Gender Wars

The technology industry often takes credit for the changing world of work. One example is the model of remote employees working as digital nomads in their favourite coffee shop, connected via Slack and collaborating via the cloud to create products and services for consumption over the internet or on smartphones and tablets. But what about work within the technology industry itself? We take a look at the profile of women in tech and compare it with the profile of their male counterparts.

If we exclude those who preferred not to share their gender with us, and those who skipped this optional question, female developers responding to our survey were outnumbered by males by a ratio of 1 to 10 (9% women and 91% men). This suggests a global population of 1.7 million women developers and 17 million men. The technology industry is dominated by men and the imbalance in numbers is such that we cannot make numerical comparisons between men and women. Instead, in the rest of this chapter, we will look at relative differences in terms of experience, age and roles adopted, and the most common company sectors and development areas for men and women.

What are their ages?

Looking at the comparative ages of male and female developers, we find a higher percentage of women are under the age of 35. The 25-34 age group accounts for the largest number of developers of both genders (36% of women, 33% of men), yet male developers are more likely to be older: we found 37% of male developers are over 35 years, compared to 29% of women developers.

There are (at least) two different ways of interpreting this observation. One is to say that women are being increasingly drawn to software development; the comparatively young profile of women compared to men illustrates recent gains made in attracting girls and young women into technology. Analysis of college data for entrants to computer science courses, in North America at least, suggests that this is indeed a plausible explanation, as women are increasingly studying courses in the subjects that lead to a career in technology.

An alternative, or additional, explanation is that women may have always been involved, but tend to leave software development as they get older, either by choice or necessity.

And here’s a preview of the roles they undertake:

Gender Wars 1

Women in tech & their educational background?

When we looked into the education levels of the genders, we noted that women developers are equally likely to have been educated to degree level in computing/software engineering when compared to men. Likewise for other classroom training that doesn’t lead to specific degrees, and for attendance at developer bootcamps.

Women are slightly more likely than men to have learned their craft using online course materials and slightly less likely to have learned on-the-job. Women are significantly less likely to be self-taught (57% of women compared to 75% of men) but it is still the most popular way of learning about development for both genders. The relatively older profile of men probably explains why more have become self-taught: they have engaged in continuous education throughout their longer career because of the rapidly changing nature of the industry. As women in tech and women developers particularly mature, we would expect the level of “self-taught” women to rise as they also teach themselves new skills to advance their career.

For more details on the Gender Wars, you can download our State of the Developer Nation 16th Edition report.

It’s free and full of insights.


Evolving technology helps game developers make money

Game economics are changing with streaming

Before gaming consoles hit the market in the 80’s, gamers had to visit the arcade and wait for a machine to be available for their turn to play. This created a sense of community and players watched more games than they played, especially if their supply of coins was low. The emergence of streaming is bringing this experience back and watching games has become its own form of entertainment. But how has it affected game developers?

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One of the reasons Fortnite has become so popular is because it is so watchable. Streaming is creating a new channel for developers to promote their games and generate revenues. Gamers can actually watch experts play a game before trying it themselves. The trend is also bringing new capital into the space. Streamers can make big money attracting subscribers to follow them on their channels and sponsors are paying to promote to these audiences. Ninja, the most successful streamer, is reported to make $500,000 a month from his streams. While this revenue does not go directly to developers it does bring a new source of capital into the ecosystem, introducing new opportunities.

This new revenue source is helping spread more money across the industry. In the first half of 2017 only 29% of game developers were making more than $100 a month. In the first half of 2018 that jumped to 48%. While many factors may be influencing revenue growth, streaming is providing a new way to engage with video games, passively, providing opportunities to innovate new business models.

game developers generate more revenue

One dominant trend in game developer business models is that developers are focusing on a fewer number of them, and the more popular ones such as advertising and in-app purchases are getting significantly less popular. Presumably this is due to developers focusing only on revenue sources that are producing for their apps. However, the use of a few less popular approaches is growing. This can be traced back to a growing communal and collaborative environment in the gaming space. Symbiotic relationships are emerging among streamers, developers and gamers that are beginning to change the economics of the industry.

