Systemic Gender Inequities in Who Reviews Code

Emerson Murphy-Hill
Jill Dicker
Amber Horvath
Laurie R. Weingart
Collin Green
Nina Chen
Computer Supported Cooperative Work(2023) (to appear)


Code review is an essential task for modern software engineers, where the author of a code change assigns other engineers the task of providing feedback on the author’s code. In this paper, we investigate the task of code review through the lens of equity, the proposition that engineers should share reviewing responsibilities fairly. Through this lens, we quantitatively examine gender inequities in code review load at Google. We found that, on average, women perform about 25% fewer reviews than men, an inequity with multiple systemic antecedents, including authors’ tendency to choose men as reviewers, a recommender system’s amplification of human biases, and gender differences in how reviewer credentials are assigned and earned. Although substantial work remains to close the review load gap, we show how one small change has begun to do so.