LXer Feature: Survival Tactics For Women In FOSS, part 2
In Part 1 I offered some general advice and encouragement for women involved in FOSS, and women who want to be involved in FOSS. Part 2 is a partial resource guide, a list of women-oriented tech communities. Doubtless there are more, so feel free to add your recommendations in the discussion. These are great places to connect with other women in computing, to socialize, to get job and professional tips, and to get help and encouragement for everything from workplace and personal issues to technical help. For most of these groups the goal is not to provide a safe shelter to hide in and never come out, but to help women develop the skills and support to cope with everyday challenges, and achieve their goals.
If you are scratching your head and going "What is FOSS?" it stands for Free and Open Source Software. This encompasses an entire computing universe: Linux, the GNU Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, and even Open/Free Hardware.
Building a circle of friends and professional contacts is an important survival tactic in any profession. I have friends all over the world that I have never met; our only contact is through email, forums, and IRC. Someday I hope to do a world tour and meet some of them In Real Life. I have benefited tremendously from participating in various tech groups, and I hope I have been of some help to other people.
Every community has a different purpose. Some are more business-oriented, some are more general, some are specific to projects. There is something for everyone, and if you can't find one that you like, start one of your own.
LinuxChix.org is my number one home away from home. As the home page says "LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux, and for supporting women in computing. The membership ranges from novices to experienced users, and includes professional and amateur programmers, system administrators and technical writers." LinuxChix has members and chapters all over the world. There are but two rules: Be polite. Be helpful. Both women and men are welcome, though I encourage more women to come join the gang.
Here is a sampling of women's groups that are attached to specific FOSS projects:
Debian-Women "...seek to balance and diversify the Debian Project by actively engaging with interested women and encouraging them to become more involved with Debian." It's a great group that has grown quickly; if you want a friendly, helpful introduction to participating in the Debian Project start here.
Gnome-Women "is a group dedicated to providing encouragement for women to contribute to GNOME, a free and open-source Linux/Unix desktop suite." Another excellent group chock-full of fine folks.
KDE-Women are, of course, dedicated to the KDE project: "KDE-Women is about building a community of female KDE contributors and users. On these pages you'll find projects by women developers, documentation, guidelines, reviews, help for beginners and much more. There are tutorials about coding, tips and tricks, and other nice stuff, that can be useful for you."
These are more business and academic-oriented, and not limited to the FOSS world:
Anita Borg Insititute links to a number of different communities and resources, such as Systers.org, Women of Vision, and TechLeaders. Here be all manner of conferences, workshops, and lecture series.
Women in Technology International is a large organization that addresses just about everything: professional networking, career development, balancing work and home, and lots more. They host conferences and workshops, so you have a lot of opportunities to meet people face-to-face.
Be sure to see if there is a local LUG (Linux User Group) to get involved in. At the least, subscribe to the mailing list, because these are usually invaluable sources of help and information.
At the risk of nagging, keep in mind that the best thing you can do to carve a nice niche for yourself in the FOSS world is make friends. Isolation is a killer, and it's unnecessary- there are zillions of excellent, generous, helpful people in FOSS. I believe that anyone who is seriously interested in computing- whether it's programming, system/network administration, power user, howto author, or whatever- will find the most resources, freedom, and opportunities here.
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