Monday, May 09, 2005

Encourage the Chix[/outgroup], please

Via Hilde at Gender & Computing, I came across this great HowTo on encouraging women to use Linux, put together by LinuxChix.

Forgive me for bringing up the forbidden topic, but their discussion of why there are so few women in Linux and what to do and what not to do to encourage women...sounded an awful lot like the latest round of discussion about women in blogging. (Perhaps, most particularly, the "But I don't do that! section.)

Take a look for yourself:
2. Why are there so few women in Linux?
2.1. Women are less confident
2.2. Women have fewer opportunities for friendship or mentoring
2.3. Women are discouraged from an early age
2.4. Computing perceived as non-social
2.5. Lack of female role models
2.6. Games, classes aimed towards men
2.7. Advertising, media say computers are for men
2.8. Life-work balance more important to women
2.9. Reasons women avoid Linux specifically
3. Do's and don't's of encouraging women in Linux
3.1. Don't tell sexist jokes
3.2. Do protest sexist jokes
3.3. Don't call people bitches
3.4. Do show some respect
3.5. Don't take the keyboard away
3.6. Do give directions and explain them clearly
3.7. Don't make sexual advances towards women
3.8. Do act friendly
3.9. Don't complain about the lack of women in computing
3.10. Do encourage women in computing
3.11. Don't stare and point when women arrive
3.12. Do treat new arrivals politely
3.13. Don't treat women stereotypically
3.14. Do treat women as normal people
3.15. Don't criticize too much
3.16. Do compliment
3.17. Don't invite only male speakers
3.18. Do ask women to speak
3.19. Don't micro-specialize
3.20. Do discuss broader topics
3.21. Don't make your meetings hard to attend
3.22. Do make meetings easy to attend
3.23. Don't make new people feel unwelcome
3.24. Do help new people get involved
3.25. Don't underestimate girlfriends or wives
3.26. Do treat girlfriends and wives as independent people
It is a little sad that "don't stare and point" and "don't make sexual advances" needs to be pointed out...but, yes, they need to be pointed out.

In fairness, the arguements apply quite well to encouraging women into most computer-fields, or other male-dominated field--or to any other in-group/out-group situation. In Japan I often experienced the situation, professionally and socially, of being the only out-group ethnicity in the room, and yes, "don't stare and point" would have made a big difference there, too. (As some of you may know, the word for foreigner in Japanese literally parses out as "outside-country-person," or the shorter form, "outside person." In Japan, notions of in-group and out-group are hard coded into the language.) Translate women to "outgroup" and the unspoke "men" to "ingroup" and this list makes a good starting point as a diveristy practices checklist.

Am I a Linux Chic? [What is the singular of "chix?"] Not yet, not really, but I'd like to be. We usually have at least a couple of Linux boxen in the house at any given time, and I fiddle with them, but I haven't tackled it systematically yet. My current tech projects are writing free-hand html with Html-kit*, and learning the basics of image manipulation with The Gimp. Linux is somewhere further down the list. And I'm bookmarking the LinuxChix site for when I make it that far down the list.

I'm curious: how many of you, male or female, recognize your own experiences with computers or blogging on this list?

And how many of you have been the outsider at an event where the in-group made an effort reach out like the how-to list suggests?

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