The Linux Foundation launches free online inclusivity training

A collaboration aimed at improving diversity in the open-source world, covering things like why diversity is good for business, how bias manifests itself, and what people can do to fight it.

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The Linux Foundation, and National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), have introduced an online training course that "delves into facts about diversity in tech, the importance of diversity for innovation, the basics of unconscious and societal bias, and how to recognize the different ways unconscious bias presents itself in technical environments."

Called Open Source Community Orientation, the organizations say the ultimate goal of the class is to foster inclusivity and diversity in the community, which according to the opening slides in the course is sorely lacking. 

According to data from the US Department of Labor statistics presented in the course, women hold 26% of computing jobs, 19% of software engineering positions, and account for only 11% of open-source developers. These low numbers are in spite of women making up 57% of the overall professional workforce. 

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On the plus side, the underrepresentation problem seems to be improving, the Linux Foundation said, but it points out that the same study citing increased diversity in hiring has come alongside a rise in discrimination that employees report experiencing at work.

"This course is meant as a starting point for everyone in the community – from technical staff to managers, executives, support teams and more – to learn more about these issues and how to ensure everyone feels comfortable in the workplace and broader community," the Linux Foundation said. 

The course cites social justice and business as reasons diversity is a good thing. 

The social justice reasons for making businesses more inclusive can be hard to quantify, but the course does paint examples that make it seem as if the Linux Foundation's argument is that becoming an inclusive employer would put organizations ahead of the curve of a more diverse future. 

It's easier to quantify the business reasons for diversity, of which there are several cited in the course, all of which lead to the same conclusion: Diversity makes businesses stronger, more innovative, and more successful.

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Diverse opinions are even more important in the open-source world, where anyone can contribute to a project to improve its outcome. "Open-source projects are best when they cultivate contributions from a wide range of individuals with different backgrounds from all over the world, so it is prudent for community members to ensure everyone feels welcome," said Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

The course also covers topics like how implicit biases affect our thinking, why diversity in the tech world has been slow, and how to implement changes both at the individual and organizational level. 

The training course is free and available to anyone with a Linux Foundation login, which is also free. 

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