Ubuntu Increasing Its Diversity

Feb 10, 2011

Matt Zimmerman, Canonical CTO, with help from Mary Gardiner, Valerie Aurora and Benjamin Mako Hill, leads the effort for Ubuntu to adopt a diversity statement.


The Ubuntu website states that “we aim to make Ubuntu a wonderful place to participate”. We developed the Ubuntu Code of Conduct to set a standard for participants to accept each other in the spirit of cooperation, and have improved it over time to state these principles more clearly.

It is implicit in our philosophy that these and other Ubuntu values should hold equally true for everyone. I would like to propose that we upgrade this to an explicit statement on behalf of the project...

...To that end, I would like to propose a diversity statement for Ubuntu.

—writes Matt Zimmerman on his Blog


However, it's more than just a statement. Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community manager has reached out to the Ubuntu Women Project (UW) for ideas on ways to promote diversity at the Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS). Bacon in his weekly Community Q&A session this week even discusses various ways to combat the bad behavior that often keeps women from joining projects as well as ideas for ways the community can participate in helping to achieve a more diverse and welcoming community. Today, Bacon held the first of several upcoming meetings with UW team on the topic of "Increasing Diversity" at UDS.

In a blog post, Bacon highlights some key points that show the dedication of Canonical and the Ubuntu Project about combating the issue of so few women participating in Open Source events and communities. Those highlights include: adoption of an anti-harassment policy, a page on the Ubuntu Women site for UDS, UDS stories page, as well as the UW teams discussing how to provide support for this diversity effort.

Linux Pro Magazine wanted to touch base with the Ubuntu Women Leadership to get their thoughts on this on-going effort. Elizabeth Krumbach took a moment to discuss these efforts with us.

LPM: Can you briefly introduce yourself and your role in the Ubuntu Women Project and Ubuntu Community?

EK: My name is Elizabeth Krumbach, I’m currently one of the three leaders of the Ubuntu Women project and am an elected member of the Ubuntu Community Council.

LPM: What are your thoughts on this statement?

EK: I’m very happy with it. Study after study has show that collaboration in a diverse environment is beneficial to projects so it’s great to see that there are members of our community who are truly interested in increasing diversity in Ubuntu.

LPM: How is the Ubuntu Women Project participating in this drive?

EK: The Ubuntu Women Project wasn’t involved in the development of the statement, this was lead by Matt Zimmerman who contacted several experts on diversity in the open source world. However, when the first draft and request for comment came out I made sure to pass along the link to the team so we could put our input in. At the end of the day I think our lack of involvement is actually a good thing, diversity is something that benefits the whole project and I don’t believe encouraging it shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the minorities themselves.

LPM: Do you believe this statement is necessary?

EK: Yes, because I believe these kinds of statements help. It can be very intimidating to start collaborating with such a large project, especially as a minority in the field. Having these kinds of statements can make potential contributors feel more at ease with their status as a minority and secure in the fact that their contributions won’t be overlooked because of it.

LPM: When did you first get started in Ubuntu? Since that time how has diversity within the project changed in your opinion? What if anything do you feel still needs to occur?

EK: I created my ubuntuforums.org account in March of 2005, when I installed Ubuntu for the first time on my old laptop. I really didn’t have a feel for the community for the first couple of years, but when the Pennsylvania LoCo really got going in 2007 I saw a similar demographic of contributors as I did at the Philadelphia Linux Users Group, very little diversity across the board. Over the past few years as I’ve gotten more involved and seen the project grow and evolve there certainly has been an increase in diversity and I think there are many reasons for it. The first is simply how much better Ubuntu as an operating system has become, you no longer have to have a background in technology to use it and that opens the doors to a lot of folks who are disadvantaged technology-wise (which disproportionately affects minorities). The work of translation teams and LoCos has also been vital, we’re getting Ubuntu into the hands of more people and offering them local faces to help support them in their journey, which helps a lot.

LPM: What besides this diversity statement do you feel is needed to make it a friendlier and more welcoming community to all?

