Tech's biggest problem shows little sign of improvement

Diversity remains a massive issue in software development, with a new report finding that nine in 10 professional programmers are men.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor
Two colleagues discussing a project in the office with people working on computers behind them
Image: Getty Images

More than nine in 10 software developers worldwide are men, a global survey of professional and non-professional programmers has found.

According to Stack Overflow's 2022 Developer Survey, 93% of professional developers identify as male. At the same time, 84% of developers identify as straight/heterosexual, while 77% identify as white and/or European.

The results of the survey, which quizzed more than 73,000 software developers from 180 countries, paint a picture of an industry struggling to make progress in inclusivity despite pledges from business leaders, an issue that has become even more problematic as companies face growing talent gaps.

According to the US Department of Labor, employment in software development is projected to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for other occupations. Despite this, women and people from underrepresented groups make up just a fraction of the developer workforce: last year's FRG Technology Consulting Java and PHP Salary Survey found just one in every 10 developers is a woman.

SEE: How Women Who Code is narrowing the developer gender gap

Stack Overflow's survey found that 72% of professional developers had completed either a Bachelor's degree (48%) or a Master's degree (24%), compared to just 6.2% who had only completed high school and 12% who went to college without earning a degree.

That said, the more mainstream appeal of coding and the growth of non-tradition pathways into the industry appears to be having a positive impact, with Stack Overflow's survey finding slightly higher rates of gender and racial representation among respondents who were learning to code.

Of these, 88% identified as male, compared to 8% who identified as female and 2% who identified as non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming. While not massive gains, Stack Overflow suggested there were "indications that the industry (and our survey) could continue to become more diverse as more people join the workforce." The survey suggested the growth of readily available technical documentation, how-to videos, blogs and online-training platforms were all contributing to making software development more accessible.

Stack Overflow's survey also found that fewer developers learning to code were likely to identify as white (24.3%) or European (25.9%), and more identified as Indian (18.2%), Asian (16.8%) and African (8.4%).

SEE: When it comes to tackling diversity in tech, employers have set themselves up to fail

"The tech industry as a whole, including the developer community, has long been majority male and Stack Overflow has a big role to play in changing that; we need to do better," Stack Overflow said. 

"In order to have more inclusive technologies, we need more inclusive places to build and discuss those technologies, and we continue to invest in our efforts there."

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