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Apache hopes to encourage female coders

Open-source project creates new mailing list to help build a "welcoming environment" for women.

The Apache Software Foundation is hoping to increase the participation of women in its open-source projects by setting up a new mailing list.

Jean Anderson, who works on the Apache Derby database, said Monday that the list will provide a "supportive, encouraging forum to help women become more involved in ASF projects."

"The list is open to all genders--you might be a woman who wants to become more involved or you might be someone who would just like to help create a welcoming environment," said Anderson in a mailing list posting.

Open-source projects tend to have many more male developers than female developers; this is partly a reflection of the under-representation of women in software development as a whole, but other issues, such as sexism and aggressive language on mailing lists and forums, have been thought to deter women from getting involved.

Debian, the free Linux distribution, set up a group last year to encourage the participation of women. Helen Faulkner, a member of Debian Women, told ZDNet UK last year that the group offers advice to women on a variety of topics from how to install Debian to how to write a bug report. It is also encouraging Debian to become more welcoming to women by flagging instances of sexism.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.