Women in Tech: Women Code Better

In a recently published research paper which explored the presence of gender bias on GitHub, data clearly suggested one thing about women in the tech world: overall, they write better code.

GitHub is a sharing service for code which has over 12 million users, encouraging collaboration and problem solving. Users who suggest code updates for other projects enter their work as a 'pull request' which is then either accepted or rejected by the owner of the original code. These pull requests are what the researchers analyzed. 

From a pool or around 4 million users who logged in on April 1st, 2015, the team was able to identify the genders of 1.4 million through their profiles or social media accounts associated with them. GitHub does not require users to identify gender, so many choose not to include that information. When they compared the number of pull requests accepted, it was found that 78.6% of code written by women was accepted, compared to 74.6% of code written by men.

The research team went on to test whether women are more likely to write less significant changes to code, or if they were only more widely accepted in a specific language, but found the answer to be no in both cases. In fact, code written by women was more likely to be accepted in each of the top 10 programming languages. 

To test whether reverse bias was at play, acceptance rate numbers were compared between those who identified themselves as female versus those who didn't identify at all. Unfortunately, instead of reverse bias, acceptance rates dropped significantly when it was clear that the author was a woman.

So, code written by women is more likely to be accepted until the owner knows that it was a female coder who made that change. This research is not yet peer reviewed, but despite what further findings show, it is certainly important to continue to support women in the software development world. 

When one woman was questioned about why she continued to include her gender on her profile despite awareness of bias in the community, she wrote: "I have considered how wise it is to have a gender-obvious profile and to me, being identifiably female is really important. I want people to realise that the minorities do exist. And for the minorities themselves: to be able to see that they aren't the only ones".  Computer scientist Dr. Sue Black also pointed out,  "It was a woman - Ada Lovelace - who came up with the idea of software in the first place, we owe it to her to make sure that we encourage and support women into the software industry".