Why we need gender diversity in software development

Why we need gender diversity in software development

 
In the summer of 2017, Google software engineer James Damore provoked an international media storm after claiming that biological differences were a key reason why women were so underrepresented in the tech industry. Damore, who argued in an internal memo that efforts to encourage gender diversity were discriminatory and “bad for business”, was quickly fired and his arguments widely dismissed. But the case put a renewed focus on how the tech industry still suffered from a wide gender imbalance.
 
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), women in the US held 57% of all professional occupations in 2018, but just 26% of computing jobs. Another recent survey found an even starker lack of diversity among developers, where only 11% identify as female. This underrepresentation and a lack of role models have traditionally discouraged younger girls from learning how to program, perpetuating the imbalance.
 
Here at Jobsity we know first-hand the benefit of a diverse workforce, with our 120+ employees working in three offices based in the US, Ecuador, and Colombia. Currently, 20% of our staff are female, with that figure on the rise as we continue to expand. And there are some encouraging signs of change in the industry: more women than ever are getting into IT jobs, while a number of initiatives like Railsgirls and ICASA’s She Leads Tech aim to make IT more accessible for women.

Just last month, Melinda Gates announced the launch of a new $50m ‘Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities’ program aimed at creating gender-inclusive tech hubs outside of Silicon Valley.

Why is gender diversity in software development important? Beyond fundamental issues of fairness and equality, here are three reasons why tech leaders should be encouraging more gender diversity...

Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Gender Bias

Clear gender bias in a software development team is likely to be mirrored in the technological products and services that it produces. Any program that is designed with the needs and perspectives of just half the population in mind is likely to contain ‘built-in’ bias that can lead to faulty outcomes for the other half. Take the case of LinkedIn’s search engine, which until a correction in 2016 was asking users that searched for common female names if they had meant to type a male name instead – Stephanie? Did you mean Stephen? Or Amazon’s AI recruiting tool that taught itself to prefer male candidates.

These bugs were corrected but the lesson is that real-world gender stereotypes can be reinforced and exacerbated by technology, creating a vicious cycle. As AI takes on an increasingly important role in society, the need for inclusive software design is more important than ever.

Women may be Better Coders

A major study of open-source software development platform GitHub in 2016 found that contributions from women had higher approval ratings than those from men, but only if their gender wasn’t identifiable. The peer-reviewed research suggested that “although female coders on GitHub may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless.” The key message is that both men and women are capable of being good software developers and should be judged on merit rather than preconceived ideas about what gender a coder should be.  

Diversity is Good for Business

There are plenty of studies that suggest diverse work teams are more creative and innovative. It makes sense: combining people with different backgrounds, personalities, experiences and knowledge should result in a richer exchange of ideas. There is also a growing body of evidence linking a company’s workplace diversity with its financial performance: a McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity at an executive level were 21% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile. 

Moreover, a clear majority of jobseekers consider workplace diversity a key factor when weighing up career opportunities. In other words, you’re more likely to attract the best female tech talent if you already have a track record of promoting gender diversity and inclusion.

 
Interested in hiring talented developers to add capacity to your team? Drop us a line! Jobsity is the nearshore staff augmentation choice for U.S. companies.
 
Mar 02, 2020
Jenna Stanfield
Jenna Stanfield

Jenna is a Colorado girl who before coming on at Jobsity, spent her career in the human services counseling field in Denver. After moving to Medellin, Colombia in 2017 to pursue her passion of exploring life in a South American country (in which she has now settled), she came across Jobsity! She liked the idea of being able to be a part of a company that bridged the two counties she loved in mutually beneficial ways. She has enjoyed getting to know the developers in the Medellin office and she has also been able to visit the Quito office and get to know many of the devs there as well. She enjoys listening and learning about the US companies (aka future clients of Jobsity) in order to understand their needs and then work with the team to meet those needs with the incredibly talented developers that make up Jobsity.

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