The largest study yet conducted on gender bias indicates that women may actually be better coders than men. A study published by Cal Poly and researchers from North Carolina State University reviewed more than 1 million users of GitHub, an open-source program-sharing service. Specifically, the researchers discovered that suggested code changes made on GitHub by women were more likely to be accepted than those made by men.
Specifically, changes made by unidentified women were more commonly accepted than those made by unidentified men. And when the genders were identified, the acceptance rate of changes made by women fell 10 percent.
The study looked into different factors, including whether women were more likely to respond to known issues, if their responses were shorter and therefore easier to understand, and which programing language was used to create the response, but no correlation was found in these categories.
Of course, one cannot simply say that women are better at coding than men. There are other pressures at work, here—namely inherent gender bias that believes women do not good coders make. This study clearly demonstrates the presence of such bias in the field, and provides the statistics to prove that it is, in fact, real.
“For outsiders, we see evidence for gender bias: women’s acceptance rates are 71.8% when they use gender-neutral profiles, but drop to 62.5% when their gender is identifiable. There is a similar drop for men, but the effect is not as strong,” the study notes. “Women have a higher acceptance rate of pull requests overall, but when they’re outsiders and their gender is identifiable, they have a lower acceptance rate than men.”
“Our results suggest that although women on GitHub may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless,” the paper concludes.
Dr. Sue Black, OBE, still finds the results of the study encouraging. “I think we are going to see a resurgence of interest from women in not only coding but all sorts of tech-related careers over the next few years,” she said. “It was a woman—Ada Lovelace—who came up with the idea of software in the first place, and we owe it to her to make sure that we encourage and support women in the software industry.”