“Society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or gender, may have the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.”
– Sandra Day O’Connor. Source: Brainy Quote
Regardless that some will accuse me of Jumping shamelessly onto the bandwagon, it’s nevertheless well worth noting that today is Ada Lovelace Day. As I sit and type this in my work’s Test Lab, there are three male software testers, including me, and two female testers. Our (male) Test Manager doesn’t count for the purposes of this headcount, since he’s not doing any testing, but has instead the unenviable job of juggling the schedule as our clients keep moving the goalposts.
Given what I have gleaned from other testers online, attending meetups like the London Tester Gatherings and the excellent Test Bash 2.0, Software Testing has a majority of men in its workforce. However, does Software Testing have any more or less representative a gender ratio when compared to the rest of the amorphous mass that is, for want of a better term, “The IT Industry”? According to an infographic in the Metro paper today in print and online, 17% of Britain’s Information Technology workforce is female. I wonder how that proportion increases and decreases when you compare software Testers with Developers, DBAs and Systems Administrators, between Open and Closed source projects, or large and small companies?
While I was doing my BBST Foundations course (which I will get around to posting about in more detail, honestly) we had a getting-to-know-each-other session at the very start of it. At one point, this raced off headlong into a tangent on the gender ratios present in different Testing teams. The general consensus on that discussion thread were guesstimates of 10/90 or 20/80 female-to-male gender ratio in the working environments of those testers on the course. In my own experience, there were no female testers at the last company I worked at out of half a dozen in-house testers. On the one occasion when we had contract testers in to meet high demand (needing to test an app over 57 mobile devices does that), the ratio was about 40/60. Having said that, I think there is less of a gender disparity in software testing compared to software development; there was one woman in a team of 30-odd developers at the same company.
One fellow BBSTer reckoned there was a 60/40 split at the last testing conference he was at. I think the split was 40/60 or maybe 50/50 at Test Bash 2.0; perhaps the organisers can provide a more definitive and accurate ratio than my vague approximations? Then again, it’s worth taking the discussions we had with a pinch of salt, given that they come from a self-selected sample of 25 students (7 female) and 6 teachers (1 female).
If anyone can point me at any hard research that has been done on this subject, I will be genuinely interested to read it and cite it here. The Huffington Post has an article on girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and a handy link to a graph showing women as a share of total researchers. As an interesting aside, it shows percentages of over 70% in Bolivia and Myanmar – anyone know why? However, that graph covers academic research rather than all STEM-related jobs, where I suspect the percentages will be higher for men and less for women. Do higher proportions of women get jobs in academia than in business?
I am making the assumption as I write this – feel free to prove me wrong – that the majority of those reading my blog do some kind of geeky, techy job, or at least have a hobby or two in that sphere. What is the gender ratio where you work?