I woke up the other morning to find an email from a fellow Girl Develop It! member who had sent out a group message about the Outreach Program for Women (OPW). She didn't say much about what it was, but I was pleasantly surprised when I followed the link, https://wiki.gnome.org/OutreachProgramForWomen. What I found was a program to promote women working on FOSS projects by providing them resources to find a mentor and the monetary means to work on a project for ~12 weeks. Historically, women have always been extremely underrepresented in Computer Science; however the percentage of women working in FOSS is even lower than that of industry, http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/FLOSS. For instance, women developers in Debian is abysmally low at 1.8%, while women represented the Ubuntu community at 2.4%. There are a few communities who are doing better, such as women make up 10.3% of GNOME foundation members. It's not hard to put two and two together to realize the potential benefit of more women participating in FOSS. OPW is working to improve these numbers and there's evidence that the program is successful. You only need to take a look at some of the contributions of past participates to realize that these women are having a very positive impact.
As soon as I read the brief synopsis of the program, I knew that this program was very much aligned to my current goals. Thus far, just the collection of information about FOSS, mentors, projects, blogs of past participants experiences, etc... has been an invaluable tool in helping me to get involved in FOSS. Unfortunately, Mozilla isn't participating this round, but I found a GNOME project that I'm getting more and more excited about. Despite being in the middle of finishing my dissertation, I've managed to make the required small contribution in the form of a README page. The closing date for the program application is fast approaching, and time is tight to make a coding contribution as well. Regardless of being accepted into the program, OPW/GNOME has already helped me towards my goal of contributing to FOSS by putting me in contact with a mentor for a project that I'm really excited about.