Research Paper

``STILL AROUND'': Experiences and Survival Strategies of Veteran Women Software Developers

S. van Breukelen, A. Barcomb, S. Baltes and A. Serebrenik




The intersection of ageism and sexism can create a hostile environment for veteran software developers belonging to marginalized genders. In this study, we conducted 14 interviews to examine the experiences of people at this intersection, primarily women, in order to discover the strategies they employed in order to successfully remain in the field. We identified 283 codes, which fell into three main categories: Strategies, Experiences, and Perception. Several strategies we identified, such as (Deliberately) Not Trying to Look Younger, were not previously described in the software engineering literature. We found that, in some companies, older women developers are recognized as having particular value, further strengthening the known benefits of diversity in the workforce. Based on the experiences and strategies, we suggest organizations employing software developers to consider the benefits of hiring veteran women software developers. For example, companies can draw upon the life experiences of older women developers in order to better understand the needs of customers from a similar demographic. While we recognize that many of the strategies employed by our study participants are a response to systemic issues, we still consider that, in the short-term, there is benefit in describing these strategies for developers who are experiencing such issues today.


  title = {{``STILL AROUND''}: Experiences and Survival Strategies of Veteran Women Software Developers},
  author = {van Breukelen, Sterre and Barcomb, Ann and Baltes, Sebastian and Serebrenik, Alexander},
  publisher = {IEEE/ACM},
  year = {2023},
  month = {5},
  note = {ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award},
  booktitle = {45th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2023)},
  address = {Melbourne, Australia},