The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced the Software Developer Diversity and Inclusion (SDDI) project. SDDI will explore, evaluate, and promote best practices from research and industry to increase diversity and inclusion in software engineering. Founding contributors include Comcast, Facebook, GitHub, Intel and VMware and research professors from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Eindhoven University of Technology, Oregon State University, University of Auckland and University of Victoria.
According to StackOverflow’s 2020 survey of more than 65,000 developers, 91.7 percent identify as male and 70.7 percent as white or of European descent. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done to create inclusive environments that can lead to a more diverse community building the software that is the foundation for our digital society. Research indicates that racially diverse groups make better decisions, diverse open source projects are more productive and that working on gender diverse teams improves attitudes towards women.
“While there are a variety of important diversity and inclusion initiatives in the technology industry, none are focused on increasing diversity across categories – race, gender, age and cognitive ability – in software engineering and informed by science and research,” said Kate Stewart, senior director of strategic programs at Linux Foundation. “We have optimism about the future of the open source community and our collective ability to increase diversity and inclusion. The work we do today can influence the vibrancy of the community and effectiveness of our technologies tomorrow.”
SDDI will include a steering committee and working groups that explore, evaluate and promote best practices from research and industry to increase diversity and inclusion in software engineering. The steering committee will be responsible for prioritizing the initial working groups, which could address research methods, ethics, resources and data, as well as diversity in the areas of gender, age, cognitive ability and education.
Open source projects are encouraged to participate in SDDI to inform best practices and to benefit from the findings of the Project. Existing Linux Foundation projects – TODO, which focuses on open source program office best practices, and the CHAOSS Project, which identifies tooling and metrics for diversity and inclusion – will also work closely with the new SDDI Project.
“The Software Developer Diversity and Inclusion Project (SDDI) is an excellent initiative that complements the work of the CHAOSS Project. Through collaboration, we can accelerate progress towards building a better virtual workplace for all developers,” said Nicole Huesman, Governing Board Co-Chair, the CHAOSS Project. “We’re looking forward to the research and best practices that surface from this work, so we can implement it in our work on metrics and tooling.”
“Diversity and inclusion are the cornerstone of building long term sustainable open source communities and programs,” said Chris Aniszczyk, co-founder of the TODO Group and CTO, CNCF. “The TODO Group looks forward to collaborating with the SDDI to share lessons and best practices from corporate open source programs.”
“Inclusive Open Source is of vital importance to industry and academia. The Software Developer Diversity and Inclusion (SDDI) project is a great initiative to bring inclusivity to OSS projects and products. For example, gender biases are embedded in the very tools that OSS projects use and the way information is structured. I look forward to working with SDDI to bring down these barriers, one feature at a time,” said Dr. Anita Sarma, Associate Professor, Computer Science, School of EECS, Oregon State University.
“Software systems are responsible for all aspects of modern life. They help humans make critical short-term and long-term societal and personal decisions, and yet the diversity and values of the people designing software systems do not remotely represent the diversity and values of people on our planet. The SDDI initiative, an active collaboration between industry and academia, will drive essential and rigorous research towards understanding barriers to diversity and inclusion while also discovering and promoting best practices,” said Margaret-Anne Storey, University of Victoria, Canada.
“Despite significant efforts over recent years to increase diversity and inclusion in many software companies, little traction has been made. This signals that new ways of thinking are needed to better understand the barriers and best practices. This initiative can help to stimulate new understanding and develop improved diversity and inclusion practices, which will lead to more innovative and useful software products,” said Kelly Blincoe, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
“Diversity is essential not only to create products that address needs of diverse groups of users but also to create sustainable and vibrant development teams. SDDI has the power and the promise to combine best industrial practices, insights from open source software developments and findings of the academic research to bring change in the ways teams are are organised and work together, and ultimately both in more comfortable and sustainable working environment, and better software products,” said Alexander Serebrenik, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands.
