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The Inherent Racism We Can’t Seem To Get Rid Of In Computer Science Jobs

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Racism has never been an easy topic to tackle. Usually, it is one that people try to steer away from even in general conversation, a topic we simply tend to avoid. Regardless, most do realise that it is indeed a real problem that remains in our modern age and that it is one that is rooted in most aspects of life, including the mundane and unthought of.

What is more mundane to the average working citizen, then, than their career? And what is it that never fails to motivate said citizen to return the next day to continue onwards with their career? Salary. No doubt one of the most important parts of today’s society is money. Considering that importance, you might assume that all people should be given the same chance to acquire it equally, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Alas, that does not seem at all to be the case.

The reason it can often be so hard to talk about topics like this is that we sometimes focus more on our opinions and than on solid facts. That’s why I decided to set out to obtain some facts. With the knowledge I obtained from my course, I was able to visualise and analyse the data from the StackOverflow Annual Developer Survey to find insightful results that can help us moving forward.

The survey provided dozens of specifics collected by over 100,000 developers. There is in fact so much information to the point where developers take around a full 30 minutes to complete this survey. Two variables stood out to me that I felt could be very interesting to compare to others: salary and satisfaction. For the latter, one’s satisfaction in their (computer science related) job, I compared it almost everything available, their ethical integrity, their feeling of kinship to other developers, their gender and ethnicity, and so many more. In the end, however, I found that on average, there is not much change in job satisfaction. There are of course many who are unsatisfied, but there doesn’t seem to be one variable that directly influences that.

Salary, however, should have been different. I was definitely expecting to find some fluctuation in salary. First I compared it to gender. Nothing. Then to age. Nothing. Then to degree. Nothing. This was starting to get ridiculous—how was nothing affecting salary? Finally, I compared the participant’s race to their salary. This was a lot more interesting.

Look at the figure above and say what you see. It looks like there a lot more blue dots than the red, correct? Wrong. They’re equal. It’s true that more white people submitted the survey than all other ethnicities, but I made sure that the graph, with the three per cent it covers, maintains an equal ratio. The reason it seems like the red dots are so severely outnumbered is that most of the red is concentrated near the very bottom. Just look at it, the bottom line is nearly entirely red, leaving mostly only blue dots on top. Neglecting the outliers above $200,000/year, it is clear that this is not equal. Even in a supposedly merit-based, equal career like computer science, we are still facing problems with racism.

When you look average developer salary on Google, the first result you see is $106,710 per year. Based on the data from the survey, this is almost exactly correct for people of white ethnicity. Their average annual salary is $106,187. Other races are less fortunate; their average is $74,555. These findings are also supported by major organisations such as PayScale, who although obviously used very different data, still managed to reach the same consensus. We are still far from a perfect world without any separation between races, but this is a bit too much. Something has to change before we can become a truly advanced civilisation.

Here, I have provided the data that I have extracted from the survey data as two CSV files, as well as the code that graphs the data. Note that it is a very small portion of the data which is why it might look different from the image above, which is already a small portion itself. Try pressing the play button below, but be ready to test your patience.

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COMMENTS: 21
  1. April 26, 2019 by Juliana.Shank Reply

    Cool project! The coding looks incredibly complicated. You bring up an interesting issue, and I was wondering what you thought could be done to solve the problem. Also, you mentioned that job satisfaction is not impacted by ethnicity – does this play a role?

  2. April 27, 2019 by Barik Mhadeen Reply

    Very well-done Hamzah!

  3. April 27, 2019 by Ala' Yasin Abuhijleh Reply

    Wow! Very interesting and insightful. I believe we should capitalise on such great effort to spread the work and fight against racism.

    Excellent work

  4. April 27, 2019 by Yousef S Reply

    Very interesting, great stuff 👍

  5. April 27, 2019 by Hussam Jarrah Reply

    Very nice project!
    Great findings

  6. April 27, 2019 by Ammar Tahboub Reply

    It is horrible how humans are being raciaclassified , i think it will remain like that as pointed in the excellent study and will take a while till we see any changes in this matter .
    Unfortunately ethnicity and skin’s colour will remain the decisive norm for hiring and salary scale .

