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Software developers’ perceived race affects success of their proposals: Study

July 29, 2021
The Canadian Press

A new study from University of Waterloo researchers in Belgium shows developers perceived to be non-white are much less likely to see their proposed changes to open-source software projects accepted.

The study focuses on Github, an online hosting platform for software developers, and examined 37,700 projects and two million “pull requests,” which are changes to projects proposed by other developers.

When approving or considering pull requests, users see only the name of contributors, so researchers used a tool to estimate the race and ethnicity of developers, then analyzed the success of proposed changes.

They found 70 per cent of contributions that were later integrated into the open-source software projects they analyzed were submitted by developers perceived to be white.


Developers who were seen as Asian, Hispanic or Black were responsible for less than 10 per cent of the contributions that were accepted to open-source software projects.

Researchers say their findings will help identify diversity problems in the industry, understand why they exist, and determine what interventions can help reduce and eliminate bias.

Github did not respond to a request for comment on the findings that were recently published in the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering journal.

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