Linux Foundation Releases New Open Source Study

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The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization today announced the release of its latest LF Research study, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Source.”

The study, which includes the results of qualitative interviews and a worldwide survey with more than 7,000 initial responses from the open source community, was created to increase the industry’s collective understanding of the state of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in open source and to inform important DEI practices. The sponsors of this research include Amazon Web Services (AWS), CHAOSS Community, Comcast, Fujitsu, GitHub, GitLab, Hitachi, Huawei, Intel, NEC, Panasonic, Red Hat, Renesas, and VMware

“The open source community is growing at an unprecedented pace and it’s imperative that we understand that growth in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion so that we can collectively implement best practices that result in inclusive communities,” said Hilary Carter, vice president of research at the Linux Foundation.

Study after study has revealed that diversity among technology builders leads to better, more robust technologies. But the industry continues to struggle with increasing diversity, and the open source software community is no exception. Building and sustaining inclusive communities can attract a more diverse talent pool, prioritizing the next generation of open source technologies. The Linux Foundation’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Source study aims to identify the state of DEI in open source communities, the challenges and opportunities within them, and draw conclusions around creating improvements in much-needed areas.

“Understanding data behind Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the open source community allows us to identify areas for focus and improvement. The open source community will greatly benefit from the actions we take to grow engagement and make it a welcoming place for everyone,” said Nithya Ruff, Comcast Fellow, head of Comcast Cable Open Source Program office, and Linux Foundation board chair.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Eighty-two percent of respondents feel welcome in open source, but different groups had different perspectives overall. The 18 percent of those that do not feel welcome are from disproportionately underrepresented groups: people with disabilities, transgender people, and racial and ethnic minorities in North America.
  • Increasing open source diversity reflects growing global adoption, but there is still much room to improve.
  • As the global adoption of open source technologies grows rapidly, so, too, is diversity within open source communities. But there remains a lot of room for growth: 82 percent of respondents identify as male, 74 percent identify as heterosexual, and 71 percent are between the ages of 25-54.
  • Time is a top determinant for open source participation, time-related barriers to access and exposure in open source include discretionary and unpaid time, time for onboarding, networking, and professional development, as well as time zones.
  • Exclusionary behaviors can have a cascading effect on contributors’ experience and retention. Exclusionary behavior has cascading effects on feelings of belonging, opportunities to participate, achieve leadership, and retention. While toxic experiences are generally infrequent, rejection of contributions, interpersonal tensions, stereotyping, and aggressive language are far more frequently experienced by certain groups (2-3 times higher frequency than the study average).
  • People’s backgrounds can impact equitable access to open source participation early in their careers, compounding representation in leadership later on. Just 16 percent of students’ universities offer open source as part of their curricula. This, along with unreliable connectivity, geographic, economic, and professional disparities narrow an individual’s opportunity to contribute.

“Understanding the state of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the open source community is critical for business strategy and nurturing an inclusive culture,” said Demetris Cheatham, senior director, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy at GitHub. “This newest data, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative research from the Linux Foundation, helps direct our attention on the things that matter most to our employees and the great community and industry.”

The study also points to societal changes and trends that are impacting DEI in the workplace. Enterprise Digital Transformation, Techlash, Political Polarization, Social Media Ecosystem and Content Moderation are all cited as trends that have exposed and amplified exclusionary narratives and designs, mandating increased awareness, and recalibrating individual and organizational attention.

 

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