Women better coders than men?

We all know men hate to ask for directions. Apparently they loathe putting directions in computer code, too.

Emma McGrattan, the senior vice-president of engineering for computer-database company Ingres–and one of Silicon Valley’s highest-ranking female programmers–insists that men and women write code differently. Women are more touchy-feely and considerate of those who will use the code later, she says. They’ll intersperse their code–those strings of instructions that result in nifty applications and programs–with helpful comments and directions, explaining why they wrote the lines the way they did and exactly how they did it.

The code becomes a type of “roadmap” for others who might want to alter it or add to it later, says McGrattan, a native of Ireland who has been with Ingres since 1992.

Men, on the other hand, have no such pretenses. Often, “they try to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code,” she tells the Business Technology Blog. “They try to obfuscate things in the code,” and don’t leave clear directions for people using it later. McGrattan boasts that 70% to 80% of the time, she can look at a chunk of computer code and tell if it was written by a man or a woman. (link)


2 Responses to “Women better coders than men?”

  1. 1 ubuntucat June 16, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I don’t know enough about programming / don’t know enough programmers to comment intelligently on this, but my wife does some coding for her job, and she gets really annoyed when people don’t put appropriate comments in their code.

    If what McGrattan says is true, the obvious solutions are to retrain male programmers to write better code and to encourage more women to be programmers. I’m sure, like all statements about gender, it’s just a generalization and has many exceptions on both sides.

  2. 2 jtsmyth8 June 17, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I believe men tend to be more possessive about their code as well. I mean if you write your code, you know where everything is. There’s no point in making comments or making it easier for someone else to read. If there’s a problem with my code I’m going to be the one who fixes it not someone else.

    Also it comes down to laziness and poor organization. Based on personal experience I used to just sit at the computer and code. No plan, just a direction and some caffeine, and somehow find a way to get there. After university I started to plan out code on paper. Yes, it’s a time waster but also I’m able to think clearly about coding and each section’s objectives. It definitely helps to add comments.

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