* Why don't we see more women in the PHP world?
Once in a while I give talks about PHP in conferences that happen in different places. One thing that I notice in all places is that the speakers and the audience is made of mostly of men.
I also participate and moderate several PHP mailing lists. The participation of women is also reduced.
In the last companies were I worked before I self-employed working on the PHPClasses site at full time, the presence of women in software development jobs was greater. Still most of the developers were men.
This is puzzling to me. Software development is an intellectual activity. So, it does not depend on who is physically more capable. There should be no reason for man and women not having equal participation.
Recently I saw some an announcement about a new initiative from Ligaya Turmelle and Elizabeth Naramore to bring together as many women in the PHP world as possible.
Having perceived the lack of women in conferences, user groups and magazines, they feel that the right direction to change the odds is to get organized. So, they launched the PHPWomen site with the help of several people in the PHP community.
I am sure they are in the right direction. I already had the experience that getting together to organize community initiatives, is the way to go for communities of specific interests.
That was the case of PHP regional user groups. I know from experience that if specific interest communities do not gather a significant number of active members, they will not reach the necessary critical mass, and eventually die.
This is particularly true with PHP and other Open Source communities. Since there are not many big companies depending only on PHP, if the community members do not do their part and invest the necessary time and effort, nothing will happen.
* Spread the word
Since most of these initiatives are voluntary efforts, not everybody will be able to participate so actively every time.
People already have their day jobs, family and other private matters to take up their time.
Getting as many members as possible will allow voluntary communities to survive. Whenever one active member gets too busy with his life, there will be greater chances of another member replace him, if the community has many members willing to help.
Therefore, in my opinion it is vital for specific interest communities to invest as much as they can on spreading the word.
* How can the PHPClasses users community help?
One thing that worked really well in the past, and continues to work in the present and in the future, is the PHP user groups diffusion initiative that was launched in 2004.
What PHP local user groups and PHPWomen have in common is that they are voluntary initiatives to promote users of specific interests. The community members have something in common, that can be either living in the same region or being women.
Although it is not its focus, the PHPClasses site helped spreading the word. Currently it keeps records submitted by community members of about 240 local PHP user groups in near 80 countries.
Some groups are very active, other seem dead, but the number of registered user groups keeps growing every week.
The most effective way the PHPClasses site uses to spread the word, is to show to each user that logs in the site the map of the user groups of his country.
There are many other ways to spread the word. The main intention of this article is precisely to do that. Currently, about 150,000 subscribers are notified every time a new article is posted. I hope it will reach many women and help that are willing to participate and help in the PHPWomen initiative.
For now I would like to invite you all, women or men, to go to the PHPWomen site, learn about their initiative and see how you cooperate. Specifically go to the page named Delegations to learn what tasks are being planned and need volunteers.
Things are just getting started. Don't feel discouraged if you do not see much happening right now. It is normal that things take some time to take off the ground.
If all goes well, maybe soon we will see PHPWomen as an initiative that brings to the light the contribution of much more women than we see now.
Maybe, who knows, soon we can see happening their own conferences, like those organized by LinuxChix, a similar initiative dedicated to the women working with Linux throughout the world.