  7. April 27, 2019 by Joshua.Lorincz Reply

    Awesome job! One question does your graph control for location. For instance, in India, the average software developer is paid 5,942.82 USD a year. While in the United States, the average software developer is paid 106,710 USD a year. Looking at it this way someone could read this graph as simply comparing the value of a certain job around the world. So as software developers are valued far more in the United States, the largest mostly “white” country on stack overflow, and software developers are valued far less in India the largest mostly non-white country on stack overflow, it can make the data seem as though white-software developers are paid more.

  8. April 27, 2019 by Ranon Reply

    Hey Hamza!

    This is awesome read! I really appreciate your courage to come out and talk about racism; as you mentioned, it is not an easy topic to be public about. Nevertheless, I totally agree with you in that society should not be selling a lie that it is the computer science field (or anything for that matter) is “merit based”. People are so sold on the “American Dream” that they never stop and question the validity and equality behind it.

  9. April 27, 2019 by James Howe Reply

    Interesting, who are the people taking the survey? are they all American? or is it international

  10. April 28, 2019 by Annie Ma Reply

    Wow. This is so interesting and the coding is super impressive. Like James asked – is the data just within America? It would be interesting to see if there are similar trends in other countries or jobs within computer science!

  11. April 28, 2019 by Samiha.Datta Reply

    This was a really cool read and a super relevant topic, Hamza! I agree that it’s ridiculous that we’re led to believe that things like salary are entirely merit-based, when data like this demonstrates that it clearly isn’t. Do you have any information regarding the target population of the survey, and if there were any controls for things like country?

  12. April 28, 2019 by Omar Tahboub Reply

    I tremendously enjoyed the writing and the data analysis.

    It will be great to see future versions of this analysis with further insights into whether the pay gap is focused among certain segments (according to other dimensions) such as younger people, male, etc. In other words, are minorities less paid uniformly across all segments? Or are they less paid especially when they are younger? Older?

  13. April 28, 2019 by Eva Batelaan Reply

    This is a very interesting read and a very important topic. It would have been a little easier to read and understand the extreme difference if you had found the average salary using the data points on your graph and then compared that to Google’s findings or eliminated the outliers/ found a way to spread out the highly concentrated dots at the bottom of the graph.

  14. April 29, 2019 by Manav.Shah Reply

    Very interesting, and as someone who is interested in CS as a career this is important to consider and carry with me as I potentially look for jobs in the future. Thanks for the insight and great job!

  15. April 29, 2019 by Haley Reply

    You did a great job explaining your visualization!

  16. April 29, 2019 by Natheir.Abu-Dahab Reply

    This is really interesting, especially considering that this is in the specific field of computer science, which the course we are part of focuses on. It brings up an interesting point for CS careers for non-white people.

  17. April 30, 2019 by Andrew S Wu Reply

    Interesting project, and I think that perhaps you are onto something here. However, I must stress that doing a study like this requires caution: there is a line between correlation and causation. It seems that your data anlysis is nearly entirely a correlative one; you don’t do any p/t tests to test the validity of your surface-level graph observations, and you also don’t consider numerous possible confounding variables–gender, job position, etc..

  18. April 30, 2019 by Samira.Kethu Reply

    This project is so cool! I love that you made your project very specific by focusing on one area of computer science. I also love how you talked about career issues! Great job!

  19. April 30, 2019 by Joseph.Wang Reply

    Interesting article Hamza! Obviously the racism in the work field is an apparent issue and needs to be solved in order for the world to truly become technologically advanced.

  20. April 30, 2019 by Nikhil Goel Reply

    Wow, this was cool! I loved the graph and your obvious passion about this issue.

  21. May 01, 2019 by Siddhanth Reddy Reply

    Wow this is a really interesting article. Your visual is really well done

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