As developers what can we do to improve the gender diversity in the tech community?

Gender gap is a well known problem in this male-dominated programming community. Can we developers collectively do something that can improve the overall gender diversity and inspire more women coders to join the tech community?

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15 answers

I can't speak to all women but from my experience what has made me feel valued and actually like my work environment is:

(1) Having a team that works together, having a culture of competition amongst team members feels counter intuitive. Having team members that you can lean on and lead is pivotal to personal growth and super helpful if your team lead is 'too busy'.

(2) Be or have a team lead who is patient and willing to mentor and answer questions. The team lead should be the person setting the tone for the dynamics of the team. When they seemed annoyed every time anyone asks them a question, has a harsh tone with every code review comment, basically seems like they don't have time for a core part of their role as a team lead it leaves those reporting under them feeling less enthused to want to work with them.

(3) Listen. No really, stop talking and just listen. If someone reaches out for help, let them explain the problem before you speak over them (it saves time backpedaling your assumptions on the issue). This goes across the board, other women can totally be offenders too. Check yourself, and let others speak.

(4) Growth opportunities. This is universal as well, not gender specific but I've seen this happen way too often with women. Companies will hire out rather than promote within. It's easy to obfuscate the decision to a 'company decision' but really it's individuals, individuals that we interact with daily that don't believe we can do the job.

(5) Inclusivity. Others have mentioned this one and it's definitely something that I've struggled with in the past. Sometimes it's easy to just keep to yourself if you're one of the only or the few in a group it's easy to feel like you don't belong. I tend to push myself out there even though I'm very introverted. Others might not, so it's important to meet people where they are and reach out or try to plan events with everyone in mind. While some people may love drinking, others might not, so instead of a bar maybe do an activity where everyone can participate but you can byob or there's a so it's a happy balance.

There's probably more but these are the top items I can think of at the moment. Would love to see other ladies' perspective!

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Nishant Agrwal - The question was how to improve gender diversity and improving the general atmosphere will help with that, as a happy byproduct it will also help improve the atmosphere for men and the existing community. Tech is largely male dominated and depending on the community it can be very toxic and opinionated (to the point of belittling those who are deemed not as well versed in a given topic). I can tell you in my experience that these issues I saw happen more to myself and other women starting out than it did to my male peers.

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As individuals: we can be welcoming and supportive to people in all varieties, treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Some ways an individual can do this are:

  • respecting people's choices
  • mentoring newcomers to help them get established
  • including everybody in your events, organizations, and projects

I think tech, especially the open-source community, has a long history of being welcoming to people of all kinds - young, old, educated, uneducated, able-bodied, disabled, from every language, culture, religion, and class you can imagine. Let's keep that tradition alive!

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Biological evidence shows that on average females are less interested in technological roles than males. See the James Damore memo for more info. There is no point in trying to change that as it is just human nature. Men are always going to be more interested in tech on average.

Some organizations are going too far and discriminating against men in the process - eg. some coding bootcamps are giving scholarships to women JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE WOMEN. This behaviour is wrong and everyone should be given scholarships (and jobs) BASED ON MERIT.

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@Ivan If you want to stop biases, then backing up your statements with facts would be a good start.

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.... who cares? You put in the work you get the job.

There are a lot of women out there .... how about asking them .... because they are actually the ones who count. Not some men rambling about our interpretation of their feelings and motivations

go to railsgirls.com ask them .... I cannot speak for them ... hell I cannot speak for women I actually know in tech ... and I don't want to ...

I call this hole discussion pointless as long as the party who actually should be involved is not participating .... this is like the catholic church talking about abortion ....

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Todd well g I would not pull this line of argument in front of a classic 3rd wave feminist. But yes women tend to include more than just superficial factors in their choice of partners :D

And here's the next thing :) shouldn't we ask specifically people who didn't pick our career path why they didn't pick it? because those are the one we wanna have? Because the women who are in tech are useful to improve the status quo. But they are already interested in the field.

But than this discussion will lead to statistics and I don't want to argue about statistics in a written form. Esp since this topic is not about 'what is' but about 'what should be' and connotations and a lot of how we choose to perceive things.

Marco Alka that's why I didn't reply to our argument below. But I hopefully have time this weekend to write a full response.

