Feminine gamification viewpoint: Stack Overflow and ladies

Feminine gamification viewpoint: Stack Overflow and ladies

Stack Overflow, the developer question and answer site, in both 2015 and 2016 developers survey showed that only 5.8% users identified as females. I would think there are probably a few more female developers in the world, than just 5.8%. However is it indicative of a problem that goes deeper into the acceptance of women in this world or is usability the issue for the site.

Personally I have used it to find answers, although I searched and found the answers rather than posed new questions. so maybe that is how other ladies may go about their search. A number of researchers Denea Ford, Justin Smith, Philip Guo and Chris Parnin wrote a formal research paper called ‘Paradise Unplugged: Identifying Barriers for Female Participation on Stack Overflow‘. The researchers used interviews to establish if barriers existed that prevented women from contributing more.

The picture they established is as follows:




As with all statistics around gender and usability the differences are relatively small. The differences ranked with a start indicate statistically significant differences.

The researchers also came up with some suggestions to improve on these perceived barriers and differences, which ultimately would benefit all users and not just female users:

  • A better algorithm to rank answers that took only 5 minutes and higher weighting for those that take 30 minutes to answer. So time spend answering a complex issue, receives more value add then an easy quick answerable question.
  • Automated feedback on the quality of the questions, so that they can be answered better and quicker.
  • Sub-communities to create a more approachable group
  • Mentorship for new contributors

I would add in there is to go back to the model where voting answers as the best and most appropriate is measured but get rid of the skills leaderboard, because this is driving some of the dysfunctional behaviour in my opinion.

So what other changes would you make to make Stack Overflow more female friendly?

Leave a comment

Our Solutions