An Open Letter to the Open Source Community

Melissa Draper melissa at
Tue May 22 06:16:18 BST 2007

Dear users, developers and other contributors of Open Source,

I write this letter as a contributor of Ubuntu, and as a member of the
Ubuntu Women project.

As a Woman and an Open Source contributor, I see a number of behaviours
within the Open Source community that are quite counterproductive to the
community. Many of these behaviours often go unnoticed, and this is a shame.

These counterproductive behaviours of which I write, may seem
common-place to many people, and they may even be humorous to some.
However these behaviours, to many women, are discriminatory, offensive
and discouraging. Considering women represent approximately 50% of
global population, which is approximately 3.35 billion people, these
behaviours are not behaviours that a community that thrives on growth,
should be allowing or encouraging. We should not be discouraging 50% of
our potential users and contributors.

Currently, according to FLOSSpols, in 2006, the average female
representation in Open Source is 1.5%. This is compared to 28% female
representation in the proprietary software industry. You can read the
FLOSSpols report at

You see, this is not merely a rant, there are real reasons for this
letter. We are seriously lagging behind proprietary software, and many
other industries, in the area of gender equality. We can do much better
than that!

There are a number of ways to curb the discouraging behaviours and all
it takes is vigilance. One must be vigilant in their communications, and
discourage or admonish bad behaviour. Unfortunately, there is no single
demographic guilty of these behaviours, as they are not solely
perpetrated by Men. Yes, you heard me correctly - some women are guilty
also! This makes the task of vigilance ever so much harder, but for the
sake of potentially doubling our community, it is well worth it!

As a Woman and an Open Source contributor, I implore you. Do not make
jokes about us, just because we are female. Do not belittle, stereotype
or patronise us, based on our gender. Do not assume that we are using
Open Source so that you can ask us questions of private nature, or out
on a date. Most importantly, do not stand by and watch as other people
do these things.

This is a big thing I am asking of you, I know. But it is not only for
me that I ask. It is for the 3 and a half billion mothers, daughters,
sisters and friends that I share this earth with - that WE share this
earth with. This is for everyone.

This is for Open Source.

I sincerely Thank You for reading this letter, and encourage you to pass
it on.

Melissa Draper
Open Source advocate, and Ubuntu Member


If you wish to support this letter, you can do so by responding on this
list, or on my blog ( Additionally
you can support it by digging the blog post
or displaying a generic 'Say NO! to discriminiation' button
( on
your own websites or in signatures.

Thanks in advance.

Melissa Draper

Phone: 0404 595 395
(intl): +61 404 595 395

P.O Box 1412
Lavington, NSW 2641

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