WHAT?!?!?!? Women Considered Better Coders – But Only If They Hide Their Gender

What Does Gender Have to Do With Coding? When a group of computer science students decided to study the way that gender bias plays out in software development communities, they assumed that coders would be prejudiced against code written by women. After all, women make up a very small percentage of software developers – 11.2% according to one 2013 survey – and the presence of sexism in all corners of the overwhelmingly male tech industry has been well documented.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding! So the student researchers were surprised when their hypothesis proved false – code written by women was in fact more likely to be approved by their peers than code written by men. But that wasn’t the end of the story: this only proved true as long as their peers didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

“Our results suggest that although women on GitHub may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless,” the study’s authors write. The researchers, who published their findings earlier this week looked at the behavior of software developers on GitHub, one of the largest open-source software communities in the world.

What Were The Results of the Study? Based in San Francisco, GitHub is a giant repository of code used by over 12 million people. Software developers on GitHub can collaborate on projects, scrutinise each other’s work, and suggest improvements or solutions to problems. When a developer writes code for someone else’s project, it’s called a “pull request”. The owner of the code can then decide whether or not to accept to proffered code.

  • Researchers found that code written by women was approved at a higher rate (78.6%) than code written by men (74.6%)
  • The researchers looked at approximately 3m pull requests submitted on GitHub, and found that code written by women was approved at a higher rate (78.6%) than code written by men (74.6%).
  • Looking for an explanation for this disparity, the researchers examined several different factors, such as whether women were making smaller changes to code (they were not) or whether women were outperforming men in only certain kinds of code (they were not).
  • “Women’s acceptance rates dominate over men’s for every programming language in the top 10, to various degrees,” the researchers found.
  • The researchers then queried whether women were benefiting from reverse bias – the desire of developers to promote the work of women in a field where they are such a small minority. To answer this, the authors differentiated between women whose profiles made it clear that they were female, and women developers whose profiles were gender neutral.
  • It was here that they made the disturbing discovery: women’s work was more likely to be accepted than men’s, unless “their gender is identifiable”, in which case the acceptance rate was worse than men’s.

What Do Female Coders Think About the Study? Lorna Jane Mitchell, a software developer whose work is almost entirely based on GitHub, said that it was impossible to tell whether a pull request was ignored out of bias, or just because a project owner was busy or knew another developer personally. Her profile on GitHub clearly identifies her as female, something she won’t be changing based on the results of this study.

“I have considered how wise it is to have a gender-obvious profile and to me, being identifiably female is really important,” Mitchell said by email. “I want people to realise that the minorities do exist. And for the minorities themselves: to be able to see that they aren’t the only ones … it can certainly feel that way some days.”

Another developer, Isabel Drost-Fromm, whose profile picture on GitHub is a female cartoon character, said that she’s never experienced bias while working GitHub, but that she normally uses the site to work on projects with a team that already knows her and her work.

Jenny Bryan, a professor of statistics at the University of British Columbia, uses GitHub as a teacher and developer in R, a programming language. Her profile makes clear that she is a woman, and she doesn’t believe that she’s been discriminated against due to her gender.

“At the very most, men who don’t know me sometimes explain things to me that I likely understand better than they do,” she writes. “The men I interact with in the R community on GitHub know me and, if my genderhas any effect at all, I feel they go out of their way to support my efforts to learn and make more contributions.”

Bryan was more concerned with the paucity of women using GitHub than she was with the study’s results. “Where are the women?” she asks. One possibility she raises is the very openness of the open source community.

“In open source, no one is getting paid to manage the community,” she writes. “Thus often no one is thinking about how well the community is (or is not) functioning.”

That’s a pressing question for GitHub itself, which has faced serious charges of internal sexism which led to the resignation of co-founder and CEO Tom Preston-Werner in 2014. GitHub did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the study.

In 2013, GitHub installed a rug in its headquarters that read, “United Meritocracy of GitHub.” The rug was removed in 2014 after criticism from feminist commentators that, although meritocracy is a virtue that it is hard to disagree with in principle, it doesn’t do much for diversity in the workplace. CEO Chris Wanstrath tweeting, “We thought ‘meritocracy’ was a neat way to think of open source but now we see the problems with it. Words matter. We’re getting a new rug.”

As the researchers of the pull request study wrote, “The frequent refrain that open source is a pure meritocracy must be reexamined.”

My POV: As one of the few females in the technology, analyst, software, digital transformation world, you would think that women would be highly sought after. It not for all the obvious reasons that help companies check off their requirements to support a gender neutral workplace, but also because women bring something very special to the workplace. An honest desire to do great work in collaboration with others.

I hope more companies who are saying they want to support women in technology, software, medicine and other typically male-dominated fields put their money where their mouth is and hire us. We are are ready and willing and capable of going the distance. I know when I was in graduate school, I was the only blonde female in my Ph. D. program. What does that say?

