Gender Wars

The technology industry often takes credit for the changing world of work. One example is the model of remote employees working as digital nomads in their favourite coffee shop, connected via Slack and collaborating via the cloud to create products and services for consumption over the internet or on smartphones and tablets. But what about work within the technology industry itself? We take a look at the profile of women in technology and compare it with the profile of their male counterparts.

If we exclude those who preferred not to share their gender with us, and those who skipped this optional question, female developers responding to our survey were outnumbered by males by a ratio of 1 to 10 (9% women and 91% men). This suggests a global population of 1.7 million women developers and 17 million men. The technology industry is dominated by men and the imbalance in numbers is such that we cannot make numerical comparisons between men and women. Instead, in the rest of this chapter, we will look at relative differences in terms of experience, age and roles adopted, and the most common company sectors and development areas for men and women.

What are their ages?

Looking at the comparative ages of male and female developers, we find a higher percentage of women are under the age of 35. The 25-34 age group accounts for the largest number of developers of both genders (36% of women, 33% of men), yet male developers are more likely to be older: we found 37% of male developers are over 35 years, compared to 29% of women developers.

There are (at least) two different ways of interpreting this observation. One is to say that women are being increasingly drawn to software development; the comparatively young profile of women compared to men illustrates recent gains made in attracting girls and young women into technology. Analysis of college data for entrants to computer science courses, in North America at least, suggests that this is indeed a plausible explanation, as women are increasingly studying courses in the subjects that lead to a career in technology.

An alternative, or additional, explanation is that women may have always been involved, but tend to leave software development as they get older, either by choice or necessity.

And here’s a preview of the roles they undertake:

Gender Wars 1

What is their educational background?

When we looked into the education levels of the genders, we noted that women developers are equally likely to have been educated to degree level in computing/software engineering when compared to men. Likewise for other classroom training that doesn’t lead to specific degrees, and for attendance at developer bootcamps.

Women are slightly more likely than men to have learned their craft using online course materials and slightly less likely to have learned on-the-job. Women are significantly less likely to be self-taught (57% of women compared to 75% of men) but it is still the most popular way of learning about development for both genders. The relatively older profile of men probably explains why more have become self-taught: they have engaged in continuous education throughout their longer career because of the rapidly changing nature of the industry. As women developers mature, we would expect the level of “self-taught” women to rise as they also teach themselves new skills to advance their career.

For more details on the Gender Wars, you can download our State of the Developer Nation 16th Edition report.

It’s free and full of insights.


Developer Economics

All articles by Developer