According to the US government, by 2020 female software developers will reach 20% of computing workers. Despite this, women in the software developing sector continue to face gender roles, stereotypes or even harassment in the workplace.
A woman was the first to develop a programming language
In 1843, Ada Lovelace first described a programming language based on Charles Babbage’s computer machine. It was a woman who developed the first programming language in history. Computer science has evolved since then, with women maintaining a leading role. However, since 1990 the percentage of female software developers has dropped from 25% to 12% today.
Only 1 in 10 software developers are female
“Why are kitchen appliances pink, and targeted towards girls, and video games targeted for boys?” wonders Mala Gupta, founder of eJavaGuru and international lecturer. “The reason for the decreased presence is not even remotely related to their capabilities. It is due to how biases in the societies (across the globe) affect the boys and girls early in their lives. They are conditioned to opt for a set of professions – consciously or unconsciously.”
Mercedes Wyss, software developer and CTO at the startup Produactivity, says that this presence depends on the countries. “There are countries that have very open mentalities or have been working on inclusion issues for years, and the percentages are around 40%. But there are countries like Guatemala where there is not a single significant advance in this matter and female participation is around 3%. ” However, she believes that this margin will grow significantly in the next 10 years thanks to “the multiple movements around the world that promote female inclusion in the software development sector”.
Stereotypes predomine in the software sector
“A couple of years ago, when I said that I was a software developer, people asked” Really? You? How is that possible?”. Questions like this are the daily bread of many female professionals in the IT industry. She points how society for a long time “perceived that girls cannot think logically, are worse in science and should work as teachers or be concerned only about their physical appearance”.
“If you live in a macho society, the software development industry has the same social behavior. It’s part of the system” says Mercedes Wyss. In his personal case, she has lived the machismo of the industry in diverse situations. “I worked in a company where I earned half of the salary compared with my male colleagues (…) despite having ot perform double or triple of the assigned tasks”. However, as Anna Kurman points out, “I think, salaries are equal (if not it is based on the skills not on a gender), especially in companies that are international. They cannot afford to not have equality, because it could be a huge public issue for them”.
Software development is about brains, not gender
“Stereotypes, as we know, disregards uniqueness of individuals, create ignorance of their capabilities, which leads to create assumptions” affirms Mala Gupta, who now is one of the main defenders of the formation and official certification in Java language. According to her opinion as a professional developer, in programming “there’s no place for assumptions in programming – we must explicitly detail out each part of an application and its environment”.
“Sofware development is the art of providing solutions to real-life problems through the use of coding and programming languages,” explains Mercedes Wyss. “This implies that anyone who is trained in the use of these languages, who has the analysis and reasoning, can execute the task of programming. The human brain has a completely similar functioning and is a muscle that can be trained. It is a task that both men and women can perform. ”
Women do not like programming as much as guys
On the other side, Anna Kurman says that “we cannot force anyone to like programming. it has to come naturally, by getting some knowledge about it”. Kurman is against dividing people between men and women. “We are not magicians, we won’t suddenly have more women in IT. We can encourage women speakers to give more talks, organize some workshops to work on their courage. We should encourage people to learn programming”.
Mercedes Wyss advocates breaking the pre-established social bias, since “to interest women in programming, we have to find a way to move away from the social constructs of gender created by parenting and society. If they are already married and with children, it will be much more difficult”. Mercedes, who was part of Google’s Women Techmakers Guatemala to give visibility to women in technology, believes that “we should support women’s where positive discrimination is being done, because the goal is to provide women with a safe environment, and from that to generate women who are role models “. Concludes that “you cannot inspire future generations if there is no one to admire.”