Bonum Certa Men Certa

Evidence: Outreachy & Debian favoritism, women who missed out

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Mar 05, 2024

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock.

In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about favoritism in Debian and Outreachy. Evidence already shows widespread rule breaking. Nonetheless, favoritism is often spoken about in abstract terms. There is an unfair focus on the woman or beneficiary, there is a lot less focus on the male decision makers and there is often no acknowledgment of the women who missed out.

This blog aims to complete that information gap. By looking at some incredibly talented women who Outreachy & Debian rejected, we can see how wrong it was in 2019.

One of my first Outreachy applicants, back in the days when the program was called Outreach Program for Women, was Juliana Louback from Brazil. Outreachy rejected her. The same woman was selected for an internship at the IBM Watson lab, a scholarship to Columbia University and eventually employment at Google. Fortunately, after her Outreachy application was rejected, Juliana came back to Debian a few months later and we selected her for Google Summer of Code. She worked on JSCommunicator.

Two candidates were selected to do translation work, not actual development. One of the chosen Outreachy candidates from 2013 was subject of a discussion on debian-private about meeting for beer. This woman didn't ask for this attention. Did other candidates waste their time in the application process?

There was a lot of controversy about the women applying for things from Albania. People have shared photos of them all wearing the same red t-shirts. There is speculation that some, maybe all of them, were paid to attend the conference and make it look bigger. Izabela is the woman sitting in the back of this photo from 2016:

Izabela Bakollari

In such an environment, it was not hard for me to spot the real developers. On my first day at the Albanian conference in 2017, I remember a woman arriving without a red t-shirt and acting somewhat independently of the group. I later heard she had refused to be a member of the Open Labs association. I took all of these clues as evidence that she had more of a hacker mindset than her compatriots.

In early 2018, two women offered to run the Bug Squashing Party (BSP) in Tirana, Albania. Debian didn't pay me anything for the weekend there. It took over 12 months for them to simply reimburse the travel expenses, despite boasting about being stuck with two donations of $300,000. Nonetheless, I published a blog with a picture of the two women who organized the BSP. They are Izabela Bakollari and Anisa Kuci. Here is the photo again:

Izabela Bakollari, Anisa Kuci

Both of these women made applications to participate in the Outreachy program. Izabela, on the left, sent various emails about technical projects she was attempting in her own time, I attach one of them below. Anisa wrote in her blog that she only started trying to use Git and write Python code after she was selected. Given this evidence, I can only be suspicious about the motives and priorities of Chris Lamb and other people who had leadership positions at that time.

A few months after Anisa was granted the Outreachy internship, Red Hat offered Izabela a position as a kernel developer in Brno. If Izabela was good enough for Red Hat, if she was good enough for kernel development, why was she not good enough for Outreachy & Debian?

Outreachy & Debian's rejection of Juliana and Izabela gives some awkward insights into Debian. Some of the Debian Developers today are not real developers at all, they are system administrators with basic scripting skills that they use to make packages. They are terrified of women who may have a higher aptitude for understanding the kernel or C language programming. This is a bit like the tall poppy syndrome we suffer in Australia but with a disproportionate and sexist emphasis on women.

Each woman who applies for Outreachy, GSoC or travel bursaries with Debian is being asked to spend hours doing unpaid coding tasks, writing blogs and preparing conference talks. If they are discriminated against for being too good, being already married, being outspoken, they are wasting their time.

Please see some of my other pages about how Outreachy fell into disrepute.

Subject:        Re: Error on Build
Date:   Sat, 14 Dec 2019 22:16:47 +0100
From:   Izabela Bakollari
To:     Daniel Pocock

It built correctly now. I am trying to understand the task you sent me with the data types.
Also, if I have good progress with this, I can present at some other conferences beside FOSDEM. But I dont think I would have a proposal ready by tomorrow, when the deadline is.
Yesterday I could not be on the call, please let me know when is possible for you.
Best, Izabela
On Sat, Dec 14, 2019 at 10:03 PM Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro <mailto:daniel@pocock.pro>> wrote:
On 14/12/2019 21:43, Izabela Bakollari wrote: > I am following this instructions: > > https://www.resiprocate.org/DeveloperQuickstart
We need to fix some of these pages on the wiki, I'm sorry about that. Some of those pages are a bit old.
Please just do this:
$ cd /home/izabela/resiprocate $ build/debian.sh $ make clean && make -j5
You can look inside the build/debian.sh script and you will see commands are similar to the DeveloperQuickstart but it is better using build/debian.sh
Regards,
Daniel

