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"Gangbang Interviews" and "Bikini Shots": Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem (motherjones.com)
278 points by addabjork 1161 days ago | 362 comments



What I find particularly disconcerting about this Van Horn story is not that he wanted to present it (which is terrible in and of itself), but that this guy is 28, went through Digg (who never struck me as a company of idiots), already presented a sexist presentation, and still appears at SXSW either by invitation of him or Path. Why would Path or SXSW allow it? Did he not practice this presentation at Path before heading out? Was this thought to be acceptable by everyone at that company?

He sounded to me like some tragic Van Wilder-esque figure trying to clutch on to those college good times forever.

What is somewhat frustrating about all this stuff is that, while brogrammers or hipsters or whatever Bay Area-clique is in this month, can be targets of derision, the Valley is actually diversifying its personality structure, if not its sex. It's refreshing to see people that have different lifestyles to the geek stereotype, and it's broadening the appeal of these companies.

It's getting easier and easier to sell Computer Science as a career to male undergraduates, because they're seeing that there are people just like them higher up. It's very annoying that those same higher ups are screwing up female motivation.

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I think you need to be careful on that line of thinking. We don't want conferences censoring presenters because of reputation issues. That said, certainly in context the humor wasn't funny -- and SXSW certainly could have asked him to rework the presentation to be less needlessly controversial.

I guess what I'm most confused by is why a talk titled "Adding Value as a Non-Technical No Talent Ass-Clown." got accepted in the first place. Really? I know SXSW isn't a hard science conference, but that seems awfully fluffy for an event that clearly has no trouble filling seats. Maybe it's one more sign we're in a bubble...

Edit: lots of folks are picking on the second sentence above and I think taking it out of context. It was a specific reply to the idea of banning a presenter based on the notion that he "already presented a sexist presentation" -- a fact offered without support. That's just bad thinking. If the guy deserves a career ban, then make that case. Don't throw it out as a tangential point in another post.

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As someone who has been a member of the program committee for a large tech conference, I can say that in my personal opinion, I'd have very little problem rejecting a talk from someone whose track record clearly demonstrated a style and set of values that significantly diverged from the culture and explicitly stated values of the community I was trying to serve. My job, as a program committee member was to find speakers who could deliver great content in a great way – both matter, both produce value for the conference attendees and organizers.

At a minimum, if the talk proposal was overwhelmingly compelling from a content angle, I'd have little issue with being explicit, up front and individually direct with said person about the expectations for how speakers conduct themselves.

Choosing to reject a talk from someone because of who the presenter is or how they have handled themselves in the past is completely legitimate and it is not "censorship" – a conference is a curated event and someone has the job to make sure the content fits the conference.

If you want a brogrammer conference, go start one, but don't demand that we accept that sort of crap at ours just because you think you're hot shit and can offend anyone you want because "it's funny".

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> I think you need to be careful on that line of thinking. We don't want conferences censoring presenters because of reputation issues.

Why on earth not? Part of ensuring cooperation on prisoner's dilemmas is punishment. It should be bad for your career to act like an asshole and make us all look bad.

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> We don't want conferences censoring presenters because of reputation issues.

Consider it done.

As an organizer of PyCon, this Van Horn person and any others who lack basic judgement and decency skills as well as having gained a reputation for that are not welcome to present at our conference.

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No. I'm a REAL PyCon organizer and I DO want people who lack basic judgement to present at the conference!!

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>We don't want conferences censoring presenters because of reputation issues

Yes you do. You don't want a heavy editorial hand, but you want there to BE a hand. Wanting absolutely no judgement is a great way to let total crap in.

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> We don't want conferences censoring presenters because of reputation issues.

I think what you need here are different conferences.

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Matt arrived at digg in 2007 if I recall correctly. At that point the culture was being reshaped into what is described in the article. Also lots of women were hired - young, attractive women.

And we all know how that worked out.

The reason why this culture persists is because people are rewarded for promulgating it. Matt is a VP at Path.

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Owen, I think your memory is a little fuzzy on this. If you recall, we overlapped for a few months in 2007 before you left, and the "lots of women" you describe just weren't there.

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Fair enough. The thing about women was actually something I was told happened after I left. Will edit the comment. Edit: sorry I missed the edit window.

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Very well said. It's heartening to see a diversification of "personality structure." It's disheartening to have that reveal how far we still need to go – as a society – to eliminate misogyny.

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Is SWSX the kind of centralized conference that approves/disapproves/arranges presenters? I've never attended but my impression was it was pretty free-form.

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>What I find particularly disconcerting about this Van Horn story is not that it happened (which is terrible in and of itself), but that this guy is 28, went through Digg (who never struck me as a company of idiots), already presented a sexist presentation, and still appears at SXSW either by invitation of him or Path. Why would Path or SXSW allow it? Did he not practice this presentation at Path before heading out? Was this thought to be acceptable by everyone at that company?

Yes, let's ostracize him. Hell, let's burn him at the stake.

/s

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I know you're trying to be sarcastic, but yes, please, let's ostracize him. Our culture will be better off without him. Sometimes not pissing in the pool isn't enough, sometimes asking people nicely to stop isn't enough, sometimes you have to force people out of the pool if you want to swim somewhere that doesn't have piss in it.

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I don't know if you made up the "pissing in the pool" metaphor for this kind of behavior, but it's just perfect. Thank you.

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Thanks =) I'm honestly not sure if it's original or not.

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Your sarcasm hides your point a little too well, I think. What are you trying to say here? That we shouldn't criticize him or his company when he behaves poorly? That we should criticize him, but couch it in soothing excuses? That his presentation really was acceptable?

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The third. That his presentation really was acceptable, and people are making issues out of nothing --just to prove that the far-right should not have a monopoly on prudes and squares.

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In isolation, I might be inclined to agree with you. But taken in the context of programming culture as a whole, it was simply inappropriate. Go look at http://programmersbeingdicks.tumblr.com and then read the story and tell me it still doesn't sound problematic to you.

Women really are underrepresented in programming in the US, so we don't even have the refuge of saying it's unprofessional but harmless. This talk isn't a huge problem in itself, but it is one tentacle of a monstrous beast of a problem.

And I'm not saying we should crucify Matt or even give him the stink eye, but I do think we should make it clear that we're not OK with that kind of talk.

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I disagree. I have a pretty thick skin and was one of the many people who walked out of this SXSW talk early. It was low on useful content which made it easier to leave; but the repeated mentions of 'hot chicks' 'gang bang approach' 'nudie mags' and 'babes' just grossed me out.

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I really don't see your point here. You think I was being over the top? I don't see how; he's representing Path. Path, you would think, would probably like to represent itself as a diverse, vibrant workplace with exciting, fun, kind people, and not sexist jerks with locker-room antics.

I would appreciate it if you'd elaborate on what you think is wrong about this.

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>I really don't see your point here. You think I was being over the top? I don't see how; he's representing Path. Path, you would think, would probably like to represent itself as a diverse, vibrant workplace with exciting, fun, kind people, and not sexist jerks with locker-room antics. I would appreciate it if you'd elaborate on what you think is wrong about this.

Sure.

What you suggest is essentially: in order for Path to present itself as a "diverse, vibrant workplace with exciting, fun, kind people", Path has to be:

1) less diverse (throw this guy out for diverging more than is allowed to)

2) no-fun (jokes are no-go unless they are PC)

3) not kind (throw a guy out for making some ho-hum jokes)

I don't even believe that making sexist jokes means that one is sexist or promotes a sexist attitude. Humor has to be irreverent. You can find jokes about every situation, from war to cancer, to race, to gender. They doesn't mean the person that tells them is pro-all those things, or against or those other things. A joke is just a joke --especially if its not targeted at a specific someone, but speaks in generals and groups. Heck --Godwin's law be damned--, there are even holocaust jokes, and even jew comedians are telling them. Are they supposed to be pro-nazi? No-- it's just that a joke is just a joke, it's not a manifestation of one's inner beliefs or his general behavior.

This guy could be the kinder person at Path, and especially helpful towards women colleagues, whereas another "progressive, no-sexist-jokes" guy could be an arsehole of epic proportions. Jokes are not the tool to tell them apart. Behavior is.

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A conference isn't Comedy Central Presents, is it now? That's a roomful of people who came to learn, not to watch you hobble through an offensive routine. If I buy tickets to see Lewis Black, I know what I'm getting into, and Lewis Black isn't representing his startup at a trade show.

No matter how you try to butter this guy up, what kind of jokes you tell is a large part of who you are, because you find them funny (or you wouldn't tell them). I can tell a lot about you just from this comment, and it's not positive.

