Startups need developers — and to keep them happy. So how do you find out what your developers really want?

One window into the minds of developers — at least some 90,000 of them around the world — is the Stack Overflow survey, now in its 9th year, which looks at what developers want, how much they are paid and even how optimistic they are feeling right now.   

Here are two things we learned this time:

1) Your female developers think the workplace is toxic. That’s why they keep leaving.

“Often the lack of women in tech is characterised as a pipeline problem. Our data suggests it is a retention problem.”

There are three interesting findings in the survey that shed a light on the female developer situation:

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“There is quite a lot going on when you see a result like this. You could attribute it to more women entering the profession, but quite a lot of other research shows that women are leaving jobs in tech,” she says. One is that women who responded to the survey were twice as likely to have three years’ experience in coding or fewer. While this may be a sign that the tech industry is drawing in new blood, Julia Silge, data scientist at Stack Overflow, says it is a warning signal: where are all the experienced women disappearing to?  

And why are the women clearing out after three years? Again, there are some signals from survey responses.

“Often the lack of women in tech is characterised as a pipeline problem. Our data suggests it is actually more of a retention problem,” says Silge.

And when asked to pick the biggest blocker to productivity, male developers tended to pick things like being asked to do non-coding work. Women were much more likely to report a toxic work culture. When female developers are looking for a job, their number one consideration is workplace culture. For male developers it is the kind of technology and programming language they would use.

 

2) European developers are not only cheaper but more loyal and happier (at least in some countries).

Take almost any developer role and average US salaries look eye-watering compared with the average for the same role across the world.

Stack Overflow sadly does not break down salary levels in each country outside the US, but Sifted’s look at software developer salaries across Europe, as reported by PayScale, earlier this year shows just how big that gap is:

But not only are developers cheaper elsewhere, they are also more loyal. Some 13.3% of US developers are actively looking for a new job. It is less than 10% in both the UK and Germany.

Developers in Eastern Europe are also particularly optimistic. 80.9% of respondents in Ukraine, 77.4% in Romania and 74.1% in Bulgaria said they felt people born today would have a better life than their parents (a standard Gallup question to gauge optimism). That is compared with just 61.1% who felt that way in the US, and only 40.8% who felt optimistic in France.

 

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