Gender Differences in Early Free and Open Source Software Joining Process

  • Victor Kuechler
  • Claire Gilbertson
  • Carlos Jensen
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 378)


With the growth of free and open source software (FOSS) and the adoption of FOSS solutions in business and everyday life, it is important that projects serve their growingly diverse user base. The sustainability of FOSS projects relies on a constant influx of new contributors. Several large demographic surveys found that FOSS communities are very homogenous, dominated by young men, similar to the bias existing in the rest of the IT workforce. Building on previous research, we examine mailing list subscriptions and posting statistics of female FOSS participants. New participants often experience their first interaction on a FOSS project’s mailing list. We explored six FOSS projects – Buildroot, Busybox, Jaws, Parrot, uClibc, and Yum. We found a declining rate of female participation from the 8.27% of subscribers, to 6.63% of posters, and finally the often reported code contributor rate of 1.5%. We found a disproportionate attrition rate among women along every step of the FOSS joining process.


joining process diversity mailing lists 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor Kuechler
    • 1
  • Claire Gilbertson
    • 1
  • Carlos Jensen
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Electrical Engineering and Computer ScienceOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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