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An interesting fact I see here is that people, when discussing gender, only seem to talk about male and female and want to get more women aboard. Those are sexes, not genders, but as for genders, there are a lot more. I'd even say, that there are as many genders out there as people exist. Everyone perceives their gender role differently, and it is important to understand and accept that there are more than two genders. If we really want to improve gender diversity, imho, the first step is to accept this fact and live with it. It's natural, it's happening and it's ok.*

Having said that, I think, that the tech sector is especially far ahead of the pack. In no other sector have I seen so many people coming out, openly discussing gender, and fighting for gender rights. Go check out some Twitter profiles, like Laurie Voss, who is a co-founder of npmjs and LGBTQ in Tech and Quil, who blogs lots of interesting stuff! In order to spread gender awareness, you don't have to read their posts and agree with everything they say, but you should now and then demonstrate where you stand. A simple tweet or shout-out is enough to show support ;)

Also, I know a lot of people (most of them female btw), who are into tech, but they don't openly speak about it. Why should they? It's just a job or hobby. So I sometimes suggest going public with their projects. It does not have to be something as big as what Naomi Wu tries to achieve, which is spreading opensource and women-in-tech in China and is one big source of inspiration. It can also be a small 2D pixel adventure game (a friend of mine is working on one, but she is a bit shy about it :D). Get them to talk about what they love and that way show other people that everyone is welcome in the tech sector and anyone can shine here (no matter their gender).

So, what else can one do in order to respect and improve gender diversity? Well, another good tip is to upgrade your speech patterns. I see a lot of people here talking about "he/him" or "she/her", when they ideally should be neutral and use "they/their", which is the correct form for gender neutral speech. However, for the confusing part, if someone explicitly states their preferred pronoun, use it!

Something, which might be interesting for people organizing an event or renting conference rooms is to make sure, that if there is a single stall restroom to make sure it does not only say "man/woman", but is marked as an all-gender restroom. People, who come out and take pride in having a different gender, want to be respected and treated like everyone else, duh.

All-Gender restrooms can be used regardless of gender by anyone

Also one more problem we have is, that girls and boys are often raised on a gender-basis. Girls wear dresses and skirts and play with puppets. Boys wear trousers and play with cars. Why? There are skirts for men, too. Boys also like to play with puppets. Girls also like to wear trousers and often also prefer to have fun on a pirate's adventure. We really should stop setting gender standards and let kids decide how they want to live while they grow up. Why should gender decide a person's life from the moment they are born?


*Btw, if you have trouble understanding gender diversity I recommend reading a book about it. Even if you are not that much into Manga, you might want to take a peek at easy to read experiences. Especially lately, I see many Manga portraying every-day life situations and explaining a lot. Maybe pick up The Bride Was a Boy or My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness or Wandering Son. In these books, the authors talk about their lifes and how they deal with their (or their family's) gender issues. They are awesome reads!

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adding 37+ genders

They have always existed. It's just that we start naming things and understanding them, while exploring our nature further. We might not need that many genders, though, but a better system of categorization. Just like we don't find a new name for every combination of skin, eye, hair, etc. color.

has no particular value besides an emotional one

There is no greater value than emotional value imho ;)

we could just go for there are no similarities.

Similarities exist, but most of the time, there are differences in the details. Ideally, we can find a way to instead of having 7 billion genders form a few groups of similar people, though. But to be honest, I like the current system, with categorization into genders, cultures, ethical groups, religions, etc. They are different things, and sometimes one belongs to one group, sometimes one belongs to the other group.

remove genders from the equation. Lets just keep the biological markers for medical reasons.

Then let's also remove religion. It also only has emotional value and has always led to trouble and wars in history. It is not necessary for medical reasons. And let's remove culture. We don't need culture. It would be a lot easier, if we were were all the same, doing the same thing, learning the same values. No differences -> same language -> no misunderstandings -> no wars.

The world is not that simple. Please do not over-simplify complex processes and structures. If you need a programming reference: Devs use enums instead of ints and created typedef for a reason. You cannot make something the same when in effect it is not. Also, in JS, when a var can be anything (any type), it is called "Oddball". Odd, as in strange and not normal. There should be differences and not having any is unnatural.

Simplicity not complexity.

Don't lose verbosity, though. I am not uniform with the rest of humanity, and I never will be and I never want to be, and it is important for me to express just that. And I am not alone. While it is easier to just go with the flow, many people don't feel comfortable there. People fall into a depression and commit suicide because of that (because of "just emotional values"). Is simplicity worth lives?

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