Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Analysis of Internal Facebook Code Submissions Reveals Gender Bias

Deepa Seetharaman, Wall Street Journal (paywalled, but you can click through from Twitter):

Last year, a longtime engineer at Facebook Inc. gathered data that revealed a controversial finding: Code written by women was rejected much more frequently than code written by their male colleagues, according to people familiar with the matter and screenshots of internal discussions viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Julia Carrie Wong, the Guardian:

In October, Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice-president of engineering, told engineers internally that the company had conducted its own analysis of the code review process “using confidential employee data so we could gain a better understanding of what is happening”.

The Facebook analysis took into account engineers’ “level” within the company and found “no statistically significant difference” between female and male engineers within the same level.

Parikh attributed the difference that the original analysis found to “the difference in gender distribution between levels”, meaning the fact that Facebook has more female engineers at lower levels than higher levels.

While Parikh’s comment might sound like it disputes the engineer’s analysis, it doesn’t necessarily do either and it provides support for the engineer’s claim that there is significant gender bias within Facebook — and, likely, throughout most tech companies. He’s basically saying that female engineers are not promoted as frequently as their male colleagues to higher positions within the company.

This isn’t entirely new information — a 2016 study found that female contributors to open source project on GitHub were more likely have their contributions accepted when they had gender neutral names, but less likely when they had more typically feminine names. This data lends further support to a pervasive gender bias in the tech community. A band-aid solution would be to require all code reviews to be anonymous; a more comprehensive solution is to value women.