The Outreach Program for Women: what works & what's next

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 from 1:30 – 2:15pm in B202/203


We've mentored and interned in the Outreach Program for Women, and we know it works -- it improves the gender balance inside open source communities. We'll discuss why it works, how it builds off of Google Summer of Code, and discuss replicating it, expanding it, and looking at the next step in the recruiting and inclusion pipeline.


The members of this panel have mentored or interned in the Outreach Program for Women, and we know it works — it improves the gender balance inside open source communities, and we consistently get reports of great experiences. About a hundred women have now graduated from the Outreach Program for Women, which is now on round 8 of its mentored, paid internships.
OPW’s approach has structural elements that we can use as a model for other programs focusing on other axes of diversity. The application process starts with community participation, doesn’t require interns to be students, doesn’t only happen in summers, has decentralized its funding, and has many other elements we can use as design patterns for future projects!
OPW aims to help people join open source projects, while acknowledging their intersecting identities and the historical reasons for their exclusion.
In this session we’ll:

  • Briefly narrate the project’s origin story
  • Show some statistics: the increasing numbers of mentors and interns in each round, and the increasing numbers of women in GSoC as a side effect
  • Discuss a few success stories: projects that thrived, and women whose OPW experience helped them keep participating in FLOSS and do even more amazing things
  • Mention some interesting wrinkles:
    • OPW’s trans-inclusive, genderqueer/genderfluid-inclusive language
    • Interns who did OPW during maternity leave or whilst coming back into the workforce after childrearing
    • Differences from GSoC: mostly self-funded by projects, non-students welcome, all FLOSS tasks/activities welcome, and it’s structured so that as part of the application process you try out the work, talk to people you’d be working with, and see the community before you apply (demystification)
  • Discuss key questions for the future:
    1. how can we replicate this model to fight other -isms?
    2. how can we get the money to get more projects involved?
    3. what do interns do after OPW, and how do we improve that “offramp”?


outreach, women, gender, mentorship, internship, mentors, mentoring, marginalization, pipeline, recruiting

Speaking experience

Sumana Harihareswara: I've presented at the past four Open Source Bridge conferences, keynoted code4lib 2014, and given several talks at Wikimedia hackathons and at Hacker School.

Liz Henry has presented at or led dozens of events, including previous Open Source Bridge conferences, WisCon, and BlogHer.

This is an entirely new talk.