Stack Overflow survey: JavaScript reigns, female developers MIA

JavaScript remains the king for front-end, back-end, and full-stack development, but female devs remain woefully few and far between

Stack Overflow survey: JavaScript reigns, female developers MIA
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JavaScript is king; the full-stack Web is where it's at; the proper term is "developer," not "engineer"; please stop asking us to do the impossible -- and too few of us are women. Those are some of the insights gleaned from a new survey of 55,000 developers worldwide courtesy of Stack Overflow, the massively trafficked question-and-answer-format site used by developers of every stripe.

Stack Overflow developers work on JavaScript and the Web the most. Of those surveyed, the largest self-identified occupations for developers involved the Web in some form: full-stack Web developer (28 percent), back-end Web developer (12.2 percent), mobile developer (8.4 percent), and front-end Web developer (5.8 percent). The more generic term "student" came in at 11.4 percent.

JavaScript ranked as the top technology in full-stack (85.3 percent), front-end (90.5 percent), and back-end (54.5 percent) development, with strong showings in the mobile (28 percent), math and data (28.6 percent), and student use (39.1 percent) technology categories as well. It's consistently been the top technology featured since the survey's inception in 2013.

Of the technologies trending on Stack Overflow, many of the biggest gainers are JavaScript front-end frameworks. React, the JavaScript front-end framework created by Facebook and Instagram, is in the lead by far (311.3 percent gain year-over-year).

The second biggest gainer is Apache Spark, the in-memory data processing framework commonly used with Hadoop. (Biggest loser: Windows Phone. Who's shocked?) Spark also cracked the top of another list: Technology that garners the highest-paid talent. A good Spark dev can command as much as $125,000 a year, thanks to its wide use in finance. But JavaScript devs didn't do too badly, with the average pay for a full-stack JS developer just south of $100,000 a year.

Wanted: Female developers

One of the more disheartening findings of the Stack Overflow report is that its developer audience tilts almost exclusively male -- 92.8 percent. Only 5.8 percent identified as female, with "other" and "prefer not to disclose" making up the difference. It's almost the same breakdown as previous year's survey.

The skew of occupations for female developers is also notable, with the largest category being "designer" (12.4 percent) rather than anything with "developer" or "programmer" in the title. The largest such category is "mobile developer (Android)" at 8.7 percent.

The age breakdown for female developers is striking as well, with women aged 30-40 making up the smallest part of that pool. Most were 20-29, or 50 and up -- one sign that women flourished far more as developers in previous generations than in the current one.

Not much of the survey's data was cross-tabulated by gender, though. It would have been interesting to see, for instance, if men and women acquired their developer knowledge differently -- via self-teaching (the vast majority overall at 69.1 percent), on-the-job training, a degree, an online course, and so on.

Don't fence me in

Another revealing section of the survey involved the respondent's jobs and their attitudes toward same.

Most (67.8 percent) had a full-time position, listing salaries (62.7 percent) and work-life balance (50.4 percent) as being their top concerns. They also wanted to learn skills on the job (70.1 percent) or "build something new" (64.3 percent), but relatively few were interested in amenities like having one's own office. That last point, at 17.7 percent, was outstripped by the freedom of telecommuting (24.9 percent).

Few developers worked entirely alone: 96 percent of them were on a team of some kind. The most common lone wolves didn't have an easy fit for an existing job title ("Other" at 6.5 percent), with sys admins running a close second (6.4 percent).

Finally, developers hate being asked to do the impossible. The biggest work challenge cited by developers was "unrealistic expectations," at 34.9 percent. Two other common developer bugaboos, bad documentation (34.7 percent) and too-vague requirements (33.5 percent), also ranked high. The issues varied with experience; more experienced developers cited unrealistic expectations and fragile code bases (as high as 29.6 percent) far more often than newbies.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.