Women in the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development

Women in the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development

Yuwei Lin (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-060-8.ch050


Free/libre open source software (FLOSS) has become a prominent phenomenon in the ICT field and the wider public domain for the past years. However, according to a FLOSS survey on FLOSS developers in 2002, “women do not play a role in the [FLOSS] development; only 1.1% of the FLOSS sample is female.” (Ghosh, Glott, Krieger, & Robles, 2002). In the mainstream research on FLOSS communities, many researchers also overlook different processes of community-building and diverse experiences of members, and presume a stereotyped maledominated “hacker community” (e.g., Levy, 1984; Raymond, 2001; Himanen, 2001; Thomas, 2002). Moreover, issues around gender inequality are often ignored and/or muted in the pile of FLOSS studies. Female programmers often are rejected ex/implicitly from the software labour market (Levesque & Wilson 2004). The requirements of female users are not respected and consulted either (European Commission, 2001). This feature is opposite to the FLOSS ideal world where users should be equally treated and embraced (op. cit.). While many researchers endeavour to understand the FLOSS development, few found a genderbiased situation problematic. In short, women are almost invisible in current FLOSS-related literature. Most policies targeting at advocating FLOSS are also gender blind.

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