Wooing Women Aboard Ruby on Rails

When Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson put out a call to get more women interested in the Web application development framework, he caused a bit of a stir. Now it appears some in the community are moving to bring more women into the Ruby on Rails camp.

When Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson put out a call to get more women interested in Rails, he caused a bit of a stir. Now it appears that some in the community are attempting to bring more women into the Rails camp.

In a couple of posts in April and May, Hansson asked why there are so few women coding in Rails. One post in particular, "Alpha male programmers aren't keeping women out," caused an uproar, and Hansson followed that one with a post asking, "So how do we get more women into Rails?"

Well, leave it to Harvard for an answer.

"The Berkman Center at Harvard University in coordination with the Center for Research on Computation and Society is putting together a Ruby on Rails workshop for women on Oct. 16 and 17," a blurb on the event posted on the Berkman Center's Website said. "We are seeking to create an attitude-free, newbie-safe and mama-friendly tech event to encourage women to join the Ruby on Rails community. Men are warmly welcomed when they find a woman who wants to learn Ruby on Rails who will register and bring a guest."

Moreover, to help attract working mothers to the event, the center is arranging child care for attendees who need it.

A commenter on the Berkman site, identified as Molly Ruggles, said:

""This is a great idea! I'm 60% sure I could make it... and (surprise surprise) the problematic variable is what would I do with my 9 y.o. daughter.""

In a comment on Twitter, Hansson called the Berkman Center workshop "very cool."

However, the workshop is not focused on increasing the number of women not only working in technology and in Rails, but also on open-source projects. The description of the event continued:

""Women are a minority in most technical communities, but in open source communities the numbers are even smaller-by a factor of about ten or more. Moving forward, we would like to encourage our newly empowered programmers to meet monthly and use their skills towards open source projects in a welcoming, collaborative, mixed gendered environment.""

In a July 25 post about her recent keynote at OSCON (O'Reilly Open Source Convention), Kirrily Robert, an open-source developer and community director at Metaweb Technologies, cited a survey that said only 1.5 percent of open-source contributors are women. Robert also said:

""In 2007, my survey of the Perl community-both contributors to Perl and users of Perl-found about 5% women. The Drupal community is doing even better, around 10%. And in technical professions and in computer science in universities, reports vary: it can be anywhere from 10% to 30% depending on who you ask and how they're slicing it. Let's say 20%.""

However, Robert went on to list some open-source projects where women are in the majority, and shared her own tips for getting more women involved.