Topic "Gender"

Gender (= Sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture.) is a difficult topic when studying social systems and there is no way to deny that the Open Source movement seems to have a clear gender problem. Naming a single female community leader of an open source project is already an almost impossible endevaour, yet academic discussion of this problem seems to be a rare thing. With this topic we want to look into social sciences and research on technology and gender to inspect which reasons prevent women from having a larger influence in "open" communities.

To illustrate the point have a look at the results from "Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study" concerning gender: Only 1.1% or 25 of 2225 participants in the study were female.

This topic is little researched and I am not sure that we can find a research paper on the issue that combines OSS and gender. Students who pick up this topic might be able to publish a paper as part of the next ICSE workshop on Open Source. This would require extra work of course (in conducting a survey or gathering qualitative results).

Key Questions

  • What influence do women hold in the Open Source projects?
  • Does the virtual anomymitiy help or hinder in overcomming gender equality?
  • Which female success-stories can be found in the world of Open Source?
  • Which characteristics of Open Source Software Development can be positive or negative regarding involvment from different genders?


  • Alison Adam, Debra Howcroft, Helen Richardson 01 - Absent Friends? The Gender Dimension in Information Systems Research. In IFIP Conference Proceedings 194. (PDF)
  • Val Henson - HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux (pdf)
  • Francis Hunger - Computer als Männermaschine, Computer in einem patriarchalen kapitalistischen Kontext, 3: Open Source - Open Gender? (pdf)
  • Mathieu Lutfy - Debian GNU/Linux project leader elections raises gender ratio questions, Friday 12th March 2004 (html)
  • Ellen Spertus - Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists?. MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Technical Report 1315.(html)
  • Allan Fisher, Jane Margolis and Faye Miller - Undergraduate Women in Computer Science: Experience, Motivation and Culture.(html)
  • Annette Schlemm - Von der Geschlechterfrage zur Selbstentfaltung für jede/n (html)


  • Martina Ritter, 1999. Bits und Bytes vom Apfel der Erkenntnis. Frauen - Technik - Männer. Münster, Westfälisches Dampfboot
  • Bettina Schmitt, 1993. Neue Wege - alte Barrieren. Beteiligungschancen von Frauen in der Informatik. Berlin, Ed. Sigma
  • Cynthia Cockburn, 1988. Die Herrschaftsmaschine. Geschlechterverhältnisse und technisches Know-how. Berlin, Hamburg, Argument



  • Interview with Deb Richardson, founder of the Linux user group (Interview)