Another point of view

In this chapter, we try to look at the Women in Linux problem from another side. What do men think about women and their Open Source aspirations, and what can we do to bridge the gap between the sexes?

The quest for information

In order to get a grip on the subject, a survey was organized in the Belgian Linux community, which is as much a representation as any cross-section when the amount of women is considered.

Since the survey asked males to tell about their experiences when helping women with Open Source problems, and since both parties concerned are in short supply, the amount of answers was not really overwhelming, albeit enough to draw some conclusions.

Software

95 % of the men thought that women did not ask to do difficult or out of the ordinary things with their computers. Women want to read E-mail, surf, listen to music, use their computers as typewriters and perform other normal end-user tasks.

Knowing that all these basic functions are long supported with Linux and Open Source, it should ring a bell when people offer you software of which you have never heard, or which is unknown to most others in the same environment. Chance is that programs which you where using before on a proprietary system, exist on Linux, as a clone or even with the same name as the software that you were using previously on another platform.

The important lesson here, and the good news for women new to Linux, is that you probably won't have to learn new things if you are a desktop user.

And maybe a message to the men: it seems that women prefer an organized, not too overloaded desktop. Don't confuse them with unnecessary decorations.

If you are not a typical user, you are likely to be an admin or a programmer. Your needs in that case probably won't differ too much from those of any other admin. In those cases, it is usually advised to Read The Fine Manual for starters.

Success and satisfaction

More good news: most men are able to explain something to a woman and to offer real solutions, in reasonably few tries. That is why our education system is still teaching both sexes the same things together.

However, men would like women to be more confident. They have the same problem as any human: they cannot read your thoughts. Being too quiet also gives reasons for frustrations in those cases where men can't determine whether the female listener understands them or not.

Another general idea men have is that women expect something will be difficult and that this attitude blocks them from learning easily. They would like women to be less afraid to take the jump. Men are also disappointed about women being interested in a working solution, but not in how the solution works.