Weeknotes 2021 WK 21

Joining the DjangoGirls Advisory Board

I was honoured and excited this week to be accepted onto the DjangoGirls Advisory Board.

Whilst the framework itself continues to go from strength to strength, Django’s contributor base is still overwhelmingly white and male. It’s more male than it is white but, given how diverse the Django community is in general, the contributor base isn't representative of Django as a whole.

This for me is a problem. It’s something I’ve talked about at DjangoCons: see Your web framework needs you at DjangoCon US 2018 and Feeding the Pony at DjangoCon Europe 2019 for the main gist.

Part of it is narrowly economic: open-source takes time, and the people who have that time are (in general) rich white men.

But I don’t believe we can take that as an excuse for the current situation: it’s not that we don’t have lots of women regular contributors, it’s that we don’t have any. I can’t look at that without thinking that we’re doing something wrong, probably a lot wrong. (Which is not to question anyone’s good will or intentions.)

Inserting the now standard disclaimer that almost exactly zero progress has been made since the start of the pandemic, this is something I want to work on. Whilst new knobs on the ORM are of course exciting, I’m much more vested in this than I am in new framework features by themselves.

My thoughts fall into roughly two categories:

  • Recognising contributions to Django better, so that we call out the folks that are already contributing, and not just to the code, but to the whole of the Django community. We need to celebrate efforts people already make. If we did that properly, Django’s diversity would automatically show on the surface. Hopefully, it would be a more appealing prospect, when viewed from the outside, than either an anonymous body (which I think perhaps it probably seems) or a big list of mostly white men, if you try to dig.
  • Smoothing the on-ramp to contributing, so that folks can get going. More than this though, that the Why of contributing is more visible. For me, it’s clear that a sensible amount of open source contributing can really boost your career: it’s great for learning, it’s great for the portfolio, it’s great for meeting folks in the community. So, as well as How to contribute, a bit of How to make it count would (I think) go a long way.

As I say, this has been stalled the last year or so, but I did a Contributing Workshop at the sprints at DjangoCon US 2019, and it went really well. Compared to the sprints from DjangoCon Europe earlier the same year, where we didn’t have such a workshop, it was very much Yes! This is what’s needed.

My goal since has been to turn that into a free-standing workshop that can be given wherever, and without relying on me delivering it. That it would then be an asset for the community going forward.

My secret hope was that somehow it could be worked into DjangoGirls, and that there could be an intermediate workshop for contributing (and making that help your career) in addition to the existing introductory tutorial workshop.

So, when the call went out for the DjangoGirls Advisory Board late last year I had to apply.

I’m no expert on diversity. I have ideas but, I don’t know anything really about the barriers faced in contributing to open source. But I do want to help make inroads into the clear deficit we face here in the Django community (with all the benefits that would bring to the people who got involved).

I’m super excited (just really!) to be accepted onto the Advisory Board. It means the steering group see the vision too.

I hope that developing this now under the aegis of DjangoGirls right from the beginning means that we can address the barriers that otherwise I’d just end up not even noticing, and then no doubt struggling to resolve, who knows how, later on.

Time in Django-land, Django-Time, is slow but inexorable. It’s like ecological-time. But it progresses: just look at the framework over the last few years.

Same here: it feels like an age since the discussion began on Dissolving Django-Core. We’re still implementing DEP 10 that came out of that. (The pandemic has a role here, again.) But we’ll get that done soon enough. Then we’ll be in the position to do things to recognise contributions, old and new, on code and otherwise. That’s a big change.

Being able to work on the Contributing On-ramp within DjangoGirls is then (for me) the other part of that. It feels like turning a corner. It’s been a long time coming up, but it seems like we might finally be going around it.

(Did I say I was excited?)