Investing some social capital

Over the years, I’ve tried to be an interesting person, on my web page, my blog, in person (less successfully), and so on, in part so that when I had something important to say, somebody would be listening. I have something important to say.

I co-founded the Ada Initiative because I care deeply about social justice, and in particular about women having an equal opportunity to have rewarding open source careers like mine. Open source gave me a high paying, highly respected, extremely flexible job in which I made the world a better place (and visited a good chunk of it for free, too). But I also understand how lucky I am – for example, my mother taught me how to program when I was 6 years old, and I positively enjoy defying stereotypes.

I want everyone – and in particular women – to have an opportunity to build and shape the open Internet, which is the future of human culture for our entire world (for better or worse). I want this badly enough that I worked without a salary for the last 6 months to found the Ada Initiative, and personally donated several thousand dollars as well.

Many people have asked me over the years what they can do personally to help women in open source. Now I have one answer. The Ada Initiative is accepting only 100 donations of $512 or more between June 1st and June 30th, 2011. There will be only 100 seed funders ever, and we’re not sure if or when we’ll accept personal donations again. If you want to contribute back of some of the money that you made working in open source in a way that helps even the playing field for women, this is your best chance.

Donate to the Ada Initiative now

20 years from now, when some innocent-eyed teenager asks you if it was really true back in 2011 that almost no open source programmers were women, and how anyone could think that was okay, you can say:

“Listen, kid, I helped change all that. Back in 2011 I was a seed funder of the Ada Initiative. Only 100 of them ever. And I can prove it. See this picture of Ada Lovelace on the wall? I got that when I donated to them.”

The teenager will listen respectfully and say, “Ooh! And it’s signed by Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora? Wow, I can’t believe you leave that out in the open where anyone could steal it!”

Well, perhaps it won’t happen exactly like that. But you’ll know you made a difference, and that’s what counts.

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Take the Ada Initiative Census – and update your resumé!

Over at my day job at the Ada Initiative, we just launched a census of women in open technology and culture. From the blog post:

The survey (intended for people of any gender) asks two broad sets of questions: What open projects are you working on, and what is your opinion of how women are treated in your project and in the open community in general? The goal of the census is to periodically “take the temperature” of women in the open technology and culture community, so we can know what areas to work on and whether the Ada Initiative is making a difference for women in the community.

The survey only takes 5 minutes to do. Men can take the survey, but we’re making a deliberate effort to find women to take the survey.

I’m always looking for ways to help women in their careers. One of the cool things about this survey is that it gives you a big list of open technology and culture communities and asks which ones you’ve worked on and whether you were paid for it or not. It was fun remembering all the things I worked on, and it reminded me of several I’d forgotten.

If you do take the 5 minutes to take this survey, I suggest saving a copy of the page that asks you what communities you’ve participated in, and then using it as a guide to update your resumé or CV. Whether you were volunteering or being paid to do it, your work on open “stuff” is important and belongs in your resumé or CV. (If you don’t have one already, add a “Projects” section for things you weren’t paid to do.) The Anita Borg Institute has some great tips for improving your resumé in general.

Please take the survey and spread the word!