“So the thing that made me quit my job and start the Ada Initiative was when a friend of mine got groped at an open source conference-”
“NO! Shut up! That didn’t happen!” she says, utterly shocked.
“Yes, it did, it’s documented all over the Internet-”
“NO! I can’t believe it! Are you serious?”
“Yes, I’ve been groped twice at an open source conference myself-”
“Oh my god! Really?” At this point she seemed to start believing me and I was able to get in one or two sentences in between expressions of shock and dismay.
She went on to tell me how in college her boyfriend went to CMU, which is the university that achieved 42% female enrollment in their undergraduate computer science program (and later wrote a famous book about how they achieved that, Unlocking the Clubhouse). In her experience, women were always welcome and respected in computing, and the realization that it wasn’t like that everywhere was a complete surprise to her.
I’m so used to living with these facts that I often forget how shocking they are to people who don’t know about the dark side of open technology and culture. The cultural phenomenon that has the most potential to overcome all the old prejudices and oppression is doing worse than the mainstream “closed” versions in many cases – e.g., 2% vs. 20-30% women in open source software vs. closed source software. I don’t know the numbers for “closed source” encyclopedias, but only 9% of Wikipedia editors are female.
We’re working hard to change that. We believe that unless women are involved in designing and creating the Internet, it won’t serve women’s needs. Right now, there are 994 pages in the Wikipedia category “Female pornographic film actors” and only 58 pages in “Women computer scientists” – at the same time that many pages about important female computer scientists have been deleted for “non-notability.”
You can help change this by donating to the Ada Initiative today. If you can’t donate yourself, please consider telling your friends about the Ada Initiative donation drive.