@DrNatalie, Ph. D. In Engineering, UCLA and VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

 

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MIT Sloan Management Review: Culture Top Factor In Achieving Success With Analytics

New global study from MIT Sloan Management Review finds that companies face challenges in maintaining a competitive advantage with analytics, as more companies avail themselves of analytical tools and that culture is the most important factor in achieving success with analytics.

This is a very important finding because using the analytics that are available today can completely transform a company. However, the company has to be ready to take the information and feedback from the analytics and do something with it.

This global survey of more than 2,000 business executives and personal interviews with over 30 senior managers, also finds that companies must continuously innovate with analytics to maintain the edge it affords. This is exactly what the paper I wrote about spoke of – CMOs are no longer just marketers. CMOs are the buyers of technology and they are drivers of revenue, innovation and differentiation. There’s no hope to be a blue ocean strategy company without this. But how many companies are really taking big data, analytics and culture to heart?

“A strong analytics culture with decision-making norms include the use of analytics, even if the results challenge views held by senior management,” said David Kiron, executive editor for MIT Sloan Management Review.  “This differentiates those companies from others, where often management experience overrides insights from data.”

So the big question for leaders today is, “Do you want to know what is being said about your company and are you prepared to make changes?” I wrote about organizational change management years ago. What’s interesting is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The technology we have today has gotten more powerful and provides us with more information, knowledge and if we use it correctly, wisdom and insights.

The question is senior leadership ready and are those that use these tools and software properly trained in how to gain the insights from the software? Those are just some of the change management issues that go along with technology purchases. That’s never changed, but it seems in the light of this current study, the evidence for it being the case is being made even stronger with an actual study.

Look forward to connecting and hearing your thoughts!
Dr. Natalie Petouhoff 
Skype: drnatalie007 | LinkedIn | Google+

Catch my latest:
• Thoughts at www.DrNatalieNews.com 
• Upcoming book series: “7 Steps To Digital Customer Experience Mastery” (working title) 

SAVE THE DATE!
Constellation’s 4th Annual Connected Enterprise 
The Executive Innovation Conference | October 29th-31st

Half Moon Bay, CA | Ritz Carlton

 

 

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Authenticity is Need MORE Now Than Ever! Benioff vs. Oracle’s Debacle

As a Former Forrester Analyst, I attended all the software conferences. Now I only attend the ones that I think are really relevant to my clients. What’s nice about being an independent software and business analyst is that I don’t have to pretend any more to say a vendor is great when they are not and I don’t have to be afraid of speaking the truth.

Why Oracle allowed Benioff to speak at previous OpenWorld’s is beyond me, when they are competitors. But they did. Maybe Oracle didn’t see that they were competitors. I think that they looked down on Salesforce and didn’t see what that the world had changed. It’s not the first time this has happened.

Sometimes even the brightest people don’t-know-what-they-don’t-know. In Joel Barker’s book, Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, he uses the following examples to illustrate how we negate ideas through our own filters or perceptions of the world. When we see the world from our own limited perspective, sound solutions are dismissed or overlooked.

“The Earth is the center of the Universe.” PTOLEMY, Astronomer, 300 B.C.

“The phonograph is not of any commercial value.” THOMAS EDISON, inventor of the phonograph, 1880

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Harry Warner, WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES, 1927

“There’s no reason for anyone to have a computer in their home.” Ken Olsen, President of DIGITAL EQUIPMENT CORPORATION, 1977

It’s interesting this year that they did what seems to be a last minute change of heart around having Marc speak. What it did is drive all the PR to Salesforce.com, which as we all know, Marc is a master marketer.

I’m not at OpenWorld because there is really nothing new. Oracle’s Fusion has been promised for years. Their customers are frustrated by the user interface, specially when it comes to Customer Service and I don’t think they are leading the social business capabilities that business must have. Their acquisition of InQuira was a good move.  I did attend Dreamforce and I spoke on the ROI of social media and had a great panel with real-world experience of transforming their organizations.

But Social Media is the MOST important thing that has happened to business in 100 years. Companies need software to facilitate this. Maybe that’s why Oracle decided to un-invite Benioff? The handling of this leaves lot’s of room for speculation on why they would do this.

What’s difficult in the connected social network world we live in, is excuses like, “We offered Benioff a different time slot and he choose not to accept it” doesn’t fly in the face of the need for companies to be authentic, genuine and human. This event has been set in stone for a long time. The last minute change up of Benioff’s time slot doesn’t hit the mark with respect to honestly.

It’s a new world we are living in. We are all under a microscope that our behavior as brands gets played out on the big stage called life. And social media is the giant megaphone and broadcast system that reaches millions and billions in a nano-second.

What do you think Oracle should do now? Let it go? Apologize and admit that they changed the time slot because they felt threatened by Salesforce? Make up a different story? Love to hear your thoughts!

Here’s some other articles: New York Times, IT News,

Forbes AllThingsD

Here’s my friend Charlie Issac’s youtube video on Larry Ellison’s speech- that speech may have been the tipping point to the change in the Benioff schedule…

@drnatalie

www.drnatalienews.com

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