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Don’t Expect Female Candidates to “Geek Out” With You When You Are Interviewing Them

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Don’t Expect Female Candidates to “Geek Out” With You When You Are Interviewing Them

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Disclaimer: In this post I’m going to be making sweeping generalizations based on my over 25 years working in technology, this is observational and I don’t really have much data to back my claims.. If you disagree with any of my suppositions, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section.. and let the discussion begin! This is not about where I work now either!

Software engineering is a male dominated industry, much to our collective loss. Female engineers can be a huge asset to any development team. In my experience they are;

  • More pragmatic

  • Better organized

  • Better at “sizing” projects

  • Can provide unique perspectives on problems

  • Can be better focused

This isn’t really a women are better than men, men are better than women sort of post.. It’s more something to make us think about how we interview, hire and evaluate talent. The idea I’m trying to express, is that women can bring something to a development team to improve it..

Why are there not more women in software engineering?

I Googled this question and read a lot of information on this, to sum up the relevant information and helpful opinions, they are;  

  • Women are socialized away from math’s and science.

  • There are a lack of role models, that is other female engineers

  • Women are typically not mentored to be programmers

  • less women graduate from computer science programs, 27% according to U.S. Department of Education (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_318.asp)

There’s probably many more reasons, but that’s just a sampling. I found an interesting quora post from a female engineer here. http://www.quora.com/Why-arent-there-more-female-programmers

And the most troubling thing.

According to a 2014 linkedin survey, only 16% of the workforce in software are female. (http://talent.linkedin.com/blog/index.php/2014/03/women-in-engineering-the-sobering-stats) Considering that 27% percent of all CS graduates are women, why is the number so low in software? Shouldn’t they be closer to 27%?


I firmly believe that above and beyond the issues outlined, there is a gender bias that works against the female software engineer.. Even if she does make it as far as graduating and interviewing for the job, everything works against her. Why? The people who are generally interviewing her are male software engineers, or at one time were software engineers!

Am I suggesting that there’s some sort of “boys club” that we aren’t letting our female compatriots into?

Or that there’s a conscious effort to exclude women from our trade?

Absolutely not… I think most of the people I’ve worked with are enlightened, and in the context of hiring want to give both the female and the male candidate and equal chance.. but there’s something more subtle going on..

The interview process generally works against a female candidate

Interviews are as much about personality and “gut feelings” as they are about capability and competency. I’ve seen it many times where a female software engineer who is clearly more capable is passed up for a male candidate. Why would that be?

I think it comes down to something that was said to me by a VP that I worked with, he said.

Women are motivated by different things, they look at programming as a way to solve a problem.. Men typically are more interested in the mechanics of solving the problem.

So that comes down to the “geek-out” factor.. Guys fall in love with the tools, women typically don’t. So the male candidate will probably be excited about the next version of Eclipse, Guice, Spring or the next cool tool or technology.. The woman typically won’t be. This will be perceived as a general lack of passion.. The man will get the job.

So if we do want more female software engineers and all of the positive things that they can bring to any development team, we need to be aware of this.. We should ask questions that are more focused to problem solving, than on tools and frameworks.


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