How Gender-Biased Tools Shape Newcomer Experiences in OSS Projects

Hema Susmita Padala, Christopher Mendez, Felipe Fronchetti, Igor Steinmacher, Zoe Steine-Hanson, Claudia Hilderbrand, Amber Horvath, Charles Hill, Logan Simpson, Margaret Burnett, Marco Gerosa, Anita Sarma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Previous research has revealed that newcomer women are disproportionately affected by gender-biased barriers in open source software (OSS) projects. However, this research has focused mainly on social/cultural factors, neglecting the software tools and infrastructure. To shed light on how OSS tools and infrastructure might factor into OSS barriers to entry, we conducted two studies: (1) a field study with five teams of software professionals, who worked through five use cases to analyze the tools and infrastructure used in their OSS projects; and (2) a diary study with 22 newcomers (9 women and 13 men) to investigate whether the barriers matched the ones identified by the software professionals. The field study produced a bleak result: software professionals found gender biases in 73 percent of all the newcomer barriers they identified. Further, the diary study confirmed these results: Women newcomers encountered gender biases in 63 percent of barriers they faced. Fortunately, many kinds of barriers and biases revealed in these studies could potentially be ameliorated through changes to the OSS software environments and tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-259
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Open source software (OSS)
  • diversity
  • gender
  • newcomers
  • software engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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