Linux distro for women? Thanks, but no thanks

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Linux

The idea is floating around again: Let's make a special Linux distribution for women! We're smarter than that, aren't we? I say, let's spare ourselves and the world yet another pointless and less-than-useful version of Linux.

We women make up more than half the population, so by no means are we a minority. Yet we claim a minority status of sorts in the IT world, where depending on who you talk to, women make up somewhere from 20% to 30% of the workforce. This topic is the focus of many heated discussions on Internet mailing lists frequented by women in IT. Many believe the low number of females in computer science occupations is a problem that needs to be fixed. Girls, they say, are being actively discouraged by parents, peers, and teachers from entering fields considered by society to be too "geeky" for women.

If you listen to these pundits, you may begin to believe that girls are champing at the bit to become technologists, but are being forced to instead enter fields like sociology, health care, or services.

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On various women's mailing lists, a subscriber has raised the idea of a distribution developed "for and by women." So far, the idea has met with a cool reception. It might even be a troll. However, if such a distro ever gets underway, it would be very much in the spirit of the community, and might give more women the background and confidence to reduce the gender gap in free software.

The demand for a women's distro might be slight. Truthfully, it sounds more like a project from the feminist days of the early 1990s than something that would be started in pragmatic 2007. Probably, too, the main purpose wouldn't be the selection of packages, as is the case with Edubuntu -- although possibly mencal or some other menstruation calendar might be on the desktop's default panel. Yet, despite the satirical opportunities in stereotyping, I doubt that a woman's distro would resemble the pink OMG Ponies theme that Slashdot sported for April Fool's Day in 2006.

Still, free software projects are started for all sorts of reasons, not just technical ones.

GNU/Linux distro for women? Why not?