Has Covid-19 increased gender inequalities in professional advancement? Cross-country evidence on productivity differences between male and female software developers
Keywords:gender, covid-19, inequality, productivity, international comparison, github
Objective: This article analyzed gender differences in professional advancement following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic based on data from open-source software developers in 37 countries.
Background: Men and women may have been affected differently from the social distancing measures implemented to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Given that men and women tend to work in different jobs and that they have been unequally involved in childcare duties, school and workplace closings may have impacted men’s and women’s professional lives unequally.
Method: We analyzed original data from the world’s largest social coding community, GitHub. We first estimated a Holt-Winters forecast model to compare the predicted and the observed average weekly productivity of a random sample of male and female developers (N=177,480) during the first lockdown period in 2020. To explain the cross-country variation in the gendered effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on software developers’ productivity, we estimated two-way fixed effects models with different lockdown measures as predictors – school and workplace closures, in particular.
Results: In most countries, both male and female developers were, on average, more productive than predicted, and productivity increased for both genders with increasing lockdown stringency. When examining the effects of the most relevant types of lockdown measures separately, we found that stay-at-home restrictions increased both men’s and women’s productivity and that workplace closures also increased the number of weekly contributions on average – but for women, only when schools were open.
Conclusion: Having found gender differences in the effect of workplace closures contingent on school and daycare closures within a population that is relatively young and unlikely to have children (software developers), we conclude that the Covid-19 pandemic may indeed have contributed to increased gender inequalities in professional advancement.