Diversity in open-source software

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The open-source-software movement is commonly cited to have a diversity problem. In some ways it reflects that of the general gender disparity in computing, but in general is assumed to be even more severe. The same can be extended to the racial and ethnic diversity of the movement, and to a lesser extent the diversity in people of a sexual minority.

The topic has been and continues to be the subject of significant controversy within the open-source community.

Obstacles for inclusion[edit]

A common criticism levelled at the open source community is that critiques of code contributed to projects have a tendency to become personal attacks. In Github's 2017 survey, 50% of the 5,500 respondents claimed they had witnessed toxic interactions while working on open-source projects, and that 18% of them had suffered through a negative interaction.[1] Dismissive responses, conflict, and unwelcoming language were cited as the third, fourth, and sixth biggest problems with open-source respectively.

An oft-repeated sentiment throughout the community is that conflict isn't widespread, but rather quite visible, due to the public nature of forums and mailing lists. The figures, however, make this idea questionable. Some members of the community have cited the community's toxicity as the main reason for open-source's diversity problem.[2]

Gender diversity[edit]

The gender ratio in open source is even greater than the field-wide gender disparity in computing. This has been found by a number of surveys:

  • A 2002 survey of 2,784 open-source-software developers found that 1.1% of them were women.[3]
  • A 2013 survey of 2,183 open-source contributors found that 81.4% were men and 10.4% were women.[4] This survey included both software contributors and non-software contributors and women were much more likely to be non-software contributors.[5]
  • A 2017 survey of 5,500 contributors to projects on GitHub found that 95% of contributors were men and 3% were women.[6]

In 2015 Red Hat started the Women in Open Source Awards. The winners are:[7]

Racial and ethnic diversity[edit]

Black people and Latinos are considered to be underrepresented.[8]

Sexual minority diversity[edit]

A higher percentage of open-source contributors are members of a sexual minority. A 2017 survey of 5,500 GitHub contributors found that 7% were LGBT compared to 4% of the general population.[1] A 2018 survey conducted by StackOverflow found that out of their sample of 100,000, 6.7% identified as LGBT+, and 0.9% as non-binary or trans.[9] This suggests that the open-source community is roughly in line with the software industry's norm.

Several organisations have been set up with the intention of boosting the visibility of the open-source community's LGBT+ members. Examples include Trans*H4ck, Trans Code, and Lesbians Who Tech.

Notable LGBT+ members of the open-source community include:


  1. ^ a b "Open Source Survey". Open Source Survey. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  2. ^ "Acceptance, strife, and progress in the LGBTIQ+ and open source communities". www.codethink.co.uk. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  3. ^ http://flossproject.merit.unu.edu/report/Final4.htm
  4. ^ "FLOSS 2013: A Survey Dataset about Free Software Contributors: Challenges for Curating, Sharing, and Combining". https://www.win.tue.nl/~aserebre/msr14gregorio.pdf
  5. ^ "Women in Free/Libre/Open Source Software: The situation in the 2010s".
  6. ^ Klint, Finley (2 June 2017). "Diversity in Open Source Is Even Worse Than in Tech Overall". Wired.
  7. ^ "Women in Open Source Awards". Retrieved Aug 26, 2019.
  8. ^ "Why Isn't Open Source A Gateway For Coders Of Color?". https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/12/05/248791579/why-isnt-open-source-a-gateway-for-coders-of-color
  9. ^ "Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2018". Stack Overflow. Retrieved 2019-07-01.