Female Coders Face Rejection When They Reveal Their Gender, Shows Study

grace hopper 4
grace hopper 4
Image: African Rubiz | Grace M. Hopper created the world’s first compliler for a programming language.

Short Bytes: A new study has been conducted to analyse gender bias in the open source world. The researchers took the advantage of existing studies and concepts to calculate the Pull Request acceptance rate of female coders versus male coders on GitHub which is the world’s largest code repository.

The notion of gender equality is prevalent all around the world. Numerous organisations have come into existence for the purpose of supporting women rights. A new study has come into light which is capable enough to make a serious crack in the building pillar of gender equality.

A group of researchers from the North Carolina State University and California Polytechnic State University have analysed the extent of gender bias in the open source world. For that purpose, they took the 10 million accounts of the GitHub community – which is the world’s largest open source code repository – as the sample for their research. They’ve published a research paper which says that the female coders are subject to higher rejection rates as compared to men, even though, they perform better.

Their task was to analyse user behaviour on GitHub and observe “Pull Requests” rates based on the gender of the coder. Pull Requests are the code suggestions made by a programmer to repository owners on GitHub and get merged into the existing code if they get accepted by the owner.

Researchers thought of a preconceived hypothesis that Pull Requests made by female coders are less likely to be accepted as compared to the ones by male coders. Seeing the conclusion – Pull Requests made by women (at a rate of 78.4%) were more accepted over men (74.6%) – they were surprised that their hypothesis was proven wrong.

The research paper highlights two different perspectives of the researchers’ study agenda. They were able to come up with different conclusions for how users were connected to a repository. They grouped the users into two main categories, Insiders and Outsiders.

For Insiders – who are either the project owners or collaborators to the repository – the acceptance rate was irrespective of the gender of the coder, and it didn’t matter whether it was public or not. This might be because the coders are familiar with each other and have the authority to make changes to the repository.

For Outsiders – who don’t belong to a repository – a significant gender bias was observed. Female coders who were not known to the repository owner and their gender was not disclosed had an acceptance rate of 71.8%. For the unknown female coders who had their gender public, the acceptance rate dropped to 62.5%.

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According to the study, it’s easy to decipher that if a female coder is well known in a repository, the chances of her code being accepted and merged in that repository are high or equivalent to males. The female coders had a lower acceptance rate if they were outsiders, a similar drop was observed for male coders but they still performed better.

Proceeding towards a conclusive discussion, the research paper emphasised that women are more competent than their gendered counterparts when it comes to pursuing higher education and putting more efforts. The lack of recognition and inequality prevalent since the human race attained its social consciousness has encouraged them to represent themselves as a more accomplished individual in the open source community.

It is hard to figure out whether the open source community is gender biased or that they don’t find the female coders reliable and capable enough but on the other hand, the female coders, who are well known, have higher acceptance rates as their work and capabilities are already known.

Women are an integral part of the human resource and their contribution to the technology world is commendable. Studies like these are a hard blow on the face of manoeuvres like Intel’s Diversity Workforce Initiative which has come into existence to fulfil Intel’s goal of representing a completely diverse workforce by the year 2020.

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Source: Science Alert

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