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Don't Look at Linux For Sexism, Look at Microsoft (Although Microsoft Hides the Newest Lawsuits)

Characterising societal issues as a 'Linux problem' because of transparency

Manchester station



Summary: A look at the broader scale of discrimination against women and how widespread a phenomenon it is inside Microsoft, the arch rival of Linux

REMEMBER how Microsoft pushed "boobs" into Linux [1, 2, 3] (much to the detriment of Linux) and later "apologised" because it got caught? Many people don't remember that (or simply didn't pay attention at the time). This helped remind us that Microsoft is very hard to beat when it comes to chauvinism. Over the years we have covered many examples of sexism at Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. This kind of sexism goes all the way up to the CEO himself and let's not even mention Microsoft homophobia [1, 2, 3] because that is a separate (albeit related) topic.



Several weeks ago "Microsoft [got] Hit With Gender Discrimination Lawsuit". To quote a progressive site: "Microsoft is staring at a potential class-action gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former technician alleging the company denied her promotions and raises.

"Katherine Moussouris filed a complaint against the Seattle-based company claiming her supervisors didn’t like her “manner of style” and gave the promotions she was up for to her less-qualified male counterparts, Reuters reported. She also reportedly received lower bonuses as retaliation for making sexual harassment complaints. According to the complaint, Microsoft’s female employees in Redmond, Washington frequently received lower performance ratings and were often based on subjective observations.

"Microsoft has been criticized in the past for being cavalier towards gender discrimination in its ranks. Last October, CEO Satya Nadella apologized after telling a roomful of women technicians at the Grace Hopper Conference that they shouldn’t ask for a raise, but instead have “faith that the system will give you the right raise.” Nadella backtracked his comments soon thereafter via a mass email to employees: “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

"Moussouris is encouraging women who worked for Microsoft in the past six years to come forward, which could help the case gain class action certification. Wednesday’s lawsuit is the first gender discrimination allegation against a major tech company in the wake of the conclusion of former Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao’s infamous suit against her former law firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Pao lost her case, in which her claims were similar in tone to Moussouris, and recently dropped her appeal."

Will Hill at the Join Diaspora Web site wrote (he personally brought it to my attention while I was away on vacation):

Sexism Lawsuit Against Microsoft



A class action lawsuit has been filed by a former Microsoft employee over rampant sexual discrimination at Microsoft. Katherine Moussouris claims that women are underpaid, passed over for promotions, and face retaliation if they complain. She worked for the company for seven years.


This does not surprise us because we saw and covered similar reports in the past. Microsoft tries to suppress publication of such matters and it is easier because of the culture of secrecy.

By contrast, in Free software communities everything is visible to the public, including to the already-hostile press. One might expect the observer to take this transparency into account and therefore use some judgment. Some people care more about Linux gossip than about Linux news, however, so when something similar happens in the Linux world it can hijack the news feeds for about a week if not longer than that. A lot has been said about Linux in relation to women's rights, especially this past week (because of Sharp). There are still some new articles about it [1-16], with plenty of discussion in each (it has become quite an Internet storm).

At Microsoft, based on evidence that does not receive much media coverage, females sue the company for millions over discrimination; in Linux one can just make a mess, start flamewars. We can quite safely guess that many Linux developers (especially in top positions) have been wasting time checking what people say about them online rather than write code. A week-long saga, never-ending and self-feeding, is still raging. Even on Friday we still saw at least 3 articles about this drama against Linux culture. Coders are distracted by these flamewars, hence productivity is significantly down.

One of the curious comments I have come across talks about socially-engineering the community. Remember that Intel helped create OSDL and later played a key role in the Linux Foundation, so it cannot be treated as an outsider to Linux development.

To quote one comment, "Conspiracy theory: Would one of those multi-billion-dollar corporations (with NSA connections) spend a few million bucks to social engineer the Linux community?" It's not as though Intel itself respects women's rights (not inside the company anyway).

"I’ve asked Sarah Sharp some questions about how she reconciles her attitude towards the free software community and her work with Intel," Hill wrote. "I have not seen any serious answers to those questions yet."

Will Hill said, "I have asked Sarah Sharp on Google Plus some questions about working for Intel." Here is the text of the questions: "Thanks for all the interesting ideas, and prior usb and graphics work, but how do you square these thoughts with working for Intel (1)? Intel is known for nasty things like killing the OLPC project through dumping (2), and partnership with Microsoft, a company that's everything you complain about and more. Even when Intel is cooperating, the seem to hold back and treat the free software world as second class (2) Intel's Management Engine and other firmware are direct threats to people's software freedom, privacy, and ownership of their machines. Is Intel somehow getting internal culture right while doing so many bad things to everyone outside the company? Was your kernel work an official part of your job? How have they responded to your decision to quit that work?"

There are more articles about all this below (we shared almost 20 more in the previous reply), but we don't really want to feed the cycle of endless discussions.

The lack of women in Computer Science or S.T.E.M. disciplines in general (there are explanations of causes for that, but it's beyond the scope of this post) is not the fault of FOSS, however it's fashionable to blame it all on FOSS when one looks for a good, effective smear. This is also done a lot in the political sphere, where it's fashionable to mistreat or invade one's neighbours (or very distant nations) using concern for women's rights.

