Men are from Development, women are from Testing. Not intended as an aggravating, politically-incorrect statement, but an observation. I have worked with many software companies over the years and inevitably in each company the proportion of women to men is far greater in testing (QA) than it is in development. Why is that? What is it about testing that attracts women techies, or an equally valid question, what is it about development that repels them? Well, I have my theories.
In traditional software environments, development departments are frequently characterized by hero-behavior, by machismo, by one-upmanship, and are fueled by promotional desires which provide a level of self-importance, overlording and maybe even a window cube. It is much about ego, bluster and winning: the energy is just very male. It is rare to see a woman thrive in such an environment. Often they take a back-seat in decision making, follow rather than lead, and relinquish responsibility; not always, but often. Some women do rise to management positions in development departments. They are usually tough managers! There is almost a sense that they have to be tougher than their male counterparts to survive. Women development managers are the exception that prove the rule.
And then there’s this. The discipline of testing requires a lot more humility than the discipline of development. Testers tend to be more humble than developers; it is the nature of the role. Development is characterized by the energy of creation, testing by the energy of service. Different energies. Women traditionally gravitate towards the latter.
The way traditional software environments work, testing follows development. Interesting how in traditional paternalistic societies women follow men. What does that say about our corporate cultures?
The mission of Scrum is to change the way we work. This is not process change, this is culture change. People inside a Scrum/Agile process (we hope) behave differently. We now have test-infected developers. That’s great. We have developers who see the value in testing, and do it, they don’t push it off to QA people at the end of the process. So where does that leave the tester? The Hacker Chick answers that question in a recent blog post about testing, and Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory have written a whole book on the topic (three women, interesting).
Wouldn’t it be nice to have both test-infected developers and their testing counterparts on an Agile team? What would that be… developer-infected testers? No. Anyone can write code, that doesn’t reach where I want this to go. I prefer the term “creation-infected testers”. I want to see testers passionate about creating new software, not just validating someone else’s software. I want to see testers weave themselves into the creative process, from requirements all the way through to release, weave and be woven. We need to move away from this entrenched pattern of women supporting their men. We need to seek equality in our software relationships as we seek equality in our marriages.
Women need to claim their rightful place in the creation process. Agile environments will create the space for that to occur, but it is up to the individuals to move into that space, either as test-infected developers, or creation-infected testers, or simply as artisans. The time is now.