Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

Is the software itself gender biased? OSS tools and gender inclusivity

Anita Sarma (Oregon State University)
11:00am11:40am Thursday, July 18, 2019
Open Source
Location: E145/146
Secondary topics:  Open Source
Average rating: ***..
(3.88, 8 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Open source developers, tool builders, and project managers




Gender inclusiveness in software companies is receiving a lot of attention these days, but it overlooks a potentially critical factor: the software itself. Research into how individual differences cluster by gender shows that men and women often work differently with software for problem solving, such as when trying to contribute to OSS communities.

So you need to find out whether and to what extent gender biases exist in the open source tools that your project uses, the tools you develop, or how your project site itself is structured, and you need to discover how to fix it. Anita Sarma outlines a field-tested method based on five facets of statistical gender differences in preferred cognitive styles and presents what the method reveals about open source software tools and infrastructure—namely that the tools themselves are deeply implicated in gender disparities in OSS communities. Along the way, you’ll learn concrete ways in which the OSS community can get involved in removing gender biases from software that OSS produces, facilitating newcomer onboarding and building inclusive communities.

What you'll learn

  • Gain an awareness of how gender biases can be compounded by tools
  • Learn a method to evaluate tools to identify gender biases arising from differences in cognitive styles
  • See the GenderMag toolkit, which provides a tutorial and required forms to run the study
  • Discover mechanisms to fix gender biases embedded in tools
Photo of Anita Sarma

Anita Sarma

Oregon State University

Anita Sarma is an associate professor at Oregon State University. Previously, she was an assistant professor at University of Nebraska, Lincoln; a postdoctoral scholar at Carnegie Mellon University; and a doctoral student at University of California, Irvine. Through this journey, her passion has been on helping humans make better software and work together. A major part of her research focuses on increasing gender inclusivity in OSS. Her work has been funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Air Force (AFOSR), and she’s the recipient of the NSF CAREER award. She’s authored and coauthored over 50 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications, and her work has been recognized through several Best Paper Awards (ESEM, CHI (2), ICGSE, ICSME).