Jokes might not distinguish people. When you choose to tell them does. Would you hire someone who told a Holocaust joke at an interview? Sounds like it. Would the rest of us? Absolutely, unequivocally, no.

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>A conference isn't Comedy Central Presents, is it now? That's a roomful of people who came to learn, not to watch you hobble through an offensive routine. If I buy tickets to see Lewis Black, I know what I'm getting into, and Lewis Black isn't representing his startup at a trade show.

Well, the distinction is not that clear cut, since humor belongs to every time in life --and especially in public gatherings and presentations.

Notice how people were not troubled by humor itself here, but by the type of humor. If he made math jokes very few would say that "I came to learn, not watch him hobble through a routine".

>No matter how you try to butter this guy up, what kind of jokes you tell is a large part of who you are, because you find them funny (or you wouldn't tell them). I can tell a lot about you just from this comment, and it's not positive.

What little you can "tell about me" is mainly shallow biases from pop psychology and the usual normative PC culture of the '10s.

Let me assure you that it's totally irrelevant and BS with respect to who I am (or anybody else you judge that way is).

Let me put it in other words: when the totally friendly, PC, non-sexist guy at the next cubicle back-stabs you to that promotion and treats everybody, especially his female colleagues like shit, you'd learn that appearances are shallow, and what-jokes-one-likes doubly so.

Except if you truly consider every viewer that laughs with South Park to be a misogynist, racist, anti-christian, anti-homosexual, redneck-hater, etc etc... or anybody that ever bought a Playboy.

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> since humor belongs to every time in life --and especially in public gatherings and presentations

Certain types of humor, perhaps. (Although I'd still argue that there are times in life when humor is not appropriate, and that a person who can't or doesn't know when to be serious is at least as irritating as someone who never lightens up.) But there's a time and place.

A big presentation, consisting of the general public, at a high-profile conference, when you are representing your company, which is part of an industry that has a poor image and reputation for sexism already, is really not the time to break out the locker-room humor. It's not quite breaking out the dead-baby jokes in the local NICU, but it's not a great idea either.

Also, if you're going to use humor in a presentation -- especially humor that is in the least bit envelope-pushy -- have some sort of a backup plan to scale it back if and when your first joke bombs. Sometimes, the audience you think that you were going to get just isn't the audience that you have. That might not be 'Presentations 101', but it's at least covered in the 200-level class.

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> Let me assure you that it's totally irrelevant and BS with respect to who I am (or anybody else you judge that way is).

So your outward behavior has nothing to do with who you are? That sounds worse: you sound like an actor. Honestly, you sound more devious than the backstabber you described, because you'd like others to believe that how you act does not describe you, and you sound like you're up to something.

How you act is who you are, to other people. That's just how it is.

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>So your outward behavior has nothing to do with who you are?

No, SUPERFICIAL sings of outward behavior have nothing to do with who we are.

And pop psychology BS interpretations of them, have even less.

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I'm really more surprised that Path has let presentations like this continue. I've seen 4 separate MVH presentations, with each one being in step with these complaints. and it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding Matt and Path as a company.

I guess it comes down to the repeat occurrence. If it were is first, or even second offense, I could overlook it, but it's a repeated thing. Given that his job (biz dev) is to build relationships with big brands, it also seems like he's ultimately shooting himself in the foot regarding longer play, larger relationships with high dollar companies.

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Well, between this, getting caught stealing user data, and the aggravating unpology which followed, I think if you're surprised to see Path getting negative PR, you aren't familiar with Path. It's kind of what they do.

I hate to say it, because it's nearly an ad hominem -- it is an ad hominem if you believe Mitt Romney or the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision -- but the only time I ever see that company mentioned without negativity is when their ads show up in my Twitter client.

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Good, I'm glad people walked out of Van Horn's talk. That's the appropriate response to this sort of immature bullshit. This may sound extreme, but if you're surrounded by douche bags who make misogynistic jokes and weave rude and immature anecdotes into a work-related presentation, then these "brogrammers" must believe that this behavior is acceptable. And if you witness this, and laugh along (or even just ignore it), you are tacitly agreeing that this culture is acceptable. Do you want to work in an environment that allows this?

I am man, and this sort of culture makes me very uncomfortable and angry. I imagine it's even more aggravating and discomforting to women in these situations.

Simply refraining from laughing at a distasteful joke or turning a blind eye to vulgarities is a cop-out. We are all apart of the culture; if you're not calling this shit out, you might as well be laughing along.

If you see these behaviors, make an example to call that person out. Make it very clear that this behavior is not accepted. Failure to do so is implicit approval.

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See, but the problem is that women, particularly in startups, have to walk a fine line of not letting themselves be objectified and not being labeled a bitch. The article even mentions that there isn't really much of a robust HR policy at small start ups.

When women in these situations make it clear that some behavior is not acceptable, they'll inevitably be met by "Woah don't be so serious, it's just a joke! Lighten up!" And the more upset and determined that woman is to make it clear that something isn't acceptable, the more likely they are to be labeled a bitch.

Because I'd bet you that 90% of the bad behavior you see in that type of situation isn't blatant sexism; it's small "jokes" and "jabs" that all add up to a bad workplace environment for women. And it makes it that much harder to defend yourself when there isn't just one glaring offense that people can blatantly see.

I think making this behavior unacceptable would be helped a lot more if men in the workplace stood up against it. It's not so easy for a woman to do it alone.

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I completely agree. I don't want to say that women need a man to stand up for themselves, but like you said, women have to walk a fine line. If everybody who sees this crap blatantly calls it out, it will wake it easier for anybody (man or woman) to stand up against this.

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completely agree with you and anichan.

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I think this extends towards a lot of issues. The "Whoa, don't be so serious, it's just a joke" card gets played time and time again to hide people's insensitivity to others.

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I wonder if there would be any jokes left in a 100% PC world.

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Not sure but it is a fine line to walk on and it's not easy to distinguish where that line is drawn. Most of the things that are considered racist here in Canada seem mild in Asia. Some things in Asia considered racist aren't as bad here. It's difficult since everyone's sensitivity levels are different from one another. Having some sense of who our audience is will help.

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I don't know many jokes. What I meant is, I wonder if jokes are usually based on going against some sensitivity.

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There will still be puns... but probably not much else.

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I think if you even go to a presentation called "Adding Value as a Non-Technical No Talent Ass-Clown." you've got yourself to blame when it turns out to be an ass-clown speaking out off his ass.

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I can see that in retrospect, but if you don't know anything about the person ahead of time, it's possible that a talk with that title could turn out to be a serious talk that just starts from a self-deprecating hook. It's a clear Office Space reference I think, so I would've taken it to be a non-technical management type person admitting there's a large scope for Office-Space-style failure in their role, and then segueing into how they managed to avoid that and actually add value.

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While I agree with your statements, there's something funny about using the term "douche bag" to champion the cause of females in the tech world...

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> To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity.

This is very PC, but BS nonetheless. At the stage when people can be profitably hired by start-ups, the male/female ratio is nowhere near 50% among technical candidates.

I'm not saying that frat culture isn't harmful, nor would I dare to guess why women are underrepresented among development professionals; but defending a thesis with such grossly false assertions can only harm it.

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I think you misread that paragraph. He does not seem to be writing only about programmers, but about everyone that a startup might need to hire. Read this again:

"Shapiro, who has blogged in the past about sexism in the tech industry, notes that "it is a widely understood truth that the single biggest challenge to a successful startup is attracting the right people. To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity." "

His point, as I understand it, is that if a startup has a bro culture, then women won't want to work there. That includes women in marketing, women in sales, women in HR, women as project managers, etc.

And yes, it is a serious issue. Even if you accept the (highly questionable) thesis that only men like to program, are you willing to argue that a growing company will never need women in marketing, sales, HR, management, etc?

In that light, he is quite right when he says: "To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity."

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And not just women either. It's ridiculous to assume that 100% of the best/qualified programmers would want to work at a place like that.

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The same can be said of the opposite end of the geek cultural spectrum, though -- the stereotypical Mountain Dew & video games contingent.

I interviewed a startup where one of the co-founders openly mocked me for wearing a tie; when he asked what my interests were (sports and music, amongst other things), I got criticized for not liking "Starcraft and normal programmer stuff."

The issue isn't one specific subset of tech industry culture; it's a result of the startup scene shifting HR roles to technical people who often don't have the soft skills necessary to deal with such tasks effectively.

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True indeed; othering is othering, be it over-bro-ing or ignorant defense of "nerd culture".

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In fact, I see "bro-ing" to be a defence against "nerd culture". I assert the only reason it has become popular is because of that other end of the spectrum.

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it's a result of the startup scene shifting HR roles to technical people who often don't have the soft skills necessary to deal with such tasks effectively.

On the other hand, at least you found out up-front that this particular company probably wouldn't be a good fit for you.

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Incidentally, this is how we fix it. If everyone just refuses to work with these assholes, and says so loudly, they'll... well, I'd like to say they'll pack up and leave the valley, but more likely they'll wind up concentrated in their own bro-heavy companies, which still seems like a net win for the rest of us.

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Agreed.

Until I see evidence that "bro companies" are more successful than normal ones, I have no qualms about shunning them.

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You would be happy with a definition of success that allows for the sidelining of an entire gender?

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I think his point was that if we shun them, and they wither and die, then their shunning of a gender ceases to be an issue.

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BTW, I'm a she, and yes, that was my point.

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My point is that we don't need to crouch this argument in conditionals. I have no qualms shunning ugly behaviors no matter how "successful" they are.

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Yes that can be an effective way to change the world for the better, however we should still have state regulation and laws. We should not leave this entirely up to the labour market.

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I wouldn't. That's not just white-knighting either. You can't have a culture like that and be seriously committed to making amazing products. That's a culture that chases the outwardly flashy, not the inwardly brilliant.

I only work on products that espouse the latter.

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Be realistic, there isn't really any culture that 100% of the best/qualified programmers would want to work in.

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But the thing is, a company don't need 100% of the best programmers; in the extreme case of a small startup, you just need a handful of them to get off the ground. If you can make an environment that a few people love, even if most people wouldn't like it, that could be a competitive advantage in hiring. Companies like the ones that the article criticizes may actually be doing themselves a favor, even as they alienate people who find that kind of environment off-putting.

Huh. When I started writing this comment, I did not expect to come to that conclusion.

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OKCupid came to exactly the same conclusion in regards to dating; strongly appealing to some people is much better than generally appealing to a lot of people.

(For anyone not familiar with them, they are a dating website that periodically mines their database and discusses observed trends in their blog)

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Nor did I want to try and produce some sort of WAG percentage of programmers that would/wouldn't want to.

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So in reality women don't flock to the alpha frat parties? Because that is the image portrayed in the media (for those who live far away from the US). They prefer to hang out with nerds instead. Great news.

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Let me tell you, if you want to meet women just check out the CS labs at your local college...

Oh wait, exactly the opposite of that.

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Since we're being 'realistic', the opportunity cost to a business for a disparity in talent in HR barely registers. Relatively minor differences in skill between programmers can mean millions of dollars to a business.

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I'm so glad that the startups I've worked at actually value HR. Apparently it puts us in about the 1% of companeis and that is a lot more unique than what JavaScript framework you are using.

Recruiting is one of the absolute most important things a startup does. Don't make the mistake of conflating Fortune 500 HR (lame training, policies, etc) with startup HR. Startup HR is about finding great people, building a good company culture, and retaining people. Those things matter.

And while the team of 3 great developers can probably recruit and hire developers, can they recruit good marketing people? Good operations people? Good PR people? All those things matter quite a bit.

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Even if you assume that HR talent differences don't matter, you can't make the same assumption about marketing, PR, and other personnel with much needed soft-skills.

So what you're left with in a single-minded company of brogrammers and soft-bros is effectively a brain drain that leads to the kinds of flubs the author describes that drive customers and sponsors away.

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Yep, the kind of flubs like Path and PayPal.

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You're mistaking flubs for flops. A flub is a botched opportunity. A flop is a total failure.

Startups really can't afford to let a series of flubs (results of a badly formed team making bad decisions) turn their whole endeavor into a flop.

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Wait, isn't this guy a VP at Path? This kind of language must be industry best practice.

Heyo!

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Admittedly, you've got me here.

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I would dare to guess that women are underrepresented among developers PRECISELY because of this culture and the underlying assumptions and attitudes.

Gender is irrelevant to logical analysis, which is the foundation of programming. If you don't have parity in your pool of candidates, there's a cause, and it's probably social.

Nursing and teaching used to be men's work. Women weren't thought to be capable of it. Too weak. Too sensitive. Too illogical.

Women aren't going into software development? Then there's a problem. Don't be part of it.

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> Nursing and teaching used to be men's work. Women weren't thought to be capable of it. Too weak. Too sensitive. Too illogical.

Do you have any citations for that? My impression is that nursing and teaching were considered women's work before they even existed as distinct professions. Nursing was originally done by women's religious orders, and was founded in its modern form by a woman, Florence Nightingale. And teaching was open to women in America since at least colonial times.

Better examples might be law and medicine, high-status professions that were once all-male but now are considerably more gender-balanced than software development. I don't know the reason for the disparity, but I doubt it's because software engineers on average act more fratty than lawyers.

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With teaching, there have been laws aimed at preventing men from teaching for well over 100 years now. That's why the vast majority of elementary school teachers are women. In the era of modern American schooling, there has never been a period where women were not dominant.

I suppose you could make an argument that historically most itinerant teachers were probably men, but this really seems like a very different job than what we currently consider teaching.

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[citation needed]

Please? I'm curious if this is local to you, or a more widespread thing.

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I don't know about laws, but a the tales from my one friend trying to go into elementary education weren't too pleasant. The system was very clique-ish, and a number of people seemed to not like his style, so one of them made up some ridiculous sexual-harassment-of-children story involving vampires which was conveniently completely retracted the moment after they were done using it as an excuse to kick him out...

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Not sure if it applies to other countries outside America. I don't have a cite offhand unfortunately, you'd have to read some books about the history of education in America.

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Could you give an example of one of the laws? This is new to me too

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If I remember correctly there were many laws specifying that men were to be paid less than women and were to be subject to other degrading treatment. It's hard to find a good example of an actual law though because until recently virtually all states regulated education at the local level.

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Do you remember the name of one of the books? I found some evidence of the opposite happening to attract men to the profession in OK, but I can easily believe that what you described happened in other states. And it's a pretty infuriating idea... To quote Steinem: “there are very few jobs that actually require a penis or a vagina, and all the other jobs should be open to both sexes.

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I found one cite from Gatto, which is probably where I heard it:

"Between 1840 and 1860, male schoolteachers were cleansed from the Massachusetts system and replaced by women. A variety of methods was used, including the novel one of paying women slightly more than men in order to bring shame into play in chasing men out of the business. Again, the move was part of a well-conceived strategy: "Experience teaches that these boys, many of whom never had a mother’s affection...need the softening and refining influence which woman alone can give, and we have, wherever practicable, substituted female officers and teachers for those of the other sex."

http://johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/6i.htm

Unfortunately he doesn't cite any of his sources because he wants you to look into the issues for yourselves. Every time I've fact checked him he's always been right or at least close enough, but the problem is with claims like this there aren't even really any hints as to where to look.

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Google Books picks up the source for the quote, at least.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=7irAXGiBBoQC&lpg=RA1-PA8...

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Thanks!

Also: "A state report noted the frequency with which parents coming to retrieve their own children from reform school were met by news their children had been given away to others".

I had no idea....

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Until the 1840s, teachers were primarily men. I trust PBS pretty thoroughly. http://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/timeline.html

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For sure, the demographics weren't in question, I was more trying to find out whether there were any state-imposed reasons. That article points out a lot of great social causes, though.

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I don't know. I just wanted to add at least one actual source to the conversation... Social norms change, though, and this is actually an excellent example of a huge shift.

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Could it be, there's less women in programming because it's just starting to rise as someplace they're needed? Or as something just now becoming 'visible' enough to get their attention?

It could be something that starts out much earlier in life. I got into computers very early. The only person in my class at the time that cared for them was also a male. Even still, the act of programming itself just doesn't draw many people early on - which for the most part is why we currently have programmers. They got interested early.

Lawyers, Doctors - those are things that can be decided late in school. 'Hey, I think i'll go to school for this now'. Programming just doesn't have that draw - or didn't. Perhaps now that it does, we'll see far more females in the programming workforce in 4 years time.

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At the expense of sounding non-PC, I have noticed that the vast number of females who I have worked with as programmers are foreign-born (I'm in the U.S.), mostly from India. Usually, I get the feeling that they did get into programming later on (probably were pushed down the path by someone when they went to university). I'm not going to try to analyze what this means but its simply an observation.

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My impression is that nursing and teaching were considered women's work before they even existed as distinct professions.

It depends on which kind of teaching. Teaching of children has been seen as a woman's job for a very long time. On the other hand, professors and philosophers were classically men.

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> "Gender is irrelevant to logical analysis"

Brain chemistry is relevant to logical analysis. Gender has significant effects on brain chemistry.

There are also social problems that contribute. But the gender ratio would not be 50-50 even in a completely egalitarian society. Women like my wife [0] are rare, partly because of "brogrammers" chasing them off, but also because a smaller proportion of women are interested in the particular types of analysis that are relevant to programming.

[0] http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=Dove

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The problem with brain chemistry and other "hard facts" is that they are always cherry-picked to justify one's position post factum.

Example: where I grew up, girls were considered to be better at technical disciplines because in class, girls sit still and pay attention while boys clown around and pick fights.

On a larger note, please don't add to the fire saying that women are less interested in any kind of intellectual pursuits, be it aspects of programming or else. This is exactly the kind of dickery that needs to go away.

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"The problem with brain chemistry and other "hard facts" is that they are always cherry-picked to justify one's position post factum"

And therefore, brain chemistry plays no role whatsoever?

"On a larger note, please don't add to the fire saying that women are less interested in any kind of intellectual pursuits"

Why not, if it is true? Is it wrong to say that men are less interested in knitting than women? I'd like to know making true statements about a population is "dickery".

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Brain chemistry most likely plays some type of role, but if you are not in a position to quantify and explain to what degree and under what circumstance in a given situation, phrases like that lend themselves to lazy, armchair-scientist type sentiment that do nothing to raise the level of conversation.

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> but also because a smaller proportion of women are interested in the particular types of analysis that are relevant to programming.

1) That's pure speculation. You have no way to be sure of that.

2) That same speculation is often, and very often used as an excuse for offensive discrimination.

So it's simply the most safe, skeptic, scientific and socially healthy attitude for us. To stay as far away from that speculation as much we can.

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"Gender has significant effects on brain chemistry."

Quantify how sex affects the brain in specific ways that effect the likelihood of developing an interesting in programming and being an effective programmer. Until we can do this, essentially saying "physiology affects your organs" is a pretty empty statement.

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Quantify how sex affects the brain in specific ways that effect the likelihood of developing an interesting in programming and being an effective programmer.

I'm not sure I can be quite that specific, but there are some very well-established differences in the way men and women think, and the way the respond to stress. See here:

http://bible.org/seriespage/biological-basis-gender-specific... [1]

. . . particularly sections V and VII.

I wouldn't go so far as to say we know how gender affects brain chemistry specifically as it refers to programming, only that we know it does affect how we think, process information, and handle stress. And those things seem like they would be relevant. Don't they?

That is to say, I wouldn't say I know ALL of the differences between us are innate, only that I find it plausible that a lot of them are. And that I'm hesitant to treat statistically underrepresented women as necessarily a problem.

[1] You'll have to excuse the bible.org reference; the christian academic community seems to be about the only one in which one can have a serious conversation about innate differences between the genders without getting immediately taken out and shot. You have my assurance that the discussion in the article is interesting and scientific, and comes with copious footnotes to mainstream sources.

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> the christian academic community seems to be about the only one in which one can have a serious conversation about innate differences between the genders without getting immediately taken out and shot.

(Sorry, I don't mean to harp on this too much, but after hanging out around a sociologist with a pet peeve, it has sadly rubbed off on me.)

This may be because in the academic community "gender" has an entirely different meaning that "sex." Sex (and the sex differences) relate to biological differences, male and female. Gender (and gender differences) relate to society, culture, and how one acts or the roles of the masculine and feminine _within that society_. So of course "gender differences" are not going to turn up a lot in the academic world since a self-identifying masculine male should have the same biology as a self-identifying feminine male. Googling for "sex brain difference" or something like that may help (in google scholar or a journal database, probably not plain google).

One other data point is that it is worth investigating women in technology in other societies. According to this (old) study: http://www.frauen.inf.ethz.ch/stats/international_stat_fraue... women are in the majority for a few asian countries.

Just some thoughts.

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You don't have to apologize for linking to a Christian website. Last I checked, Hacker News didn't have a ban on religious links.

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That's like saying that until we can quantify how far Paris is from London, "Paris is far from London" is a pretty empty statement. Pretty sure that people understood that locations can be some distance away from each other before they could quantify exactly how much distance.

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Huh? If someone knows neither where Paris nor London are, then yes, saying "Paris is far from London" indeed isn't useful. Is the distance between them a two hour drive? Do they lie half-way around the world from each other?

Except in pathological cases, we barely know how physiology affects large scale behavior, let alone how particular brain functions influence how one's interests develop and how they excel at activities, especially in the midst of the confounding environmental factors such as upbringing, schooling, and culture. We don't know where Paris or London are on the map.

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But we do know the net effects of sex on developing an interest in programming, namely that there is a negative correlation between being female and having said interest.

The question is what comprises this effect and how much of it is nature as opposed to nurture.

Basically, it depends on if you approach it from a hollistic perspective (where the effect of sex is the compound of physical capability and social influences and whatever else) or a narrow perspective (how does the Y chromosome influence analytical capability).

In the wide perspective, the answer is clear - there are indeed differences in how males and females process their environment (https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:9JNbJB0PhGEJ:...).

In the narrow perspective, it may never be clear for environment influences genetic expression (http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/environmental-influ...). In other words, it's possible that the genetics expressed in a human are themselves socially influenced. Or, for a bigger picture, an individual having a Y chromosome is treated differently by their environment which in turn results in a different genetic expression and, by extension, different preferences and capabilities. Or to put it yet another way, nature influences nuture which, in turn, influences nature. It's a feedback loop.

Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_psychology#Intelligence

To summarise the above link, there is greater variation in adult men's intelligence and they are over-represented at the tail end as well as having a higher average intelligence. So we do indeed know where both Paris and London are at this point, we just don't know enough about geology to guess how they got there.

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> But we do know the net effects of sex on developing an interest in programming, namely that there is a negative correlation between being female and having said interest.

Do we? That observation doesn't appear to account for the fact that the numbers are strongly correlated with culture, nor that women's presence in CS has been declining in Western countries but increasing in others.

This is kind of like saying we knew the net effects of race on personal productivity by looking at Japanese internment camps during WWII — it's a very shallow and facile view of the topic.

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No, it's more like saying "Paris is some distance from London." Is it a significant distance from London? "Far" is more specific than "has an effect," in that it implies the distance is significant. In this case, though, we don't even know if the effect is on the area under discussion — it might not even be relevant — much less whether its magnitude is great enough to matter.

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Brain chemistry is relevant to logical analysis. Gender has significant effects on brain chemistry.

Law involves a great deal of logical analysis and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of capable women lawyers, despite a good deal of institutional discrimination in the past.

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This is a great example that should be mentioned more often.

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Do you mean sex or gender? (Remember, words are assigned gender but cannot have sex.)

I'm not going to try to argue the brain chemistry thing^, but the social/culture aspect is a large problem and (as you bring up) can also partially explain why there are few women as well as men choosing to live effeminately in programming or technical jobs.

^Edit for clarity: Because I think its a totally loaded statement and don't want to even start down that path, not because I agree and assume its fact.

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Women are said to be better at language, but that didn't keep Shakespeare and Gabriel García Márquez from being great writers.

This pseudoscience typically accompanies discussions of gender and racial superiority.

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Yes there is a problem this is obvious. However... as long as women make up such a tiny minority of CS graduates there is no short-term financial incentive for companies to not just market directly to men.

For example, if a certain recruiting tactic would double the number of qualified male applicants, but halve the number of qualified female applicants, it is clearly a short-term gain for a company.

That's why the statement quoted in the grandparent post is wrong.

Obviously it's bad for the industry to have a culture that is so exclusionary of 50% of the population, but that's more of a long-term goal. There is very little any company can do to e.g. increase the number of women graduating from CS programs in the next 3 years, since that number is more-or-less fixed now.

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That's a good point. I suspect that a higher proportion of women in CS would solve a lot of the issues we're seeing right now in regards to sexism.

But at the same time, it's really difficult to attract more women into CS when the atmosphere isn't welcoming of women in the first place. It's a bit of a cycle really.

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Yes there is a problem this is obvious. However... as long as women make up such a tiny minority of CS graduates there is no short-term financial incentive for companies to not just market directly to men.

Many commenters on this site, pg included, have noted that the economics of hiring are rationally biased to false negatives. This makes sense, because the price of false positives is so high. Unfortunately, this tends to accentuate societal factors, such as prejudice.

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I would argue that with developers, the cost of a false negative is higher. It is just that most companies don't understand the loss walking out the door. Interviews are fraught with 1001 ways to get a negative from a top 10 developer. The cost of hiring a bad one and figuring out they are bad is about 2 weeks pay, the cost of passing over a quality developer is the loss of a rare find and probably that developers social circle. Do not underestimate the cost of false negatives in relation to developers.

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2 weeks pay? How is it supposed to work? I believe you are basically stuck with a bad hire for at least one performance review period, plus some time on top of that. Anything less and you have a potential wrongful termination lawsuit on your hands.

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Quite a few organizations hire on a contract basis for a period of time to ensure that it is going to work out for both parties. It's fairly standard practice to avoid committing to the unknown on both sides.

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This seems like it is probably the case. Due to the incentives that drive hiring decisions, individuals and companies may all be making (short-term) rational decisions, with the net result that women are excluded.

The consequences of hiring someone that doesn't fit into a particular company's culture are quite severe -- not to mention potentially expensive. There can be a lot of reluctance, some of it understandable, to hiring anyone who is different in any significant way from current employees. That most obviously includes women, but (at companies where most employees are young and single) also older workers, people with children, etc.

The lack of women is the most glaring, but I suspect if you ran the numbers that there are a lot of other groups underrepresented in software development. It's not so much that women are being specifically excluded, as it is that a certain type of person (male geek, to be blunt) is being specifically sought.

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This is true.

My guess is that the "bro culture" is designed to attract a different population of men, who ordinarily would have gone to Wall Street or similar industries, but are attracted to the present web boom.

When the bubble's over, I predict the brogramming fad will fade. I certainly wouldn't want to work at a place with that culture if I could avoid it, but it seems like an essentially temporary phenomenon.

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You are trying to build a narrative that it's men stopping women from participating in software development. I find that problematic and harmful. Where is your proof, other than pure conjecture?

My own conjecture is that women don't want to do software development because it's boring and difficult. I'm sure they could if they wanted to, they just do not. With a few notable exceptions to the rule.

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It might not be the primary reason but it certainly doesn't help. Back in high school, I was really excited to join the robotics team and I really had a passion for it but I only stayed in it for a year before quitting. I was the only girl on the team and the attitude people took with me was infuriating. It felt like such a boy's club.

Sure, you can just pass it off as "boys will be boys", high school boys are stupid and immature. But even the adult mentors were so exclusionary. I had to fight tooth and nail to be involved in the programming and building aspect of the competition even though just wanted to stick me to making their website look pretty.

It took me a couple of years to get that bad taste out of my mouth. I initially didn't even go into college for a STEM degree before I worked myself up to take Computer Engineering.

When you have experiences like that in high school and you hear stories about sexism in the workforce, it's intimidating to enter a field even if you do enjoy it. I'm glad I made the choice I did but the vibe other women get from degrees like CS isn't conducive to promoting a better gender balance.

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Not that this applies to you, but I have seen a female programmer (co worker) invoke the chauvinist card, when in fact she was no good as programmer.

She wanted to be involved, she wanted to do cool stuff. But she didn't have the basics dialed at all and didn't have the work ethic to pick it up at an accelerated pace.

As far as I have seen the guys in hard fields (as AI and Robotics) are pretty selective bunch and will not allow someone with average skills amongst them. You have to be flat out and you have to impress them with your skills. Be a gal or a guy, but if you haven't done you're homework beforehand then you're not welcome in their club.

On the other hand, competent and driven engineers have in my opinion always been accepted as an equal.

But I have only met a handful of women willing to put in the necessary work.

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> I have seen a female programmer (co worker) invoke the chauvinist card

Incompetent people will invoke whatever card is convenient for them, whether it's sexism, racism, ageism, what have you.

> But I have only met a handful of women willing to put in the necessary work.

If I were to go by my experience of people in tech (which includes non-startup environments), only a small portion of people are willing to put in the necessary work - male or female.

There's a higher concentration of people of people willing to pay their dues in the smaller companies like startups, but I'm not convinced that percentage-wise, the "handful of women" you talk of is any worse than the percentage of men in tech on the whole, which includes the non-startup world.

Remember, the 501s outnumber the "hardcore" people by a huge margin, and a vast majority of the 501s are men.

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> Incompetent people will invoke whatever card is convenient for them, whether it's sexism, racism, ageism, what have you.

Of course they will, but then the pathologic PC people will attack anyone calling them out on it. With this modern attitude that no one should ever get hurt, we are giving a carte blanche to the rotten apples. Just keep that in mind.

> There's a higher concentration of people of people willing to pay their dues in the smaller companies like startups, but I'm not convinced that percentage-wise, the "handful of women" you talk of is any worse than the percentage of men in tech on the whole, which includes the non-startup world.

The handful of women I talk about were absolutely brilliant and could and did go in stride with the best of us guys. And thus they were accepted as a part of the team. I have never thought of a coworker "she is incompetent because she is a woman" but I have thought of a coworker "she is incompetent and expects to get away with it because she is a woman".

Many women often try to play their sex to their advantage when in a bad position. e.g.: I have never heard of a woman demand to be given a ticket by a policeman, when in fact such would be the law.

Tech people just have really low tolerance for bullshit and don't care as much about etiquette. That is all I'm trying to say.

Being politically correct for the sake of it won't do much for quality of engineering being done.

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She is talking about high school for chrissakes. A place you go to even before you go to college, which in itself is a place you go to so you can become good years later.

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I got isolated in kindergarten for not being cool enough to hang out with the cool kids.

I'm not saying that there should be some kind of enforcement to get nerds accepted into society.

I am just saying that you either deal with it or go away.

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As a guy in the tech industry, I myself can't stand working in a "sausage factory".

Homogeneity makes people complacent. The guard comes down, and the 'behaviour filter' that people would otherwise have in a more heterogenous environment disappears.

This type of thing bugs me because I worry that it desensitizes me and makes me careless when I visit clients, or change workplaces.

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Thanks, it is interesting to hear from personal experience what it is like.

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"Women don't want to do software development because it's boring and difficult".

Except it's a well known fact that until the 80's, roughly half of US programmers were women, and all around the world, the percentages of women in computing are growing, not shrinking.

And please don't say that people who stay away from technical careers do so because it's "difficult". You are one conjecture away from suggesting that white and asian males are intellectually superior to everyone else.

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I did not say that software development was not difficult for Asians and whites. Just that it is difficult (and subjectively boring). Period.

What I am saying, is that getting a good paying, stable job is not as important for women as it is for men, so they don't have to collectively sacrifice as much. Which is purely my opinion.

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Getting a good job is not as important for women as it is for men? Are you serious? And why is that, in your opinion?

Two (hypothetically related, depending on your answer) mini questions: Do you think it's equally as unimportant for ugly women? What about lesbians?

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>And why is that, in your opinion?

The rules of sexual marketplace.

>Do you think it's equally as unimportant for ugly women? What about lesbians?

Both are a small minority. Ugly women still can't improve their attractiveness by having a job nearly as much as men can.

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You know, I tried to hint at where your logic breaks down and be a little funny while at it, but you just don't get it. Let me be more direct.

1. It is most definitely not a small minority that would be excluded from high-paying jobs if these jobs are to go only to men, and only so they could use money to get women. You would have to exclude gay men, married men, men with girlfriends, and many more groups that when taken together, would comprise an overwhelming majority.

2. I really hope you take this next point the right way. If you genuinely believe that the formula of the sexual marketplace is money≈sex, you really need some introspection and perhaps a radically different environment - friends, reading material, TV shows, parents... whatever sources you are getting that information from. I am not trying to be glib. You are being misled, and you are the only person who will pay for it in the long term.

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If you take my argument to a hyperbole, it is obviously not going to work. Men and women are not clones of each other. We have different values and different needs. Different challenges. According to those drives we act in the most efficient manner we can. Part biological, part cultural, part rational.

Sexual dimorphism exists. I have seen strong evidence for this.

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> My own conjecture is that women don't want to do software development because it's boring and difficult.

Why would women find this more of a problem then men do? You're just replacing one unproven assertion with another, the latter that women are more sensitive to "boring and difficult" jobs than men are. I can't think of any compelling reason or even any evidence for that, given the number of "boring and difficult" jobs done by women.

Also, given the average salary and demand for developers in the current job market relative to other fields, women -- as a group -- would have to have a rather strong aversion to software development to be avoiding it purely because it's boring and difficult.

I don't see any reason to take that particular conjecture seriously.

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>Why would women find this more of a problem then men do?

I did not say this. What I said that women have more of a choice not to have a career and still succeed in raising a family.

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The census show that stay-at-home women have in general lower education and family income, and are more likely to be Hispanic or foreign-born.

The results indicate it's less of a choice and more of a lack of employment opportunities.

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Also my personal research shows that women value steady employment in long time partners much more than men do.

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> What I said that women have more of a choice not to have a career and still succeed in raising a family.

Yeah, not so sure about that statement either, given economic times.

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I think that's debatable based on geography. You point to nurses and teaching being precedents but that was only true in certain geographies. The low interest in of women in programming is a global phenomenon.

It's important that we discuss the actual cause here if we want any hope in solving this. Let me throw out another one that I find has less weaknesses then the usual arguments: There is a tremendous lack of female programming role models. Yep, chicken and egg problem, but no one said this would be easy. Perhaps what we can do is start celebrating the ones we got more? I'm thinking of Marissa Mayer as a potential starting point but I don't know a lot about this part of psychology.

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> The low interest in of women in programming is a global phenomenon.

I'm not sure that's completely true. I've been told that the gender imbalance in CompSci programs is less severe in India than it is in the U.S., for instance, relative to the overall gender imbalance in their workforce.

But in general it wouldn't surprise me if there is higher worldwide correlation among companies in software development than in other industries, because software development is so new, and because so many of the dominant companies are concentrated in the U.S. Other industries, e.g. healthcare, operate in very different environments from country to country, so you would expect them to be less highly correlated.

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"The low interest in of women in programming is a global phenomenon." Huh. Source? according to this: http://www.frauen.inf.ethz.ch/stats/international_stat_fraue... "there is a wide range in participation in computing by women.... it is difficult to do a direct comparison between countries. ... participation is between 10% and 40% in most countries and courses, with a wide spread in this range. There are some countries and courses where women's participation is below 10%, some with participation above 40%, and a few where women are in the majority." ( I believe in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, women are in the majority )

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It's more than just women. I've been programming for 10 years and I don't like the culture. It's not the brogrammer stuff either. It's more the incredibly negative attitudes and litany of social faux pas.

Programming isn't the only job that pays well and rewards the highly intelligent. Women probably aren't going into software dev because they're socially acclimated enough to realize what a bad deal it is. Software skills change like the wind, and there is always a fresh crop.

Yesterday it was rails, today it's node. People who can hack people like programmers hack computers have far more valuable skills. Social skills don't become obsolete, a rolodex is far more reusable than most pieces of code.

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Build up your own rolodex and be on the list of names people turn to when they need programming work done. Most developers I've met don't really care that you know Rails but not Node. They care that you're a good programmer. It's really only HR departments and lazy companies that strictly adhere to "5 years experience in Node only!"

It also isn't one culture that permeates through all of programming. Go find a place with the right cultural fit for you.

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Yes, doing that now, but as a company not individually. I'm creating it :)

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If holding power over others and perpetuating inequitable power balance in capitalistic structures is your ultimate goal, I certainly would never admit to it as you just did.

As a programmer I mega-cringed when I read this and would certainly never work for you or any company you worked for if I read this.

So please, be more dismissive.

(Re: Downvotes - So I guess we should just treat programmers with derision and those with rolodexes as the bosses, case settled!)

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Probably because people are reading the parent post completely differently than how you interpreted it. Nowhere did I think he was suggesting inequitable power balances. I'm pretty sure he just meant good social, sales, and marketing skills are more important than coding skills.

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You'd dare to be wrong:

http://134.173.180.115/berger/pdf/Halpern2007.SciSexDif.Pub....

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Do you see any evidence that the rank-and-file software developer lives on the far-right-edge of the bell curve?

Software developers are largely male for the same reason that construction crews and prisoners are - rather than the reason Nobel Prize winners in Physics are.

What, if anything, there is to be gained by encouraging women to join men in wasting their lives away in the IT salt mines, is another question entirely.

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What, if anything, there is to be gained by encouraging women to join men in wasting their lives away in the IT salt mines, is another question entirely.

You make more than your peers and your boss. It takes a couple days to land multiple job offers, in any economy, all you have to do is stop saying no. The work is intellectually gratifying and the results are immediately visible. You are largely immune from corporate politics. The list goes on and on.

How can you be stuck in the salt mines when it's been the programmers' market for so long? I am genuinely interested - I hear this sentiment every once in a while and it always baffles me. I've done web development for 10 years (NYC/Midwest) and it's been nothing but gravy. Some lumps, yes, but gravy nonetheless.

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> How can you be stuck in the salt mines...

> The work is intellectually gratifying

Most likely, this is where we differ.

The only programming work that I find truly gratifying happens to be my 100%-non-monetizable life project. (http://www.loper-os.org) Everything else is just a way to pay the bills. That is to say, salt mine labor.

In order to eat and pay rent, I burn my prime waking hours working on things other than my life project. I understand that, given our present social structure, this is unavoidable. But I don't have to pretend to like it. I suppose this makes me a "bad prostitute," rather than a "good" one.

Programming sucks. So I am not particularly upset that there aren't more women doing the work, just as the lack of female coal miners is likewise not a cruel injustice.

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> just as the lack of female coal miners is likewise not a cruel injustice.

It is for someone who really wants to work in a coal mine. (Or, for a more germane example, someone who wants to be an infantry soldier.) Not everyone shares your priorities or ideas on what constitutes rewarding work. Some people might find a well-compensated 9-to-5 job slinging code under fluorescent lights to be just the ticket, and they should get to pursue that to the best of their ability on their own merits.

Restricting certain people from (or pushing certain people into) certain jobs based on their gender, skin color, or other irrelevant factors beyond their control is a fairness issue that transcends the particulars of the jobs that they are being restricted from.

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But where, then, is the agitation for an end to the discrimination which must surely explain (as per Official Truth) the scarcity of female coal miners and infantry soldiers?

Implicit in almost all discussions of unfair discrimination in the programming labour market is the assumption that being a programmer is overall a glorious and pleasant thing, and that a great many people would be happier doing it than they are in their present lives.

Notice that no one is angry that >99% of all persons who have sizzled in the electric chair were male.

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What you describe is a complaint about jobs, corporate culture and how market demands change over time, nothing unique to programming.

If you had to choose again, what would you've done that wasn't 'salt-mine labor' then?

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> What you describe is a complaint about jobs, corporate culture and how market demands change over time, nothing unique to programming

"Market demands"? What part of "non-monetizable calling" do you not understand? I'm not sure it even makes sense for me to talk to you at all. It is like trying to describe 15-dimensional geometry to a Flatlander.

> If you had to choose again, what would you've done that wasn't 'salt-mine labor' then?

I can say only:

"I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." (Charles Babbage)

But if you must know: I'd be an inventor. In the 1880s.

Hey, you asked.

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Sounds like you desperately need a new profession. If you don't do it for love, you're wasting your life.

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I don't think you really understood my reply.

I have a life project. What is sometimes called a calling. (If you don't, you probably cannot process what I am saying and should disregard this post.)

So whenever I am doing some other work - anything at all - other than my calling - to pay for food and housing - I am acting under duress. Which isn't much fun. Of course, some kinds of forced labor suck more than others. I could be felling trees, or laying pipes, or something even more physically unpleasant. So overall, programming for money is far from the worst among possible fates.

And often, even persons who lack a calling and for whom all work is just work, "just switching professions" is not an option. For a different perspective on why many programmers stay in their line of work despite hating it, consider this book: "Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls: True Stories of Castaways and Other Survivors" (http://books.google.com/books/about/Desperate_Journeys_Aband...). It is largely about shipwrecked sailors. One of the more interesting facts about these is how many kept at their profession despite suffering wreck after wreck - witnessing murder, cannibalism, and various other unpleasant things. The explanation offered by the author is that sailors typically entered their trade during childhood, and were largely unfit (by their own estimate as well as that of others) for any other work.

I started programming when I was nine years old. And perhaps you did so, or know those who did, at an even earlier age. This is not necessarily true for all such people, but switching professions after having your whole development as a person wrapped around computing can be like being asked to switch to being left- (or right-, as the case may be) handed, late in life.

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This sounds pretty naive. Just because someone doesn't do something they love now, doesn't mean they're wasting their life. It may simply mean they like eating rather than starving.

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Three things:

1) I don't think it makes sense to scare away any potentially awesome developers. My experience is that the problem is getting enough qualified and motivated people to apply, not sorting through too many applicants. (But I suppose YMMV)

2) Look at the other comments here. I'd estimate that 50%+ of developers are offended by this behavior, regardless of their own gender. I'm a guy, but I would not work for a company that is openly hostile towards women.

3) I think getting the office culture right is critically important for a startup. I think promoting a frat culture among developers is bad for business. If nothing else, imagine what effect it would have on your ability to hire and retain non-developer staff.

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there are a hell of a lot more girls in frat culture than there are in programmer culture.

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The problem is that you're trying to link a recreational culture predominantly consisting of 18-22 year olds with a degree of affluence to that of a lifelong trade career. They just aren't compatible. No one will ever list "10 years of social experience" on a cover letter or resume. It would be absurd.

It's equally absurd to view these two cultures in the same light, or to make one more like the other.

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There is one theory which says that men genetically tend to be more "outliers" while women genetically tend more towards the average.

Thus there are far more men than women who are wildly rich and successful, but also far more men than women who are failures or in jail.

If we're talking about start-ups who need to hire from the top 10% of programmers, who might be from the top 0.5% of the population in terms of logical ability, then this theory would actually partially explain the dearth of female programmers. Again, this is just a theory.

But at the same time, blatant cultural insensitivity certainly isn't helping.

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I'm curious, do you think logical ability is the main thing that separates good developers from bad ones?

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Well I'm just repeating a theory I found interesting, not necessarily arguing for it.

But while programming obviously involves teamwork, communication, etc., fundamentally it really is about building castles of logical processes, and I'd say your "pure" programming skill is limited mainly by one's logical ability.

Slapping together enterprise components might not need it so much... I'm talking more about complex algorithms, architectures, etc.

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What a horrible idea if you need that mystical 1:200 soul to pull it off.

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I dunno... places like Apple and Facebook are very vocal about recruiting only "A" talent, which is probably far less than 1 in 200 people from the general population. From my understanding, Jobs credits the whole execution of the Macintosh to it.

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Sure, they say that. Do they get that? No.

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It's not controversial that aggression scares away the less aggressive as far as I know...

Are women less agressive than men on average? Maybe. Are women less aggressive than the kinds of guys who come up with "Gangbang Interviews"? Probably. Is a sociologist going to get funding for a study that obviously stupid? Probably not.

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Do you really think that all men enjoy this type of culture?

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I would contend if you add women to the men with some social intelligence who would run, not walk from this "opportunity", you're probably killing far past 50% of your audience.

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I think you're missing the point, which is: this attitude, which alienates 50% of humans, handicaps you, and ALL OF US in the development community, by 50%.

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he is including guys who wouldn't work with dickish 'brogrammers'

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> the male/female ratio is nowhere near 50% among technical candidates.

Yeah, the handicap is already baked in.

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Geek culture scares away far more females than frat culture, empirically.

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Interesting and well-written article, but one big problem: why throw in the Siri abortion thing? It wasn't needed to legitimize the author's point, and if anything comes across as technically naive. While Siri contains easter eggs that were manually added by programmers, the vast majority of searches would have to be algorithmic. Siri fails to find an answer to many basic queries, so to say that the lack of a response to 'where can I get an abortion?' is due to a lack of insight on the part of 'male programmers' is specious.

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Yeah, I agree. The results Siri returns are from Google or WolframAlpha, so a lack of information on one subject is not necessarily Apple's oversight. I think that the abortion-directions issue was later attributed to Google's SafeSearch filter.

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Siri uses Google by default. I just searched google local for "abortion", and Planned Parenthood was in fact listed. If SafeSearch filter is turned on, then it should not be finding prostitution providers either.

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Google search results are vastly different these days depending on who (or what) is searching. My guess is that 'who is searching' in this case is a box in a datacenter, somewhere in the midwest.

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I agree with you and think it would be interesting to take a look at the world-view presented by the easter eggs or other special case affordances that exist and how they affect the folks who use the software.

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This problem starts early, too - in my undergrad institution, many of the lectures and programming assignments taught OOP with examples employing beer and women-as-objects-of-seduction. The lecturers - not just TAs, but also adjuncts - would go out drinking with guys in the class from their old frats while ( I was alerted ) speculating as to how I got into Algorithms by sleeping with the professor. TAs discussed with guy students which of the female profs were 'bang-able' and which 'needed to be laid' so someone would 'have to take one for the team.'

No wonder these same people think this behavior is acceptable once they enter the workforce. They're getting it from authority figures from day one. I never experienced anything like this in any other department at uni.

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Account created 45 minutes ago, to post a wildly unlikely and almost certainly embellished if not entirely fictitious anecdote.

What is it about sexism on HN that brings out every troll, sock puppet, white knight, astroturfer, and any other internet message board cliche?

The most sexist thing I've ever heard in a decade of real world work and interactions in the software industry can't hold a candle to what anonymous internet posters apparently see on a daily basis.

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Yeah, I did create this account because this is an issue very dear to my heart.

I blogged about some of this when it happened about a year ago on livejournal, and that post made it to the front page of hn back then. I've experienced a lot of bullshit from brogrammer types. Of course, sometimes there's no bullshit. Some of my fellow CS grad students are awesome to work with. I'm dating one, and he's a champ. Others have 'calendar girls' up at their offices, or make lame jokes like "Do you taste pineapple? That's funny, cause I've been eating it all week." (Which is an oral sex joke, kids). When people gossiped that I'd been sleeping with the Algorithms prof (who was like 65) because I got into the class without taking the prerequisites, other guys came to my defense. There's good and there's bad, and it's certainly not all bad. But some people are really, really awful, even in the real world.

Edit: And to be fair, I go out to the bar on Fridays with my coworkers (fellow grad students), which is where some of these things happen. At my undergrad institution, some of this happened while bowling on our weekly bowling night. Most of this stuff didn't happen at work - it happens at events that are guy programmers and me. If I had kept in social circles outside of my field and only interacted with these people in a professional setting, and never ever networked, I would have been fine.

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Or it could be a real thing, that is common but not absolutely pervasive. I never SEE all sorts of problems that I care about (murders, rapes, etc) but I don't assume all reports are bogus.

Nothing in the post above sounds unbelievable to me.

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Where is this? I went to college at a place where while there are 50/50 in the freshmen class, by graduation it's more 75/25 men women (I'm talking the whole school).

I have never seen this sort of behavior and was TA as well as a student. What campus did you see this at?

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University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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When was all this? I just graduated from there last May. I didn't see a lot of this, but I also didn't look and fore the most part didn't socialize with people in my major. And I did avoid certain professors.

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>... discussed with guy students which of the female profs were 'bang-able' and which 'needed to be laid' so someone would 'have to take one for the team.'

That's just fratboy behaviour. It doesn't have anything to do with the class or the department itself.

It goes the other way often enough as well.

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This was by a grad TA (a school employee) in a public forum. The one female professor who expressed any concern was told basically to stop. If it was just students, that would be one thing. This kid continued to be employed by the department.

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"That's just fratboy behavior" and "It goes the other way" aren't excuses. Certainly not when women are severely underrepresented in the tech industry.

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The brogrammer meme is JUST A JOKE! It's the very opposite of a stereotypical programmer. It's simply taking a stereotype, flipping it around, and poking fun at it.

Instead of being disgusted by jokes about nudie calendars, do something about it. Go give your own presentation. Recruit more women at your company. Turn the boys club into an everyone club.

I'm not saying that everything people are doing is okay, I'm just saying that I think there are more productive ways of dealing with it than being offended.

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It started as just a joke, but I've personally seen more than one CS undergrad living out the brogrammer stereotype because they thought it was cool and was part of "startup culture". No joking involved.

That's what scares me most about the joke. Its becoming a thing because people are too naive to realize that it isn't actually the new wave of best practices from the valley.

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It started as just a joke, but I've personally seen more than one CS undergrad living out the brogrammer stereotype because they thought it was cool and was part of "startup culture". No joking involved.

Various movies marketed to teens have elicited similar "life imitates art" trends. Now it's hoax memes. When I was that age, it was the movie "Animal House."

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I tire of this facet of postmodern culture whereby one can avoid being held to account for one's character flaws and unpopular attitudes by hiding forever behind a veil of ambiguous "irony".

Make a claim in a possibly-ironic tone; see how your audience takes it; if they seem to agree with your overt sentiment, become unambiguously sincere; if they seem to disagree, become unambiguously ironic. Either way, you can adapt your apparent opinions to fit in to your current social group without any risk of reprimand for expressing a dissenting voice.

I sometimes wonder if the perpetually-ironic actually have any thoughts or opinions of their own underneath their layers of dry snark.

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I also find this quality quite disgusting however, I am commenting because I found your diction refreshing.

