An Empirical Investigation on the Challenges Faced by Women in the Software Industry: A Case Study

Bianca Trinkenreich, Ricardo Britto, Marco A. Gerosa, Igor Steinmacher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Context: Addressing women's under-representation in the soft-ware industry, a widely recognized concern, requires attracting as well as retaining more women. Hearing from women practitioners, particularly those positioned in multi-cultural settings, about their challenges and and adopting their lived experienced solutions can support the design of programs to resolve the under-representation issue. Goal: We investigated the challenges women face in global software development teams, particularly what motivates women to leave their company; how those challenges might break down according to demographics; and strategies to mitigate the identified challenges. Method: To achieve this goal, we conducted an ex-ploratory case study in Ericsson, a global technology company. We surveyed 94 women and employed mixed-methods to analyze the data. Results: Our findings reveal that women face socio-cultural challenges, including work-life balance issues, benevolent and hos-tile sexism, lack of recognition and peer parity, impostor syndrome, glass ceiling bias effects, the prove-it-again phenomenon, and the maternal wall. The participants of our research provided different suggestions to address/mitigate the reported challenges, including sabbatical policies, flexibility of location and time, parenthood support, soft skills training for managers, equality of payment and opportunities between genders, mentoring and role models to sup-port career growth, directives to hire more women, inclusive groups and events, women's empowerment, and recognition for women's success. The framework of challenges and suggestions can inspire further initiatives both in academia and industry to onboard and retain women. Women represent less than 24% of employees in software development industry and experience various types of prejudice and bias. Even in companies that care about Diversity & Inclusion, 'untying the mooring ropes' of socio-cultural problems is hard. Hearing from women, especially those working in a multi-cultural organization, about their challenges and adopting their suggestions can be vital to design programs and resolve the under-representation issue. In this work we work closely with a large software development or-ganization which invests and believes in diversity and inclusion. We listened to women and the challenges they face in global soft-ware development teams of this company and what these women suggest reduce the problems and increase retention. Our research showed that women face work-life balance issues and encounter invisible barriers that prevent them from rising to top positions. They also suffer micro-aggression and sexism, need to show com-petence constantly, be supervised in essential tasks, and receive less work after becoming mothers. Moreover, women miss having more female colleagues, lack self-confidence and recognition. The women from the company suggested sabbatical policies, the flexibil-ity of location and time, parenthood support, soft skills training for managers, equality of opportunities, role models to support career growth, directives to hire more women, support groups, and more interaction between women, inclusive groups and events, women's empowerment by publishing their success stories in media and recognizing their achievements. Our results had been shared with the company Human Resources department and management and they considered the diagnosis helpful and will work on actions to mitigate the challenges that women still perceive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2022 ACM/IEEE 44th International Conference on Software Engineering
Subtitle of host publicationSoftware Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2022
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Pages24-35
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781665495943
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022
Event44th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2022 - Pittsburgh, United States
Duration: May 27 0202 → …

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering
ISSN (Print)0270-5257

Conference

Conference44th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering: Software Engineering in Society, ICSE-SEIS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPittsburgh
Period5/27/02 → …

Keywords

  • diversity
  • gender
  • inclusion
  • software engineering
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software

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