Making Progress in Gender Diversity and Inclusion in Open Source Communities

A diverse and inclusive environment can only make a community better. The idea of strong community support based on open dialogue is an underlying principle of all open source projects, and open source communities that invite a diversity of ideas, experiences, and talent are essential to building the smart, connected world around us.

In the last few years, technology companies have strived to increase diversity within their ranks. Yet, as I wrote in a blog earlier this year, the numbers remain troublesome. This disparity becomes even more pronounced when looking at the open source world, as reflected in a 2017 Github* report on the state of open source communities. A new Intel-sponsored report from Bitergia* takes this research even further, specifically examining gender diversity and retention within the OpenStack community.

New Diversity Analysis

This new report studies female participation in both OpenStack leadership and governance, alongside technical projects, focusing on women who hold roles on the OpenStack Board of Directors, the Technical and User Committees, and the Working Groups, as well as serve as OpenStack Ambassadors, Project Team Leads (PTL), and OpenStack Foundation Officers. What’s great to see in the research is that the number of women in OpenStack leadership and governance well exceeds that of women in the broader technology industry. Women accounted for a quarter of OpenStack Foundation officers, 20 percent of the User Committee, 18 percent of OpenStack Ambassadors, and nearly 17 percent of the Board of Directors and Working Groups, compared with 5 percent of leadership positions across the tech industry. However, this number lags when considering the number of women in technical leadership, with only 5 percent of PTL roles occupied by females, and no female members on the Technical Committee.

Also promising is the slight increase in both the number of women participating in OpenStack projects and their level of technical contributions, when comparing the number of commits and their respective authors over the last year with the aggregate percentage over the last four years.

The report provides additional insight into technical contributions—across both code contributions and reviews—by identifying which OpenStack projects these women have elected to participate in, and how they are contributing. The Packaging-deb, Documentation and Infrastructure projects ranked highest overall in gender diversity, as measured by a number of female developers and their level of activity, followed by the Horizon, Nova, and Neutron projects, as shown in the chart below. With respect to the number of female developers, the Quality Assurance, Cinder, Keystone and Oslo projects also ranked high, while from an activity level standpoint, the Fuel, Ironic, Murano, and Puppet projects were noteworthy.

Project Female Authors Female-Authored Commits
Packaging-Deb 576 10,474
Documentation 129 2,424
Infrastructure 92 1,343
Horizon (dashboard) 83 773
Nova (scheduler) 110 723
Neutron (networking) 90 655
As Measured by Female Authors
Quality Assurance 83 441
Cinder (storage) 71 436
Keystone (identity service) 52 456
Oslo (common libraries) 50 308
As Measured by Female-Authored Commits
Fuel (installer) 43 3,846
Ironic (bare metal provisioning) 42 901
Murano (application catalog) 26 790
Puppet (IT automation) 28 718

Taking Action

In addition to these keen insights, the report also provides thoughtful recommendations for the OpenStack community to move from research to action, including:

  • Expanding parameters for future research to include marketing and community building functions to more fully represent the full scope of projects;
  • Investing in mentoring and shadowing programs for high-potential female leadership candidates, driven by the community through the OpenStack Foundation;
  • Collaborating with the projects that have achieved the highest gender diversity and retention to better understand what is working and how to leverage these best practices across teams;
  • Studying the impact of current programs on the retention of women in the community to propagate best practices, with the recognition that both diversity and inclusion are equally important.

What’s more, the insights and recommendations gained through this research can benefit other open source communities. When we understand how open source projects have attracted diverse team members—and even more importantly, how they have retained them—we can replicate this success more broadly.

I am thankful Intel provides the opportunity to work on projects I’m passionate about, including important work with the Women of OpenStack and Women in Open Source groups. I’m encouraged by the work we have accomplished together, and I look forward to working with the community to guide crucial conversations and supplement our action plans to help increase gender diversity and inclusion across open source communities. We can, and must, continually strive for more.

If you have ideas or thoughts about the study, or diversity in general, and would like to participate, subscribe to the Women of OpenStack and Women in Open Source ( mailing lists. We would love to hear from you!

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