5 Reasons Why Startups Need Female Developers

According to Wikipedia only 10% of Computer Science degrees in the United States were awarded to women in 2010. It’s 3 times less than 30 years ago. Why is that, given the fact that teenage girls are using Internet at least on the same rate with guys?

Janika hacking away

We believe that it’s instrumental having at least some female developers in your startup team. The reasons are:
1. Diversity drives innovation. Too homogenous teams tend to have weaker performance in creativity and decision making.
2. Better understanding of your customers. This is important especially for consumer-oriented startups, where most probably at least 50% of your users are women. You can understand their needs a lot better if you have some women on board.
3. Empathetic team players. Girls strive for a better solution for a whole team, instead of going solo.
4. Attention to detail. A lot of developers tend to work on a high level of abstraction, waving off small, but important issues as non-relevant. This is not the case with females.
5. Better company culture. It’s really strange how even one woman improves the internal climate of a testosterone-filled male-only project team. You have less drama and virtually no public swearing.

Recent years have seen several new initiatives to bring more women to programming, as RailsGirls and TechSisters. These projects are very popular and show clearly that there is a lot of willingness by girls to understand software development, and to try it out by themselves.

We at Toggl are lucky to have one female developer, Janika. Although it’s really hard to find more, we keep trying, and really look forward to having more geeky-girls in our team.

What do you think? What are your experiences with women developers in startups?

By On May 7, 2013

  1. First two points make little bit sense. Third point is absolutely wrong. It is actually the opposite. Fourth and fifth point is not relevant at all. Better company culture and attention to detail can only be possible or more possible with women, Seriously? Last two points are just to make 5 points list.(in my pinion)

  2. dear toggl community,
    dear togglers.

    I have been thinking about answering to this post since the original post.
    Well, and I have to state there are several discourses interfering with these matters.

    Those are most oviously the one on Feminism, further on those on Diversity / Intersectionality as well as the European fetishism with Dialectic thinking.

    For the first one we have to carefully distinguish, what we are talking about : in a popular description, feminism can be understood as a movement of three phases.

    (1) The initial feminism advocates for equal civil rights and had to overcome long-established power structures to only think about reshaping the female narrative. Starting roughly in the 1920’s, we’re talking about proportionality and “women becoming men” in terms of work, etc. This, of course, has also been driven by industrialization, which enforced citizens to be work force, not minding their gender.

    (2) As a heading for the second wave of feminism, one could use “women not becoming men” in opposition to the paragraph before. This emancipation movement extended the reflection on gender inequality, roughly beginning in the 1960’s together with the civil rights movement, together with other inequalities. People started to understand that there’s more in these topics. Thought together with counter-liberal economic narratives, the role of body and sexuality endorsed a provocatory, but reliefing exchange of positions. Names could be Simone de Beauvoir or Alice Schwartzer.

    (3) The last phase, post-structuralist feminism, would then be that of a Judith Butler or any contemporary gender discussion. In a world of language games (Wittgenstein), humans are asked to shape their environments in every moment by the means of their words. Answering to power-critic perspectives like Foucault’s and to globally projected inequality regimes (post colonialism), in this “post gender” discussion we’re only starting to understand how we can collaboratively create our communities.

    The ongoing deconstruction of the female narrative, all the clichés mentionned above by others as well as persistent surpressing power structures, lead to the conclusion, that individual differences always might be of a greater degree than those derived from external objections. Thinking about a unemployed, disabled and black lesbian living in a country of the global south allows us to acknowledge the multiperspectionality in a globalized world.

    Now we’re talking to lesbian-identified males, transgenders and so forth : diversity has finally found a valve to be visible in public, urban space. And we’ll need anyone, all of you, us, to fight the struggles for the future, not minding any conventionality that used to diminish and persue those that think different.

    In contrary, we need those often neglegted ideas, that propose different ways of being on planet earth as a mankind as a whole.

    Having said that and to conclude this little essay:

    I’ve been in Tallinn [Lumelinn 😉 ] at Toggl’s office and have seen their outstanding working environment. And there were plenty of women working, compared to other IT companies I’ve seen before. And further on, Alarii was completely aware of the problem of finding female engineers and was himself dissatisfied with the fact, that most of his female identified co-workers were helping him in support rather than in engineering.

    It is good to take care about the proportionality, because else we wouldn’t even start the process. Of change.

    jon richter

  3. I’ve found no significant difference between male/female developers in terms of attention to detail, ‘holistic’ thinking, customer empathy or any of that stereotypical nonsense.

    But the blog post stands perfectly well on points 1 & 5: mixed teams are simply nicer to work in, and diversity is always a good thing. A happier team will create better products. So the indirect impact on software quality & customer relations is much more important than the (largely mythical) direct impact.

  4. I think this article is pretty much spot on, and thanks for sticking your neck out to write it Alari and Toggl. Unfortunately, sexism and misogyny does seem fairly widespread in tech (see references below).

    I don’t believe it’s offensive to talk about general qualities that men and women have and bring to the workplace. Everyone’s different, but if you have an all-male workplace, you are going to have a very different culture to a mixed workplace. It’s a bit depressing if talking about trying to make a more diverse workplace calls down a bunch of people who slam you for being offensive. People taking offence at this article need to question their own agenda and baggage, I think.

    Bottom line, the world is half male and half female. If workplaces (and companies, and governments) are populated almost entirely by men, then we’re thinking with only half our brain.


  5. Thank you all for the thorough feedback! We are very sorry if anyone felt offended by this blog post. This was definitely not our intention, as we are well aware that people are diverse independent of their gender.

    These points reflect just our own subjective experience and are not meant as a crude generalization. We totally agree that gender, nationality and those other things that have nothing to do with the job should really be left out of the equation. But the fact is that IT is currently a male dominated field and some conscious actions have to be taken to diversify it.

    There is a good piece on hiring for diversity on Startup Nation –

  6. Relax! Of course it’s nicer to have a mixed working environment. And of course genders are different. But that’s the beauty of it isn’t it? I think that’s what the article meant.

  7. I appreciate the concerns raised in the comments above, but I’d like to temper those with the perspective of a woman who’s been a developer for over a decade.

    The points could have been better stated, but based on my experience, I did not find them as irrelevant and horrifying as some other readers. True, it’s silly and outdated to say that there will be less swearing with a woman around. But women do, on average, bring a different energy to a team. I see this in multiple fields; a friend of mine who’s a landscaper has noted that when he hires women, they usually pay more attention to visual details and establish better rapport with customers.

    I’d also like to thank Toggl for at least raising the issue. I strongly disagree with the comments that implied that you shouldn’t actively seek to hire women in high-tech fields. The subtle psychological bias against seeing women as competent in technical fields has been well established by researchers, and it requires more than a flippant “just hire the most qualified person” attitude to counteract this bias. My experience in both corporate America and in small start-ups is that *no one* is hired purely based on competence; firstly, competence is difficult to evaluate without seeing someone in action over time; and secondly, many people are at least partially unaware of the psychological factors that influence their decisions to hire a particular person. Finding proactive ways to counteract bias against women and other tech minorities is essential.

  8. This article was a bad idea, offensive to both females and males.

    Just employ people who are good at the job they need to do – be they man, woman, or banana.