If you scan the crowd at any app developer gathering, you will rarely see a woman among the sea of software engineers that dominate these conferences. Existing female developers say that the lack of women in app development is a negative for the industry because women can bring a unique perspective to the fast-growing field.
Men far outnumber women in the world of mobile development.
FierceDeveloper recently queried a handful of women app developers about the pros and cons of their job and why they think the mobile app industry isn't more appealing to women. One common theme that emerged is that there is a lack of female role models to encourage young women to join the developer ranks. However, that is expected to change, particularly as many of the big developer organizations begin to recruit more women to their developer programs.
One area where female app developers are plentiful is in educational apps. Michelle Abraham, a developer at Digital Smoke said that after studying computer science in college her first job was in educational software, where she worked with other female developers. However, when Abraham made the move to the console game industry, she became the only female developer in her company. "I think women are intimidated. They might not want to be the only women in their class or at their company," Abraham said.
Abraham left the console game industry after Apple released the iOS software developer kit because she saw an opportunity to be an entrepreneur and work on her own. She and her business partner launched a shuffle/bowling game called "10 Pin Shuffle" for iOS and recently finished an Android version of the game. "I feel lucky. It's going well," Abraham said regarding her new venture.
Unfortunately, many women developers say that their peers just aren't interested in working on computers and spending a lot of time alone. Liron Fishman Sabbah, one of the creators of Friendthem, a location-based connectivity app that uses your Facebook account to find people around you, said that she believes that women aren't attracted to the field because of the amount of time they have to spend alone working in front of a computer. Instead, she said that she finds more women attracted to the marketing and management side of app development. "Women want to be above the code," Sabbah said.
However, with Friendthem, it was important to have women involved in the development of the app because the company wanted to create an application that appealed to women and understood their perspective."Having a secure connection between people was one of the most important things we had to have," Sabbah said of the Friendthem app. "Because once females feel they can connect safety, they will use it. And we knew that if women joined Friendthem, the men would follow."
Srividya Vaidyanathan, co-founder of PixelMat Software, became a mobile app developer just about a year ago after she and her husband purchased an iPad for their family and realized the potential it had for being a teaching device. Both Vaidyanathan and her husband had software experience so it was a natural move to start developing mobile apps.
Like Sabbah, Vaidyanathan believes that women aren't as attracted to the field because they feel it can be boring and complicated. However, she said that as development tools become more advanced, the process is becoming less tedious. She also believes that if the industry offered more women-centric workshops, it could encourage women to become developers.
That sentiment was echoed by others. "I think there needs to be more outreach by the industry," Abraham said. "The CEOs of mobile app companies are always men, and women just don't think it's an option for them."