Nikita Richardson
February 13, 2016 8:25 am
HBO

As we discussed just a few days ago, the percentage of women working on the tech and engineering side of Silicon Valley is dismal and their visibility is even worse (though that is slowly but surely changing).

With that in mind, researchers at North Carolina State University and Cal Polytech State University decided to investigate whether the serious lack of women in Silicon Valley might have something to do with the coding work of women being perceived as inferior. The researchers turned to GitHub, a website that allows to make their coding work available to other coders, to see which codes were chosen most often.

Thankfully, they were wrong: As it turns out code created by women was accepted at a rate of 78.6 percent versus 74.6% for male coders. The reason? When users couldn’t tell the gender of the coder, which often happens on GitHub, they judged only the quality of the code and not the person who created. Overall, women were found to be the slightly more superior sex when it came to creating quality code across the top ten categories on the site.

But, as always, there’s a catch: When GitHub users knew a coder was a woman, the acceptance rate for that woman’s codes dropped precipitously and their codes received lower ratings. Sexism much?

“There’s a strong belief among developers in open source that the process is a pure meritocracy,” said Emerson Murphy-Hill, an associate professor and one of the co-authors of the study. “This research casts doubt on that belief.”

In other words, Silicon Valley can’t continue to say that they judge coders solely on the quality of their work. Whether explicit or implicit, there is a strong bias against women in the field and the sooner we acknowledge that, the closer we are to making gender a non-issue.

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