor helps :) (03:36:55 PM) pleia2: it's unfortunately common for men to join a "boys club" type channel and type the greeting "hello ladies!" as an insult (03:37:11 PM) pleia2: to which I reply with some flowery "wow, it's nice to be noticed for once!" and they end up looking terribly silly (03:37:45 PM) pleia2: < Jesi-Idle> Question: follow up, I do, I meant, if it's mostly a group of guys, the environment in which they meet, or some of the things the group does, while not sexual at all, may be seen as offensive, and the guys there may not even realize that, yeah there are many guys out there who are jerks, but I think allot of it is misunderstanding as well (03:38:11 PM) pleia2: certainly a lot of it is misunderstanding (03:38:52 PM) pleia2: asking people to "tone it down" does wonders, in Ubuntu we have the Code of Conduct which outlines some guidelines that require us to be respectful of each other - respect is huge (03:42:07 PM) pleia2: < czajkowski> QUESTION do you think many time we often go too politically correct so as to not offend, making people feel like they are walking on egg shells, how can we better interact with one another better? (03:42:13 PM) pleia2: great question! (03:42:41 PM) pleia2: it's true, and we don't want people to be walking on eggshells to interact with each other (03:42:54 PM) pleia2: the biggest thing here is we all need to learn to admit we make mistakes (03:43:30 PM) pleia2: I think in almost all the instances discribed on that "Incidents" page it was not the initial thing that happened that triggered the problems, but the response to it from the community (03:44:15 PM) pleia2: so if you offend and didn't mean to, try to apologise and move on, I will :) (03:44:35 PM) pleia2: < MarkDude> QUESTION: The statistical 'outlier' argument - how can we get the 'white dudes' to see that there is really not a welcoming environment sometimes? (03:45:14 PM) pleia2: it's difficult, one fellow I dated didn't "get it" until he was in situations with me where he saw me being treated differently because of my gender (03:46:03 PM) pleia2: I think by telling our stories, having sessions like this one, and continuing to succeed in spite of them we do a lot to help people see (03:46:37 PM) pleia2: < AlanBell> QUESTION: many blokes using Ubuntu have wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, sisters (I have all - except girlfriend) who they have normal social interactions with. Is there a bigger online issue than there is an offline issue? Why? (03:47:19 PM) pleia2: I think it depends on the community, some LoCo teams and LUGs are more welcoming to women, some IRC channels are very unwelcoming (03:47:32 PM) pleia2: and the other way around too (03:48:33 PM) pleia2: I will say that I've never gotten a marriage proposal in person, it tends to be the perceived anonymity of the internet that allows those kinds of jokes (03:49:05 PM) pleia2: < erUSUL> QUESTION: "it was not the initial thing that happened that triggered the problems, but the response to it from the community" so the real problem is not sexism but that the community overreacts to otherwise pretty harmless things put other way has too thin skin ?? (03:49:49 PM) pleia2: I mean the community as in the wider F/OSS community (03:50:32 PM) pleia2: I once made a suggestion on a mailing list to use the term "spouses" rather than "wives" in an article - instead of accepting my suggestion I was told I was nit-picking, getting upset over insignificant details, etc (03:50:49 PM) pleia2: if they had just accepted my suggestion, we would have all been happy (03:51:19 PM) pleia2: (and the article would have been more accurate :)) (03:52:00 PM) pleia2: < MarkDude> QUESTION- is the root of MANY problems encountered - the inability to admit that you made a mistake? (03:52:38 PM) pleia2: I believe this is part of it, and a general negative reaction many people have to being "corrected" for something where they don't see a problem (03:54:31 PM) pleia2: < MarkDude> QUESTION -follow-up so in other words - dont think that you are PERFECT? Because no one is? (03:54:48 PM) pleia2: right, and be open to concerns others have (03:55:29 PM) pleia2: I've certainly said daft things in my time without thinking, but when someone explained to me that it was wrong I did what I could to be open to not doing it again (and probably apologizing) (03:56:29 PM) pleia2: < mhall1191work> QUESTION: If we think someone is over-reacting to an offense, how should we approach them? (03:56:53 PM) pleia2: carefully, and with the openness to try and understand why they are reacting in the way they are (03:57:34 PM) pleia2: < gQuigs1> QUESTION: Do you think there are many women who simply don't state that they are women to interact with the community and not deal directly with these issues? (03:57:55 PM) pleia2: there are, I know several within Ubuntu (03:58:20 PM) pleia2: and there is a long tradition of women in F/OSS taking gender neutral names to avoid people knowing (03:58:45 PM) pleia2: < ianto> QUESTION: In all the #ubuntu- channels I am involved, when mentioning that you are female you suddenly get this special oh so Godly treatment. What do you think of this sudden chance in attitude? (03:59:16 PM) pleia2: I have encountered this from time to time, but more frequently people ask me for pictures :\ (03:59:46 PM) pleia2: it all boils down to us having different experiences, they can be all kinds, but it's frequently being *treated differently* in some way (03:59:57 PM) pleia2: I have to wrap this portion up now, thanks everyone! (04:00:04 PM) pleia2: Next up for Ubuntu Open Week will be Mackenzie Morgan talking about how we can *address* these issues that I've covered here, so if anyone has any questions about that I'd suggest you wait until her session.