Why women should go for Linux

We all know about the reasons why women are not in Linux, and in IT in general. Whatever may be your personal reason for starting to read this HOWTO, here are some Linux and Open Source advantages particularly interesting to women.

Why you should use Linux

Be free

Some tasks are harder in Linux than in other operating environments, and some things are easier. Some things just seem harder because they are different. In Linux, generally more than one solution can be found to any given problem. There is a lot of freedom of choice in Linux. It is not because you chose to run Linux out of your own free will, that you are stuck with it, as you can get with commercial systems.

This does not mean that for every problem you encounter, you should go change some source code to make software do what you want. This is why programmers and such find Linux a fantastic system, but it may scare the beginner somewhat. No, freedom is also in the small things. As women are all individuals with myriad personalities, tastes and temperaments, it is normal that one likes other things than the next. With Linux, you have the possibility to build an environment to your liking, where YOU feel good, were YOU can work in an optimal state. You don't have to use something someone else thinks is good if you do not agree with their vision.

As the Free Software Foundation says, it is a matter of liberty, not so much of price. Everybody who favors free speech can find themselves in Open/Free software such as Linux, which provides us with 4 kinds of freedom:

  1. Freedom to use the system for any purpose.

  2. Freedom to study how the system works and to adapt it to your needs (open source).

  3. Freedom to redistribute copies, e.g. to help others (copyleft).

  4. Freedom to improve the system and to share your improvements with the public, so that everybody benefits from it.

You don't need to ask anybody's permission, nor do you need to pay for it. These freedoms may not seem all-important for beginning Linux users. However, it are these liberties that will make you enjoy Linux. When you enjoy a thing, you may get interested in knowing more about it. And once you start playing with an operating system, freedom is an absolute must if you want to do some real fun things.

Women are generally more easily bullied. One form of bullying or disencouraging, as proprietary systems do, is saying: "This is how things are done here, this is our way." The freedom you have with Linux is much less likely to ever give you the feeling of being bullied into something you don't want to do. This freedom will also encourage you to keep hanging on, instead of just giving up on a problem.

More information on the subject of freedom in software may be found, a.o., at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html.

Be self-confident

Working with Linux is not difficult. Finding out that you can do it, and even more, using its freedom, builds up your self-confidence - especially if you are reading this HOWTO because you thought that learning Linux is difficult.

Your being self-confident in your environment will also show to other people and also help in non-IT related matters. When you feel confident, you speak up for yourself. Self-confidence helps when you have to talk to people in general, and specifically when talking to larger groups. Self-confident people usually have better jobs. Self-confident people are more likely to help others, with Linux as well as with other problems.

Be independent

There is the Open Source community, of course, with plenty of competent people willing to help.

But Linux also encourages you to help yourself. This involves taking a lot of initiative, for starters to read the man pages. Linux is an Open Source system, it can do anything if you want it enough. And it has its ways for making you want more, just like it puts you to redefining your own limits over and over again.

And what better way of being independent than starting your own business? The creation of micro-companies and small companies by women is a very important factor in the development of local economies, creating employment opportunities in the community. Women set up one third of the companies created in the European Union. This figure confirms, without a doubt, that women take the initiative to be self-employed and at the same time provide employment for other women.

The big companies have long adopted Linux: their size makes it easy for them to do with this Open system what they want. It is different for smaller companies. No two small businesses have the same needs, which in a traditional environment virtually invites crews of consultants, customizing proprietary software and draining both financial and human resources. However, the same openness and flexibility, so eagerly used by the giants, also make Linux the ideal IT platform for the small and medium enterprises.

Linux is very well fit to fulfill basic networking tasks such as firewalling, mail and web servers. In recent years, various ways to support E-commerce have been added to the standard Linux capabilities. Standard business applications are available. If you need special features, Linux allows for adding them without patent or license hassles.

Increase your salary

It has been known for a while that people who work with Unix or alikes, generally earn more than their colleagues who haven't seen the light yet.

Detailed research in this field has been done by a.o. Abbott, Langer & Associates. According to their Pay Rates in the Information Technology survey, which has a part focusing on Compensation by Skill Sets, even just using Unix - no expertise needed! - US Citizens can get up to 36 % more (on the average) than their non-command-line-knowledgeable colleagues.

Unfortunately, the spread of median salaries between best- and worst-paying industries is about 127 %, and women are usually in the worst-paying sectors such as health care and non-profit organizations. So try to get into the good industries: producers of food and beverages, building material products, automobiles and trucks. Consulting firms are also paying well.

Also important is the size of the company you chose to work for. Micro-companies with only a couple of employees pay less, while your Linux/Open Source advantage immediately becomes clear as soon as you start working in mini-environments. It is also very important for your income that you work in a networked environment.

Besides the Unix shell, which is definitely the leader in the list of income increasers, you can also increase your standards by learning C, Java and SQL, in that order. Which is a good thing, because these languages are also perfectly suited for writing Open Source and Linux applications.

As soon as you kept it up for one or more decades, you should ask for another rise of about fifty percent.

Of course, money does not buy happiness, but it helps. Learning Linux can only help you to get there.

Open Source at home

It is by now generally accepted that women can have a job an make money. In more and more families, both the husband and the wife work outdoors.

But even in these modern times, still mainly women bear the children and raise them, however technically possible it would be for a man to do the same. It are also the women, for the largest part, who clean the house, wash the dishes, prepare the food and do the laundry. It seems that women are mainly not interested in computers because they do not have the time for building up an interest.

So were is all that time? Think about the hours you spend in order to get at work every day, to do the shopping, to reserve books in the library etc. Wouldn't it be wonderful to spend that time on useful things, things that help you achieve something instead of merely helping you to survive?

With the technologies we have available today in the twenty-first century, it is possible, feasible and affordable to build a professional career at home. Linux is the network appliance of choice for your home office: it is perfectly suitable, it secures your home network and you don't need to pay for anything at all. This kind of use for Linux is very common and tested in a wide variety of environments. See a.o. the Masquerading HOWTO for more information, so you won't have to spend much of that precious newfound time on installing your computer or on finding help.

The community needs you

The Open Source community is there for you. It is a community mainly of volunteers, so it only works when you give something back from time to time.

There are some fields in which your contributions and talents as a woman might be especially welcome:

  • Organization:

    We need to do a lot of organizing in our community. Women have a natural tendency to think about organization. They don't fling themselves as much as men at getting to their goal. They react less on impulse and think more on the long term.

  • Human resources:

    Women are by nature less aggressive and more tolerant than men. This is an obvious advantage when managing people. Women show personal involvement more easily, which has a good effect on other people.

  • Discussion:

    Since we have freedom of speech and freedom of choice of software, there is a lot to discuss in the Open Source community.

    Research has been done on the subject on how men differ from women when sharing information and when teaching things to other people, a.o. at the Georgia Tech University. From these studies, it is clear that women, more than men, encourage group discussion and cooperative learning techniques such as group projects and development activities. Which is exactly what we need in the Linux world.

Enjoy being special

Try as we might, we have to admit that the current situation, not enough women in IT, will hold during the years to come. At least for the next decade, women in IT will remain rare. So you might as well enjoy your special position and get the best out of it.