A study of the acceptance rate of pull requests on Github reveals that women’s change requests receive more positive feedback than men’s – but only if no one knows that the request was actually made by a woman.
Closed shop mentality in the open source world? Behavioural research on the Github platform found evidence of gender prejudice in the developer community.
In their research paper “Gender Bias in Open Source: Pull Request Acceptance of Women Versus Men”, computer science students at two US universities analysed the acceptance rate of code change requests (aka “pull requests”, a short explanation for Github newbies can be found under “What is a pull request”) in the Open Source Software Community Github, and compared the results for male and female requesters.
The popular developer community platform Github does not ask its 12 million users to reveal their gender. However, the researchers were able to determine the gender of 1.4 million Github users simply by looking at their profiles or their linked Google+ accounts.
Github – Accepted pull requests: Women (78.6%) vs Men (74.6%)
The study found that 78.6% of pull requests made by female developers were accepted, compared to 74.6% to men. Wider gaps appeared, however, when researchers analysed the behaviour of so-called outsiders, i.e. regular Github users without owner or collaborator status. They accepted 71.8% of pull requests made by women with gender-neutral profiles, but only 62.5% of those made by women whose profiles clearly identified them as such. Pull requests made by men were also more likely to be accepted if their profiles were gender-neutral, but the gap was narrower.
The researchers concluded that “although women on Github may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless”.
Github: Gender Bias in Open Source
The study is still awaiting peer review, i.e. validation by independent reviewers in the same research field. For this study, researchers analysed approx. four million users who logged into Github on April 1st 2015.
The complete study “Gender Bias in Open Source: Pull Request Acceptance of Women Versus Men“ is available here.
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