Question to candidates: Increasing diversity in GNOME

Dear candidates,

One of the most important things to creating an inclusive and welcoming community is to have leadership that is representative of the community. I have a lot of respect for the work the Board has done over the past year but from what I see, there is a lack of diversity of age, gender, geography, and general experience.

How will you impact the diversity of the Board? What will you do to make the future boards more representative of the community we want to have? What will you do to help encourage more leaders from outside the traditional FOSS contributor profile?

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That’s an important question. Thank you!

I believe that the decentralization of our conferences into local events all over the world can have a positive impact on the onboarding of community members from more diverse backgrounds. Having incentives for local community members to promote GNOME and free software within their own communities is empowering. What Julita Inca has been doing over the years in Peru is an inspiration to what we can do everywhere else.

Besides, the same way the Foundation has bylaws restricting more than two board directors affiliated with the same company, I believe we could create similar quotas for representation. I am sure I will at least push for this to be discussed.

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Creating a diverse and welcoming community is important. We cannot deliver software freedom to everyone if people are excluded because of ethnicity, gender, orientation, or other factors. But more importantly, treating people fairly and with respect is the right thing to do. I’ve been a supporter of diversity initiatives, and I’ve worked with others to promote conscious and inclusive language. I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from some great community leaders who know more than I do. However, I am a middle-aged, white, straight, cis dude from the US. I’m not in a marginalized or under-represented group in any of those aspects. I don’t have the life experiences to be an expert. The best I can do is listen to others and use my position to amplify their voices.

I share Felipe’s respect for the work Julita has done in Peru. I’m proud to have helped mentor her when she first joined our community. I would add that the work Regina has done for the Pan African GNOME Summit is also amazing. The board should work to empower people like Julita and Regina to make an even bigger impact in their communities.

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My only concern here is that the pool of candidates at least in terms of diversity is still very small. Our record in diversity continues to be poor. If we put in quotas for diversity and we don’t have the numbers to fill it then that might prove to be somewhat embarrassing.

Instead consider projects like scalable onboarding initiative where we can start using data to help build an organization that can maximize building an inclusion into our community while modeling solutions that other tech communities have been doing.

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It is disheartening that my first term as an elected board member was to an all male roster. This is somewhat a double edged sword though. The first side of the sword is that we want a board that is representative of the populace in which it serves. For this we failed by not having adequate Black or woman representation. A board should lead by example, and if you want to have a diverse community you need a diverse board. Although, the other side of the sword is that if you artificially outfit a board to be the ideal demographic spread, you can reach a situation where the board is no longer representative of the community that exists today.

That being said, it’s hard to define a single board in a single cycle as being indicative of a systemic issue in the organization, as the board can only consist of individuals that run for the position, and in the last election cycle we only had a single woman candidate who unfortunately was not elected. In years past though, there was fairly accurate women representation on the board, much more in line with the gender distribution of our electorate (granted those numbers are mostly just qualitative observations and not quantitative), with Nuritzi serving as board president for two consecutive years. So to have a diverse board it means we need to start lower down and encourage more individuals to run for election and build confidence in leadership of new members, which is not a particularly easy task. I am fully in support of the work being pioneered by Regina, Gaurav, Kristi, and others on the Engagement team though in the GNOME Africa and GNOME University initiatives, and I lend them my full support as a fellow Engagement team member.

So yes, I too want a representative board and a diverse community, but I want to make sure that the board remains representational to the community that exists while also promoting the ideals that will lead to the community that we’d like to see. Though it’s also important to note that outreach and recruitment initiatives will likely not show a shift in the board demographic for 2-3 years, as the nature of the board is that members tend to (but are not required to) have established presence and time spent as part of the larger community. So we should keep that in mind for analysis and retrospection in future years and for future boards.

So you are saying is that the board will be a representation of the community when the community itself is diverse and if we want that to happen then the board and the community needs to work towards that. :slight_smile:

It would be great if the board spent some time looking at outreach and what it means for the project.

I feel like that’s a good description of my point. I just want to avoid artificiality in the representation of the electorate. It’s important for the board and the demographic distribution of the members therein to put positive pressure on the foundation as a whole to grow the diversity of the community, but there’s only so far that the representation of the board can go before you tip the tables in a scenario that is far distorted from the true distribution of the community. So it’s as if the racial and gender distribution of the membership body and the board are coupled at the hip. As each takes 1 step forward, the other responds in turn, and both work together to maintain equal and equitable representation as the whole community grows in diversity.

That being said, it’s important to clarify that no board will ever be perfectly representational. With only 7 members, it’s impossible to truly embody the nuance and the true distribution of our membership. Though we can always strive to be better and do better, with only 7 members the granularity is too large. Likewise, it’s important to not discount the idea that even though, by necessity, a board of 7 will not ever be perfectly 1:1 representational, it doesn’t mean that the board membership as a whole cannot do their best to represent individuals not belonging to their own racial or gender demographics. For example, as a cisgender white male I will never be able to truly understand the position or the experience of a woman, or a person of color, or a person belonging to the lgbt community; though, I can and will always do my best to listen to the needs of these individuals and do my best despite not having walked a mile in their shoes.