Open Source : Gender Analysis of Implicit Mentoring

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At NamSor, we love open source. We support two open source projects via Open Collective : OpenAPI Generator and Uncopied and one open souce library via Patreon : Canvas. We maintain a few open source project of our own, our API client SDKs and CLTs but also niche projects like a Japanese name translation model (git, demo). So we’re always excited when we read scientific papers using NamSor API to better understand how open source software is built, or maintained by the community.

In this fresh study, “Implicit Mentoring The Unacknowledged Developer Efforts in Open Source”, Zixuan Feng, Amreeta Chatterjee, Anita Sarma, and Iftekhar Ahmed characterize implicit mentoring in software development and examine gender behavioural differences.

Implicit Mentoring: The Unacknowledged Developer Efforts in Open Source

Zixuan Feng, Amreeta Chatterjee, Anita Sarma, and Iftekhar Ahmed full paper

Abstract—Mentoring is traditionally viewed as a dyadic, top-down apprenticeship. This perspective, however, overlooks other forms of informal mentoring taking place in everyday activities in which developers invest time and effort, but remain unacknowledged. Here, we investigate the different flavors of mentoring in Open Source Software (OSS) to define and identify implicit mentoring. We first define implicit mentoring—situations where contributors guide others through instructions and suggestions embedded in everyday (OSS) activities—through formative interviews with OSS contributors, a literature review, and member-checking. Next, through an empirical investigation of Pull Requests (PRs) in 37 Apache Projects, we build a classifier to extract implicit mentoring and characterize it through the dual lenses of experience and gender. Our analysis of 107,895 PRs shows that implicit mentoring occurs (27.41% of all PRs include implicit mentoring) and it does not follow the traditional dyadic, top-down apprenticeship model. When considering the gender of mentor-mentee pairs, we found pervasive homophily–a preference to mentor those who are of the same gender–in 93.81% cases. In the cross-gender mentoring instances, women were more likely to mentor men.

Index Terms—Informal mentoring, Implicit mentoring, Homophily mentoring, Open source software.

What role do women play in implicit mentoring?

Identifying Gender: The team used Namsor API to identify the gender of contributors in the dataset based on developers names.

Here is some of the main findings. Overall, more women than men provide implicit mentoring, but the difference is small. There are significant differences between implicit mentoring done by men and women, with women providing more peer-peer and bottom-up implicit mentoring. There is a strong homophily effect in implicit mentoring. In the few cases of cross-gender mentoring, women tend to cross gender boundaries more often than men (70%).

Other studies on OSS using or citing NamSor

Image credits : A mentor guiding a coding student, Kuala Lumpur, NEXT Academy/Unsplash

About NamSor

NamSor™ Applied Onomastics is a European vendor of sociolinguistics software (NamSor sorts names). NamSor mission is to help understand international flows of money, ideas and people. We proudly support Gender Gap Grader.