I posted this on Stack Exchange Meta, but it was deleted.  (The voting system is great for Social Justice Warriors.  All it takes is for 5 of them to see a post they don’t like; since none of them believe in free and open debate, they will all vote to delete it.)  Anyway, I thought I may as well re-post it here.


In the Stack Overflow annual survey report, we find this paragraph:

Software development has a gender balance problem. Our internal stats suggest the imbalance isn’t quite as severe as the survey results would make it seem, but there’s no doubt everyone who codes needs to be more proactive welcoming women into the field.

If I may unpack this, there seem to be two assertions here:

  1. The under-representation of women in programming jobs is a problem (although a problem for whom exactly is left unspecified).
  2. A solution is proposed: “everyone who codes” should “be more proactive welcoming women into the field”.

My question is twofold. The first part is: does the brass at Stack Exchange actually believe that underrepresentation of women is a problem, and if so, a problem for whom?

Do they consider it “a problem”? Or are they more like the grocer in Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”, giving lip service to a totalitarian ideology out of business pragmatism. (Note, if you don’t think “gender equality” is a totalitarian ideology, then I challenge you to find even a single large public company that publicly opposes it.) For those that don’t know the reference, I suggest taking a look at the link. It presents a fictional greengrocer under totalitarian communism, who puts up a sign “Workers of the world, unite!” in his store, and an analysis of why he does it.

If the ownership and/or management of Stack Exchange really considered gender inequality in programming a problem for themselves, then they would have a simple solution: just hire more female programmers. They could put a moratorium on male hires, increase salaries offered to women, or other options that are surely well within their means. Obviously, they have not done this: they currently employ 25 male and 2 female programmers according to their company page.

The second part of my question concerns the proposed solution. Will urging “everyone who codes” to “be more proactive welcoming women into the field” actually increase the proportion of women in the field? If enough people were somehow persuaded and/or incentivized to be “more proactive” in this way, would more women and fewer men enter the field?

Either Stack Exchange has tested this theory, or they have not; they have evidence showing that it works, or they do not. If it is untested, then why are they confidently propounding it as a solution to the imputed problem? If it’s really a problem, shouldn’t there be some sort of empirical approach to solving it, and not just a tossed-off guess as to what might work? Alternately, if theyhave tested it, then apparently it has not only failed but backfired, because Stack Exchange’s female programmer ratio (2/29 or 7%) is far below even the industry standard (20%).

So, to summarize my questions:

  1. Does Stack Exchange really, truly think gender imbalance is a problem that merits solutions (beyond mere lip service)?
  2. If as seems apparent the proposed solution is not actually serious or tested, is it therefore nothing more than an empty feel-good or ideological slogan? Does something like that belong in a statistical report?
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