Gender issue: is there an issue?


And that’s been two articles about gender prejudice in IT that I read in one week, whereas I am not looking for that kind of material specifically. The problem doesn’t seem to go away then? Doesn’t look like it. But is there really a problem?

Well let’s see.
The first article I read was Women Are Seen As Better Coders – But Only If Their Gender Isn’t Known. It uncovers the results of a research based on analyzing three million pull requests on GitHub (which is quite an impressive number) and their acceptance rate. The takeaway is basically this:

After sifting through near to three million pull requests submitted on GitHub, they found – against their expectations – that code written by women was approved at a slightly higher rate than that composed by men, 78.6 percent to 74.6 percent, respectively. That’s roughly an extra 120,000 pieces of code.

Nevertheless, there was a depressing caveat: this rule only applied if their gender was unidentified. If female coders’ gender was known, their overall pull request acceptance rate fell from 78.6 percent to 62.5 percent. This appears to suggest that women may in fact be better coders, but are automatically discriminated against simply because of their gender.

Another article is about a difference in compensation and is called The Gender Pay Gap – Is it Real? New Survey Uncovers Employee Sentiments and Perceptions Across the Globe. It is a survey discovering whether men and women feel there is a pay gap that is gender-based. It’s not only about the IT industry, but it’s been conducted by the Glassdoor, which has a fair share of IT professionals registered there. The survey has been conducted in seven countries.

It has been found out, basically, that 70% of the employees think that there’s equal pay for equal work in their companies.

However, when broken out by gender and country, perhaps more telling, the survey shows fewer U.S. women (60 percent) than men (78 percent) believe men and women at their company are paid equally for equal work. The disparity is even wider among French women (55 percent) compared to French men (74 percent). Whereas the gap in belief is narrower in countries like the Netherlands (men, 83 percent; women, 82 percent) and Switzerland (men, 74 percent; women, 72 percent). (Glassdoor)

Also, and not surprisingly, most people (about 60%) would not apply for a job at the company if they knew it had a pay gap; but also not surprisingly, the percentage broken by the gender shows that these 60% is 55% of men and 73% of women. Which makes sense but is no less sad because of it.

For my part, I never felt that pay gap where I worked. I can’t say, however, that I didn’t feel other things. And sometimes those other things can be felt no less than the pay gap, however less tangible they might be.

When I was telling my programmer husband about that GitHub research, first thing he asked me was “and what do they mean when they say that the gender wasn’t known? How did they determine if it was known or wasn’t?” The first article I read wasn’t too clear on that point, so I said that maybe it was determined based on user’s names or avatar pictures. “Huh”, my husband said, “maybe it’s just people who use real names are worse coders!”. (Thank you very much dear.) Then I found a second article using a link from the first one and it explained that the gender info was (or wasn’t) in user profiles. “Huh”, my husband said then, “how often do you go look for that kind of info on someone’s profile when you decide whether you should accept or decline a pull request?”

It might be a valid point and the second article actually mentions this as a concern raised by some researchers opposing the findings of the analysis. Why then did I feel as if it was just another attempt to invalidate a very likely valid issue?

I do not know. Maybe because I’m actually much more bitter about this than I am prepared to acknowledge. Maybe because I am tired of battling the windmills. Maybe because the windmills are just the figment of my imagination.

Or are they?


About Maryna Cherniavska

I have productively spent 10+ years in IT industry, designing, developing, building and deploying desktop and web applications, designing database structures and otherwise proving that females have a place among software developers. And this is a good place.
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One Response to Gender issue: is there an issue?

  1. alexiavdc says:

    A very inspiring article, but what it quite misses is the fact that pay gap is not the only issue. In most cases women are already grateful when they get a job, especially in the corporate, IT or STEM sector. A rather more tangible problem is the fact that women employees are obviously being avoided, as employers are not willing to take the risk of them becoming pregnant and leaving on parental leave.
    This however is an issue that only the government can solve, by offering companies, just as mothers, enough financial support so that maternity leave will no longer be a problem for both parties.

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