Meritocracy or Do-ocracy

why diversity is still hard and what can we do

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Who has been involved in an open source project?

What's your role in it?

Hello I am Cheuk

  • Open-Source contributor

  • Organisers of community events

  • PSF director and fellow
  • Community manager at OpenSSF

Why open source governance is difference?

Open Source

Proprietary Software

  • Sometimes no clear owner or own by the community
  • Mainly consists of volunteer work
  • Some hierarchy, not rigid
  • Less commitment from contributors
  • User driven
  • Own by org, an individual or a business
  • Paid staff and engineers
  • Clear hierarchy and role
  • Staff are hired for consistent responsibility
  • Profit driven

What is meritocracy?

Applying meritocracy

The rise of BDFLs


is short for Benevolent Dictator For Life

Only a small number of open-source software development leaders owns this title

Can you name a few?

It highlights their excellent contribution to Open Source ecosystem

They inspire the next generation of developers

But there are rarely any women and people of color own that title...

In meritocracy

  • We believed in elites
  • We trust they know the best
  • We think the best person can lead us

everyone with skill and imagination may aspire to reach the highest level


is everyone given the same resources and opportunity to reach that level?

Meet Marlene

  • Zimbabwean software engineer
  • Previous director and vice-chair for the PSF
  • Founder of ZimboPy: non-profit that helps Zimbabwean women in tech

During her keynote at PyCon IT 2023

A male Italian developer asked: I don't see how we are different, why do we need to put effort in diversity and inclusion

Here's what she said

We are not given the same access to resources, when I was young, I did not have access to a computer. I only started programming in my 20s.


Compared to you, I did not grow up in an environment that supported my career as a software developer.


That's the difference.

We are not all on the same level playing field

  • Not about one's ability
  • Depends on social expectation
  • Depends on access to resources
  • We are not giving the same oppotunity

If not meritocracy, what else?


Recently I learnt a new term:

A do-ocracy is an organizational structure in which individuals choose roles and tasks for themselves and execute them.


Responsibilities attach to people who do the work, rather than elected or selected officials.

So now with do-ocracy

  • You don't need to reach to high level
  • Everyone was given a chance
  • No more gatekeeping

Is it true thought?

Open source is do-ocracy (kind of)

  • Always more work to do
  • Anyone can derive their project
  • Less gatekeeping (compared to proprietary)

Is Open Source Open to Women?

Just 5.4% of GitHub users with over 10 contributions from our random sample are female.

Among women who join the tech industry, 56 percent leave by mid-career, which is double the attrition rate for men.

Python Core Devs

  • developers who have commit rights
  • 8 women
  • out of 87 active ones
  • less than 10%


  • the community is a do-ocracy community
  • but when it comes to technical leadership there are still few women
  • "why there are so few female core devs?"
  • what is lacking here?

Meet Mariatta

  • 1st female Python core dev
  • PyCon chair of 2023 & 2024
  • 10+ years in tech

I asked her why there are few female core devs

Here are a few point she mentioned

  • Women need to work hard in their day job due to bias
  • Spending long and committed time for contribution is hard when you are required a lot in your day job
  • Mostly only big companies will support employees to use work hours for oss contribution
  • Despite CoC enforcement, micro-aggression still exist so not a truly welcoming enviroment

What went wrong with D&I effort?

Have you heard of this?

What is the problem here?

  • Diversity and Inclusion is just a slogan
  • Trying to make their number looks better
  • "It is so hard to find women in tech with enough merit"
  • Avoid facing the fact

Image source:

What can we do?

  • Acknowledge the problem
  • Understand the problem
  • Ask the underrepresented folks
  • Effort to work on it
  • Constant effort
  • Support these efforts

Suppocracy model

Provide opportunities and support that
underrepresented groups need
to be successful in leadership and in the community

Meet Bowrna

  • Former Outreachy Intern for Apache Airflow
  • Active contributor to the Apache Airflow
  • Restart her career as a software engineer

Points to take home

  • Not everyone has the same access to resources
  • Pay developers in open source, at all levels
  • Provide education to those with less access
  • Emphasize their success
  • Provde safe enviroments

Meritocracy or Do-ocracy in open source?

None will work if we do not provide support for underrepresented folks

To encourage diversity and inclusion for the community

Try Suppocracy

Thank you

for your support in diversity

Let's keep doing it

Link to slides: