How Many Female Engineers Are There, Really?

Only 14 percent of computer science graduates are women, but finding out how many women actually work as software engineers is a little bit trickier. Tracy Chou, an engineer at Pinterest, is trying to find out just that.

grace hopper 

(Photo Credit: miss karen/Flickr)

She started on Medium.com's Grace Hopper 2013 forum with a post called, "Where are the numbers?" Chou explained that although attendee numbers at the female-centric tech conference were rising, and (possibly outdated) quotes on the number of female engineers at places like Google were higher than we might expect...

"The actual numbers I've seen and experienced in industry are far lower than anybody is willing to admit. This means nobody is having honest conversations about the issue. While companies do talk about their initiatives to make the work environment more female-friendly, or to encourage more women to go into or stay in computing, there's no way of judging whether they're successful or worth mimicking, because there are no success metrics attached to any of them.

Chou is crowdsourcing data on Github, and keeping a spreadsheet on Google docs, to tally the responses she's received so far. So far, according to the information she's received, 12.33 of engineers at respondents' companies -- including organizations like Mozilla, Flickr at Yahoo, and Qualcomm are female. (Chou admits, however, that these numbers might be skewing high due to "self-selection bias.")

What will she do with this information?

"One idea is to look for patterns in the companies that are benchmarking significantly above average, and see if they have specific initiatives or processes worth emulating at other places," Chou tells Jezebel. "Early data seems to suggest that smaller companies are doing better than larger companies, which is a little counter-intuitive, and also worth investigating."

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