Portland's software industry lacks women

Portland's software industry lacks women

Portland's growing tech industry is overwhelmingly male, typically up to 80%.

A survey of 11 recent Portland tech startups, ranging from companies with four employees to 80, reveals that their total workforces were typically 70 percent to 80 percent male, while their development and engineering teams—i.e., the people who write the actual code—have even fewer women. In many cases, none.

Females are even scarcer in the open-source software community—people who work on free and open projects like Linux and Firefox—which is particularly active in Portland and which the Portland Development Commission cites as a major “strength” of the local software industry. According to a 2006 study funded by the European Union, about 1.5 percent of open-source contributors are women.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Alex Payne, a former Twitter engineer and founder of local online banking startup Simple. Payne’s opinion is public-spirited, but it’s also practical: Groups of young, white men can’t necessarily make products and software that appeal to a broad consumer base. “Portland is a very liberal place, a very egalitarian place,” Payne says. “It would be nice if people’s staff was reflecting that.”

Read more at Willamette Week.

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