The State of Diversity in US Tech

  1. The US leads the world in gender diversity among professional software engineers.
    1. Source, Stack Overflow developer surveys 2011-2021, with emphasis on the most recent year of data.
    2. While software development is not particularly diverse, it is not among the least diverse industries and adjacent job families in the broader tech ecosystem are among the most diverse occupations (AdvisorSmith, 2021).
    3. I think we also lead in ethnic diversity too? I haven’t analyzed the numbers in detail but the US is known for its ethnic diversity.
  2. They gender pay gap for software engineers in the US is now (2020+) small to nonexistant
    1. Analysis of US developer Stack Overflow survey data from 2020 by Nnamdi Iregbulem shows a statistically insignificant 1.4% controlled pay gap.
    2. Hired data from 2021 indicates that “companies offer women 2.5% less on average than men for the same roles,” although this data is from their own platform. It is a mix of US and data from other countries. It also seems that these figures are less controlled compared to, but otherwise largely consistent with, findings from Nnamdi.
    3. Glassdoor data from 2019 shows an adjusted pay gap in the US of 4.9% and trending down, placing it in better half of advanced economies studied. This data is not specific to the software development job category, so there are reasons to think the number would be lower even in 2019, but again this is largely consistent with the other data points.
  3. Programming Industry Composition by Gender Over Time
    1. The first programmers were female.
      1. Ada Lovelace is said to have written the first machine algorithm in the 1840s.
      2. The world’s first computer programmers, according to historian Nathan Ensmenger, author of The Computer Boys Take Over, were six women who ran one of the first electronic computers, an ENIAC machine, at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1940s. By the 1960s, women made up 30% to 50% of all programmers (Fast Company).
      3. Grace Hopper, part of the team that developed ENIAC, invented the first compiler A-0 in 1951 and coined the term ‘compiler’.
    2. According to Census data, in 1970 less than 20% of programmers were female.
      1. By the 1970s, a study revealed that the numbers of men and women who expressed an interest in coding as a career were equal (Elizabeth Le).
    3. According to Census data, in 2014, 20 percent of software developers and 22 percent of computer programmers were female.
      1. 20 percent of US computer programmers being female is consistent with Stack Overflow data.
      2. In 2021, I ran a survey of US adults where I found no gender effect on (equal interest between genders in) desire for a career in programming.
  4. Gender Composition of Computer Science at US Universities Over Time
    1. The world’s first computer science degree program, the Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science, began at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory in 1953.
    2. The first computer science department in the United States was formed at Purdue University in 1962.
    3. In 1960, about 6% of women had a bachelor’s degree. About 8% did in 1970. As of 2014, more women than men have completed four years of college or more. About 38% of women have done so in 2020.
  5. Reconciling Programming as an Industry and as a University Degree
    1. Female participation in the programming labor force preceded and exceeded their share of CS enrollment.
    2. World War II ended in 1945.
      1. Following the end of the war, men seem to have flooded into the labor force and universities.
      2. Male labor force participation was at an all time high around 1950 as the measure began being taken.
      3. The GI Bill was originally passed in 1944 and men disproportionately benefited from the included education benefits. An associated fact is that men disproportionately increased in enrollment into college until about 1984, making up the majority of CS students all the while.
    3. The female share of industry crashed from the end of WWII through 1970, which is unaccounted for by the NPR media-oriented story, although it’s easy to see that media messaging was some kind of contributor. This story also ignores changing economic incentives and the coincidental slowdown in male college enrollment.
      1. I’m favorable to the thesis of aptitude test bias, combined with an explanation from post-war changing economic incentives. Ad targeting clearly has an effect, but why did ads target this way? A strong candidate explanation seems to be that it was already a predominantly male market.
    4. Today, K-12 Boys have higher value and interest in a CS degree compared to K-12 girls (Source 1, Source 2), although adults don’t have a significant difference.
    5. Non-traditional paths (ie without CS degree) to the programming career have been gaining steam in recent years. 41% of bootcamp grads in 2020 were women.
    6. It seems like American culture needs to improve it’s messaging to K-12 girls. I’m not sure why we aren’t able to communicate the importance of programming, but perhaps part of the problem is an impotent attempt to describe the importance of general computer science, as opposed to marketing programming as a practical tool applicable in any industry.
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