Two recently encountered examples of messages attempting to address the gender gap typical of many (free) software and technology projects; the first is I think rather more emblematic of the problem rather than a positive contribution:


“All levels & genders welcome; come & go as you see fit”… eh… while admirably inclusive the message smacks of desperation and itself exhibits the kind of lack of sociality that exactly drives those who feel outside it away. In addition, the message offers little sense to the importance of including others participation.

I’ve been at more than one meeting with programmers discussing the problem of the gender gap, and it literally often results that a group of exclusively men start to say things like “yeah, it’d be cool if more women were there, how do you we get more women!?”; as “the problem” essentially gets reduced to men seeking women out of their own interests (or at least vaguely formulated reasons) rather than any kind of engagement with what a gender imbalance does to the community (or to its resulting activities and output).

Though not a software project per se, the Wikipedia editing community overlaps in part with software coding communities and exhibits a similar gender (im)balance. In their current campaign to address this, the approach takes a much different form:


Here a banner offers actual statistics and acknowledges the impact the imbalance has on the content of Wikipedia (and tacitly the problematics therein). Further it backs this up with an organized campaign to actively fund and support new projects specifically targetted at improving Wikipedia content.