According to a new study, computer code written by women gets higher approval rating, when compared with code written by men in the US. The researchers analyzed data from 1.4 million users of the open source software-sharing service, Github. The researchers discovered that pull requests, which are suggested code changes that are made on Github by women were more likely to be used than code written by men.
The researchers are comprised of computer science departments from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Carolina University checked data from 4 million people who logged in to Github on April 1, 2015. Github is a ginormous developer community which is 12 million people strong and does not request gender identity information.
However, the research team was able to identify whether people were female or male from 1.4 million users either through their Github user profiles or judging from their email addresses and matching them to Google+ profiles.
The researchers saw that this might be a privacy breach on their part, but the researchers did not intend to publish the raw data. According to the research, 78.6% of pull requests submitted by women were accepted versus 74.6% of pull requests submitted by men.
Researchers found that profiles where it was clear that the users were female, they would experience a much lower acceptance rate than those profiles where gender was not obvious. The researchers remarked that their findings found clear gender bias:
"For outsiders, we see evidence for gender bias: women's acceptance rates are 71.8% when they use gender neutral profiles, but drop to 62.5% when their gender is identifiable . There is a similar drop for men, but the effect is not as strong. Women have a higher acceptance rate of pull requests overall, but when they're outsiders and their gender is identifiable, they have a lower acceptance rate than men. Our results suggest that although women on Github may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless."
Despite various initiatives made by Microsoft and other companies to be more gender-inclusive, diversity in gender and ethnicity in the workplace continues to be a problem. According to diversity figures released in 2015, women account for only 16% of Facebook's technical staff and 18% of Google. In an interview with the BBC, computer scientist Dr. Sue Black found the researchers' Github data promising:
"I think we are going to see a resurgence of interest from women in not only coding but all sorts of tech-related careers over the next few years. Knowing that women are great at coding gives strength to the case that it's better for everyone to have more women working in tech. 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."
There is still much work to be done for tech companies large and small to promote gender diversity in the workplace. Two organizations in particular are aimed at closing the gender gap in technology careers; specifically Girls Who Code and Women Who Code. Let us know your thoughts on gender diversity in tech companies when it comes to coding in the comments section below.