Open-Source Diversity Barriers Persist
December 15, 2021
The Linux Foundation released its latest LF Research study, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Source.”
The study, which includes the results of both 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.
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 and prioritizes 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.
Key findings from the study include:
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-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 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).
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.
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.