While less than two percent of all open source code contributors identify as women, Girl Develop It Philly found last year that 10 percent of its members had contributed to open source software — way above the average — so they decided they wanted to make a conscious effort to get even more women involved and created the GDI Philly Summer of Open Source Fellowship program.
The program, which paired 12 women fellows with various levels of web development skills with mentors, kicked off on May 28 and has held bi-weekly project nights (held alongside Code for Philly meet-ups).
“It’s been going really well — all the fellows are matched up with mentors working steadfast on projects,” said Corinne Warnshuis, executive director of Girl Develop It and co-organizer of the Philly chapter. “From the feedback I’ve gotten from the fellows, they’ve been really engaged.”
The program has allowed many of the fellows to get involved in open source for the first time and contribute to their first projects with the help of a dedicated mentor.
“I had always wanted to contribute to an open source project, but was kind of afraid too, didn’t know where to start,” said fellow Leanne Kinney, who is also a Girl Develop It Philly events coordinator. Through the Summer of Open Source Code, she has now contributed to the Unlock Philly project.
Ashley Bernard, another fellow and recent Penn graduate, decided to take the summer to learn code after completing a coding project during her last semester. She said that the program has helped her get more familiar with coding.
“[I’m] definitely getting more comfortable with reading code [and] not panicking when I get a lot of error messages,” Bernard said. She added that the program has helped her learn how to work through problems in web development instead of just giving up like she would’ve done before starting the program. Bernard is contributing to the visualization of the Philadelphia School Budget.
The Summer of Open Source Code will host two more project nights on July 30 and August 6 (when the program officially ends), and Warnshuis said there’s still room for women to get involved.
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“Our goal for this program was to get a dozen women really engaged in making open source contributions, and then making it open to the broader community, Girl Develop It and otherwise,” she said, adding that she had just talked to a woman who had dropped in to participate and assist on open source project. “We just want more people to be exposed to open source.”
The program will wrap up with a Happy Hour and Show and Tell on August 27, where each of the fellows and mentors will present on the progress of each of the projects.
“It’ll be a lively, fun atmosphere. We hope to have a couple of speakers from out of town come and talk about open source and why it’s important,” Warnshuis added. “Cat Farman [a Summer of Open Source co-organizer] and I are going to the open source convention in Portland so we’ll share some takeaways from that too.”
Disclaimer: Kristen Gillette is a Girl Develop It Philly member and volunteer teaching-assistant.