Susan Kuchinskas -
Speaking Topic: WIOS: Women and open source: A match made in hormones.

Susan Kuchinskas ( is the author of Love Chemistry: How Oxytocin Lets Us Love, Trust and Mate, to be published by Amacom Books in 2008. The book explains oxytocin's central role in positive human interactions. Her blog, Hug the Monkey, is recognized as one of the most authoritative sources for information about oxytocin. She's a veteran journalist and creative writer who's enjoyed a ringside seat at the development of the Internet industry. She charted the rise of digital culture for Wired News, covering the birth of craigslist, the Well and online communities. As senior reporter for Adweek IQ, she was on hand for the birth of e-commerce and interactive advertising. She analyzed the online marketing and ecommerce industries in her role as senior writer for Business 2.0, and then examined the intricacies of mobile Internet technologies as a founding editor for CMP's M-Business. Her first book, Going Mobile: Building the Real-Time Enterprise with Mobile Applications That Work (CMP Books 2003) was a guide for business executives. She became an expert in search for, and parlayed that expertise into The 360, an investigational blog that untangled the tech and business dealings of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. Susan has written about science, art, design, food and culture for publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Metropolis, Art & Antiques, and AlterNet. She's a regular contributor to WebMD magazine's Mind Matters section.


Why women are highly suited to leading collaborative projects Oxytocin is the neurochemical of love and attachment; it's also the neurochemical that lets us form trusting relationships, the kind we need to do business. Two 400,000-year-old systems evolved to help us survive:
  • Fight or flight = cortisol and adrenaline (norepinephrine)
  • Calm and connect = oxytocin and serotonin: Until Kristen Uvnas Moberg identified this overlooked process which is vital to health, oxytocin was seen as the hormone of childbirth
Oxytocin is released into the brain and bloodstream - in men and women - during positive social interactions, from online chat to making love Estrogen enhances its effects; testosterone mutes them ALTERNATE SURVIVAL STRATEGY: TEND AND BEFRIEND Shelley Taylor, a psychologist at UCLA, believes that women instinctively come together to support each other in times of danger or confusion. In her book, The Tending Instinct, she explains that men react to stress by releasing cortisol and adrenaline, the fight-or-flight chemicals. When they can, men will fight. While women's bodies also release fight-or-flight chemicals, these are balanced with a release of oxytocin, the neurochemical of bonding, attachment and calm. TRUST MAKES BUSINESS BETTER: Paul Zak, an economist at Claremont Graduate School, showed that countries with more trusting cultures were also more productive. His lab experiments show two things: Oxytocin increases trust and generosity in economic exchanges Online relationships are real: Computer-mediated interaction excites the same structures in the brain as do face-to-face encounters. What's important in an OSS project?
  • Coding skill
  • Inspiration
Women are biologically suited to the cooperation and collaboration - the trust - necessary for open-source production. THE DARK SIDE: If we accept that men and women are neurochemically different, and possibly suited to different roles and tasks, are we back to the dark ages of sexism? Does this mean that women should stay home and raise the children? No, no no!
  • There is at least as much variation among individuals as there is between the sexes.
  • Any one person may fall anywhere on the trust/competition spectrum.
  • The prefrontal cortex helps us make decisions about how to behave.
I want to rehabilitate love and trust as important in business collaboration. I hope women and men will use this information to accept and embrace their impulses to connect. Understanding the power of oxytocin can help women excel in technical careers and learn to lead with their strengths.