women in tech

Are women really better coders? Does it matter? What’s the real problem?

By Kitty Knowles 26 February 2016
WHC
Summary

4 female coders from the likes of Decoded, Microsoft & Women Who Code tell us what it's really like inside the industry.

You will all know that the tech industry suffers from a pretty massive gender disparity.

At Google, women make up 17% of technical employees, at Facebook, it’s just 15%. According to Evans Data research, in 2015 just 22.2% of software developers around the world were female – that’s a little over 4m women.

Are women better coders?

Earlier this month there was somewhat of a media maelstrom over a line in a study that claimed that women are actually better coders than men, but that they were often dismissed simply because of their sex.

At one end of the scale, some leaders were quick to jump on the statistics to champion women and highlight implicit sexism in the industry. At the other end, some sought to devalue the report, hanging much of their cynicism on the fact it was not peer-reviewed.

But does it really matter if women are better at coding than men? Surely, the bigger issues are the ones that lie behind: Is the industry sexist? How does this impact the lives of female developers? How can we fix any problems?

We asked four incredible women who code what they felt about it all… 

Chantal Marin, developer at Microsoft

Are women better coders? 

I don’t think that it matters. I can just notice a slight difference in the organisation and documentation of the code. Usually women seem to be more organised and write cleaner code.

What got you into coding? 

I realised I couldn’t build the ideas I was having and I had no money to hire a developer [Marin has also co-founded companies including HoodooPro, DronesAdventures & Weeleo] .

What do you code now? 

I recently finished a project for Microsoft where we built a new app for the new Microsoft Band II. Being able to build innovative products is such a rewarding experience because it makes me feel I am building the future.

Is sexism more prevalent in tech?

In general people tell me that I don’t look like a coder and I usually need to prove them that I am as good technically as my other male peers.

How can we stop people being so judgmental?

If we increase the amount of women in tech roles – and especially in management roles – in companies it will make it less strange and sexism will gradually disappear. Creating and encouraging new role models, women that don’t necessarily look like the stereotype of a ‘techy woman’, would also encourage other women to join!

Any advice?

Think of ideas, pick the one you are most excited about and look online for help to build it. It is all out there. You will learn without even noticing.

Krystal Wu, developer Decoded

Are women or men are better coders?

It doesn’t matter at all.

What got you in to coding? 

I got into it by making personal websites as a hobby while I was in high school. I loved that I could write a few lines of code and create something that I could easily share with all my friends and family.

What do you love about your job?

The best part of what I do is seeing the end result on people’s screens and seeing that it has made their lives more efficient and easier.

Is sexism more prevalent in tech?

There were definitely signs of disapproval from school teachers and family when they learnt that I wanted to study Computer Science at university…

How can we support more women into technology?

Schools and parents have a massive impact on the decision young women make about their future career. Both need to see that the tech industry is a great place for young women to be and encourage them to pursue a career in this field.

Any advice?

Don’t be scared. It’s no harder than learning to ride a bike, you’ll fall over lots but once you’ve learnt the skill, it’s something you’ll never forget.

Angela Williams, developer 4PatientCare.com & HealtheSystems

Who is better at coding? 

I don’t think any gender is better at coding. I do believe that women have different styles of coding than men do, but, in the end, it really doesn’t matter.

What got you in to coding?

Years ago, I saw a really cool website that I fell in love with. I thought to myself I bet I can do that. So I figured out how to do it, and have been learning, growing, and coding ever since.

What do you code now? 

I mainly code websites and web applications. I work for 4PatientCare.com, HealtheSystems, and I freelance. Coding makes me feel accomplished and gives me confidence.

I love tackling a problem, figuring out a solution, and seeing people use it.

Is sexism more prevalent in tech?

I have noticed that IT departments and coders I have worked with have been predominately male. Luckily, I have not personally experienced any sexism. I feel my work always speaks for itself and takes any gender bias out of it.

How can we support women who do experience bias?

Women need to be their own advocates. They should educate themselves, trust their instincts, and not to be afraid to stand up for themselves. Women should have enough confidence in their skills and work that they won’t be discouraged by any sexism they encounter. This translates not only in the coding world, but in the business world as well.

Any advice?

Be open to learn and grow. Build your coding confidence up. Have the courage to jump in and figure it out.​

Claire Burn, developer Core Systems & Lead at Women Who Code

Are women better coders? 

There are so many external factors governing the ability to code, that gender doesn’t really even come into it, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter.

What got you in to coding? 

Strangely, biology got me into coding. I read a fantastic book on computational biology called ‘Genesis Machines‘, which was about harnessing the power of DNA to be able to compute things, and my computer science interest started from there.

I see coding as a challenge and a game, and it feels great to complete a piece of work, and be able to automate mundane tasks.

Is sexism more prevalent in tech?

Since it is an incredibly male dominated industry, there is always a pressure there to be ‘one of the guys’, and as fun as this is, sometimes it’s nice to step back from intense conversations about Vim vs. Emacs, and just have a cup of tea and talk about your dance class.

This is a very extreme example, but I’ve gone from a workplace where I’ve been the only girl, to one where there is more of an equal female to male balance, and the conversation topics are noticeably different. It’s really nice to have a mixture of both.

How can we help restore balance?

A lot of people don’t understand how fun coding can be, they think it’s a very lonely discipline: More effort needs to be made to make younger people aware of the opportunities and the multi-faceted nature of tech.

Any advice?

Don’t give up. If you get any sort of thrill out of coding, keep at it! And don’t be intimidated. People rarely know as much as they let on, and there’s many, many initiatives to help new coders find their feet.

Read more: Is the university of the future a coding school?

Read more: Inside a majority-female VC: investment talk, women’s strengths & trophy men

Read more: 3 inspiring founders balancing babies & business\

Read more: Norway celebrates Ada Lovelace Day with record-breaking coding class