Going Farther Together: The Impact of SocialCapital on Sustained Participation in Open Source

Abstract—Sustained participation by contributors in open-source software is critical to the survival of open-source projectsand can provide career advancement benefits to individualcontributors. However, not all contributors reap the benefitsof open-source participation fully, with prior work showingthat women are particularly underrepresented and at higherrisk of disengagement. While many barriers to participation inopen-source have been documented in the literature, relativelylittle is known about how the social networks that open-sourcecontributors form impact their chances of long-term engagement.In this paper we report on a mixed-methods empirical study ofthe role of social capital (i.e., the resources people can gain fromtheir social connections) for sustained participation by womenand men in open-source GitHub projects. After combiningsurvival analysis on a large, longitudinal data set with insightsderived from a user survey, we confirm that while social capitalis beneficial for prolonged engagement for both genders, womenare at disadvantage in teams lacking diversity in expertise.

Hiring, Inclusion, Privilege

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