Margaret Burnett, Distinguished Professor of computer
science, was awarded the 2020 iGIANT Champion Award for her outstanding
research contributions to inclusive software design. iGIANT® (impact of
Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies) is a nonprofit corporation
that promotes best practices for gender/sex-specific design elements.
“I am honored to be recognized for my work with iGIANT, but
all of it was a team effort,” Burnett said.
“None of it would have been possible without the help of many other
volunteers, including Larissa Letaw and Jillian Emard here at OSU, working
together to help iGIANT’s mission of inclusiveness and equitable experiences
for all genders.”
Over the last decade, much of Burnett’s research has focused on gender inclusiveness in software. Her internationally recognized work in this area with students and collaborators has shown gender differences in ways people problem solve with software.
Burnett developed a method called GenderMag with her collaborators that enables
IT professionals to identify and eliminate gender biases in the software. She
and Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science, lead the research
team that is helping academic and industry partners develop inclusive design
for software and websites. Their work was featured in the story, “Oregon
State leads fight against gender bias in software,” published by Oregon
State’s news and research communications office.
“Open source software is changing the technology and
workforce landscape. Our work will help open source software tools and
technology support diverse cognitive styles that will help bring diversity in
thought by enabling diversity in open source contributors.”
– Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Oregon State.
Lead PI: Anita Sarma, associate professor of
computer science, Oregon State University
Co-PI: Margaret Burnett, Distinguished Professor
of computer science, Oregon State University
In collaboration with:
PI: Igor Steinmacher, assistant professor,
Northern Arizona University
Co-PI: Marco Gerosa, associate professor,
Northern Arizona University
National Science Foundation
$1.4 million between the two universities, $870,773 to Oregon State.
This research will investigate whether and how open source
software tools and technologies have gender biases tied with diverse
problem-solving styles, and how to remove any such biases.
This work will harness foundational gender research to
provide theory-based yet practical solutions and redesigns of open source
software projects to address the underrepresentation of women.
The redesigns and the process of creating inclusive tools
will be empirically evaluated to create a compendium of “best
practices” for fixing gender-bias bugs, in both products (what suitable
fixes are to such bugs) and processes (how open source software teams can work
together to fix gender-bias bugs).
Open source is having a significant impact on society, in
the products it produces and the career paths that it facilitates. However,
women are vastly underrepresented among open source developers. This is a
significant concern to these communities because it prevents them from
receiving the benefits of a larger talent pool and of team diversity. The
problem is perpetuated when women developers miss the learning and professional
growth opportunities that open source software projects provide, and are
overlooked when open source contributions are used to make hiring decisions.
Our work will help break down these gender-bias barriers in tools and
technology used in open source software.