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Gender Differences in Early Free and Open Source Software Joining Process

TitleGender Differences in Early Free and Open Source Software Joining Process
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsKuechler, V., C. Gilbertson, and C. Jensen
Conference NameOpen Source Systems: Long-Term Sustainability - 8th IFIP WG 2.13 International Conference (OSS 2012)
Date Published09/2012
Conference LocationHammamet, Tunisia

With the growth of free and open source software (FOSS) and the adoption of FOSS solutions in business and everyday life, it is important that projects serve their growingly diverse user base. The sustainability of FOSS projects relies on a constant influx of new contributors. Several large demographic surveys found that FOSS communities are very homogenous, dominated by young men, similar to the bias existing in the rest of the IT workforce. Building on previous research, we examine mailing list subscriptions and posting statistics of female FOSS participants. New participants often experience their first interaction on a FOSS project’s mailing list. We explored six FOSS projects – Buildroot, Busybox, Jaws, Parrot, uClibc, and Yum. We found a declining rate of female participation from the 8.27% of subscribers, to 6.63% of posters, and finally the often reported code contributor rate of 1.5%. We found a disproportionate attrition rate among women along every step of the FOSS joining process.