Empower Gender Diversity with Agile Software Development

Empower Gender Diversity with Agile Software Development

Orit Hazzan (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel) and Yael Dubinsky (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch039
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Abstract

Gender issues have recently been discussed extensively with respect to the computing fields (Bair & McGrathe-Cohoon, 2005; Camp, 2002; Margolis & Fisher, 2002). One of the discussed issues is the “shrinking pipeline” phenomenon (Camp, 1997). Camp shows how, in addition to the shrinking of the pipeline upon transition from high school to graduate school, the pipeline has been shrinking also at the bachelor-degree level since 1983. She argues that since the number of women at the bachelor’s level affects the number of women at levels higher in the pipeline and in the job market, this phenomenon is of great concern. The shrinking pipeline is explained in various ways. Among other explanations, the image of the field as requiring long hours of programming is a dominant one. Here is an illustrative case. The April 3, 2003, edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Business News addressed the question of why more women are not involved in the tech fields.1 This question was discussed by a panel, assembled by the Pittsburgh Technology Council a week before the article was published, which included some of the region’s most successful women. Among other arguments, Robbin Steif, chief financial officer of Maya Design, said, “It might be an issue of self-selection—women might not be risk takers.” Then she added, “It might also have something to do with the work/family issue, because entrepreneurs work way more than 40 hours per week.” This article focuses on software development teams using one of the agile software development methods. A high quality of working software is the primary measure of progress; however, agile software development processes, in addition, promote a sustainable pace for all the individuals (developers and users) involved in the software development process,2 welcome requirement changes even in late stages of the development, and favor face-to-face communication. Based on our observations of agile software teams both in academia and in industry, we claim that such software development frameworks enable women to gain new and better positions in the hi-tech industry in general and in software development teams in particular. We view this article as an example of how diversity can be achieved in software teams. In our current research, we explore other dimensions by which diversity can be achieved in software teams, such as minorities and nationalities. The perspective and data that are presented in this article are part of our research about human aspects of software engineering, specifically our comprehensive research about cognitive and organizational aspects of agile software development methods both in the industry and academia (Dubinsky & Hazzan, 2004; Dubinsky, Talby, Hazzan, & Keren, in press; Hazzan & Dubinsky, 2003a, 2003b; Tomayko & Hazzan, 2004).q

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