Very good question. This disparity is an obstacle to spreading the word about Linux or even just the idea that there is a (in a Stallman sense) ‘free’ alternative out there.
In my life, so far, the only people I’ve personally met who I know are aware of Linux, use it or have tried it, are male. The only exception is my girlfriend, who uses my laptop very frequently.
It was the second machine that I ‘liberated’ completely by purging Windows from it totally (I even went as far as too wipe the drive totally by dding it to heck). Initially my girlfriend’s reaction was negative, it was almost as if she wanted to find fault with it. Little issues that popped up were remarked on - but now, I don’t even think she consciously thinks about the fact that she’s using Linux.
What helped in that particular case was switching to the Manjaro Cinnamon community edition, it’s been a remarkably polished experience for me across both my machines. It is extremely accessible for a casual user like my girlfriend.
It think Persephone makes a very valid point when it comes to time constraints: it is a factor with the people I know personally at least. My female friends are very career driven, generally much more so than my male friends. It means that they have less time to make the switch to another platform and are very dependant on the tech standards their respective industries set.
I know a lot of females who studied STEM subjects and work in STEM fields, but the vast majority of them either fell into natural sciences (like Earth and Ocean Science and Geology), or medical sciences. I only know one exception off the top of my head, and to her credit she is one of the most knowledgeable IT professionals that I personally know.
In the past, I might have fallen more heavily on the nature side of the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. I’m coming around to looking at the ‘nurture’ side of it more closely. It seems to play a much bigger role than I previously thought.
Ensuring that our communities are open to diversity is pretty vital. Working towards usability and compatibility would also work, simply because it would make Linux a real alternative for people in general. It’d open that door a tiny bit more and show people that there is something else out there for them.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of the next generation, it’s remarkable to see infants and up interacting with technology in an intuitive, almost fluent way. I’m sure that will have an effect on the gender balance in Linux and related fields.