You just have to look at the figures to see that overall, there are more men than women working in computer and coding related fields. So is it true that women just aren’t as good at it as men?
Recent research from a handful of computer science departments at US universities found that overall, computer code written by women has a higher approval rating than code written by their male counterparts.
But (and it’s a big but) only if gender is not identifiable.
To arrive at this find, researchers looked at about 4 million people who used GitHub, an online developer community, in just one day: 1 April 2015. The platform does not ask users to provide gender information at any point, but researchers were able find to that about 1.4 million of the 12 million users were female by looking at their profiles or from email addresses linked to Google accounts.
The researchers went on to find that 74.6% of pull requests made by men through the site were accepted, compared to the larger 78.6% acceptance rate of pull requests by women.
However, disturbingly they also noticed that users who made their gender as a female obvious in their profiles, were much less likely to have their work accepted. Women received a 71.8% acceptance rate when their gender was hidden, but if their gender was discernible, this number falls dramatically to 62.5%. That’s nearly a 10% drop, and the only factor that changed was knowing that the code creator was a woman.
Breaking the mould
As unsettling as these findings are, they’re not exactly unexpected. From an early age girls and boys are often steered in different career directions, and coding and computer science have long been considered a male sector, much as other career paths like nursing or hospitality are widely considered a women’s domain.
But what this study does prove, is that there is no basis for the assumption that men are inherently better at coding and computer related roles. Now we just need to change the rhetoric and our thinking to accept that coding and technology are for everyone.
Biases are a difficult thing to change, as they are hardwired in our brains from a young age. Those deciding whether or not to accept code may not even realise that they’re ruling out candidates because they’re women.
So, our task now is to consciously change the way we think about women in technology. The first step is awareness, we know women are just as competent as men, and shouldn’t have to hide behind anonymity to be taken seriously.
Here at StoneShot, in our Client Services teams in New York and London, we have just one less female coder, so providing we get our next hire right, we’re moving in the right direction!