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GitHub Analysis Shows Women's Pull Requests Are Accepted More Often Than Men's

But only if no one knows that they are women.


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A group of American computer science researchers has published a new analysis of GitHub data that yielded a very unexpected result. The team went looking for gender bias against women in the open source community, but instead, they found that female developers are actually more successful at contributing accepted code to open source projects—if and only if they have gender-neutral GitHub profiles.

Women who had non-gender-specific user names and didn't post a photo of themselves on GitHub had 78.6 percent of their pull requests merged into projects, compared to 74.4 percent of men's pull requests. Even more significantly, 25 percent of female developers had nearly all of their pull requests accepted, compared to only 13.5 percent of males who could say the same thing.

The researchers aren't sure why this is happening, but here are a couple of their guesses:

One explanation is survivorship bias: as women continue their formal and informal education in computer science, the less competent ones may change fields or otherwise drop out. Then, only more competent women remain by the time they begin to contribute to open source. In contrast, less competent men may continue ... Another explanation is self-selection bias: the average woman in open source may be better prepared than the average man, which is supported by the finding that women in open source are more likely to hold Master’s and PhD degrees. Yet another explanation is that women are held to higher performance standards than men.


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