Women in Software Engineering: The Sobering Stats

March 20, 2014

If you live and work in Silicon Valley one thing has been obvious for a long time. When you walk in to any tech company office, the male software engineers dramatically outnumber their female counterparts. Now we have the numbers to prove it - and it turns out that this trend applies worldwide, not only to the Valley.

We dug into LinkedIn data to see what percentage of women work in software engineering across industries. Whatever industry you look at, the number of female engineers is bleak. Even in the field that can boast the highest number of female software engineers, Financial Services and Insurance, a sobering 23% of them are female.

You can see the full industry breakdown below but it’s worth noting that the numbers for high tech software and hardware companies are especially troubling – only 16% and 9%, respectively, of their software engineers are female. These two fast-growing, dynamic and arguably egalitarian sectors seem to have a hard time welcoming female software engineers into their fold (as suggested by a few recent news stories swirling in the media).

Women in engineering

We also took a look at software engineering talent that was hired in 2013. Again, the technology sector is behind several non-tech industries when it comes to female representation in their most recent hiring class.

women-in-engineering-in-2013

On the one hand, it is encouraging to see that industries like manufacturing and technology-hardware are making an effort to hire more women. For example, while only 9% of software engineers in tech hardware today are women, the 2013 new hires class in that industry has 12% female representation. On the other hand, none of these percentages signal significant advances towards gender parity among software engineering teams. A 23% female software engineering team is quite a long way off from equal representation.

Bringing gender parity starts with addressing the gap in education, but recruiters and hiring managers can also make a significant impact by creating and empowering more female role models. It is even possible to create a virtuous cycle, where more women pursue degrees in STEM because there are more female leaders to follow.

As another step towards this goal, last week LinkedIn announced our partnership with MentorNet, a national nonprofit that provides all STEM students with access to high-quality mentoring experiences by connecting them with professionals in their field.

Bringing awareness to problems like gender inequality in the technology sector is part of our mission to share insights related to the Economic Graph. Our vision as a company is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce and we believe that highlighting problems like these is be part of making this vision a reality.

* image by  Yahoo! Developer Network

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Methodological details: The results of this analysis represent the world as seen through the lens of LinkedIn data. As such, it is influenced by how members chose to engage with the site, which can vary based on professional, social, and regional culture, as well as overall site availability and accessibility. These variances were not accounted for in the analysis.

Keen observers will note that there is no field for gender on the LinkedIn profile. We have inferred the gender of members included in this analysis by classifying first names. Members whose gender could not be inferred based on their first names weren’t included in the analysis.

To determine which members have software engineering skills, we looked at the skills listed on every member’s profile and grouped them into related categories. For the purposes of this analysis, we defined “software engineering skills” as those that fall into the categories of C/C++, software code debugging, algorithm design, Java development, machine learning, virtualization, software engineering management and requirements gathering, database management and software, cloud and distributed computing, software QA and user testing, embedded systems, computer network and network administration, storage systems and management, data engineering and data warehousing.

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