Gendered work culture in free/libre open source software development

Yuwei Lin, Matthijs den Besten

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This article adopts a feminist perspective to examine masculine work culture in the development of free/libre open source software. The authors draw on a case study of the ‘Heidi bug’ discovered during the development of the Mozilla Firefox web browser to examine how ‘gendered talk’ was (en)‐acted to facilitate ‘bricolage’ in an online work environment. Such gendered talks contain cultural references familiar to male developers. Though seemingly innocuous, such acts could be seen as a performance of gender that simply reflects the hegemonic heterosexual masculine culture manifested in an online virtual work space. The virtual work space therefore can be exclusive to those who shared the cultural references. Although it may not necessarily be ignorance or insensitivity of male developers, a more gender‐balanced, women‐friendly and inclusive workplace certainly would benefit from a more diverse environment. This article highlights the gendered aspect of software development through examining the language use and mainstream ‘bricolage’ practice, and establishes a compelling ground for enlarging the talent pool to include more women and integrating gender ethics (e.g., raising awareness of sensitive language and design approaches) into computer ethics education.

© 2018, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1031
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Issue number7
Early online date5 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • gender politics
  • Workplace
  • open source software
  • digital culture
  • Organisational culture
  • humour

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