After reading Tobias Mayer’s Test(osterone)-infected Developers, I noticed my test team has 3 men and 8 women, while my dev team has 30 men and 2 women. This is a small sample but I agree with Tobias that it is the norm.

Are she-testers better testers or just more interested in testing? This is a tired blogosphere discussion but a more interesting question is:

Do she-testers have unique skills worth harnessing?

My answer is, yes. I think women have at least one powerful advantage over men when it comes to testing. They are arguably better at observing subtle clues.

Most differences between men and women can be understood by noting their strongest biological roles. Women have babies! Thus, women are wired to pay attention to their babies and identify problems based on subtle expressions or behavior changes (e.g., baby is sick). I've heard women are better than men at determining if someone is lying, based on the same biological reasons.

Yesterday, while observing a premature field population UI bug, a she-tester on my team noticed the larger problem (that I missed). Previously populated data was getting erased. Of course, this may have just been a case of “two heads are better than one”, but my she-testers always impress with their subtle observations.

What differences have you observed between men and women testers? Can we use these differences to build a better test team?


  1. sikju said...

    there is no difference between she-testers and he-testers. everyone may be a good tester. just one thing may be important - every he-tester is a developer in a soul (=

  2. Joe said...

    "Do she-testers have unique skills worth harnessing?"

    Sorry, this is nonsense.

    Some women are better testers, some are not. Just as some women are better developers, some are not.

    If you are willing to argue that one sex is better at something, then you have to argue that they are worse at other things.

    Shall we argue about Asians being better developers, but worse designers?

    How about tall people being better leaders, but worse IT folks?

    Sexism - just one case of overly-general nonsense.

  3. Marlena said...

    I have to go with Joe on this one:
    "Do she-testers have unique skills worth harnessing?"

    The plain truth is that there are NOT more women in testing, development or any other aspect of Software Engineering because the obstacles for women haven't gone away. Try being the only girl in a programming class where guys have pre-judged you as incompetent or modding your computer if your parents insist that it's there for you to further your typing/ secretarial skills. But, I'm sure you've heard that before.

    What I do like about your post is that you obviously think women are of value in technology. That's great, and glad to hear it!! We just don't need to be on a pedestal.

    As for that link...I think that dude has some issues. He starts it off with such an incendiary statement which he says is his "observation." That's a great way to put up a permanent wall. He puts a box around women AND men. That is not the way. I think he needs some schooling on the Enlightenment. Maybe James Bach's current philosophy-as-testing bent will help him. We should be judged as thinking individuals, not race/gender/whatever.

  4. Eric Jacobson said...

    Talking about gender differences (or race differences) does make most people uncomfortable, and that is sad.

    IMHO, there are interesting differences between men and women (and races). I happen to think these differences are beautiful and fun to discuss (as long as nobody feels put down).

    I've learned a great deal throughout my life by admiring traints that appear more dominant in women and other races. It helps me to respect those that approach things differently than myself. It also expands the way I approach things myself.

    Perhaps, this discussion is best performed face-to-face.

  5. Anne-Marie said...

    Hi Eric,

    A brave topic!

    I'm not convinced about the biological differences, though I do believe biologically we are different ( I just watch my two young boys play and I never played like that!).

    I do believe that there are more women testers because of social-economic reasons. Traditionally, testers don't have to have a degree and can come from other parts of the business such as customer service or business analysts. I think that's why there are more women in testing, not because their really good at it.

    If all testers had to have some form of degree, then I suspect you would see the same ratio of male/female as you would in development.

    A bit off your topic, but I think its a really interesting post

  6. Anonymous said...

    I've have a theory on why there are so many female testers that some might find slightly sexist.

    Here goes: Most managers who employ testers are middle aged males going though mid-life crisis. When 2 CVs are plonked on his desk from one male and one female with both the same skills and experience, the manager will always favour the female. Hence why there appears to be more better female testers out there.

  7. Ray said...

    Hi Eric,

    Very interesting post. At my previous place of work, us male testers were out numbered by 3 to 1.

    Also like some of your other posts,as the style's very similar to my site

  8. GrumpyTester said...

    From my experience there are no difference between he-tester and she-tester....

    just a good tester and bad tester...

  9. Mark Crowther said...

    I have to say I don't think there are more female testers. In teams I've managed that are around 6 or so it's usually the case there's 1 female tester.

    It certainly changes the dynamics of a team to have female testers but that's more a human interaction thing, it doesn't suddenly change testing skill.

    I do feel there are differences between how an Indian testers sees the world and a Chinese tester for example. However, my belief is that's a combination of education (process, not level) and culture. But that still doesn't mean being female or male or a particular race makes one or the other a better tester.

    It's a poorer team that isn't benefiting from the dynamics of people of different sex and race but these are the root of more competent testing.


  10. Tobias Mayer said...

    Many commenters here focus on the question of whether or not there are more women testers, which I don't think was your point at all. Others throw up their hands in horror and cry "sexist" which is a closed and fearful reaction.

    There are differences between genders --and races-- and those differences are to be explored and celebrated, not shied away from. Equality doesn't mean everyone is the same.

    Personally, I liked your observation about women being wired to notice subtle clues. It is an observation worth some exploration, and I find it sad that the readers of your blog either flee from the opportunity, or try to crush the initiative.

    And yes, I am the "dude" that reader-Marlena claims needs to find enlightenment. It is likely I do, but I don't think I'll receive it from this group of blog readers.

  11. Sandeep Maher said...

    As Anne-Marie mentioned "interesting and bold post" (I agree) more so because of the novelty of thought rather than substance, I would say.

    In my experience I have found no difference between the two - she or he. The team dynamics has never forced me to go with some male:female ratio. Maturity always demands that you pick the best as per requirement and not get bogged down by any "sexist" thought.

    I have experienced many times the competence and brilliance of the female testers just as much as I have got amazed by the men. (Our education in India is such that it is not difficult to find people of substance of either sex provided you know how to pick and chose.)

    The clincher for this male/female "debate" could be this article I read sometime back titled "Think Again: Men and Women Share Cognitive Skills / Research debunks myths about cognitive difference" (

    Eric, keep it going...

  12. Marlena said...

    I apologize to Tobias for the disparaging remark I made about him.

    Let me phrase my point another way: Basically, you're saying that I have an advantage or special skill as a tester because I'm a woman? If that's true, it means

    1. I'm NOT a better tester because I read all the books I can digest about testing.
    2. I'm NOT a better tester because I follow other testers I admire online.
    3. I'm NOT a better tester because I find a testing project in every class I take for my masters.

    Saying that women are better at testing/have an advantage at testing because they are women undercuts all of the hard work that a lot of women and men do to be better professionals. Not to mention, there are plenty of men who are probably much better at testing than I am. In my opinion, this is not a good way to judge someone's skills.

  13. Mesut Güneş said...

    Do you still think the same?

    I have experienced about she-tester that they require more communication need for their personnel requirements as being mother, wife, or fiancee.

    So this can lead concentration problem.

  14. Sandy said...

    Some more fuel for the fire:

    A significant part of the job is communication. Perhaps this has some bearing on perceived differences in female vs male testers' effectiveness (assumption: females are more diplomatic communicators).
    In addition, if the majority of devs are male, then perhaps they can work better with female testers due to (conscious or otherwise) perceptions of potential competition/conflict.

  15. Eric Jacobson said...

    Hi Sandy, thanks for the comment on an old favorite post of mine.

    I like your theory. In fact, I just read, in this week's Economist, that gender integration may be curbing youth social misbehavior. Women's ability to do anything a man can has integrated women into groups previously dominated by men and it sometimes results in men behaving better.

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