There are quite some women in QA, it’s true, absolutely fantastic.

It feels that in QA women are even more frequent than in development. Is it because of this sad perception of mothers, who clean-up after their children and men? And testers cleaning up after development? So sad! Apart from all political questions or that “cleaning-lady” perception, I also have seen/heard about the “nerd” perception. And girls don’t want to become nerds. Still.

(here is a word of warning: this is written after having watched about 10 videos from http://everysecondcounts.eu/, so sorry for my English.)

I really thought nobody grabs women in QA by the … . In real world and in work environment.

Inspired by an article of Christin Wiedemann and other statistics I started thinking about it again.

True Statistics. Period.

  1. Christin states in her article, that “While the overall representation of women in STEM (“Science, technology and mathematics”) fields continues to increase, it is actually decreasing in computer science. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women made up 37% of the undergraduate computer science majors in 1983-1984. In 2010-2011 that number had decreased to 18%.“
  2. The media data of the readers of the blog “Adventures in QA” give that there are only 22% female readers (multiplied with the factor for my age, I am a reader of the blog with a probability of 12%…)
  3. The statistics of the Software Test user group Hamburg (StugHH) gives us about 25% females, but then, looking at the female active members, quite a few of them are HR people looking for testers. In meetups we have about 1/5th

On the American National Public Radio (NPR), statistics were published that basically try to explain the decline of interest in computers by girls with the advent of home PCs and stupid, testosterone driven PC games. And I was shocked, my son used the very same argument today when I complained about the absence of girls in his advanced computer high school class: because of the games, boys are more interested into computers, and then girls realize that they have to work too hard to catch up.

Nobody Respects Women More Than Me.

(Only that I respect them) We are not missing positive examples. I do not know where to start without missing the most important ones… please add more in the comments. However, right now come to my mind a few I met or I worked with. This list is extended by a starting list of other women whose articles I love to read.


Developers are Bringing Code, they are Bringing Failures, … and some – I assume – are Good People!

QA people do not clean up afterwards. Not in theory, neither in agile nor in V-model. In practice they do it every once in a while, but that is where all of us want to get away from. So, no need for a cleaning woman.  Just don’t mess to begin with: #bugban

QA people also cannot just be a nerd. They (also) need to be able to talk to business people (business analysts, clients, product owners) and even to developers. They need to criticize the product, not the developer, even if it works on his machine (only). In large V-model driven projects, test managers need to be able to deliver the bad message, fight for acceptance and leverage the different interests between quality, time and costs.  This needs communication. Absolutely.

I guess we also should further push the idea about Unicorns in testing. Collaboration, happiness, it’s great.

Oops, did I forget to talk about female specifics? I guess, it wasn’t relevant here…  no need for a great wall here.

No Locker Room Talk… Absolutely.

If you look in the internet for “testing female”, you will end up with fertility testing, look for “QA female” you end up on fashion pages. On bad pages, you can probably find something about testing women, and locker room talk about them…. That is not helpful.

So why don’t you find highly ranked pages about women working in technology? My standard answer usually is: we do not really care if good work is done by a woman or a man. But not only above statistics but also my own experience has taught me that sometimes it is important to encourage women to consider a certain profession and to prove that it is possible that women are great here. Females need female role models in their direct environment and as thought leaders. But then, did you see many women lately on conferences? Other women have written great articles about this phenomenon

I also have to admit, that I have not been to many conferences. “Too many real life challenges”, would be my usual excuse. But even more often, I just cannot see much value for myself – apart from the fun hours at the conferences. But I love to go and network in a nearby location, where it doesn’t take too much effort. And I start asking other women personally to join me. It seems the normal communication doesn’t reach too many (see above statistics with the STugHH). It seems as if the value added by visiting such meetups is esteemed differently by men and women. And I am sure that there is already some research out there, why this is the case. Just search in the web “women don’t network” and you get more than 160.000.000 entries.

Make QA Great for Women?

I would like to think that I professionally do not really distinguish between male and female colleagues just because of their gender. I would like to think that there is no need to wonder about orienting oneself as a woman in QA. I grew up in a world dominated by males (brothers, university, work), and I think I never asked myself that question.

I actually like to work with men. And women. But then I happened to lead a team of 12 women only, almost by accident (the only man in the team left, as he felt lonely). That was a very positive experience for me. It took some time to form a team out of these people, but that was due to their different backgrounds. The following accumulation of “female role model stereotypes” made me think that maybe there is some truth to the idea that QA is female:

  • The team was extremely supportive
  • Communication between technical and non-technical people was supported by an atmosphere of mutual respect – and this was really a very sound basis
  • No need for infighting or swaggering
  • High level of diligence and enthusiasm
  • Great results for business process test design
  • Regular cakes 😉

Hm, rereading this I wonder about my perception of women and men… Fact is, that the atmosphere in that team led to a great way of working. I know some men who would have fit into this team. I know others. But I definitely could see, that a prospering atmosphere helped these women to develop, even those, who had not thought they would fit into the role.

So let us just try and get women doing quality assurance. There are chances they like it!

Quality First

I think, as with female leadership stereotypes, it would need some research to prove if there is some relevance to those, if they exist at all. But if you consider above stereotypes as typically female, then I had the impression that they really helped to be successful. These abilities should be positive also for mixed teams.

We as testers praise our own ability to think into different directions, be diverse, open and whatever else. This should be the same for the gender of a person. There are differences due to gender or education based on gender? Well, let me try to answer this in an “agile way”:

While there might be differences in male or female approach to QA, we value the opportunity such diversity will give us.

So, dear Mr. customer, I totally understand that (/if!) you say “Quality First”, but could we say “gender second”, or “knowledge second” or “methods second” or “happiness second” or “experience second”, or  …  as in above video series of #everysecondcounts.

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