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10 Influential Female Developers to Know and Love on Stack Overflow

Dec 11, 2017

How would you feel if Google shut down for a day? With certainty, many of your burning questions would go unanswered. If a question and answer site like Stack Overflow experienced the same fate, many programmers would such experience extreme frustration–I know I would!

Stack Overflow attracts over 50 million programmers each month, where they learn and share knowledge among peers. It’s a community I rely on in my role as a Data Analyst at Traackr.

Last month, we announced that Traackr is the first influencer marketing platform to integrate Stack Overflow data and GitHub content, enabling our customers to find influential developers and real experts in the engineering industry. This is huge for the organizations looking to develop and nurture their developer evangelists and influential community programs.

I was part of the team that worked on this integration and curiously, I had to wonder, “Who are the top contributors to Stack Overflow?” So I looked to Traackr to find out.

Analyzing Thousands of Topics on Stack Overflow to Discover Top Contributors

In order to source the platform’s top contributors, we gathered thousands of Stack Overflow tags in areas relevant to the Stack Overflow community, including:

  • Programming languages
  • Algorithms
  • Commonly used software tools, etc.

After analyzing these topic tags on Stack Overflow, I found out that only ~2 percent of the top answerers are identifiable as women (‘top answerers’ as defined by Stack Overflow itself), which I thought was interesting, albeit a little disappointing. At the same time, I found great leaders among these 2 percent, and here is my pick of the 10 most influential women on Stack Overflow, proficient in various technical fields.

  1. Michelle Tilley
  2. Linda Lawton
  3. Kirti Thorat
  4. Deborah Kurata
  5. Chiu-Ki Chan
  6. Jennifer Marsman
  7. Lea Verou
  8. Kate Gregory
  9. Christina Arasmo
  10. Carol Skelly

These rock-stars are also active on their blogs, Twitter, and GitHub accounts, etc., which, together with their ‘reputation’ and ‘people reached’ on Stack Overflow drives their Reach and Resonance on Traackr’s platform.

Recognizing the Leading Females in STEM

STEM jobs are growing faster than any other U.S. sector, but 84 % of the working professionals currently in science and engineering jobs in the U.S are white or Asian males.

As a result, many leading tech companies are missing out on the tremendous benefits of having a diverse workforce that brings a wide-range of ideas, experiences and approaches to the table–crucial elements for creating an innovative spirit.

As a question and answer site for professional and enthusiast programmers, Stack Overflow is a community where many beginners essentially learn how to code, so it is definitely inspirational for women who learn how to code on Stack Overflow to see women among its top contributors.

Discovering What Led These Women to their Careers in Programming

To learn even more about these women, I reached out to them to hear their stories about what led them to their careers in programming. Two stories really stood out to me, because they highlight the importance of ongoing education and learning–just the type of thing Stack Overflow makes possible!

“The way I started getting interested in computer science is a little silly, I was in high school at that time and my elder sister decided to take up Computer Science for her Masters and in doing so we got our first computer at home. She would spend a lot of time programming on it and me being me, I thought it was my right to trouble her all the time. I would read her notes, watch her programming and start prompting from behind her while she was coding. That experience actually made me super interested in computer science, it was like a whole new world for me where I could make a computer do things. It was magic! I love challenging myself and problem solving gives me a thrill. Programming allows me to do just that, figure out efficient ways to solve a given problem. I love to learn new things and that's one of the reasons why I love working as a developer. Technology keeps changing and there is always something new that I can learn, it never gets boring. Recently, I have been working on developing Data Science skills and getting into R programming. Always keep learning, it's fun!” - Kirti Thorat

"When I was 11, we visited some family in the US. I was into computers already, so my uncle took me to CompUSA. I was obsessed with fonts at the time, so I was looking for software that would let me design my own fonts. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything of the like, only CDs with font collections. However, during that search, some software called Multimedia Fusion caught my eye. It enabled you to build applications visually, without writing any code. I always liked making things, and coding seemed very daunting at the time, so that really appealed to me. Thankfully, my mom bought it for me, I think it was about $100. About a year after using it for several hours a day, I decided I was ready to learn a real programming language. For anyone wondering, I did eventually find font design software, about a decade later :).” - Lea Verou

Reflecting on my Own Journey into Programming

For many of us, amateur and professional programmers, the journey started somewhat accidentally.

In high school I loved building simple websites, and with my basic knowledge of HTML and web design, I created a fan website for Hollywood actor Edward Furlong, which became pretty popular (embarrassing and proud memory at the same time).

After getting a degree in linguistics, I started working in localization, and, eventually, my career took me to data analysis. I rely on Stack Overflow myself whenever I need to debug my automation scripts or learn a new technology, so identifying the top contributors was an interesting investigation.

The importance of recognizing women in STEM has also been on my mind for a long time, so, naturally, I was especially curious to learn about the influential women on Stack Overflow. It was a great pleasure for me to learn about many of them, not only the top 10 in the list above, and I was happy to have a chance to reach out and chat with some of them.

Learn More about Traackr’s Stack Overflow Integration

I’m proud to be part of the team that never stops innovating, and enabling Traackr’s integration with Stack Overflow data and GitHub content is just one of such innovative projects. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with us.