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Female Software Engineers May Be Even Scarcer Than We Thought 445

itwbennett writes "According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 about 22% of computer programmers, software and web developers in the United States were female. That number comes from the Current Population Survey, which is based on interviews with 60,000 households. But Tracy Chou, an engineer at Pinterest, thinks the number is actually much lower than that. And last month she created a GitHub project to collect data on how many females are employed full-time writing or architecting software. Even at this early point, the data is striking: Based on data reported for 107 companies, 438 of 3,594 engineers (12%) are female. Here's how some well-known companies stack up."
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Female Software Engineers May Be Even Scarcer Than We Thought

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  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:17PM (#45531975)

    Male elementary school teachers may be scarcer than we thought.

    Who gives a shit?

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:24PM (#45532053)

      More importantly, this entire "study" is garbage. It is a self-selecting poll. So it doesn't "prove" there are fewer women, it just shows that men are more willing to fritter their time away on some stupid web poll.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Hadlock ( 143607 )

        Says you. I didn't read anything about a cowboy neal option in this poll you speak of.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:55PM (#45532423)

        I'm more interested in the number of engineers than the percent that are female.

        Apparently Reddit gets by with only 14 engineers, Khan Academy needs 24, SnapChat only 13, Flickr needs 42, but then Pinterest needs 105, Etsy needs 149, Dropbox needs 143, and Mozilla requires 500 engineers. Some of those companies are much more lean and efficient than I thought. And others are way more bloated.

        14 people at Reddit can manage their entire infrastructure of servers and networking gear hosting all of their forums, in addition to the mobile version, browser extensions, buttons and widgets and whatever else, but Dropbox needs 143 people to manage file uploading, storage, and access. Not to downplay what Dropbox does, but I don't think they offer 10 times the product that Reddit does.

        • Uh no, those 14 people are who Reddit has "writing or architecting software, and are in full-time roles". Presumably there's an entire different pool of people managing their infrastructure of servers and networking gear, etc. IT people are not software engineers any more than your car mechanic is a mechanical engineer.

          • I didn't read the article, the table of data just listed "engineers." Network engineers are people, too!

            Even so though, my point about the comparison between the various companies still stands. Reddit seems lean and mean compared to companies like Dropbox and Etsy.

          • Re:And? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Pheret1 ( 937597 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @08:08PM (#45533239)
            I just counted - there are 8 engineers focused on, and 4 engineers focused on, and 2 sysadmins. That's the entire technical staff. source: [] also: i work there too
            • Okay, then tell the people at your company who aren't actually software engineers to stop calling themselves software engineers. Contrary to common opinion, it's not a term for any vaguely computer related job.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <slashdot2@anthon ... m ['mcl' in gap]> on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @07:34PM (#45532887) Homepage

          Not to downplay what Dropbox does, but I don't think they offer 10 times the product that Reddit does.

          Why not? Dropbox offers a file storage service that works across a myriad of wildly differing device types and platforms using native platform development. Not to mention they store many orders of magnitude more data than Reddit.

          Meanwhile, Reddit only provides community-moderated plain-text discussion threads via a lightweight web interface.

          Just because Reddit has more content that is specifically valuable to you, how do you make the jump to assume that what they're doing is on par or more difficult than what Dropbox does?

        • reddit is basically just a forum. dropbox does storage and lots of it, that means scaling is critical, data consistency / backups and infrastructure should be a lot more robust. that requires more people.

          Still, that pinterest number is way too high.

      • So it doesn't "prove" there are fewer women, it just shows that men are more willing to fritter their time away on some stupid web poll.

        Taking an educated guess and replacing it with pure speculation of your own does not a +5 Insightful comment make, and yet here we are.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:34PM (#45532181)

      Male elementary school teachers may be scarcer than we thought.

      After all, everyone knows there are only two kinds of people who love small children: female elementary school teachers and male pedophiles.

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:59PM (#45532463)

        "After all, everyone knows there are only two kinds of people who love small children: female elementary school teachers and male pedophiles."

        I certainly hope you were being sarcastic. Because if we wanted to take your comment literally, then all fathers would be pedophiles.

        On the other hand, it has certainly seemed as though society has been willing to look askance at any male who pays any attention to children. This is a problem in our society that I noticed over 20 years ago.

        Hint, folks: treating an entire gender as though they are likely perverts is far worse than discrimination in employment. In fact, I would call that a perversion in itself.

        • Re:And? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @05:32AM (#45536159) Homepage Journal

          The GP was referring to the reason given by many trainee male teachers for not wanting to go into primary schools. It's a major problem in the UK, with children lacking male role models. They spend a lot of their young lives at school so it is important.

          We have had a long and relentless campaign against paedophiles, lead by newspapers. This is the result - our children are being harmed far more.

    • Male elementary school teachers may be scarcer than we thought.
      Who gives a shit?

      As a man, Wiederspan is a rarity in U.S. elementary-school education. And experts say that as boys continue to lag behind girls academically, schools could use more male teachers.

