It's quite a common experience that there are fewer women and African (-American) people in programming as warranted by the natural proportions. It is not so obvious whether this is due to discrimination or cultural differences (the difference being in whether the minorities are uninterested or the majority discriminatory).

Martin Fowler seems to think there is proof of discrimination in his latest blog post:

One point of view I hear fairly regularly is that these diversity imbalances are natural - because women don't have the aptitude or inclination for programming. This point of view upsets a lot of people but I think it's important to treat it seriously. I think of it as a hypothesis, which I'll call the natural balance hypothesis. It needs to be treated seriously because there's plenty of people who feel it explains the current situation - but I argue that it has two serious flaws, which mean that I must vigorously reject it.

I don't agree he is presenting any valuable proof, mostly pseudo logic based on mere speculation, but this doesn't mean he is wrong. Are serious studies supporting or contradicting his claims?

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    Most comments were completely off-topic and did not help make this question better, as such I've cleaned up the thread. Let's not get carried away and keep (tentative) answers in the answer box. – Sklivvz Jan 16 '12 at 17:17
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    Are you calling BS on Fowler's view that there is no discrimination in the software industry? because that has been the opposite of my experience. I've seen women harassed daily, I know exactly where he's coming from. – Mark Rogers Jan 18 '12 at 5:39
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    @MarkRogers: fact, that sexual harassment is accepted in company you work for and company Fowler works for, does not prove that: a) it's wide spread attitude in IT industry b) that percentage of companies like yours is any higher in IT industry, than in any other industry. Nor extreme misogynist cases like Richard Stallman prove anything. After all, he is not hired by any IT company. – vartec Jan 18 '12 at 10:33
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    @MarkRogers: you're suggesting that over-sized egos and hitting on women is more common in IT, than let say in sales department? And really I don't understand why you assume, that IT is the paramount of all professions and women would be inclined to choose it, if it wasn't for sexism. It is not, and there are few women in IT, simply because they choose other, more prestigious majors. – vartec Jan 18 '12 at 22:13
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    @vartec - Referencing a female historic figure in the past does not mean there is equal work for equal pay or even equal opportunities today for most women. – Mark Rogers Jan 25 '12 at 16:32

According to Why So Few?: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Catherine Hill, Ph. D., Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Ed.D., 2010:

Number of students who took advanced placement test in Computer Science AB:

  • girls — 632 (13%)
  • boys — 4,268 (87%)

enter image description here

Number of graduates with B.Sc. in computer science:

  • women — 7,944 (18.6%); including mathematics 14,771 (25%)
  • men — 34,652 (81.4%); including mathematics 43,376 (75%) enter image description here

Thus, "natural proportion" for newly hired software developers in US would based on available graduates be 82% male, 18% female. However, if you look at actual occupation statistics:

enter image description here

It has mathematics in same category as IT, but 30% is still lot more that 25% you'd expect from proportions of B.Sc. graduates. So if there is any bias in the IT industry, it's positive one, rather then negative one. Same goes for alleged bias in colleges, as you can see that percentage of women among graduates with B.Sc. in Computer Science (18%) is way higher, than percentage of girls among students taking Advanced Placement Test in Computer Science (13%).

Note, that the question is about discriminatory bias in IT industry hiring, not about society as a whole.

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    @MarkRogers: Assumption is, that if someone studies to get B.Sc. in Computer Science, then his/her intention is to work in that field. I believe that's quite safe assumption to make. Now, perhaps some ppl can't find job opening, but then if it's harder to find opening for man, then for woman, that proves that there is no negative bias against women in the IT industry. – vartec Jan 18 '12 at 12:55
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    @MarkRogers I am sure that a lot of unemployed women would not be so picky... – Sklivvz Jan 18 '12 at 16:58
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    Interesting, but it ignores that fact that because of factors that discourage women to go into IT, those that do go in will tend to be more motivated and more skilled than average. Therefore, in a neutral industry, we should expect more than the average number of comp sci graduates going into the field, as those who aren't serious will probably have already dropped out – Casebash Jan 30 '12 at 12:57
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    also seems to ignore the possibility of discrimination in industry leading to less women choosing to do the Bsc – bdsl May 4 '12 at 22:31
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    Am I correct in thinking that study is based on the US only? In other areas of the world, programming is considered a female's job and males are the minority. For example, see this and this (stackprinter version found here if you don't have 10k rep - its the 3rd answer down) – Rachel Sep 25 '12 at 19:05

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