Message about the Tirana BSP in 2018

Subject:        Re: Tirana BSP thanks
Date:   Tue, 6 Mar 2018 15:15:29 +0100
From:   Izabela Bakollari
To:     Daniel Pocock
CC:     leader@debian.org

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your support on my journey at Open Labs and Debian community. Bug Squashing Party was the very first event I initiated and co-organized. Your feedback motivates us to give our best at the community.
In the next couple of days, we will update our blogs and share our experience.
The next important event in Tirana is OSCAL, where I hope to meet both familiar and new friends.
Regards, Izabela
On Mon, Mar 5, 2018 at 11:57 PM, Daniel Pocock <daniel@pocock.pro <mailto:daniel@pocock.pro>> wrote:
Dear Izabela,
I'm writing to thank you personally for the tremendous effort you have put in to making the Bug Squashing Party a success in Tirana over the weekend.
You have only recently joined Open Labs and if I understand correctly, this was the first event you were involved in organizing. People are already talking about it around the world. The high ratio of female participation was an outstanding feature of the event and your ongoing contact with the women from Kosovo was a major factor in that.
Without your decision to initiate this and your persistence in contacting people locally and in the wider Debian community it may never have happened. I'm sorry I wasn't able to give you an earlier confirmation of my own participation, you did everything as well as you possibly could.
Do you know if anybody from the team will write a blog about the event? Anisa already put the photos[1] online, I would write something myself but I would prefer to let somebody in Albania or Kosovo be first.
Regards,
Daniel
1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&limit=500&offset=0&profile=default&search=debian+bug+squashing&searchToken=i9gp4o1hbveof655fvvuojdz

Izabela was already coding in at least 2017

Subject:        Re: Updates
Date:   Mon, 23 Oct 2017 01:06:05 +0200
From:   Izabela Bakollari
To:     Daniel Pocock

Hi Daniel,
I solved the problems with my laptop. I completely deleted Windows and now I am running only Debian. The first problem was with the network connection and after i solved it I had another problem with the Mirror site I was downloading the software. These are beginner problems but it was the first time I was facing them.
What project should I pick for the application?
I met some of the girls at Open Labs yesterday. I am surprised that most of them are not applying for various reasons but that confirmed what you said before about other opportunities and priorities.
My uncle came from Greece for a short visit this weekend. His full time job is on IT support but he is also a programmer. He does not have any academic background on Computer Science, just learned by doing. If I get selected (my parents should see it as an investment) I might go to learn for a few days in Greece to learn with his team.
I can edit the videos from Prishtina in the next days but slowly as I have must learn more new things on Java and progress on Github.
Regards, Izabela

Another example from 2017

Izabela took the initiative and left a job that didn't give her enough time doing real programming.

Subject:        Re: Outreachy
Date:   Tue, 12 Sep 2017 15:36:35 +0200
From:   Izabela Bakollari
To:     Daniel Pocock

Hi Daniel,
I left my old job completely now.
I have some experience with Web programming in Java, also JDBC and I am using Eclipse.
I think we can focus more on Albanian translation project. I do not know If Open Labs and the Hackerspace in Prishtina are working together on translation projects in general, but would be a good idea to help each other grow. About Outreachy, that would be two weeks before the deadline and I think it is better to give them practical help. For the ones interested, we can read carefully each project with them, make them understand where they would want to apply motivate them. Sometimes people neglect for various reasons, thinking they do not have time enough or skills enough for the project.
How long are you planning the event to be?
Regards,
Izabela

What is Debian really looking for in female candidates?

Subject: Re: OPW Student in Kingston, Jamaica
Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2013 13:39:12 -0500
From: Paul Tagliamonte <paultag@debian.org>
To: Joachim Breitner <nomeata@debian.org>
CC: debian-private@lists.debian.org

On Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 06:37:36PM +0000, Joachim Breitner wrote: > Hi, > > Am Montag, den 25.11.2013, 13:18 -0500 schrieb Paul Tagliamonte: > > She's got a PhD, so I think this could also be a good beersigning, if > > she drinks. > > not having a PhD yet I wonder what expects me: Will I be a better > drinker after I get the degree? Or a better keysigner? /me is confused.
It simply means she's likely of age in her jurisdiction. All I was saying is that she's not a high school student.
Cheers, Paul
-- .''`. Paul Tagliamonte <paultag@debian.org> : :' : Proud Debian Developer `. `'` 4096R / 8F04 9AD8 2C92 066C 7352 D28A 7B58 5B30 807C 2A87 `- http://people.debian.org/~paultag

Please see some of my other pages about how Outreachy fell into disrepute.

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