The Linux Foundation Offers Diversity Education
Almost everyone with an opinion agrees that the global IT workforce should be more diverse in general, and more inclusive of women in particular. It's an ethically commendable sentiment, but also a sound practical proposition: IT hiring has been plagued by a widening supply-and-demand gap for decades, and the overwhelmingly male skew of the current talent pool indicates that women have almost serially overlooked.
To the extent that progress has been made in recent years, much of it has come at the level of raising awareness and building outreach. The Linux Foundation isn't exactly taking a radical new approach with two new free diversity training courses. On the other hand, promoting diversity by changing the way men think is at least a bit of a bold new direction.
Most, if not all, of the IT industry's existing diversity initiatives and programs are targeted at directly engaging with women, encouraging them to develop IT skills and recruiting them into IT jobs. The Linux Foundation, with its Inclusive Open Source Community Orientation (announced this week) and Inclusive Speaker Orientation courses, is reaching to the male-dominated base of exisiting IT professionals.
Both classes are cosponsored by The Linux Foundation and the National Center for Women and Information Technolgy (NCWIT), with the express goal of providing "essential background knowledge and practical skills to create an inclusive culture in the open source community." Put another way the message might sount like this: Listen up, men. Here's what you can actually do to change existing IT culture and make it more welcoming to women.
The new courses are not, of course, exclusively aimed at promoting acceptance and accommodation of women. There are numerous societal groups, whether segmented by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, that are underrepresented in IT and people in those cohorts, as many women do, often feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in commonplace IT environments.
Both the newly announced course and its precdessor are designed to outline the current state of diversity in IT, map out the importance of diversity to innovation. and help students learn to both recognize and identify bias and promote inclusivity and diversity. Though the slant is particulary in the direction of open source, which is The Linux Foundation's home turf, there is doubtless material in both course that applies broadly across the IT spectrum.
Catherine Ashcraft, the NCWIT director of research, said in a press release announcing the Inclusive Open Source Community Orientation course that many people steer clear of participation in IT communities becase they feel excluded. "The practices we suggest in the course are intended to address these multiple biases and make the open source community a more inclusive place where currently underrepresented groups are able to thrive and make meaningful contributions to future technical innovations."
Both courses are available free of charge and can be taken online. More information about each is available using the following links: