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Ask HN: Is brogrammer a sexist term?
177 points by mattmanser on Oct 28, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 201 comments

First term I've heard this term is in a YC funded company recruitment post. I know I'm directly referring to a YC company's recruit post here, but someone did not switch their brain on when they posted that one.

Stating that you should be a fan of 'brogramming' to get a job comes across as blatant sexism to me. Especially given the pages that promote it at the moment.

Seriously, you're a company now, not a frat club. I'm not trying to spoil your fun, I'm sure that's your culture, but you just can't advertise for men only roles in this day and age.

I don't know the law in the US but over here in the UK these guys would be opening themselves up for a nasty lawsuit.

Rather than focusing on whether it's sexist or not, I would start by saying that it is unwise.

I think that we (as a society) want young people to see all avenues as open to them regardless of gender. I highly doubt that the company doesn't want to hire women or has any sexist intention. However, it is unwise for us (as individuals and an industry) to use terms like "brogrammer" because it subtly suggests gender. One might not mean it as gendered, but certainly some young people will and will internalize it as meaning that "programming is really a guy's thing". This is compounded by the fact that programming is a field where women aren't well represented. I'm not suggesting quotas or anything like that. I'm simply suggesting that when people are thinking about their future, perceptions about industries affect their decisions and terms like "brogrammer" can create perceptions.

The same could be said if a library position were to use female-gendered terminology. Library science is a field that is predominantly women and using female-gendered language can only help to reenforce that perception. We don't want to force males into library science, but we also don't want young males to feel like they shouldn't go into it "because it's women's work".

When someone says that something is "sexist", I think a lot of people become defensive because they aren't sexists. I doubt that the person who wrote the post is sexist. However, a person who believes in equality can say something that negatively impacts that goal in our society. I don't know if it should be called sexist, but I do think that it negatively affects what we generally want in our world and our companies. Maybe not a lot, but it's something to think about when writing things in the future.

It's the second wave of the Ruby on Rails "rockstar development" thing that more or less died a death a few years back. Very sad.

But if the company is full of Raging Brogrammers, it is good to call it out from the beginning. Same problem as over hiring programmers (getting compiler hackers when you are working on a CRUD app).

And by extension unwise that Y Combinator thought it was an appropriate ad to allow on this site.

  it subtly suggests gender
I don't think there is anything subtle about it and it's not a suggestion.

AFAIK, it is actually meant to contrast with the stereotypical nerdy programmer self-diagnosed with Asperger's — who would never refer to a coworker as "bro" — rather than to denote a "male programmer." The terminology is very unfortunate, though, especially if you're outside the culture it originated in.

I think the idea they want to convey could be more inclusively expressed as "We believe in being happy and having a life and interests outside of programming" or something like that.

The first instruction on the first google hit for brogrammer is:

> Polo, tight so the chicks can see how defined your muscles are

It's hard to see how this would apply to a straight woman.

Yeah really, what's the opposing? "Ho-grammer?" no good.

i don't disagree with your points. however, each company has a particular culture. in a startup, a new hire that isn't a cultural fit can be devastating. the kind of neutered, sterile job ads that don't ruffle any feathers will not draw the kind of applicants that most startups are seeking.

edit: obviously, the above point excludes job posts that break laws.

Woman programmer here: I automatically assumed they were looking for college aged men. "Brogrammer," is not a unisex term, no matter how they try to spin it.

Male programmer in his thirties here: I automatically assumed they were looking for assholes.

In other words, "a cultural match".

That's about the score. "Bro$suffix" is generally perjorative for "college-age male douchebag".

I fell out my chair laughing when I read your comment.

I think it was sexist, but they did say women should apply too. It's hard to spin that one, but I see it as an honest mistake, these guys are obviously new to the "real world".

That seems pretty clear.

Another woman programmer here: This is exactly what I assumed and I agree there is no way it can be considered a unisex term. I would assume the culture at the company is immature and not a place a woman programmer would want to work anyway, so I would avoid applying for any position at this company.

Fellow here, and that's how I read it as well--as a term to exclude (whether that be women, nerds, or the properly socialized). It was, however, a useful filter on my side--I work in speech technology and might have wasted time following up.

Interestingly, as an old male programmer, I also assumed that "brogrammer" does not include me.

(Maybe it does, if I wear baggy pants or something.)

Another woman programmer here: I'm glad I'm not the only one who assumed this.

(Not a woman programmer here)

The sad thing is that despite the clear evidence ("real women programmers read it as a gendered term") we'll no doubt see a ton of posts on this thread arguing that it's clearly not a problem.

That said, I'm reasonably sure that it's not intentionally exclusionary. The poster had an image in their head of a work environment and came up with "brogrammer" as a catchy way to describe it. That this picture didn't include women is a huge problem, obviously, but I suspect it's probably not willful sexism.

I agree that the poster may not have intended to exclude women, but when they imagined that work environment in their head I'll bet they weren't imagining it full of women writing code.

In fairness, if you're starting a software company and you imagine a room full of women, you're either wholly ignorant of the demographics of the industry or you're planning to discriminate like crazy against men.

> "Brogrammer," is not a unisex term, no matter how they try to spin it.

No one sensible would try to spin it as unisex. I think it's simply an oversight on their part - more stronger than addressing a gathering "hey guys", but on the same lines.

But that's the point -- that kind of oversight happens because of male privilege. It's because it's easy to think of programmers as men, so much that you have an "oversight" about including women.

That excludes women, and that's exactly what this kind of stuff needs to be called out. The problem isn't always one data point; but rather, there are a lot of these data points that are easy to dismiss one by one, but lead up to an avalanche when collectively viewed.

I agree with your overall thrust, but just a point that bugs me sometimes: Your comment would be much stronger without the "male privilege" explanation. That kind of talk has the wrong effect on people who aren't well-versed in feminist literature and there's usually a less broad description for the specific case you're talking about. For example, it's easy to think of programmers as men because working programmers are disproportionately likely to be men.

But the point is that we're largely blind to it because we don't have to deal with it.

The point isn't if it's intended to be sexist, or if it is that big of a deal in and of itself. It's a tiny pebble, one that most of us wouldn't notice in and of itself. It's as if most of us have shoes and we're walking over some gravel. Someone who was barefoot would notice every pebble a lot more.

I think that's why mentioning male privilege is important. If we don't think about it, we're more likely to throw a pebble on the ground without thinking of the consequences. More importantly, if we are unaware, we're more likely to dismiss someone who has a valid complaint about a small issue, because they've been dealing with a thousand small issues that combine into one large issue.

I'm not saying don't mention inequities; I'm saying don't frame them as "male privilege" — at least not if you aren't writing the introduction to a whole book on the topic, because just mentioning it without thoroughly establishing what you're talking about will just make most of your audience tune out. You want to know why?

Because the dread god Ki'urnac wills it so. Wait, you don't know about Ki'urnac? Oh, well then it's good I mentioned him, because now you'll now to follow his will so he doesn't torture you in the Dark Eternities.

More seriously: Most men don't feel particularly privileged. A lot of them feel downright oppressed (not because they're men, per se, but just because life is hard). If you suddenly tell them, "You're wrong, but you don't know it because you're so privileged," it's like bringing up Ki'urnac. They have roughly the same level of belief in the statements "Ki'urnac exists" and "I am privileged." Unless you're planning a lengthy proof of Ki'urnac, they're probably going to write you off and feel mildly offended at your pushiness. That's why I think it's better to point out the actual ways in which people are privileged, rather than just tell them they're privileged and thus they should distrust their own minds.

I agree, the "privilege" expression is adversarial and will offend people you might want to get onto your side.

Personally, I instinctively ignore people who use it because it makes me think they either aren't serious about having a coöperative dialogue, or are as tactless as the people they're denouncing.

Incidentally, I've seen it around a lot recently. Is it new, or newly popularized?

I'm a white male. But a left handed male. I notice a pair of right handed scissors, or right handed kitchen tools, or a lack of left handed desks in a classroom whereas a right handed person would probably never notice. Why would it be controversial to point this out?

It's not like anyone is trying to be malevolent in this case; it's just something they would never notice. They have the privilege of not having to notice. Now, in day to day life, being left handed is pretty benign, all things considered, and I don't think a right handed person should have to apologize for being right handed, or for not noticing the issues for us southpaws, but neither should they be defensive when it's pointed out to them.

I think all most people are asking for is this: "It was noticed, it was corrected, we apologize, and we'll try and do better next time."

We're talking past each other: the disagreement is not with anything you just said. I just want you to rephrase your perfectly good argument without the word "privilege", because although what you mean by it (which you have explained) is not offensive, calling people that word tends to rub them the wrong way based on their previous experience of it being used negatively/critically.

It's as if you couldn't see what's wrong with making the claim, "Niggers are overrepresented on Death Row". It's an objectively true statement, but you still need to change one of the words you used if you're serious about constructive debate.

I think chc in this thread is saying exactly the same thing as me.

There is kind of a weird irony gap going on here -- to me it seems unremarkably obvious that all of the over-the-top language in the posting is tongue-in-cheek. Do people think they actually plan to "get crunk"? Programmers are stereotypically un-hip; the whole "brogrammer" meme is a deliberate poke at the incongruity of someone hunched over their keyboard 14 hours a day, yet drinking Natty Lights while wearing popped collars. It is kind of hard for me to believe that so many posters here believe that their office culture literally resembles the Jersey Shore house.

That said, the instant gender reaction the word "brogrammer" provokes means it's kind of a terrible choice for a job ad. Whether they meant it to exclude women or not (I would put millions of dollars on a bet on the latter), I wouldn't want to be defending it to the finely-tuned ironists on the EEOC.

I know people who would salivate at the idea of an office that resembles the Jersey Shore house, and they're programmers.

Getting crunk "at least once a month" isn't all that hip or crunk.

"Crunk" literally means being intoxicated from both marijuana and alcohol simultaneously. There's no way this posting was serious about the amount of partying.

If one reads carefully, the ad does claim that non-bros are welcome to apply, but I doubt that anybody else has read that far.

I don't know where you got your "literal" definition but that is certainly not the colloquial definition where I come from. It just means general inebriation without implying any particular substances (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=get+crunk).

Also, if you read the post it says "at least once a month". Personally I don't really consider that an excessive amount of partying but I guess everyone has their own thresholds.

The original definition of crunk is "smoking chronic (marijuana) and getting drunk", but it has also become a term for getting "crazy drunk".

Either way, it seems like a bad idea to use this word in a job posting.

If we're going to cite sources, (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=crunk), but to be honest, it's always meant "chronic (high on marijuana) and drunk" here in the Pacific Northwest.

...and a little bit of that "sean parker" if you know what i mean

Perhaps, but more than that it's bloody stupid.

Indeed it would certainly make me not want to apply to the position. In my experience it is hard enough to maintain adequate professionalism in the 20 something caffeine crazed all nighter atmosphere of a startup. If it can't show a modicum of it in its official communication, I can already see the scenes in the office.

Also: I would try to hire flowgrammers because you know they are always in the zone.

EDIT: Make that flogrammers

Does that mean that adverts for non-developers will be pitching for 'nogrammers'?

Looks like a heavy-handed attempt to maintain their culture - as uncouth as it may be.

Brogramming is just a joke. And like all Internet jokes, they end up misused in job postings as a result of the author's effort to appear relevant.

I think this YC-funded startup is likely more guilty of tone-deafness rather than misogyny.

I almost stopped reading the ad at "we like to party". I did stop reading at "get crunk".

Serious, that's how they're blowing their startup money?

Yep, crunk was where I stopped as well. Nothing else in the ad really offended my delicate sensibilities until that.

Agreed. I always took the term as mocking the mindset/appearance than anything else.

And these YC guys... they're just knuckleheads using the latest buzzwords. The "web scale" meme may fit them too.

It also seems ageist. It sounds like it would exclude anyone more mature than Justin Bieber.

It's actually "anything but just like us-ist", and with the rest of the ad saying they won't accept someone who uses Windows, and starting with "PG loves us" and continuing "We like to party. We are laser focused on work, but expect to get crunk at least once a month" I'd steer clear.

They did one thing right though: they decided to be in stealth mode so we don't know who those fools are.

I've noticed a trend in posts like this. Some startups go out of their way to appear "cool". If you need silly phrases like "getting crunk" when you're looking to recruit someone...that's a red flag to me.

I would, too [edit: stay clear]. We may be overreacting to what may have been a bad joke but the part regarding partying and "getting crunk" really pushed me into taking the post at face value.

I didn't even get that far. I had no desire to click the link.

Yes. Always steer clear of any environment where one is expected to form close social bonds with others in a party situation. The best coworker is the one you communicate with via text, right?

It's generally important that your coworkers know how to communicate via text...

There are words that work in person, at a party, after several drinks, among friends that just do not work in text. Good writers know that. Sometimes bad writers learn that.

The thing is, it's a professional relationship, not a friendship. If they need to fire you, they will. Sure, a friendship can form, but... I would say that true friendships are ones that have already weathered various changes of employer.

That's the first thing that popped into my head. The worst part is I'm not even all that old, only 31. I had a serious reaction wondering if I would even consider working for anyone that posted a job ad like that. It gave me the same twitch that "rockstar programmer" does.

Personally I didn't think "age", I thought "douchebags with popped collars"...

I think you might be missing the reference to a recent (funny) video about "brogramming": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi_AAqi0RZM

Perhaps, but when I Googled "brogrammer" I quickly came across an @brogrammer Twitter feed where the latest tweet reads:

"Just tried to jerk it to #siri. She couldn't get me off. #turing_test_fail or dyke?"


I feel dirty just having had to upmod this.

I've just learned an important author safety tip: Google the neologisms!

#turing_test_fail was actually kinda funny.

I think people take themselves way too serious sometimes. Relax, there is really more important things in the world than getting upset about "brogrammers" or guys making silly jokes about Siri.

I think that fits the stereotype being portrayed pretty well. "Bros" aren't PC, but then neither is a lot of good humor. The twitter feed and the job add are just jokes.

Is it sexist to refer to a male programmer as "brogrammer"? No.

Is it sexist to state you're only interested in hiring male programmers? Yes.

Does "brogrammer" mean male programmer? No.

Are you sure? I'm not sure how seriously a person could talk to a woman by addressing her as "bro".

I am currently attending college, and I can confirm that many at my age refer to a good girl friend as a "bro". It may be stupid and immature, but it is what it is. As other commenters has said, "bro" is describing the relationship and not necessarily referring to any specific gender.

Being a "bro" is an attitude thing. The term is stupid, the ad is stupid, but it's not sexist.

Calling anybody "bro" is rarely serious. I would actually feel less stupid calling a woman "bro" than a man, because if I call a guy "bro" people might think I was serious.

How can you be a 'bro' and not be male??

"Bro" has become a word used like "hey guys" in mixed company, or "dude", applied equally to men and women. It's cultural, and like many cultural things, is popularized from chan sites. Starting as mocking the fratguy and Jersey stereotypes, it's now a cultural mockery of itself, like hipsters who hate hipsters.

My brother and cousins are increasingly "brotastic", with tough talk, and repeated high fives (followed by finger pistols). And they didn't even get it from the aforementioned chans; it grows naturally. As scary as that may be to the rest of us.

So, if the term sexist? That's two questions:

1. Is it intended to offend or drive away women? Probably not.

2. Is it offensive to women despite intent? Not for me to answer, as a man. But this is the more important question.

(Sorry, lots of editing. I realized I had a lot more to say. But if they wanted to go for this style, they could've just as easily made the first line say something like "looking for awesome dudes and lady-dudes with awesome skills and awesome personalities to join our awesome startup!" Or something as cheesy to ensure inclusion.)

Calling everyone "you guys" is offensive; it suggests that being a dude is normal and everything else is deviations we can just ignore. I will believe that "dude" is gender-neutral when I can call the guys I work with "ladies" and have it be considered gender-neutral.

1) Yes, even if implicitly. It says "I expect people to conform to masculine norms; everyone else need not apply." Whether or not they specifically set out to exclude women, they did set out to exclude everyone who wasn't willing to tolerate their sexist and exclusionary behavior, who will statistically be more female than male (though plenty of men are excluded too.)

2) Yes it is. Plus, as men stated up stream, it is directly offensive to some men too, and it should be offensive to anyone who doesn't want to work in a field populated by sexist assholes.

I guess I attributed to "dude" what I see more people doing with "actor", an implication that changing the word itself (to dudette, or dudesse, I suppose) is more offensive than using a single term for a single idea that, itself, doesn't need to be gendered. Actually a quick Googling of "dude gender neutral" tells me dude's gender-neutral usage goes back to the 1970s, and has been written on some.

I certainly don't think women would want to be called "programmerettes" or "programmeresses" en masse. And I'm too afraid to Google those.

As to the points I was trying to make, my intent was to say that yes, I believe it absolutely would drive off more women than men by appealing to a culture that is male-dominant. But I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that it was done with the explicit intent of establishing a "no girls allowed" company. I do think those guys should've been more thoughtful about who they were appealing to, and I'm glad MattManser brought it to our attention; it's an interesting read. But I'm not as quick to call them sexist assholes. For all I know, they were going for a sense of cultural fraternity (that someone earlier in the thread excellently brought up as a word that, despite its roots, is a feeling we all typically aim to share.) Then again, that leads directly to my second point...

Being a part of that culture? That isn't a place I would want to work, either. But just because I find something untoward doesn't mean everyone would. That's what I mean when I said women get to decide what's offensive toward them, not men.

If men think something is offensive toward women, and women don't... Then I think it would be a very odd argument indeed. I think men can have an opinion on it, and I think most of us here probably agree it's at the very least tasteless, but matter like this, I would tend to defer to the party claiming offense. The question becomes what makes HER feel uncomfortable, and avoiding that.

It's something polite that could be done with anyone on any topic, but especially should be if the vast majority of a group finds it shockingly offensive.

I know females that say "guys" referring to both males and females.

The same way you can be a wingman and not be male.

It might not on the face of it, but deep down someone that writes that has something where they think the best programmers are male.

Please spare us your pseudo-psychology.

I'm not familiar with the term "brogrammer." If I search Google Images for "brogrammer," the first 25 results that contain people are all male.

(The 26th result is from a woman's profile on Facebook who commented on a link about brogramming.)

would you accept sissadmin as your job title?

Ignoring the inherent immaturity: As a term of camaraderie I would consider it. The main problem with it is that it looks like it could be "sissy".

I agree that the post's title is not very tactful or professional but I don't think it's sexist.

The term "bro" refers to values like fraternity and solidarity. Even the word fraternity comes from the latin frater which means brother but "fraternity" is not a male-only concept.

I myself consider some girls to be my "bros" even though I wouldn't use that term, but I agree in the values it conveys.

Additionally, if a girl applied for that job in particular I don't think she would be turned down because of her sex (at least I hope so).

Please google the term "brogrammer". You are defending the post (or playing devil's advocate) by implying a meaning that is not really the currently held inferred meaning. (As far as I'm aware.)

Ah, I didn't know it was a "thing". Looking it up comforts the idea that the post is silly and childish.

I was indeed playing devil's advocate: it's not because the ad is clumsily worded that its author's intent was to exclude females.

Explain. I can't find any definition of "brogrammer" that isn't a portmanteau of "bro" and "programmer". And "bro" is not a gender-specific term any more than "milkman".

Seriously? The third google result for "brogrammer" is this:


1. Programmer who...frat boy...calling everybody "bro"

2. A programmer who looks like, acts like, or is a bro.

3. A popular, cool, or otherwise normal person who has become intrigued by the fun of programming.

4. a bro who somehow learned to program

All of these seem to agree with what I said about it being bro + programmer and not itself about gender.

All of these seem to agree with what I said about it being bro + programmer and not itself about gender.

Try looking up the term "bro" on there http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bro

Obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties.

An alpha male idiot.

a usually white young male

Stupid white trash guys in the 909 with lifted trucks, wife beaters, shitty music

I don't know what to say about urban dictionary. There seem to be at least three distinct insulting stereotypes in addition to the definition that's close to 'buddy'.

The first five results (including twitter, as jgrahamc mentioned) should give you an idea.


The first piece of advice is "Attire: Polo, tight so the chicks can see how defined your muscles are".

My understanding is that it came from Facebook's core of post-collegiate boy programmers.

Yes it is. Sounds like it's not the kind of company I'd like to work for, so I guess in a way it's useful that they use that term.

maybe they are going for cultural fit, first and foremost. if you were offended by this job advert, it's likely you wouldn't be a good fit. why hide company culture by writing a stiff and sterile ad? i'm not saying what they did was good or bad, unless they are actually breaking laws in the post--then it's bad. other than that, if you don't like the way they phrased things, don't apply.

The reason there's a law against it is because bigots that still exist keep women from attaining equality and that's bad, not the other way around. It is in itself bad. You have a strange moral compass to me.

I know it's fun to be laddish when you're at college and uni, but cultural fit can often be a polite way of saying 'Hey, I'm a bigot, women are stupid and I'm not employing them above the level of secretary!'.

I'm sure cultural fit was used because some racist thought someone with a different coloured skin wouldn't fit in the office.

I don't like the way they phrased it because it was very easy to read that advert as advertising specifically for male programmers only. In other words, they're in danger of coming across as bigots.

And by association, so are we.

So I said something as it made me uncomfortable.

Can you explain your first sentence? I'm not sure what you're trying to say. I'm not defending bigotry/sexism/etc. Hopefully, you didn't take my comment that way.

Your original comment was to the effect of 'things are bad if they are illegal, but otherwise they're not.' He's calling you out on your sense of morality because whether a thing is right or wrong does not, to most people, derive from it's legal status.

Stealing would still be wrong if it were legally acceptable, which some forms arguably are.

That was exactly my thinking when writing it.

I didn't think you (as in ia) was especially defending it, I was just trying to point out the logic was very wooly. Though re-reading my comment I was a little hot under the collar, so apologies for that.

I'm not defending bigotry/sexism/etc

You're defending the ad. By extension defending any sexism contained within it (actual sexism TBD).

I'm pretty sure that when I defend the right of, say, OWS to protest, I'm not defending whatever it is they're protesting.

They went for a breezy tone and forgot to pass it through Legal. I doubt they're sexists. I'm sure sexism would, in this day and age, hurt them more than anyone else.

That's not really the case in the software industry. There really are very few women in the field. That's why we need to call out stuff like this — so that female programmers' lack of visibility doesn't become an excuse to marginalize them.

I don't think it was intentional on the job poster's part, but the fact that he didn't catch how it sounded of proofreading definitely indicates a blind spot to sexism.

Your conclusion does not follow from the premise.

You can defend something based on one merit, while not supporting a related detriment.

Well, you said it was only bad if it is actually against the law.

Which is a strange moral compass, because lots of bad things are not against the law (and with good reason).

the reason there's a law against it is because men (yes, men!) were stupid enough to allow women to vote in the first place.

and now we have a feminine culture takeover: used to be only sticks and stones would hurt me, now it's words that slay me. Get over the obsession already, this is tiresome! Everyone starts out equal, no one person is inherently better than another - but some people perform more valuable services than others. Men and women are different, hence the chromosomal difference. If these guys want an exclusionary company, let them have it! But you don't have to buy their goods/services.

Birds of a feather flock together - people are almost always going to associate with people they feel more comfortable will - and each individual will decide which character trait they most like to identify with, and will seek out people with like traits. </rant>

This is not a political site so I'm not going to debate the merits/drawbacks of outlawing bigotry in hiring practices.

But one thing that ought to be pointed out is that free markets tend to punish companies, over the long term, that intentionally deny themselves access to talent due to bigotry. Conversely, companies who acquire talent with rational screening procedures will have a competitive advantage over those who use irrational screening procedures.

It's a sort of corporate karma. In aggregate, bigotry in hiring procedures will eventually harm you, legal or not.

The notion that the long term will harm them is a bit out of scope. Being a startup, a YC one at that, you can assume they see no significant long term for the company anyway, and hope for an acquisition before their idealized startup culture dream is popped.

> free markets tend to punish companies, over the long term, that intentionally deny themselves access to talent due to bigotry. Conversely, companies who acquire talent with rational screening procedures will have a competitive advantage over those who use irrational screening procedures.

That sounds a lot like fair world fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

Evidence? I know free market theory sounds like the most plainly obvious, common sense set of statements but you still have to justify your conclusions. You are asserting without proof that the market is full of completely rational agents.

It's not that markets are completely rational at all, it comes from supply and demand. If you exclude a large portion of your supply the price will go up. For example, if I only higher people greater than 6 feet at my company, and my competitor doesn't care about height -- the wages will be lower, unless of course tall people are the cheapest to hire already.

I am not asserting that the market is full of completely rational agents. I am asserting that voluntarily excluding yourself from a resource pool or limiting your access to a resource pool will decrease your likelihood of success.

To give an analogy, if you have access to all the food you want, but you voluntarily limit yourself to kumquats and bananas for arbitrary, irrational reasons, in the long run you will develop health problems.

Likewise, a business that irrationally limits itself to a subset of all available talent will, in aggregate, lose out to those who are not thus limited.

I admit to not having citations of statistical evidence at hand, although I have seen many publications in the past that indicate diversity of employee populations is correlated with innovation and success. I did not provide evidence because I believe as a Gedankenexperiment, the conclusion is self-evident.

  > one thing that ought to be pointed out is that free
  > markets tend to punish companies, over the long term,
  > that intentionally deny themselves access to talent
  > due to bigotry.
If this happens on a large enough scale, then it's hard to quantify. If this happens enough that it keeps the number of women in tech low, then how can you really quantify what they are missing out on? It would be easier to quantify if there was a large number of skilled female programmers, but if they are discouraged from even reaching the point of becoming skilled/competent programmers...

This assumes that talented programmers of each sex exist in fixed quantities. That isn't how the real world works. In reality, if you make women feel unwelcome in programming, many who would have been good programmers will just go into different fields, so the entire market ends up losing access to their talent.

"free markets tend to punish companies, over the long term, that intentionally deny themselves access to talent due to bigotry."

If this were true, we wouldn't have needed the EEOC and the Civil Rights Act in the first place. We did. Therefore.

Hey, that's great logic. Remind me to start a company where we have a dedicated "porn-watching hour", too. I'm sure it will make for a spectacular ad and attract a lot of serious talent.

If that's the type of person you're looking to hire (say, for a porn site...), not sure why you wouldn't do this. Assuming, again, that you aren't breaking any laws. Not sure what point you were trying to make. Sarcasm doesn't translate well in writing...

I daresay it translated well enough for a couple of people already. The point I was trying to make is that the goal of a job ad is to attract talent. The job ad in question fails at that goal, because the cultural implications will drive away talent. To be fair, it's not a job ad that fails here, it's the culture that came up with that job ad.

All in all, you might be right in that they might have put "cultural fit" as their #1 priority, but that doesn't make it a good decision. Saying that the alternative is "a stiff and sterile ad" is a fallacy of false dichotomy.

Saying that the alternative is "a stiff and sterile ad" is a fallacy of false dichotomy.

fair enough. to clarify--"a stiff and sterile ad" is the only type of add that won't alienate any possible subgroup.

the goal of a job ad is not simply to "attract talent". it's to attract the right kind of talent. to that end, a job ad that emphasizes culture is one way to look for it. these guys made a choice, and it looks like their (imo) poorly-worded job ad isn't being well received by the majority of people on hn. but unless we know that no suitable candidates resulted from it, i don't think we can claim it a failure.

To be fair, it's not a job ad that fails here, it's the culture that came up with that job ad.

agree, in the sense that if people react adversely to this job ad, they would have a similar reaction to the company culture.

The point is not to avoid alienating a subset of the population. An ad can and should filter out candidates through its use of language and expression of culture. It cannot, however, filter people out on the basis of whether or not they have penises. That is the only question here: does this ad do that? Many think it does.

Probably not a success from their point of view but from my point of view it's a great ad. It convinced me immediately not to waste any time pursuing the opportunity.

In addition, I can say that the only reason I'd care to know who the stealth company is is so I can avoid giving any thought to working for/with them later on or reading any later (probably toned down) job postings.

> if you were offended by this job advert, it's likely you wouldn't be a good fit

So a company decides that most female engineers wouldn't be a good fit?

It's fairly obvious that using it in a job ad (as opposed to using it in a self-deprecating way to joke about yourself: how the term started) has the effect of alienating female developers.

Exactly my thoughts, I really like that they actually exposed their cultural thoughts on this one, I hope to see this kind of trend in job postins more and it really makes me want to join that respective company.

On the other hand I don't understand, why, most of you, as males are really getting mad about this? Why do you feel offended? If you have a female programmer friend, ask her about this and make her post their opinions, not you. I'll bet my life savings that all females that are into tech (that I know) will not have the slightest problem with this.

Stop whining about this kind of stuff HN, you're better than this.

To say that males shouldn't call out things they see as sexism against women because they aren't women is dangerous thinking. We're all members of this community, and behavior that disrespects any of us is a problem for all of us.

We do have a problem with this. We aren't whining. I asked some male friends about this just now and they think its shameful. It basically reads: "We are looking for male programmers, females need not reply." Yeah, just stick us back into the secretarial pool.

Well, see, here's the difference, it counts how you see the glass, full or empty. From my point of view, and I assume theirs, that's simply a joke that most of you got serious.

I was just asking for a female programmer to tell that she's having a problem with this, not a dude.

Probably I haven't exposed my ideas in a correct and coherent way, but I am tired and english is not my main. But trust me, I know a lot of women that are programmers, at some I look up to, and those who aren't I try to help them integrate, we need really need female programmers, because we, as males, can never achieve their way of thinking.

I'm a female programmer and I have a problem with this.

On the other hand I don't understand, why, most of you, as males are really getting mad about this?

So you think that I, as a whitey, shouldn't be offended by racism? And that I, as an atheist, shouldn't find religious persecution offensive?

this is why I always use "looking for brogrammer or hogrammer" in my job ads

I'm now making that facebook group - 'Hogramming'

The job ad is awful. Maybe they do not mean to be discriminatory; but that doesn't matter. Any woman applying for, but not getting, the job can then point to the ad and ask if she was discriminated against because of her sex. The hassle of dealing with that will sap time and resources from actual work.

> You are a native english speaker (our tech relies on speech recognition)

This sentence is also unwise in the UK.

I had the exact same thought when I saw this post! Although I don't personally find it offensive, you need to be fairly thick skinned in the IT industry if your a woman!

That ad certainly tells me that's not the sort of company any woman should be working for.

I agree with mattmanser, if that was a UK job add they would be in serious trouble!

Why so serious?

Companies put little jokes and pokes in their job searches all the time. Do you think the company is really going to turn down applicants because they're not "brogrammers". It's certainly silly to assume so.

Did you even read the full post? Here is what it says verbatim:

* You are a fan (or future fan) of Brogramming on Facebook. (Non-Bros are still welcome to apply)

That in no certain terms has anything to do with gender. I'm a male and would not be considered a "brogrammer". What if they said they were looking for the King of all Rubyists? Does that mean they would hire a female because by technicality she couldn't be a king?

Sorry I just think this thread is ridiculous.

Not if they'd also look for a Sisadmin.

Juvenile, yes. Sexist, not very seriously.

I note they aren't looking for a broffice manager.

That's because it's already an Office MANager.

'Manage' comes from the Latin manus for 'hand'

Edit to add: 'Man' either started in Old English as man or mon, or came from Old High German man. In either case it meant 'human being'. It seems to have become male-only more recently.

Source: Marriam-Webster.

sexist? yes.

valid EEOC complaint? yes.


That's not a real job ad, is it? Sheesh.

I can't believe we're having this conversation.

Devil's advocate here. I agree it is sexist and unprofessional and not how I would word a recruitment post.

That said, it seems to be a reference to an internet meme.


They also say pretty clearly that non-bros are welcome to apply (I'm male and I consider myself a non-bro). It also does not say that being a Brogrammer actually entails that you be male. (Admittedly, it could be interpreted that way). They are trying to show a work-hard/play-hard mentality, and maybe a little playful immaturity.

All of this said, I think if they are willing to accept responsibility for the repercussions of the job posting, there is no reason to abridge their free speech. Whether this particular posting is a good idea for them as a company (w/r/t investors, image, actually recruiting the best people rather than people who are 'fun') is another matter.

> it seems to be a reference to an internet meme.

it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi_AAqi0RZM

What does brogramming mean ? I'm from brazil and this word doesn't make sense to me...


I guess it means: "You write code, but you're not one of those nerds"

Also see: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bro (definition #1) for what the "bro" part stands for. It's not technically "brother".

When I was in college the term was a little more harsh: "douche" http://peoplewtf.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/DOUCHE-4.jpg

It seems they have better PR now.

Bro is slang for brother, which in this context is supposed to mean (male) buddies. I guess "brogramming" is supposed to mean "programming with buddies".

These super-duper-cool-stealth-YC-startup job listings are becoming more idiotic every month.

Other commenters are close, but I think it's referring more to the bro from lax culture. Lots of chilling, popping natties with fellow brahs/bros and other stuff you can read up on http://mylifeisbro.com

edit: hdctambien's comment is on-point with the urbandic link. I believe a similar synonym with less euphemistic connotations is douchebag in certain circles, but not amongst brahs.

also see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi_AAqi0RZM

and this: http://www.quora.com/Brogramming/How-does-a-programmer-becom...

Essential reference material : http://bros.failblog.org/

Funny, but that's more mocking than really portraying bros accurately.

This is probably more helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqg01Nk3SYI

and this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4uDPZGYWmE

and this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm4KlxG1SEg&feature=relat...

bonus round: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJh-13maChY

At first i thought it was a spelling error... I think it's something like bro-grammer: brother (so male) programmer.

Anyway, is it sexist? At least in Italy you can't do that. But.. are there people who really like male only working environments?

Don't think anybody does so it would be really stupid to ask for an environment like that and boring also...

It means: hey bro, we got funding from stupid investors, so come join our startup and hang out on our sofas until the bubble pops.

If you asked me to define 'brogrammer' prior to reading this thread and learning of the meme, I'd probably have described your typical technical cofounder of a generic 2011 startup.

It doesn't help that the linked post _is_ a YC startup too... and they're one of those "startups for startups!"

Even if this was inadvertent, the idea that the ad reads like:


  (fine print: non-bros can apply too)

This comes across like:

1. The writer of the ad had in mind a college-aged male as the target audience.

2. The 'non-bros can apply' part seems like an after thought. It makes it seem like someone that's a 'brogrammer' will get to the top of the list, and others will be looked at after the list of 'brogrammers' is exhausted.

3. It indicates a sort of Reddit/Frathouse-ish company culture, which women might not want to apply to any ways. (So some of the commentary could also be on whether or not we want to encourage such cultures in our industry, but that's stretching a bit from the original ad).

To answer your question, no, brogrammer isn't even a term.

And the first honeypot article hits HN...

This doesn't count as a honeypot at all because it directly references a YC start-up and comments on start-up culture. A honeypot might be an article from msnbc about sexism at Walmart.

this. This ad has got to be fake.

While I do agree that it was not professional nor would I have posted it, I feel like many of you guys are taking it personally.

I was involved in greek life during my undergrad and we used to joke around about the "bro" lifestyle because we were all far from it, yet outsiders associated us with it simply because we were in a fraternity. That's what made it so funny to us; while other "frat bro's" would be out partying at 1am on a Friday, all of the engineers and CS guys in my fraternity would be in a computer lab.

To properly answer the question "is brogrammer a sexist term", I think it's important to distinguish -- for a moment -- what a sexist term might be.

1. Is a term sexist when the speaker intends to be sexist?

2. Or is the term sexist when others interpret to be?

3. Or is a term sexist in some other more subtle way?

Some answers:

1. No idea

2. This varies. I know people here are saying brogrammer is an internet meme, but I've met plenty of start-up people that seem to enjoy various components of the meme -- polo shirts, bad sunglasses, incoherent misogyny.

3. This one is hard, and there are several conflicting possibilities.

a) Usage of the word "brogrammer" (whether in jest, or not) could be good (for gender relations), if it is successfully used ironically, or if it somehow signifies the irrelevance of gender.

I don't think either of these are true. Popping your collar is not irony. It might be a good halloween gimmick, but it's not irony.

And as for brogramming signifying a post-gender binary world, uh, no, come on?

b) The alternative is what I believe to be true, posts like this, regardless of intent reveal a serious cultural insensitivity. Whoever wrote it doesn't care if they offend you. They don't care if it sounds sexist, and they probably don't care if they _are_ sexist.

This is very antisocial behavior, and it deserves disapprobation just for that.

IF brogrammer wasn't sexist (which is highly debatable), I wouldn't go so far as to call these guys juvenile and idiotic. Sometimes you just need to have a little fun with it and lighten up a bit. You only get one life to live so might as well not be so serious all the time.

That being said, brogrammer probably is a bit sexist.

I agree that everyone needs time to unwind and I'll be the first in line for a drink or to hear an off-color joke, but a job ad isn't the place.

I think you could argue that "brogrammer" is gender neutral. I also think that anyone advertising for a "brogrammer", ironically or not, are probably not going to have or attract software engineers who you could learn from.

Using terms in US job ads which you could argue are gender neutral is a great way to be given the opportunity to make that argument to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

No, you cannot, bro.

It depends. Whether a term is sexist depends on intention, as the term itself is ambiguous in meaning. One of the meanings is sexist, another meaning is an oxymoronic contraction of words; the kind of language joke hackers are supposed to enjoy.

If we attempt to spin things in a positive light, it may be assumed that the intention was to describe the culture in their startup, which involves jokes around such terms as 'brogrammers'.

If we attempt to spin things in a negative light, they are obliviously sexist.

The truth may be anywhere in between, but the truth doesn't matter: only reception does. And it isn't being received well.

If they thought "brogrammer" was all encompassing they would have not felt the need to clarify that women could apply too near the bottom of the post. The problem is not that they were trying to be overtly sexist, it's that they didn't see it as being sexist(which is so often the case when one is in the position of privilege) Obviously new to the job posting scene, they are unaware of how this particular post would be interpreted by the EEOC, I would hate to see a brand new company have to face off with a govt. lawsuit before they even get off the ground.

I would definitely never apply to a job that advertise a "brogrammer" culture, and I do consider it inherently sexist. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any guy who thinks of himself as a "brogrammer" needs to do some serious soul-searching and start reading bell hooks. Enforced standards of masculinity is patriarchal oppression, just like the objectification of women by those men. Stop defining yourself by your genitalia, get over your homophobia and accept that society is larger than your weird little cultural perspective.

Perhaps it's not so much a sexist term as it is a useful warning sign.

this post is definitely real. i emailed the address on the ad, and they sent back a surprisingly dismissive reply. they open rudely, begin to say they made an error in judgement and then backhandedly defended themselves. pretty uncool, i'd really like to know who the company is.

here was my initial email: http://lilpuff.us/non-bro

and the reply from secretstartup@gmail.com: http://lilpuff.us/rY6D8r

and the original listing, cached: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:WEsG46N...

also, just to note: the fact that they put "non-bros still welcome to apply" suggests that they were aware that brogramming might come off as a men-only requirement, but did not see this as a problem.

also consider the use of "still welcome to apply" vs. more positive or friendly language, e.g. "we love non-bros too!" which still utilizes the term in question, but is welcoming and follows the tone of the posting.

and i spoke with multiple men and women (who do and do not work in IT) who found this pretty offensive.

I really don't care, and I know female programmers who don't care, and I'm actually annoyed that this question is being asked.

How wonderful to be you and them.

Some people very obviously do care, bro.

I feel it's worth mentioning that words aren't sexist; communication is. Even really awful words (n.+, for example) can be used both in hurtful and supportive ways. One can't always evaluate the meaning of a word in isolation; the contextual relationship between the writer and reader colors the emotional impact of that use.

Are you sure that it wasn't just a bad joke and a case of someone trying to be 1337, but ended up at 1335.

It's useful for weeding out this place as an employer. As a male programmer who intends to remain a programmer, I'm disheartened by this future where I may have to work for juveniles and have these types of discussions.

I really think this is a douche term to be honest. What's next, "coder's shore ?"

my respect has gone down for all of you who take any of this seriously.

It's not about whether or not it was serious, it's about the repetition and legitimization of things that are being taken seriously by plenty of people and are a legitimate problem for the people who are disadvantaged as a result.

Sexist? maybe, insensitive? probably, immature and cliche? absolutely.

After some research, I can't tell if brogramming is a parody or not. It could be that the startup figures it is, and wants people who can laugh at things like that.

If so, still poor communication.

I really like the "brogrammer" term :) I think in this femi-age it's important to cultivate more masculi-terms.

