GHOP winners announced – but where are the girls?

Google’s Highly Open Participation competition for pre-university students is a great thing – it’s encouraging them to get into tech, and specifically to get into open source tech. They deliberately designed it to allow many, many different ways of contributing, not just hard coding. It was set up to encourage the competitors to actively communicate and participate with the open source communities on the projects they were working on – in the hopes that they’d stay on as contributors to those projects once the competition ended. For all these reasons it’s a great scheme.

But I was so disappointed to see yesterday, when the 10 grand prize winners were announced, that there was not one girl amongst them. This is difficult to express because I don’t at all want to detract from the boys who won.

I bet that Google is as disappointed about this as I am – they are aware that creating diverse computing projects capable of catering to an entire planet of users needs a diverse community behind it. And if we wish to attract the best and brightest to computing, we need to figure out why we’re attracting so few women.

I suspect and hope that Google will be looking at the GHOP competition and program mechanics, the community projects they worked with, and the way GHOP was promoted to see if they can spot any reasons why girls were under-represented in the top 10. Perhaps, too, they’ll release the full stats on participation and we’ll find that there was a sizable representation of girls, but that the 10 best contributors happened to be the boys who won. This at least would indicate that the program is getting girls involved.

In the meantime, I’ve ordered a copy of She’s Such a Geek,  to remind myself that women are everywhere in tech. And I hope that next year we’ll see a few happy geek girls on the Googleplex tour after winning GHOP.


  1. donna Said,

    February 13, 2008 @ 1:50 am

    Sarah – I thought the same thing!!!

    This seems like such an intractable problem. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t. Google does run fantastic programs for women though and is keenly aware of the under-representation of women in tech positions.

    Catherine Lang sent me research indicating that the fact GHOP was a ‘contest’ may be itself be a factor. I’ll email you the report.


  2. Leslie Hawthorn Said,

    February 28, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

    I’d love to see the report, too.

    There were many women participants in GHOP, and we will be publishing full stats later. I’ll let you know when they’re available.

    Anecdotally, we had one family where the two youngest daughters did spectacularly in GHOP and their older sister is applying for Google Summer of Code under the PSF’s auspices with hopes that she can work with one of Python’s main GHOP mentors, Titus Brown.

  3. admin Said,

    March 3, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

    Thanks for commenting Leslie, I’m glad there were a lot of girls involved.

    Please do share the info as it’s released. I love hearing these stories. Man, I wish Google had been around and running stuff like this when I was a kid. 🙂