The challenge of developing a game and attracting users has proven too expensive for small developers so they are focusing on leveraging ecosystems and platforms that enable them to help each other instead of relying on launching their own game. Our data shows a small but steady increase in the

number of developers making money through selling services, assets and plugins to other developers. The communal effect fueled by streaming is also leading to increases in subscription games such as World of Warcraft which keep players engaged in the community. Developers are also making money through subscriptions to their own live streams of their development process.

As the rock stars of streaming create a new entertainment experience, development and streaming platforms are innovating new ways to provide opportunities. Twitch has launched extensions which enable viewers to engage with the game stream through web overlay extensions developed by third parties. Developers can create stats views or side games and split profits with the streamers who are attracting the audience. Unity content store is providing a channel for developers to deliver plugins to other developers, another channel for delivering game software. As games are passively consumed, it also provides more opportunity to sell merchandise. We are seeing an uptick in developers generating revenues this way.

Cryptocurrencies are another trend that is helping spread the wealth across the industry by enabling developers, streamers and gamers to make micropayments to influence behaviours. Gamers can tip streamers when they are entertained and developers can pay streamers to promote their games, all through cryptocurrencies. Bits, the cryptocurrency within the Twitch platform which allows viewers to tip streamers, generated $12 million in the service’s first 10 months.

game developers business models

Game developers are moving to the web

As developers promote and distribute games outside of app stores through streams, they are also moving to the web. This fact and the constantly improving performance of JavaScript is reducing the percentage of developers focusing on mobile, desktop and tablets.

As gamers congregate in communities around streamers, developers can reach these prospects without having to go through an app store. Moreover, smaller developer teams don’t have to build for each platform and can have more control of their app and engagement with their audience via the web. New Twitch extensions are also web based, providing a new product category for web developers.

The improving performance enabled by JavaScript JIT compiling engines and frameworks such as React are enabling web developers to create superior game performance over what was possible in the past. With greater performance and distribution options, it is not surprising that the web is becoming more popular with game developers.

game developers moving to web

As the opportunity to make money becomes more democratised, the chance for real innovation grows. When more resources are spread around the industry, fledgling ideas have the economic viability early on and stand a better chance to get out of the starting gate.

We are currently running another survey and we would value your input. If you’re a software developer working in the field of game development, or considering doing so, please consider answering the questions.  Plus, if you refer other developers to take the survey, you may win up to $1,000 in cash.

Business Community Interviews

Developer Heroes: Amanda the Iron Woman.

Who? Developer hero Amanda Folsom, Developer relations manager

Cross-team communication is incredibly difficult…

[Developer Economics] Hello! Tell us about your role and what you do:

[Amanda Folsom]

I’m a Developer Relations (DevRel) Manager at Nexmo, which is a fancy way of saying I work on an awesome team who helps developers succeed.

What kind of languages do you work with?

DevRel is sort of interesting because I have to know a little bit about a lot of languages and frameworks, but most of my own projects are written in PHP using the Laravel framework. Day to day, I may touch some JavaScript and some Ruby with a little C# sprinkled in.

Developers all over the world are currently taking the SlashData survey. Will you be left out?

How did you get started?

My dad was a developer in the 90s so I grew up around computers. We built my first computer together in grade school and I discovered HTML and JavaScript (the early edition). I eventually moved on to PHP and, at the risk of dating myself here, made a Neopets clone. I still have the original codebase — it was written for PHP4.

How much do you think developers need to focus on specific frameworks or languages these days?

Over the last few years there’s been a heavy shift to framework-driven development. It’s common to see a specific framework or series of tools listed in job posts now. I think it’s important that developers focus on a specific set of tooling as that domain expertise is important, but it’s also important to keep tabs on what’s happening outside of their chosen framework or tool chain.

How much are you involved in buying decisions (in terms of technology platforms etc.) at you company?

As involved as I want to be. I have the freedom to pick and choose tools we use but I’m happy to let other people pick tools that work for them.

Do you think that there is a still a separation between developers and other business departments (e.g. marketing etc.)

Definitely. Cross-team communication is incredibly difficult and historically engineering teams and marketing/sales teams have different goals. Marketing and sales want to sell something (sometimes things that don’t exist yet) and I think it’s hard for them to understand why that makes developers uncomfortable. On the flip side, I think it’s hard for developers to understand how sales cycles work. Sometimes it takes months to close a deal, and the features that were promised may very well be available by the time the customer is ready to sign up.

Have you worked both Agency and Client-side?

Yep! Before working for companies I ran my own consultancy.

What are clients asking for right now in the world of cloud communications?

A lot of folks are just using SMS for 2FA, status updates, etc., but I’m starting to see people use IVR for more contextual phone menus. For example, if a customer calls in from a known phone number, you can look up their record and see if there are any outstanding issues related to their account. People are also looking for other ways to interact with their customers via mobile applications beyond sending and receiving texts and calls. In-app messaging is growing fast.

What projects are you working on right now?

For work? Mostly client libraries for our APIs and some data dashboards. In my spare time I manage a DNSBL and make various dinky web apps.

How helpful do you find developer surveys? [e..g. SlashData report – which seeks to help developers to make better business decisions, with salary benchmarks, trends, programming languages, framework choice etc etc]

They’re hit or miss. Some surveys are very well done while others have an obvious lean in favor of a specific tool or language. Salary benchmarks are also hit or miss because there’s a disparity between large company salaries and startup salaries. There are people who expect $200k+ at a bootstrapped startup simply because one of the large players would give them that much. At the same time, many of these salary surveys don’t factor in other benefits some of the startup folks get like equity, catered lunches, off-sites, and so on.

Do you think developers sometimes undersell themselves?

Absolutely. Imposter syndrome is alive and well in this industry, and people are overworking themselves to stay competitive and keep their skills sharp while actively stating that it’s not enough. The reality is that if you’re scheduled to work 40 hours and find yourself needing to work 80 there’s a time management problem somewhere. Either at the individual level or the management level.

So where do you go to get tech-related news?

A combination of Twitter, Hacker News, various Slack groups, some email newsletters, and mailing lists.

What’s going up and what’s going down in your industry?

Oddly enough, voice comms are trending upward. We’re seeing a lot of SMS activity still, but more people are starting to include voice services in their applications too.

What do you think the future looks like in terms of IaaS vs PaaS vs Containers vs Serverless?

This tweet about sums it up for me:

Right now we have a ton of tools designed to help people scale and distribute their applications, but everyone is still running into scaling issues. With serverless/IaaS/PaaS architecture, you run the risk of vendor lock-in with an inability to port your code outside of a specific platform. Containers solve some of the portability problems while introducing other problems with storage and performance. There’s no doubt that many people still find utility in these technologies, but many organizations seem to be transitioning back to bare metal servers or hybrid clouds.

Are you working on the projects you would like to work on?


Do you have a favourite superhero?

Iron Man. I have a collection of 1st edition Iron Man comics :).

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Business Interviews

Developer Heroes: Meet Marcus from the Legion

Who? Developer hero Marcus Noble, Senior software engineer

[Developer Economics] Hello! Tell us about your role and what you do:

[Marcus Noble] Hello! My name is Marcus Noble and I’m a senior software engineer at Elsevier working on their ecommerce platform.

What kind of languages do you work with?

Generally we work with web technologies: HTML, JavaScript and CSS. For a backend we primarily use TypeScript with NodeJS.

How did you get started?

My first experience of programming came when I was roughly 10 years old, using view-source to look at how websites were made and changing them in Notepad to see what happens. I think the first thing I completed was a DragonBall Z fan site.

Developers all over the world are currently taking the SlashData survey. Will you be left out?

How much do you think developers need to focus on specific frameworks or languages these days?

Very little. A solid understanding of programming principles and design patterns are far more valuable and transferable than knowing how to use the latest and greatest framework. I much prefer opting to use small libraries focusing on one feature over a full-blown framework to make it easier in the future to swap out bits of my application.

Things get dull when you know exactly how to do everything.

How much are you involved in buying decisions (in terms of technology platforms etc.) at you company?

A little. I can give input and my opinions on services but that decision is ultimately made by those above me.

Do you think that there is a still a separation between developers and other business departments (e.g. marketing etc.)

I think things are getting better but there is still a visible separation with the areas of the business that developers only have a small amount of interaction with. I’ve noticed that areas that have a vested interested in what the developers build seem to be increasingly more engaging with the development teams.

What projects are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a new project to expand our current e-commerce platform to support business-to-business sales. The majority of the project will be greenfield applications so we’re able to experiment with some of the latest tools and practices to see what works best.

How helpful do you find developer surveys? [e..g. SlashData report – which seeks to help developers to make better business decisions, with salary benchmarks, trends, programming languages, framework choice etc etc]

I think they’re a great way of getting a sense of the wider community outside our immediate echo chamber. I predominately communicate with other JavaScript developers so that’s usually all I hear about. It’s always interesting to be able to be able to hear about the changes happening with Go or Rust or C++.

Do you think developers sometimes undersell themselves?

I’m pretty sure that isn’t limited to just developers. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we’ve felt completely unable to do a task and thus try and downplay our abilities only to discover later that we could. Technology is such a broad subject area with many deep-reaching topics it’s very easy for us to become overwhelmed by it all and undersell the skills that we do have because of the skills we don’t have.

So where do you go to get tech-related news?

Mostly Twitter. I mainly use it to follow various technologists from around the world to keep up to date. I also receive a few weekly newsletters with the latest JavaScript and DevOps news.

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What’s going up and what’s going down in your industry?

I think the web browser is what’s going up. There’s been so many huge advancements in the past few years. So many incredible applications that once needed huge C/C++ codebases are being ported to run in the browser making them available to many more people on many more devices. With that in mind I think (hoping) unnecessary native mobile applications are going down. Many applications now have web apps with comparable features without the large storage requirements.

What do you think the future looks like in terms of IaaS vs PaaS vs Containers vs Serverless?

Hard to say. We’re currently looking at a mixture between containers and IaaS. Up to now we haven’t had much success with serverless infrastructure as I think the technology is still too young, comfortable monitoring and logging has been a struggle. Once the tooling has caught up I definitely think it has great potential to move a lot of applications away from an IaaS setup.

Are you working on the projects you would like to work on?

For the most part, yes. As long as I’m still learning new things I’m working on the right projects. Things get dull when you know exactly how to do everything.

Do you have a favourite superhero?

Yes, Legion. Why settle for just one super power?

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Business Community Interviews

Developer Heroes: Meet Rachel a.k.a the Wonder Woman

Who? Developer hero: Rachel Bilski

Where? Brighton, UK.

What? Web developer, agency-side

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 Hello! Tell us about your role and what you do:

 I mainly work as a web developer, both front- and back-end. I do a lot of CMS work, with existing CMS platforms, and I also build content management systems from scratch, mainly working with PHP.

What kind of languages do you work with?

In the front-end, I use the standards – HTML, CSS, JavaScript. I also dabble with things like Python, Ruby on Rails. And of course PHP.

How did you get started?

Well the real story is that, when I was 13, I liked going to fan sites for Buffy the Vampire Slayer – so I learned how to build my own fan site through Lissa Explains it All. Which some developers may remember from back in the olden days!

Can we see that site on the Wayback Machine?

Can you see it? No, you cannot! But, the legit explanation of how I became a web developer is that I originally worked games development, then in QA which I didn’t really enjoy, so I moved to web development.

You’re agency-side. How do you think that compares with in-house development?

I like to say in-house is a little more straightforward, only because you get to work on a project for a long time, for years potentially. But in agencies, there’s usually a wider variety of work, and you have to be pretty flexible.  

What are clients asking for right now?

We get a lot of requests for emerging technologies now, but clients are not necessarily sure what to do with them. They’ll say: “we want to do something with VR or AR” or “we want to do 3D, 360 video or 3D worlds” or whatever. We have to guide them through the options.

How helpful do you find developer surveys?

If you’re a developer who works in an agency or a freelance developer, it’s easy to forget about the business side of things. And maybe you’re not a natural sales person. I mean it’s taken me a number of years to become more commercially minded, which helps me get involved in more business-related decisions about the tech we use and why.

Do you think developers sometimes undersell themselves?

Yeah, I would say so.

Have you found any challenges working in a male-dominated industry?

I’ve had both good and bad experiences. I work in a predominantly female developer team, which has been nothing but positive.

I also go to events for women in technology, because I like to talk to other women who are in my field. But, I’ve also experienced some negative things. Not always outright, but you do pick up on – to use a buzzword – microaggressions.

People can be dismissive. You know, sometimes if I go to a meeting with a male colleague, people will talk to him and ignore me even though on a technical front we’re at the same level. Which is another reason why I like to go to women’s groups because they don’t automatically assume you don’t know what you’re talking about.

You think things are changing?

I think some things are changing. There’s a lot more diversity programmes, not just for women but for LGBT groups and other minority groups.  

But, I think that until there’s a bigger culture change… it’s not that women don’t want to go into tech, it’s just they don’t want to go into this tech environment. They don’t want to go somewhere where they’re not wanted.

So where do you go to get tech-related news?

Well, Twitter. But there are also loads of developers on Reddit, though I rarely comment. But I do have a male-sounding handle on Reddit for when I do comment.

Has that actually helped?

Yeah, people take you far more seriously. In fact, a lot of women do the same thing. That’s sadly the way it has to be sometimes!

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What’s going up and what’s going down in the software industry?

There’s been a lot of focus on how people are using messaging applications more at the moment and generalised open social media is a bit more in the decline, which is leading to a lot more of things such as chatbots which are really interesting, and artificial intelligence (or ‘fake’ artificial intelligence) which I personally find really interesting. From finance, to health, to learning, I think it’s a great way to make these products and campaigns more helpful and user-friendly, keeping up with how our use of technology is changing.

And there’s VR of course, that’s had a real surge over the last year or so as the kits become more affordable and more widespread, especially as use in business seems to be increasing.

Personally I think the use of (and requests for) mobile apps has really declined, as people have realised how much can be done with just the web alone, and more things are done using messaging platforms, people are realising you don’t need an app for every little thing – which is great, because it makes the web a little more open, you aren’t locked away in an app for each activity or company. Similarly, a couple of years ago, everyone wanted a Facebook application – you don’t see those anymore at all!

Are you working on the projects you would like to work on?

I am, I get to work on a real variety of projects which is great. I love the power of the web and what we can do with it now, so I love working on the more cutting edge projects we get to do sometimes, but even something as simple as building a website up from scratch – from just an idea and a goal to a fully formed website that helps people find what they need or helps get a message out there is wonderful. I love seeing our projects go from a quickly sketched wireframe to a real website.

I would definitely like to work with more artificial intelligence type stuff though – so I’m hoping we get some projects like that in soon!

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What super power  would you like to have and  what’s your favourite super hero ?

I don’t know!! I guess if I was a superhero I would like to have the ability to consume and understand huge amounts of information at a time…like a computer.

But it’s not a very good superpower.

My favourite superhero is Wonder Woman of course!

If you would like to feature in our Meet the Devs series, let us know.