Article co-authored by Bee Padalkar and Justin W. Flory

In the past year to current day, women in computing is a hot topic in many discussions about diversity in computer science. Particularly in free and open source software, women are underrepresented, even more than average numbers in other computer science fields.

Diversity in Fedora is also a discussion that has resurfaced in the past few months, including the creation of a Fedora Diversity Adviser, a position now held by María “tatica” Leandro. As part of the objectives identified by the Fedora Council, an initiative to promote Fedora to new contributors of various backgrounds is being emphasized for 2016. Fedora has a strong and powerful base of women contributors in the community, focusing on various parts of the Project.

Looking back on 2015, there are many highlights of increased diversity in Fedora and many more plans in the future to promote a stronger presence of women in the Fedora community.

A celebration of women in computing

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is one of the world’s largest gatherings of women in various computing fields and industries. Red Hat’s Anisha Narang attended this past year’s conference and wrote about her experience on her personal blog. Despite nearly 22 hours of airports and airplanes, she arrived at the conference in Houston, Texas, USA to nearly 12,000 other women in attendance.

Women in Computing: Anisha Narang at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Anisha Narang (right) attends a workshop at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Over the next few days, some of the biggest women in technology would help lead seminars and give talks to inspire and guide others to achieving success, overcoming difficulties, picking up new skills, and having a great time!

Anisha remembered a talk given by Gina Norman, a fellow Red Hatter, titled “Moving from Proprietary to Open Source” as one of her favorite talks.

One of the highlight talks for the entire conference was one given by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Her talk covered her own experiences and encounters in the world, and she left a powerful message for women in technology to not lose their passion and to stick with it! One of the big messages from her presentation was a campaign she helped lead in American commercial advertising: #BanBossy. Sheryl noted that if a female asserts herself, she is bossy, but if a male does the same, he has leadership skills. The rest of her keynote was a question-and-answer session where she answered some questions by audience members.

Next year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing happens from October 19th to 21st, 2016 in Houston, Texas, USA (alternatively, there is also one in India too). Registration will open in July 2016, so mark your calendar to attend next year’s conference!

Interview with Fedora’s Diversity Adviser

Recently, Fedora added a new seat to the Fedora Council for a Diversity Adviser. This seat is now filled by María “tatica” Leandro, a long-time Fedora contributor and member. To help communicate the responsibilities of the position, we asked María a few questions about being the Diversity Adviser and any goals she had as she begins her new position.

How would you describe your position as Diversity Adviser in relation to the current situation in Fedora?

“Since this is the first time Fedora set a position like this, I see my role more as an informative one. Fedora is a quite diverse community despite what most people think. We have contributors all around the world who gather every day to create fantastic software and spread knowledge; breaking gender, language and distance barriers on a daily basis.

I also want to serve as a mediator, and let our contributors know that Fedora has ears for everyone. It’s no secret that being different is great, but sometimes that puts you on a vulnerable position (as a Latin American, Spanish Speaker and Female contributor, I can relate to some), and we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable with the Fedora family.”

What are some of your goals or vision as Fedora’s Diversity Adviser?

“I will start kicking a small survey to know how diverse our community is, it’s important to me to understand the reach of our contributors, their experiences, needs and culture prior to start any project. It is no secret that to know our future actions we need to know our numbers, and because we are such a worldwide community, sometimes we have a huge lack of information about those who constantly help us be what we are.

These actions will allow us to have a yearly report that will show us more in detail how our progress on diversity have worked out. This is not a life-time position, so my main goal is to leave all the needed information ready and available for those who will follow. Everything in Fedora is a team work, and the Diversity Advisory position is no different from others.

As we start to learn more from our contributors we will also be able to create programs to help each minority group. I would like this to be the second stage of the diversity action plan for 2016. Either gather once a week to practice English for about half an hour with some volunteers, to make monthly meetings where one of our contributors enlighten us with something about their culture; the idea is to spread knowledge beyond just technology.

Also having a monthly short meeting to discuss those topics that might need help (revisions on our politics, codes of conduct, an anti-harassment paper, etc.) or just someone that wants to tell their experiences.

I’m interested into people knowing that Fedora has an insane cultural background and maybe in a near future, this will open the eyes of those who think that everything in Fedora is plain blue.”

María is available weekly on Tuesdays at 12:30pm UTC in #fedora-diversity. You’re invited to join!

Increased participation of women contributors

In 2012,  Red Hat appointed Robyn Bergeron as the Fedora Project Leader, one of the highest authorities in Fedora who is ultimately accountable for everything that happens within Fedora. In particular, the Fedora Project Leader is responsible for maintaining Red Hat’s relationship with Fedora and vice versa.

darthcamaro writes “Red Hat is changing the leadership at the Fedora Project. Jared Smith is out after having been the Fedora Project Leader since June of 2010. In is Robyn Bergeron — who will be the first female leader of the open source project’s history. Bergeron is well known in the community as she has most recently been the Fedora Program Manager.

New opportunities for women contributors

GNOME Outreachy

GNOME Outreachy (formerly Outreach Program for Women) is a program dedicated to increasing the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in FOSS. While Red Hat has been the sponsor for the program since its early rounds, Fedora has participated in three rounds to date: January to April 2013, December to March 2014, and December to March 2016, with seven internship offered to date. Past Outreachy interns and applicants have contributed to Fedora on Design, Community Operations, and Metrics tasks, along with Development and Infrastructure projects. Past Outreachy interns for Fedora have included students, working women, as well as housewives, and have contributed from diverse geographical locations spanning North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Even after the completion of their internship, Outreachy interns like Marie Nordin (riecatnor)  and Karen Tang (ktnode) still continue to actively contribute to Fedora. Marie has designed more than 100+ Fedora Badges and is a core member of Fedora Design Team. Outreachy applicants like Bee (bee2502), Keerthana (keekri) and Devyani (devyani7) who could not be selected for Outreachy are still active Fedora contributors. Bee is a core member and leader within the CommOps team contributing primarily on metrics-related tasks while Devyani is central to our Fedora Hubs development efforts! You can check out the contributions of Outreachy interns and applicants via fedmsg here. The impact of these women’s contributions can be seen and felt project-wide. We want as many Marie’s, Karen’s, Bee’s, and  Devyani’s in Fedora as possible, and the potential benefits offered by Outreachy are crystal clear.

To get updates about Outreachy, please subscribe to the women outreach mailing list.

How can you help?

Fedora Women is a project designed to connect and help women who are interested in using and contributing to Fedora. It is central to this effort for increasing diversity in the Fedora community.  A good start in this direction would be subscribing to women mailing list and joining the #fedora-women channel on IRC.

Additionally, to get an understanding of our current strengths and weaknesses, we’re going to need hard data about our community, its composition, and their priorities and interests, so that we can test hypotheses, and then create and execute a strategy.  If you are a women contributor in Fedora, please add your FAS details to the list of existing women contributors on the Fedora Women Wiki Page, which has just eight women contributors listed now!