Gender Inequality

Women are seen as better coders than men – but only if they hide their gender

A woman uses a computer keyboard in this photo illustration taken in Sydney June 23, 2011. Australia cleared a key hurdle on Thursday in setting up a $38 billion high-speed broadband system after phone operator Telstra agreed to rent out its network for the nation's biggest infrastructure project in decades. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

A woman uses a computer keyboard. Image: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

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Gender Inequality

A group of computer scientists, when studying the acceptance of contributions on the software repository GitHub, found open source code written by women is actually more often approved than code written by men. The catch—there’s always a catch—is that this only happens when the woman’s gender is hidden.

GitHub, which is used by more than 12 million people, allows developers to write code for the projects of other software developers, who then choose whether to approve the submissions. Among the three million submissions (or “pull requests”) the researchers examined, female-written code saw a 78.6% approval rate. With male-written code, it was 74.6%.

If female coders specified their gender on their profiles, though, their acceptance rate fell to 62.5%.

“Our results suggest that although women on GitHub may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless,” the six computer science researchers from California Polytechnic State University and North Carolina State University wrote in the studypublished Feb. 9. The higher blind acceptance rate for code written by women is all the more impressive when you consider that men in the open source community overwhelmingly outnumber their female counterparts—who by various estimates make up only 1% to 11% of the population.

This only adds to the avalanche of research on gender discrimination within the technology sector, typically finding men to be more dominant, visible, and respected while women are more likely to battle rampant sexism. Women, it seems, actually have everything it takes to thrive in the programming world. If only they could make everyone forget they’re women.

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Gender InequalityFourth Industrial Revolution
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