Ken Schwaber made an audacious comment today. To paraphrase:
“One of my canaries in the coal mine is the number of women in the software industry. Women are smarter than men. They tend to gravitate to careers where they are compensated well and find the work rewarding. They are fleeing the our industry in droves.”
He was speaking at Agile 2007 on The Enterprise and Scrum.
The Stanford Daily reported that “13 percent of CS undergraduates are female this year, down from 24 percent in the 1999-2000 school year.” This despite National Science Foundation statistics that show more women are receiving bachelors degrees than men.
I agree with Mr. Schwaber, a software industry more inviting to women entering the workforce would provide a better, more humane environment for all employees.
Also, what potential innovation is being lost? History is rife with examples of gender inequality in service and outcomes across a wide variety of industries — most troubling being medicine. A male dominated field should not be confident it is best serving its women consumers.
My company’s own research indicates that women are men’s peers when it comes to the use, ownership and purchasing decisions around technology. So this is an opportunity as much as it is a concern.
A 2006 paper by McDowell, Werner, Bullock and Fernald found that pair programming practice “may help increase female representation in the field.”
Agile values and practices support a collaborative, empowering and sustainable work place. As practitioners, we should encourage research on whether this can contribute to a more diverse workforce.
Fundamentally, we have to make software development more conducive to the contributions of half our population.