      "Having male teachers, boys have a model that it's OK to be male and be in the classroom, he said. "School isn't just a female enterprise. That's what the presence of a man says to kids."

      Why Men Don't Teach Elementary School []

    • Who gives a shit?

      Most Democrats?

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:24PM (#45532043)
    ...good thing or bad?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:26PM (#45532071)

    Women in general aren't introverted enough. Most women refuse to live in a dark room with a slot in the door that someone stuffs food through. Without that you can't be a successful programmer.

    • by _merlin ( 160982 )

      It's a funny thing, one girl developer I know is far more introverted and anti-social than me. She has to be almost dragged to social events, spends weekends in her bedroom gaming, and would rather communicate with a chain of e-mails than do a phone call.

  • Don't get it. So women don't want to program. That's fine. Why do we feel the need to inflate the numbers? Feminism is an outdated concept by this point - and frankly, it doesn't apply to software engineering.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vux984 ( 928602 )

      Don't get it. So women don't want to program. That's fine.

      Do we know that? I sure don't know that.

      Maybe its because computer studies, and software engineering is hostile to women. Do I know that? No, I don't know that either.

      But if its true its something I'd want to know and correct.

      Once upon a time there were no female politicians. Is that because "women weren't interested in politics?" Turns out, no, that was not the reason at all.

      Maybe the sciences are the same. Maybe its got nothing to do with science.

      • by tftp ( 111690 )

        "So women don't want to program. That's fine." -- Do we know that? I sure don't know that.

        I'd understand if you profess your lack of certainty when we are discussing geology of Mars. But, reportedly, a few women are present on Earth, and since they are sentient you can ask them and get an answer :-) Wouldn't that be the most reliable way to find out what their motivation is?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Feminism has nothing to do with equality, the moment it achieves equality, the feminist cry foul and change the rules. Feminism is a religious cult more than anything else.

        When female privilege backfires [] - watch this.

        roman_mir []

  • Scary (Score:5, Funny)

    by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:26PM (#45532079) Homepage Journal

    I read this as "Female Software Engineers may be even Scarier Than we Thought" and I couldn't wait to find out how in the world that was going to be quantified and/or justified.

    I love geeks, scary or not.

  • by Atrox666 ( 957601 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @06:27PM (#45532089)

    I thought it said Female Software Engineers May Be Even Scarier Than We Thought.

  • Female and male sofware engineers should receive equal payment. Female engineers should get half the total payment, males get the other half. That's only fair, isn't it?

  • Most hairstylists are women. Should we wring our hands about that too?

    • Yes, we should. If you see a male hair stylist, what's your first impression of him? What about a man who really loves working with children? We lose out on a great deal of talent by assuming gender roles apply to careers.
  • I

    Male elementary school teachers may be scarcer than we thought.
    Who gives a shit?

    Men and women are different. One or more of those differences may account for the disparity in software engineers. For example women tend to be more social creatures. Maybe they tend to choose jobs that are more sociable than coding?

    Computer work requires accountability and taking responsibility, and dealing with reality something that very few women are capable of doing.

  • Female Software Engineers May Be Even Scarcer Than We Thought

    In these admittedly "androgynous time" we live in... how can we really be sure who's who?? :p

    • Androgynous? When I was a small boy I began reading all sorts of magazines and finding out things about the sexes. Imagine a 7 year old trying to talk about complex issues like gender or gravitational lensing with moronic adults. Despite everyone telling me what was "normal" for a boy I had different urges -- I wanted to do things that boys aren't supposed to do. In my teens I finally realized that my brain was trapped in the wrong kind of body -- One that could survive the harshness of space. I should

  • So 10% of software engineers are female, but, the entire list of firms listed are "within the decade", web-based firms that program mostly in Javascript.

    Get into the insurance or banking businesses, or anyone that's been computing since the 1960's and you'll find those numbers are different. If we're programming Cobol, I'd have to say that almost 50% of our developers are women.

  • [] ... even IF its partially assumed on her/their part, the fact remains that as long as women feel this way in the tech world, they will remains scarce.
  • Interpretation-wise, both numbers are way too low, and the industry needs to put in an active, collective effort at increasing them.

    Statistically, that's a weird margin. Both surveys seem to have fairly sample sizes. How do they manage to differ by 10 percentage points - nearly as much as the smaller number?

  • Scarcer than "we" thought? Who is the "we"? In close to 30 years of working with computers, I can count on one hand the number of females I've run into who actually code for a living.

    I think more wind up in some sort of project management position over a group of developers ... but even that's not quite commonplace.

    I don't think this has much of anything to do with equality of pay between men and women, nor is it the fault of sexist hiring practices. It's simply fact that very few women get too excited ab

    • In close to 30 years of working with computers, I can count on one hand the number of females I've run into who actually code for a living.

