Welcoming women in free and open source software tech events


Many free and open source software organizations make big statements about their commitment to freedom and empowerment. Personally, I feel those commitments are meaningless if they don't include women.

Before the pandemic, I supported a number of events in the Balkan countries, including Kosovo, the host of the recent DebConf22. The events before the pandemic were all incredibly successful.

Why did none of these people come to DebConf?

Albiona Hoti, Daniel Pocock, Innovation Centre Kosovo, Toastmasters, Prishtina

It comes down to a simple matter of listening. One of the key things women asked me is whether I know any professional women who would like to come and join their events, such as the Toastmasters meetings in Prishtina. We had up to 60 people at some of those meetings. There was typically fifty percent female participation. If people spend 90 minutes on a Toastmasters meeting then that involves 10 minutes of administration and 80 minutes of productive time:

Toastmasters, Prishtina, Kosovo

On the other hand, organizing DebConf required dozens of administration meetings with no learning and no benefit for local people. Other organizations pay a local contractor to do this type of administrative work. Students in Kosovo earn approximately €10 per day but Debian asked them to work for free.

The bad part of Debian spent a hideous sum of money on lawyers this year but they wanted these women in a developing country to work for free as DebConf volunteers. Why do lawyers get paid but not women?

A lot of the free software organizations didn't look at or listen to the things that women were interested in. They asked the women to compete against each other for Outreachy internships. The result: out of 26 women who came to the CoderGals hackathon for girls in 2017, only one woman came to DebConf.

The other thing that women asked me at the hackathon in 2017 is whether we could add Kosovo to the list of countries supported by the Debian installation menu. I opened a bug report for that. I can't believe Debian people had the nerve to go to Kosovo for a DebConf, demand that people work for free to serve them drinks without attempting to include the host country in the installer menu.

Here is the second question in the Debian installation process. Here we would expect to see Kosovo between Jersey and Latvia but Kosovo is missing:

Debian Installer, Kosovo

There is no way that this is funny but what we see here is that Kosovo is banned from Debian.

The offer remains open: if anybody, male or female, does want to visit these local activities in Kosovo, Albania and other Balkan countries they will be very welcome. Please contact Innovation Center Kosovo for more details.