Want more women in open source? Try paying them.

This is a remix of a post by the same name I made after running a BOF on attracting women to open source.

One of the most interesting suggestions I’ve heard on how to get more women into open source is pretty simple: Pay them.

As someone who loves doing this as a volunteer, I want to protest. Shouldn’t we all be doing this for the betterment of the world or something? But the more I think about it, the more I love this idea.

Think about the challenges women face getting involved with open source projects.

Feeling like they don’t belong? Paying someone is a pretty strong “we want you” signal, both to the woman herself and to others who might challenge her.

Not having enough time because of other life-work commitments? Making it your paid gig makes this the “work” part of that equation, rather than some part that just doesn’t quite fit.

Fewer opportunities for mentoring? Again, having the structure of a company behind you can make it a lot easier to ask for help within a known structure rather than trying to guess the social norms of an open source project.

There aren’t many women? Well, hiring a few is a great way to get the ball rolling, hopefully making it easier for future women. It’s an interesting way to handle the bootstrapping problem.

Paying women to do open source work isn’t going to solve all our problems, but it cuts through a lot of the Gordian knot that’s there. It just might be a useful tool for changing the status quo.

3 thoughts on “Want more women in open source? Try paying them.

  1. Mary

    I think this is definitely a concern with Open Source companies that cultivate a volunteer community around their product and then strongly prefer to hire out of that community. Unless they make steps to make the community unusually diverse, their hiring pool is then badly skewed.

  2. Dori

    Oh please, oh please….

    I’d take a paid open source gig in a hot second. If anyone hears of openings that might fit me (résumé available upon request), especially if they’re okay with working remotely, please let me know!

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