> you just can't advertise for men only roles in this day and age

Why not ? And what has this day and age to do with it ?

> I don't know the law in the US but over here in the UK these guys would be opening themselves up for a nasty lawsuit.

That explains everything. UK is closer to orwellian state than any other european country, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was true.

You can brogram with different sexes, do it all the time. Being PC all the time is exhausting. The females that I pair with would laugh at this term and not take offense to it. In fact by saying, "Let's brogram" would indicate the equality that I feel of that female with fellow male programmers.

Lighten up and have a sense of humor once in a while. Life is supposed to be fun, not a myriad of social rules and regulations.

Fully agree. But in our lawyer run and lawyer trained society, most people don't see things this way anymore.

bro =/= male

being male doesnt make you a bro, females can be bros

if you don't understand what bro means then you cannot possibly understand the word brogrammer. if you do not understand the word brogrammer, then you are not in the right culture to be hired by this company.

They're just doucheoisie.

As to "We love all kinds of music, tv, movies, and books", they likely don't.

Brogrammer? No. If someone referred to a female co-worker as a Hogrammer, then yes.

Don't call yourself a brogrammer, it's bad for your career.

Maybe software brogineer or something

Perfect way to close out shark jumping week.

"bro" puns are pretty non-sexed. Women make "bro" jokes too, because they're funny and no one should take them seriously.

Be careful about the term "should", it implies a lot of assumptions that are probably not shared by your audience.

Mainly, I assume that if I tell someone that "bro" puns are just jokes, they will stop thinking that I'm being serious.


How could it not be?

By all means, flaunt your inexperience by using idiot language in your recruitment posts.

if you have to ask, its obviously yes...WTF YCombinator quality falling very fast after free money given out

I'm not sure you can make that assumption. Relative immaturity in YC company job postings (particularly on HN) has been a pretty consistent problem (I'm not saying all just enough bad apples slip through that its noticeable). I'm actually a bit surprised at this point that part of the YC program doesn't address this.

"if you have to ask, its obviously yes..."

That is poor logic.

Maybe, who gives a fuck?

This is my way of flagging an unflaggable post.

Hell, I love memes, Reddit, drinking, partying, etc.

But is that a professional or appropriate job advert for HN? Do we want to be a community which actively cultivates a 'no girls allowed' policy?

"Do we want to be a community which actively cultivates a 'no girls allowed' policy?"

That's not fair. An unwise attempt at humor isn't actively cultivating such a policy. It may be inadvertently fostering such an environment, but so many comments are busy casting aspersions on the job poster without addressing that issue.

Humor sometimes conveys the real meaning- and in this job post, it is undeniably, No Girls Allowed. Those that think "brogrammer" means anything more deep or nuanced is giving the poster a whole lot of leeway. If they wanted a more diverse (age, sex, even race) they'd convey a different culture.

This is one of those things in the Valley that I really hate (I'm a ho-grammer). The immature attitude - up there with "rockstar" postings. Is there anything in the ad about the tech? Oh right, because it's "stealth" (another annoying Valley thing). I am also wary of a company that feels the need to state that programmers get some sleep. Really? The reality is that they're going to get tons of applicants because it's a recession. The applicants are going to be eager and inexperienced, probably not from here. The poster didn't evenhave to use brogrammer to get 95% men applying- that's roughly the % of men in the CA-Bay Area industry.

The new hires are going to work for a bit, the start-up will fizzle to nothing, but in the meantime the brogrammer will learn how to party in SF, go to strip clubs, get crunk, work hungover, and write passable code. He'd doubtless leave with a few great connections, and then starting or join another startup, where he'll fondly remember the ad that got him here and post a similar one. A kid just out of a midwestern school will see it and buy a cheap one-way ticket to SF. Like begets like (another thing that annoys me about SV). The monoculture continues.

The subtle comments DO cultivate such a policy. Sexism in its worst form isn't overt - it is the small comments that are harmful.

I think this is an example of people not accepting responsibility where its due. Inadvertently fostering an environment of sexism and monoculture is as destructive as intentionally doing so. I understand that the intentions may be different but the result is the same.

Thus, it is the responsibility of every person in every industry to work hard to intentionally work against sexism or racism or discrimination of any kind (intentional, unintentional, or implied).

For better or for worse, when you have an industry as heavily male dominated as the tech one, it takes more active work to counteract the natural tendency of the industry to a masculine culture.

I am on a mailing list that spent a fair amount of time discussing the recent dust up over sexually explicit slides at the EECI conference.

One respondent wrote to the list saying that as an employee of the federal government she finds all of these controversies sort of amazing (in a negative way) since employees of the federal govt all have a very clear understanding of what is and isn't appropriate and would never show slides with sexually explicit material.

I know that everyone probably just read "Fed govt" and thought "PC, boring, and miserable" but as a women in tech, I would LOVE it if less of my time could go into being angry and frustrated, or spent trying to educate people on why things are offensive, and we could all just spend more time doing the work we are here to do: making cool technology.

I can't find the post, I think it was taken down or some such. In any case I've seen some quotes that clearly state "non-bros" are welcome to apply as well. In my opinion, (and I am only playing devil's advocate.)

If you're asking if they were sexist. (once again I haven't read it nor can I find it, I'm going off what everyone else has quoted.) Then it would seem safe to say no, what with them saying that it's not only "brogrammers" that can apply. I would also go as far to say that this post should be considered good if nothing else then the brutal honesty given. They party, they get "crunk" they brogram, which is to say they are comrades that support each other and like minded individuals. Is that bad? Not inherently so. Is it immature? I think they made sure everyone knew that was the case.

Also I forgot this part, to answer the question posted, (my bad.)

Do we want a community of people that supports a no girl allowed rule? Um hell no, I like women, generally they have ideas that I don't consider because I'm a male, my DNA and my social upbringing made me who I am, which is different then who anyone else is. I don't feel like that's what they were trying to do though.

Click the "link" button on the post. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3168226 Then you can flag it.

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