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15 November 2012

Women, Coding, and Coding

I'm making my way through the archives of the Office Hours podcast, and I was recently intrigued by a "discovery" that the hosts presenting. At the beginning of this episode, they share research that shows that women's participation in open-source coding is disproportionately low. The researchers attribute this effect to implicit bias, gendered and otherwise coded language in the subculture, as well as some structural constraints to computer access and training. I'm guessing that there might be something a little simpler going on. I'd speculate that since I assume there is higher (any?) pay and benefits in the proprietary coding world that women, who are already more likely to receive lower pay than their male counterparts regardless of the field, are predisposed to work in the proprietary realm over the open-coding realm. We see this going on in higher education as well. Women are increasingly outnumbering men in colleges and university as students in part because they are well aware that unlike men who are still better able to get a job with reasonable pay absent a college degree, women need a college degree if they hope to have a job that offers livable (albeit inequitable) pay and benefits. Perhaps the same social forces are at work in the software industry that are at work in high ed.

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