Gender and team diversity on GitHub projects
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I’ve written before about the allure of GitHub as a fine exemplar of collaborative working. In that post I mentioned the advantage of the huge audience GitHub can bring to any particular project, but asked the question of just how diverse that audience was.
After all, if everyone is broadly the same in your team or organization, the benefit of each additional person is rather moot.
A recent study has set out to explore just how diverse a group of people the GitHub really are.
It probably goes without saying that the very nature of open source software projects lends itself to attracting a diverse group of participants, especially if diversity is measured in identity based ways, such as nationality.
The specific GitHub project focused therefore on two attributes that the authors believe are important to open source software projects: gender and experience. Women are traditionally under-represented in software development, and tend to be even more so in the open source world than in its corporate rival.
This is emphasized by the overwhelmingly male image of the hacker community.
The researchers had trawled through participant data from over 23,000 active projects on the site, and were on the hunt specifically for things such as the productivity of the team and the turnover amongst participants.
To measure the diversity of each team, the researchers used the Blau diversity index and attempted to control for things such as team size, project forks and time, all of which are believed to have an influence on the diversity of the teams on GitHub.
The results revealed that when GitHub teams had diverse pools of contributors, both in terms of gender and experience, it had a big impact upon the productivity of those teams.
Now, of course, diversity should not be seen as a magic elixir. Whilst diversity of opinion can be incredibly valuable in ensuring you get a wide range of insights into any challenge, it’s also likely that a group that is too diverse will struggle to bond well.
Nevertheless, it provides a telling reminder of the important role diversity plays in the functioning of a team, and should be especially important given the ongoing issues the tech industry faces in attracting female developers.
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