Women Who (Don’t) Develop Apps

by Bob Schwartz

Why are there so few women developing mobile apps? The numbers haven’t yet been established, but the guess is that out of the literally million apps already created, and more on the way, few are developed by women.

The app world is one of the most fascinating phenomena in technology. It is in some ways an extension of the old school software development model, and bears some similarity. But a number of things are different. Development is easier, creativity is open, distribution is seamless and global (thanks to the apps markets), and the user base is expanding exponentially. The scale of the resulting tech opportunity is mind-boggling.

One more thing: it is a transparent development world. Many of the most popular apps (popular as in millions of downloads) are the work of one person. It is, even more than in the early days of computers, a place for garage developers, the equivalent of the garage band model of rock. And in many cases, we know exactly who that person is, because the market allows us to communicate directly with him. And, anecdotally, it is almost always a him.

The thought is prompted by the continuing drumbeat that women are severely underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). The focus is properly on the failure to cultivate and use so much needed talent in our always needy enterprises. But app development is also an enterprise, a remarkably democratic and free market that is now an inextricable part of daily life.

Discovering the extent to which women don’t develop apps, and the reasons why, may hold a key to the entire women and STEM debate, as well as to bigger issues of emerging consumer tech. In any case, it is an intriguing and fun question. As to the question of whether women can develop apps, the garage rock analogy is useful, if not entirely encouraging. It turns out that women actually could rock pretty hard, given the opportunity. But in a boy’s club, that continues to be a struggle to this day. Let’s hope it goes better for app development and next gen tech.