EK: I’ve been really impressed with the work the Ubuntu Beginners Team has been doing with their mentoring program. Their mentoring program really puts a face on contributing and walks new contributors through finding their place within the project. I would really encourage other Ubuntu Members to check out the team if you’re looking for a new way to contribute, they could really use more experienced volunteers. I already mentioned the LoCo teams, but they’ve certainly be valuable for me meeting new people in my area who are curious about Ubuntu, or who are already involved in their own communities and wish to reach out to the wider project.

Linux Pro Magazine will be following up with other members of the Ubuntu Women Project and its Leadership team following to see how these efforts to evolve to increase diversity at UDS and across the Ubuntu community.

This article highlights what one community is doing to increase its diversity. How does your community or project combat the diversity issue? Does it have a diversity statement? How has having a diversity statement made a difference?


  • Bullshit

    All this diversity talk is such a piece of bullshit!
    There are fewer women here, there are fewer blacks there, there are fewer Asians elsewhere, there are fewer Native-whatever someplace else... Of course! Not all social groups have the same level and type of interest in all things in life! The differences may be huge, but they are *** NATURAL ***. To say otherwise is to close the eyes to the facts, ignore reality, presumably with a hidden agenda. Maybe those who defend this bullshit are just trying to project themselves. I don't see a lot of men interested in being kindergarten teachers - it is just not in their nature, and *** THAT IS ALL RIGHT ***. Stop trying to conform nature to your wishes or political motivations, whiners! Get real and let the world and society work as it does naturally!
  • Increasing diversity

    Thanks for spot-lighting not only the issues, but the positive efforts to make the ubuntu community, the Linux user community, and all the F/OSS community a stronger, more vibrant place. The first two comments on this article show the problem. Fortunately, progressive leadership is moving right on past the clubhouse mentality which has persisted for far too long.

    I wouldn't be reading this without the support and leadership of the Linuxchix, the Ubuntu-Women, and the welcoming community of both K/Ubuntu and KDE (and Amarok, where most of my efforts are centered right now). Thanks to you all!

  • correction

    Pardon my geography mistake, it's *Malaysia* where about half of CS people are women.
  • not just women

    The Ubuntu Accessibility Team is also getting involved in this diversity effort, making suggestions for how to make Ubuntu Developer Summits more accessible to those with both visible (such as wheelchair access) and invisible (such as food allergies) accessibility needs.

    And regarding the women thing: 50:50 would be unrealistic to expect, yes. However 5% (in Ubuntu, or 2% in FOSS overall) is just plain ridiculously low. The rest of the technology sector in the Western world is at around 25%, and in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent it's greater than 50% women, so I refuse to buy "just not into it." There's got to be reasons behind the proportion of women working on Ubuntu versus any other software being fractional. I shouldn't need to repeat this list since it's been said so damn many times before, but demanding proof when she corrects someone on IRC that she's a she, sexually harassing her when such a correction is made or an in-person meeting occurs, trying to convince her that she must be certifiably insane for being a woman and interested in technology/FOSS, explaining away her patches as likely having been written by her boyfriend, claiming that software needs to be made simple for women to use it or that women can't use the command line... all this stuff? THIS MAKES MANY WOMEN FEEL UNWELCOME!
  • ^^^^^^

    What Hauser said...will everyone please just stop whining. You don't see many men complaining about lack of men in kindergartens or women complaining about equal rights in coal mining.

    There are no women because they are less interested, period. If there is sexism, there is sexism of individuals, who are sexists in their own time anyway, there's nothing you can do to change that. Sad fact, but fact nevertheless.
  • Stop whining!

    Who is stopping women to participate? Who is stopping women from downloading the iso image from Ubuntu site and installing it on their system?
    Why can't you stop whining for a change? If women want to contribute, please do, the more women, the better the project, but stop pointing fingers, stop blaming people. The fact of the life is that distribution of activities is NOT 50:50, that assumption is so absurd that I can't believe that people like you don't see it. When I walk into a computer shop, if you contribute to BOINC project, etc, men are in wast majority, everyone can install BOINC on their computer and run the project, but for some reason 98% of participants are men. It has nothing to do with discrimination, as it doesn't when you walk into a humanities collage campus and see more women there, or in biology/chemistry then physics.
    It will never be 50:50%. The problem is that your assumptions are not the equality of men and women but sameness of man and women, which is horrifying distortion of truth.
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