“Diversity and inclusion in software development have broad impact beyond our industry, particularly for those who are living in low and medium HDI countries. For them, being included in the software development profession is often a life-changing opportunity. I believe SDDI, a strong collaboration between academia and industry, would benefit the disadvantaged groups around the world,” said Yi Wang, Professor, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
“Diversity of thought is a vital component for building sustainable and healthy open source communities. Individuals from diverse backgrounds injecting new and innovative ideas advances an inclusive and welcoming ecosystem for all. SDDI with its focus on best practices in increasing D&I will be instrumental in providing the right direction for all committed to increasing diversity,” said Shuah Khan, Kernel Maintainer & Fellow, the Linux Foundation.
“Without an intentional and coordinated effort like the SDDI, it will be hard to move the needle on more diversity in software engineering. There are many great practices across open source, companies and universities that we need to aggregate, make easier to discover and put into action. The Linux Foundation is at the center of all of these communities and can get us together to improve the state of diversity in tech,” said Nithya Ruff, Head of Comcast Open Source Program Office, Chair, Linux Foundation Board.
“At Intel, we believe diverse and inclusive teams are more creative and innovative. We continue to raise the bar in areas such as representation, pay equity, and inclusion initiatives. This year, we announced our 2030 goals, global challenges and RISE strategy to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world, enabled through technology and our collective actions. We welcome the Linux Foundation’s new SDDI initiative to focus on improving inclusion and representation in the Open Source community and look forward to furthering this effort,” said Melissa Evers-Hood, Vice President, General Manager of Software Business Strategy, Intel Architecture, Graphics and Software, Intel Corporation
“Open source lifts all boats — creating innovation and opportunity for developers around the world. For Facebook, investing in open source is a way to empower developers as well as broader communities of individuals and businesses. To that end, we’re thrilled to support Linux Foundation’s SDDI effort which will not only help us invest in the next generation of open source developers but also promote increasing diversity in tech,” said Kathy Kam, Head of Open Source, Facebook.
“As home to most of the world’s open source software, GitHub believes deeply in the potential of a passionate, diverse open source community to move our world forward and accelerate human progress. GitHub is thrilled to collaborate on this project, which will allow us to “open source diversity and inclusion” for the benefit of us all. By making software development more accessible, inclusive, and sustainable, we can support the growth of a community where all developers — no matter who or where they are in the world — can learn, contribute, grow, and feel like they belong,” said Demetris Cheatham, Senior Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, GitHub.
“Innovation is a core tenet of VMware. We know that to make faster progress around Diversity and Inclusion we need to apply innovation and research the same way we do to technology problems. Supporting initiatives like this aligns with our values and is critical to the long term success of the technology industry as a whole,” said Shanis Windland, vice president, Diversity and Inclusion, VMware.
“SDDI will be an important initiative,” said Daniel Izquierdo, cofounder of Bitergia. “We at Bitergia do D&I research for customers and we look forward to sharing our experience and learning from others through SDDI.”
For more information about SDDI and to contribute, please visit: https://sddiproject.org/
About the Linux Foundation
Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation is supported by more than 1,500 members and is the world’s leading home for collaboration on open source software, open standards, open data, and open hardware. Linux Foundation’s projects are critical to the world’s infrastructure including Linux, Kubernetes, Node.js, and more. The Linux Foundation’s methodology focuses on leveraging best practices and addressing the needs of contributors, users and solution providers to create sustainable models for open collaboration. For more information, please visit us at linuxfoundation.org.
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 Sommers, Samuel R. “On racial diversity and group decision making: identifying multiple effects of racial composition on jury deliberations.” Journal of personality and social psychology 90.4 (2006): 597. Vasilescu, Bogdan, et al. “Gender and tenure diversity in GitHub teams.” Proceedings of the 33rd annual ACM conference on human factors in computing systems. 2015. Wang, Oliver and Zhang, Min. “Reducing Implicit Gender Biases in Software Development: Does Intergroup Contact Theory Work?” Proceedings of Foundations of Software Engineering. 2020.