Monday, December 2, 2019


Gender Equality in Software Engineering

three extracts from an international workshop 

By:  Jeffrey Carver (@JeffCarver32) and Alexander Serebrenik (@aserebrenik)



Associate Editor: Xabier Larrucea (@xlarrucea)



This post diverges from the standard way of publishing because it links to the current issue of the IEEE Software magazine  (here). This approach helps readers to compliment magazine issues with related posts.


In fact, the following summaries are stemming from the 2nd International Workshop on Gender Equality in Software Engineering



“Characterizing Women (Not) Contributing to Open-Source” by Wurzelov√° and colleagues studies factors related to women’s under-representation in open-source software development. Using the results from the 2018 Stack Overflow survey of software developers (100,000 respondents, 3,436 women), the authors compare the characteristics of women who reported contributions to open-source software development with the characteristics of women who did not report contributions to open-source software. The characteristics the authors analyzed include: experience, age, education, perceived competence, feelings of kinship and competition, and self-education activities. Surprisingly, the authors did not identify any marked differences in any of these characteristics. This result suggests, among the survey respondents, the population of women who reported contributions to open-source software development is similar to the population of women who do not report contributions to open-source development. Especially surprising is that the authors did not identify any difference in the respondents’ perception of their own competence, even though underestimating one’s own competence is widely considered a reason for why women contribute less in open-source environments. This result hints at the presence of other reasons, not analyzed in this study, why the participation of women is lower in open-source software. This paper appears in the 2019 GE workshop. Access it at http://bit.ly/PD-2019-Blog-01. 

“Women-only Spaces of Open Source”, by Singh studies the phenomenon that several open-source projects have designated women-centered spaces to facilitate the interactions of women, increase their participation, and empower them. The author observed that among 355 established open-source projects listed on Wikipedia, only 16 had such spaces. The type of space varied from Facebook/Twitter entities to individual blog posts to entire websites dedicated to supporting women involved in the project. The oldest women-centered space, LinuxChix, is almost twenty years old. The most recent one, Women in Bitcoin, goes back to 2013. All the spaces implement strategies to encourage the involvement of women by showcasing their achievements, pairing more and less experienced participants, and support the participants in revealing their identity if they desire to do so. The research suggests that these women-centered spaces fill a gap in the infrastructure of open source projects and have implications for improving the overall underrepresentation of women in technology. However, further research is required to understand why some of these spaces become inactive or cease to exist while other flourish. This paper appears in the 2019 GE workshop. Access it at http://bit.ly/PD-2019-Blog-02.  

“How Remote Work can Foster a More Inclusive Environment for Transgender Developers” by Ford and colleagues studies the experience of transgender software developers. By talking to several transgender software developers the authors identified three themes that resonate across the trans experience and intersect with the advantages to working in software development remotely: identity disclosure, high-impact technical work, and the autonomy to disengage and re-engage. Based on these interviews and survey of the literature, the authors  hypothesize that remote work technologies can increase the sense of empowerment transgender people have to be authentic and effective in their work. This paper appears in the 2019 GE workshop. Access it at http://bit.ly/PD-2019-Blog-03.