Related/contextual items from the news:
  1. Matthew Garrett Quits Kernel to Do His Own

    Matthew Garrett, noted developers and self-proclaimed social justice warrior, today announced solidarity with Sarah Sharp's resignation in protest of rude behavior and the "way [Linus Torvalds] behaves" by providing a Linux kernel with changes rejected by Torvalds. Elsewhere, Jack M. Germain said Slackel offers advantages over Slackware but it's still not for new users and DarkDuck found most Linux users still use Windows or Mac as well.



  2. Linux Game of Thrones begins

    A Game of Thrones style war has broken out amongst the weirdie beardies of Open Source Land which has now split the Linux kingdom just as "Winter is a Coming."

  3. The Linux Kernel and Politeness


  4. Looking at the facts: Sarah Sharp’s crusade

    Everyone is free to have his own opinion (sorry, his/her), and I am free to form my own opinion on Sarah Sharp by just simply reading the facts. I am more than happy that one more SJW has left Linux development, as the proliferation of cleaning of speech from any personality has taken too far a grip.



  5. It's Time to End the War On Stupid People

    On the other hand, it's little mystery at all: Sarah was the first female kernel contributor I'd ever heard of, and the only one I can readily name now. It's an uncomfortable answer, because when someone breaks into a space that doesn't often include their gender or background, we feel we avoid culpability by being nonchalant. No exclusion here, nosiree. Didn't even notice you were a woman. It's comforting and dishonest; when someone breaks a boundary of cultural exclusion, regardless of how your reaction may later be judged, the fact is you notice.

    Although apparently nobody noticed when Sarah quietly disappeared over the past year, finally coming out to cite now-familiar complaints about the toxic and hostile atmosphere on LKML and in the kernel community in general.

  6. Pining for the good ol' days

    Once again, he's complaining about how the fun from Debian has been lost because making sexist jokes, or treating other people like shit is not allowed any more. He seems to think the LKML is the ideal environment and that Debian should be more like it.



  7. Linux kernel development suffering from the "internet of hate"

    Another Linux kernel developer has left, citing a toxic environment. Jack Wallen proposes the type of motivation used by the kernel devs could unmake a very precious commodity.



  8. On Norbert Preining, Sarah Sharp, and Debian
  9. Linux: Sarah Sharp defines what makes a good community
  10. Is Microsoft Wooing Canonical & Important Departures…

    Well, here’s the third, though it’s completely unrelated to Sharp and Garrett: The call went out in September for nominations for the Ubuntu Community Council elections, and they were returned with a glaring omission: Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph, who will not be running for re-election. She explains in her blog her motivations for moving on, and it’s well worth a read. Perhaps this is understatement, but her absence leaves a notable void in the “adult-in-the-room” department, since Elizabeth was often the voice of reason and sanity — and of course a voice for doing the right thing even when it was unpleasant or difficult for Canonical/Ubuntu — in a UCC group too full of yes-boys and Ubuntu Apocalypse zombies. Her leadership will definitely be missed.



  11. James Bottomley: The Linux Kernel Mailing List Behavior Isn't All That Bad

    Bottomley, maintainer of the kernel's SCSI subsystem and other code, argues that things on the Linux kernel mailing list aren't all that it's talked up to be.



  12. ​Matthew Garrett is not forking Linux

    When Matthew Garrett, well-known Linux kernel developer and ‎CoreOS principal security engineer, announced he was releasing a [Linux] kernel tree with patches that implement a BSD-style securelevel interface, I predicted people would say Garrett was forking Linux. I was right. They have. But, that's not what Garrett is doing.



  13. Thick Skin (within Free/Open Source communities)

    The definition of “thick-skinned” in different dictionaries ranges from “not easily offended” to “largely unaffected by the needs and feelings of other people; insensitive”, going through “able to ignore personal criticism”, “ability to withstand criticism and show no signs of any criticism you may receive getting to you”, “an insensitive nature” or “impervious to criticism”. It essentially describes an emotionally detached attitude regarding one’s social environment, the capacity or ignoring or minimizing the effects of others’ criticism and the priorization of the protection of one’s current state over the capacity of empathizing and taking into account what others may say that don’t conform to one’s current way of thinking. It is essentially setting up barriers against whatever others may do that might provoke any kind of crisis or change in you.



  14. Linux Discussion Continues, Fedora Welcomes Chromium

    Folks are still discussing the resignation of Sarah Sharp and Matthew Garrett from Linux kernel development. Jack Wallen said Sharp (and Garrett) are cases of more developers being "turned away, simply because developers had no patience for personal respect." He said Linux rules with a "sharp and iron tongue" with "foul and abusive language." He agreed with Dr. Roy Schestowitz in that all this is a "PR nightmare" threatening the "flagship of the open-source movement." He placed part of the blame on what he calls the "Internet of hate" and said if Linux is to compete with Microsoft and Apple its developers need to "start treating the legions of programmers, who are working tirelessly to deliver, as well as they treat the code itself. Open source is about community. A community with a toxic foundation will eventually crumble."

  15. Linus Torvalds needs to fix the communication bug that is hurting his project
  16. Respect and the Linux Kernel Mailing Lists


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