Open SourceReport

Are Women Better Coders Than Men?

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Biases against women in the workplace have been documented in several studies, but it turns out that popular opinion that women perform less well in technical jobs could be wildly wrong. A recent study by US researchers has found that computer code written by women tends to be rated more highly than that written by men.

Prepints released the study,entitled “Gender Bias in open Source:Pull Request acceptance of womenVs Men” .This probably was the largest study
up-to now on gender bias .

Researchers analyzed data from GitHub, a San Francisco-based open source software community with more than 12 million users who collaborate on coding projects by suggesting solutions to various problems. By tracking users using social networks and Google, the researchers were able to obtain the gender of 1.4 million users, which allowed them to assemble the largest scale study of gender bias to date.

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The team examined whether men and women were equally likely to have their coding suggestions, known as a pull request, accepted on GitHub. They hypothesized that pull requests made by women were less likely to be accepted than those made by men. After all, the number of women in computer science are dwarfed by the number of men – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 73 percent of the field is comprised of men.
The researchers were quick to note that their study does not definitively provide that differences between gendered interactions are caused by bias among individuals, but the trend is “troubling” nonetheless, they said, especially in a field like open source software, which is often praised for being a meritocracy.

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When Chantal Marin, developer at Microsoft was asked about it,she says,

“I don’t think that it matters. I can just notice a slight difference in the organisation and documentation of the code. Usually women seem to be more organised and write cleaner code.”

If accurate, the study would reinforce the perception against women in the tech work environment, where gender disparity is common. For example, only 18 per cent of Google’s global technical staff is women. In a 2013 survey of the more than 2000 open source developers who indicated their gender, only 11.2 per cent were women. Recent research has also suggested that diverse software development teams are more productive than homogeneous teams.

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