      Well, what do you mean by "code for a living"? Do you mean women that held an engineering position for that entire 30 year span of time? Most of my coworkers are male, granted, but I'd have to at least include my toes to count the number of female software engineers in the building with me right now.

      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

        I was referring to the number of women I've known who were actively working full-time doing software development/coding for a living -- without regard to how long they held the position.

        I don't know where you work, and for that matter -- I never worked for a company primarily focused on software development, so maybe my personal experiences don't include a lot of situations? But I have worked in I.T. for companies who had software development teams on staff -- and I haven't run into any women writing the ac

  • All but a few of the companies providing data had miniscule teams. Not exactly likely to be a fantastic representation of the averages.

    I was surprised to see that flickr supposedly has 40 developers. They must all be on dilbert style cofee breaks because from a customer's perspective they can't get the site working for beans. Having personally reported significant bugs to them months ago (every one of which is still present), it's extra disappointing. Maybe they're too busy writing encryption to
  • by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @07:19PM (#45532697) Journal

    Are women a minority in other sciences?
    Based on enrollment in engineering studies they are a distinct minority (17.7% in 2009 per the NSF PDF): []

    Given that, I would expect that under 20% of software engineers would be women (in no year did the % enrolled exceed 20%).

    An individual, regardless of gender, must choose to go into engineering(software included), usually via a degree program (I went actuarial and then moved into software development - but I had a lot of software development experience previously, into architecture/process optimization now).

    As an alternate example, men only represent about 10% of the Registered Nurse population (not sure of the year): []

    I see no issue or sexism based on the number of women entering engineering sciences. I imagine the stats generally follow the % by gender that seek such degrees.

  • ...I thought that said "even scarier".

  • All of the companies listed in the article are small companies that do strictly commercial software development. I don't see any numbers for the really big commercial software companies like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. Likewise, I don't see any numbers for the big aerospace companies like Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed, CSC, BAE, etc. Big companies and, especially, big companies that work on government contracts are much more likely to have affirmative action policies and specifically recr

  • by ObjetDart ( 700355 ) on Tuesday November 26, 2013 @07:55PM (#45533117)

    I have been a professional software developer for 22 years. Over that time I've worked for 5 different companies, of varying sizes, the largest having maybe 100 employees.

    Not once in all these years was there a single female software engineer working for any of those companies. Not a single one.

    Anyway, from the single data point that is my personal experience, female software engineers seem to be about as common as unicorns. Even 12% seems way too high a figure.

    I don't know why this is, but I think it's a shame.

    • I'll add my anecdotal evidence. The place I work at has about 20% female developers. We do device drivers, not web stuff.

      Last time I saw a thread about this on Slashdot someone posted what they called the Dave threshold theory: Within any software group there will be as many or fewer female developers as there are people named Dave.

      I've been here for 10+ years and we've always been above the Dave threshold (and we do have a Dave).

  • When I was in physics, we had the same problem. In a freshman class of 20 or so students, there would be 2 or 3 women. By graduation there would only be 5-10 men left and no women.

    I asked one of the women that started the year after I did why she switched to math. She said that we guys all got together to work problem sets in the dorms while she had to do hers alone (the college offered limited opportunities for men and women to visit each-other's dorms at the time). This surprised me as I always did my set


    They're supposed to be equally viable candidates, remember?
  • I'd never seen a statistic of 22%, which sounds high based on my experience. 12% sounds much more plausible to me.

  • I don't give a damn.

    I got called sexist because I was promoted over a womyn-born-womyn I was more qualified than. The feminists called me sexist, even though the person who promoted me was also a womyn-born-womyn.

    Guess what? I'm still making shit per hour while she went off and got married, had a seven day honeymoon in Hawaii, and is now a stay-at-home Mother. (Yes, with a capital M.)

    We'll get more womyn-born-womyn in STEM careers once we decide that womyn-born-womyn need to have a career that pays more

  • It's not the guys who say this, depressingly I've found it's women (at least down here in Australia) that commonly lament that they (feel they) are mentally incapable of tackling programming. =/ Of course, typically nobody challenges those assertions.

    I suppose what's needed is a bit of public education. Sure, coding is a logical thing at its core, but a whole lot of creativity goes into producing great code as well.

    Maybe the solution is to popularise pair programming more?

  • by codeButcher ( 223668 ) on Wednesday November 27, 2013 @04:15AM (#45535887)

    I'm living/working in a country that seems to care somewhat less about gender roles in IT than the US. In my career I've worked with various women, and I never detected any sort of institutionalized sexism.

    However, a number of women I've worked with tended to gravitate to non-programming roles (Business Analyst seems to be a favorite, others are Testers, Configuration Managers and what not). I've heard a couple of times "programming is too hard". It needs to be noted that these where intelligent people and their programming output, from what I could see personally, was certainly not inferior.

    I'm puzzled by it, but I guess in an industry that does not enforce quotas but allows people the freedom to progress as they see fit, what is the harm?

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker