Silicon Valley’s gender imbalance, in one chart

Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou was curious about the number of women in engineering, but struggled to find related data.

“Every company has some way of hiding or muddling the data on women actually in engineering roles,” she wrote on Medium in 2013. “The actual numbers I’ve seen and experienced in industry are far lower than anybody is willing to admit.”

She wanted to encourage a conversation about how well women are being encouraged to work in computing. That talk couldn’t happen without good data on gender ratios, so she set out to collect the information.

“People have been surprisingly helpful in contributing data,” Chou said this week. “Most of the contributors are female engineers reporting data for their teams or companies.” The data come from established companies and start-ups such as Mozilla, Yelp, Etsy, Foursquare, Redfin, Airbnb and more. While not every company is represented, the sample size is large. She found that 12.42 percent of engineers are women.

Most of the data come from mid-October, but she continues to receive more information to better inform the work. “I suspect that the true percentage of women in engineering roles is slightly lower than the spreadsheet shows, as I’ve encountered more all-male teams than probable if the percentage of female engineers were actually 12-plus percent, but the data seems to be in the right ballpark,” Chou said. She hasn’t had anyone contest the accuracy of the data.

“I suspect that the true percentage of women in engineering roles is slightly lower than the spreadsheet shows,” Chou said. This could be due to a selection bias, as a team with zero female engineers would be less likely to report its numbers.

Be sure to check out Vivek Wadhwa’s related column, which examines how Dropbox’s hiring practices impact its gender makeup.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · February 13, 2014