In an article about gender issues among American atheists, Sharon Moss and Lyz Liddell give a list of things to consider to be better community, not just for women:
- Be a leader. Take responsibility for the tone of your group. If potential new members are being made to feel uncomfortable and aren’t coming back, you’re doing it wrong. As a leader, it is your job to prioritize the comfort of your attendees in programs, group dynamics, and communications. Try to put yourself in other members’ shoes and also ask for feedback.
- Promote a sense of community. Take the time to socialize and get to know each other. If you’re group isn’t primarily a social group, thinking about adding some social time. Go to breakfast before the protest, compose your letters to the editor over coffee, or grab a pizza and beer after that lecture. When you know each other, you have each others backs. Being a jerk isn’t tolerated.
- Moderate discussions. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to participate- new people, quiet people, etc. Don’t let conversation be dominated by one or two people who must “win.”
- Embrace and accept different ways of communicating. Whether someone is an aggressive debater or not, make sure they’re still welcome. The other atheist in the room isn’t your enemy.
- Encourage subgroups. Every event your group hosts doesn’t need to appeal to your entire membership. Many women appreciate women-only space to express their nonbelief and to connect with other atheist women. Here at the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, we started a subgroup book club called Reasonable Women. When it grew to have about 25 regular members and was beginning to be a little too large and unwieldy to function as a book club, we created a second group, Heathen Chicks, which is just a social group that meets at a local cafe. It isn’t just about creating women only space, for us, this has been a way to draw more women into other events our group hosts.
- Foster women in leadership. Groups with women in leadership positions tend to have more women. Encourage women in your group to be visible in leadership.
These should work pretty well for Debian as well. I mean for the project in general, for getting all kinds of new people in, and getting them to stay, not just women, even if the gender imbalance is perhaps the biggest glaring problem we have.
As a concrete suggestion, maybe it would be a good idea to continue the Debian party line that Joey set up for the squeeze release. We already have IRC, but having an audio chat with your Debian peers might be a nice addition. Specifically a social one, instead of something intended to boost productivity.