Diversity means Open Source for a New Generation

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Last month the Eclipse Foundation announced a new Diversity & Inclusion Champion, Thea Aldrich. I did cartwheels in my head when I heard the news. Why? Because I can’t do cartwheels in real life. But seriously, this is really a BIG DEAL.

When it comes to open source communities like Eclipse, you don’t need big data to know there is a diversity problem, you just have to show up to an EclipseCon and look around.

While this has been the case for years, recently there has been a change. Maybe it’s down to more consciousness of the issues or maybe more maturity in the community, but people have noticed and want to do something about it.  About a year ago, a grassroots effort led by Alex Schladebeck was started with the renewed goal of improving diversity in the community and at conferences. I was honoured to be part of the small but effective team. One big goal of ours was simply to raise awareness and start an open conversation about issues surrounding diversity. We did just that, through:

  • Writing: blog post, after blog post, after blog post
  • Speaking: I do a diversity talk ‘7 Habits of Highly Diverse Communities’, which has been well received and requested by other open source communities.
  • Online Discussions: we have a dedicated Mattermost channel at Eclipse for the topic, plus several web conferences.
  • In Person Discussions: we have had Diversity BOFs at EclipseCons, as well as addressed the Eclipse Board of Directors & Members’ meeting.

And we’ve been learning a lot along the way, such as when we tried and failed to secure a woman keynote speaker for one of the conferences. However,the best thing about all this has been how the rest of the community has responded. People have shown up, got involved, asked questions, challenged things (I expect nothing less of developers!) and offered support.

Throughout this, and even from the beginning, we have always wondered how we can sustain these efforts and indeed how we can expand them to do more. There is no quick fix for promoting diversity, more just a continuous and determined set of steps in the right direction. And in reality it would never work long term without someone dedicated to spearheading the changes.

So that is why, in less than a year after we implored the Foundation to make this happen, they listened, took us seriously and did it! Not just that, the Eclipse Foundation now becomes an Open Source Foundation investing in change, with a dedicated role to diversity. We can hope this becomes a must-have role for every open source foundation out there.

I’ve always said how much I love this community because of the ability to adapt to changing environments, and here is more proof. Thea has already kicked off efforts on multiple fronts:

  • Identifying ways in which all Eclipse events are inclusive events and welcoming,
  • Rolling out an ambassador program to involve the community in welcoming newcomers into the ecosystem,
  • Reaching out to established projects to see how we can support their efforts,
  • Making all Eclipse Foundation websites and resources easier to navigate for native non-English speakers,
  • Providing the community with a direct path to Foundation staff for ideas, complaints, feedback and other issues that our community or members may encounter.

We look forward to working with Thea, the Foundation and community on all these aspects to keep making improvements and bring about a real change.I will continue to do what I can, which includes running for a seat on the Board of Directors. Having this new focus and investment in diversity means we can look forward to bringing open source to a whole new generation of developers.

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