Highlights of recent press coverage: women leaders and census kickoff

Network World profiled our advisors Mitchell Baker and Sue Gardner among 5 women leaders who are shaping IT:

As the leader of the Mozilla Project, Mitchell Baker is charged with no less than organizing and motivating the worldwide collective of employees and volunteers who work every day on Firefox, Thunderbird and other Mozilla products used by millions of people around the world. Of particular recent note is that Baker just joined the advisory board of the new Ada Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture…

In her role as executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Sue Gardner oversees none other than Wikipedia, the global resource with more than 14 million volunteer-authored articles in over 250 languages. Since joining the foundation in 2007, Gardner has more than tripled revenues, helped increase global readership by 85% and instituted a variety of new projects and activities. Like Mozilla’s Baker, Gardner also recently joined the Ada Initiative as an advisor…

Bruce Byfield writes in his Linux Pro Magazine blog, The Ada Initiative Begins Its Study of Gender:

However, I am also glad to see the census for another reason entirely of my own: my (possibly selfish) wish to have updated information. Frankly, whenever I have written about gender in free and open source software (FOSS) in the last few years, I have always felt handicapped by the lack of current information.

Right now, the best source of hard information is the FLOSSPOLS study of gender in FOSS, which was released in 2006. Unfortunately, that makes the FLOSSPOLS information five years old, and almost certainly out of date. Such a lag means that we don’t know precisely what we are referring to, and provides an easy way for the hostile to dismiss any discussion.

My own impression is that women are marginally more involved in FOSS in 2011 than in 2006. Instead of the abysmal 1.5% figure reported by FLOSSPOLS, the number of women might have climbed to around 3%. But a subjective impression is very different from hard data.

Moreover, after reading Samuel R. Delany’s observation in his autobiography that, unless he counted, he perceived a crowd that was one-third women as being equally divided in gender, I’m not confident that I can trust my own estimates.