For the 14th year in a row since 2003, men
are only have been the only ones (with the exception of one female finalist in 2011) who have ever made it to the finals of the Google Code Jam. In the wake of the company’s PR disaster with the leaked “Ideological Echo Chamber” memo and the subsequent firing of the man who wrote it, Google may not be too keen on promoting the event–or its finalists.
Since 2003, Google hosted the international programming competition, sort of like the Olympics for programming geeks. Google uses the event to identify candidates for potential employment, recruiting tech wizards from all over the world—from the Philippines and Japan, all the way over to Russia, Sweden, and across the ocean to Latin America and the United States.
Every year, tens of thousands of would-be programming masters sign up for the competition—solving programming puzzles in record time. Only the best of the best make it to the final stage, where they’re flown down to wherever the event takes place to compete in person. Competing in Dublin, Ireland in 2017, Belarusian programmer Grennady Korotkevich won the event for the fourth year in a row this weekend.
Based on merit alone, the Code Jam does not make any considerations to contestants’ race, gender, political affiliation, or social status. It’s a test of pure skill—and the impartiality of the results speaks loudly. Women, as with anyone else, have entered the competition, but none so far have ever made it to the final around. This isn’t a fact that’s gone unnoticed, as keen-eyed Reddit users speculated on reasons for why that is.
Despite efforts to increase gender diversity by companies like Google and all across Silicon Valley, the numbers aren’t going up by much. Current statistics from Google’s own employee demographics show that only 31% of the company is made up of women, with a near-gender parity (48% to 52%) in non-tech positions. The divide is much larger in technical positions (20% to 80%).
As with most companies in Silicon Valley, there is some evidence to suggest that women are discriminated against–Google itself is embroiled in legal trouble with the Department of Labor on the issue, and 60 women may take legal action for discrimination. However, unlike the company’s wage issues, nothing has prevented women from competing in the Code Jam at its highest levels.
The results raise questions about the obvious gender disparity, but they are not easily answered (or even asked), given Google’s decision to terminate James Damore’s employment for attempting to address this very issue.
Update: Female Russian coder Natalia Bodarenko was a finalist in 2011.