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Thank you. I've had the idea I expressed in that post gestating in my mind for some time now, so I guess the vague notions were already more-or-less crystallised into crisp phraseology before I even started typing.

To be honest, I was worried I'd get uncharitably compared to Will Self. But then, I always get that feeling when tempted to use the word "postmodern", so I thought I might as well go with the flow and let the pretension fly. ;)

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This [1] was a joke.

This [2] was for real.

  [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Qi_AAqi0RZM#%21

  [2] http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2012/03/how-casual-sexism-put-sqoot-in.php

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#2 was not intended to be for real. It was intended as a joke poking fun at the brogrammer thing, but it backfired because too many people thought they were serious. That's what happens when you step over the line while attempting humor.

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#2 was 100% real. Yes, it was a joke, but it's only the kind of joke you make if you have absolutely no intention whatsoever of inviting female hackers to your event. The humor didn't cross the line, the being explicitly uninviting to women crossed the line.

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You are presuming to have intimate knowledge as to their thought process when they attempted the joke. By inserting your own psyche into their actions, you falsely assume to know that they were malicious in intent. Not everyone thinks the same way you do, or reacts the same way you do. On the other hand, I know Avand personally, and spoke to him shortly after the whole thing blew up.

Hanlon's razor is apt in this situation.

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I saw that Twilio brogramming thing live. While it was intended as a joke, and riotously funny at the time, clearly some attendees (or maybe just Youtubers watching) thought it was something to emulate.

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I think the article conflated brogramming and misogyny in Silicon Valley. The former isn't necessarily bad as could be seen in the hilarious Twilio presentation.

Misogyny is not funny, and it wasn't a part of the Twilio joke - at what I recall of it - as most of it focused on what makes for an annoying programmer. Some misogynists have appropriated the brogramming meme, but it is not an excuse for misogyny. Misogyny is not funny, regardless what the pretense of it is.

"It's just a joke" is straight out of the misogyny flow chart. People are doing "more productive things than being offended" by writing this article and discussing the topic maturely in the comments in places like Hacker News.

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Trying to tell people pulling this crap is wrong isn't doing something?

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According to this guy you should just plow through and and just start recruiting females. It's that easy!

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How many of these people have donated money to women in computing groups on college campuses? How many have mentored high school girls? How many have taught elementary school girls how to program? Did they send recruiters to and women in computing conferences?

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Not really. How often does telling someone they're wrong change their mind?

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I think we've seen n+1 examples of that, some right here on HN. The airbnb saga was a shaming so vociferous that it made them change parts of their business plan. Ditto on just about any torch that reddit or consumerism (hell even /b/ or Anonymous) takes up. Sure, there's more than just shaming when Anonymous does the various things they do, but I think that publicly pointing out wrongdoings is like shining a light on it. The cockroaches will scatter and the mess will be cleaned.

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There's a big difference between saying "it is wrong to do X" and saying "YOU are wrong because YOU'RE doing X." This article is doing the first one, isn't it?

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How else are you supposed to change if you don't know what you're doing is wrong?

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We are not ready for these sorts of jokes yet.

Once a community overcomes its sexism and does start treating people equally then we can start joking about it. However at the moment these jokes give strength to sexists and discourage women. As such, we should not make these jokes yet.

Or to rephrase it "Too Soon"

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Sexism isn't the main reason that women aren't in computing. Sure, it's a reason, but it's not even close to the biggest one.

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Oh? What's the biggest/bigger reasons?

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Women have better options than sitting in front of computer screens in badly lit environments all day.

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The brogrammer meme is JUST A JOKE!

It's not funny, and it never was. Also, this sounds so much like someone who is truly bigoted trying to save face and cover up for their sociopathic tendencies.

I'm glad that many people (including men!) are calling out and ostracizing "brogrammers". The whole brogramming phenomenon is childish at its core and is not welcome in an industry already beleaguered by sexism. If you are a brogrammer please either grow up or leave the IT field to the adults.

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It is a joke because the behaviors portrayed are fictional performances.

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Sometimes jokes can go too far. Jokes are only funny in the appropriate context to the appropriate audience.

More so, there is only so far you can go with irony. If you're a hipster and you drink PBR ironically at the end of the day you're still drinking PBR. The same thing goes if you are projecting the image of a misogynistic workplace.

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> The brogrammer meme is JUST A JOKE!

No, it's an inside joke. There's a big difference there.

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There's a certain irony and distance about it, though. My read of the brogrammer meme is laughing at the concept that frat boys and meathead "bros" can write code.

It's often manifested as smart guys concealing their brains in a fog of conscious, ironic boneheadedness.

The problem is when it crosses the line and becomes a fad to follow, or actually alienating to women in the profession.

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> laughing at the concept that frat boys and meathead "bros" can write code.

More of a reality than a concept.

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> At the startup-focused Grow Conference in 2011, his presentation included bikini-girl images from his calendar. He prefaced the slides with a laughing, "I'm sorry for being sexist. I apologize in advance,"

I read this a lot on reddit. Someone will preface their comment with "I'm going to hell for this" or "Apologies in advance" as if that's supposed to excuse it. I get the feeling it's because these people don't see themselves as ____ist, so when they do something ____ist it's "just a joke" or "I'm not serious!"

I think for us to get rid of this culture, we need to make these people realize they're actually sexist. They're not a nice guy making a sexist joke; they're a sexist guy making a sexist joke, and this is how everyone sees them.

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I agree with you to a degree, but you simply can't put it as strong as you did.

It is absolutely possible to make a joke that is understood as sexist without being one yourself. That's actually the schtick that a lot of comedians go by.

Prefacing your comment with "I'm going to hell for this" is perfectly fine and in most cases, it does show that the person truly understands they're making a comment that could offend others.

Whether or not that person really does appreciate the extent to which their comment can be hurtful and whether or not they really are sexist (to whatever degree) is a different matter altogether. Filtering your output because of others and your true conviction are two different things and you're not doing anybody a favor by forcing a causality here.

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The way that I have always tried to explain this to other people is that it's not a matter of "being sexist" or "not being sexist" (or racist, or whatever). It's a matter of what you actually do.

Whether or not you "are sexist" on some innate level is between you and God, or your psychologist, or whatever. Nobody at work gives a damn, really. What matters are your actions, and in particular the effect they have on others and on the work environment generally. If you do and say sexist things, then there's a problem. Whether you really are or aren't sexist on some sort of deep level is, for the purposes of maintaining office harmony, irrelevant.

It's very rare to find anyone who will actually cop to being racist or sexist, and I'm willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe that they probably really aren't. But if someone quacks like a duck and walks like a duck often enough, they're going to get called a duck.

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I would further say that you'd probably have to distinguish between a person being sexist out of negligence and a 'true' sexist. A lot of "white knighting" falls under the first and can result in people who are absolutely convinced that they are being the exact opposite of sexist, while they can be just as hurtful.

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> That's actually the schtick that a lot of comedians go by.

Would you agree there's a difference between a comedian telling a sexist joke and a respected speaker at a tech conference telling a sexist joke?

> Prefacing your comment with "I'm going to hell for this" is perfectly fine and in most cases, it does show that the person truly understands they're making a comment that could offend others.

However, they didn't stop from making the comment, so I'd say it's even worse: They know what they said is offensive but don't care.

> Filtering your output because of others and your true conviction are two different things and you're not doing anybody a favor by forcing a causality here.

I'm not forcing any causality. If you tell sexist jokes, it's not a stretch for people to assume you're sexist. But all too often we don't; we write it off as "just a joke" because the person did a slight nod to their offensiveness. Instead, we should take it the other way and stop excusing this behavior. It does nothing but alienate women.

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> They know what they said is offensive but don't care.

I think this might be the crux here: If you simply cannot find humor in such jokes, that's just the way it is and I can spend all day trying to convince you that it is possible - we simply cannot resolve this.

But it's not about whether the person telling the joke does or does not care about whether it is offensive. Actually, a lot of comedians tell joke knowing full well and precisely because the jokes are offensive.

> Instead, we should take it the other way and stop excusing this behavior. It does nothing but alienate women.

I don't think this is a problem that we can "solve" just like there is "solution" to human diseases. The complex moral and emotional minefield that is human interaction is like an immune system: A dirty solution to a truly dirty problem. It often sucks, but there is a reason why it's there: Because it just, sadly, happens to be the best solution to a problem.

I fully agree that the "mild" form of sexism that is often laughed away is terrible and a lot of people do a lot of hurt without even noticing a lot of the time. But I don't think there is really a solution other to just being a human and acting appropriately like one.

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>> It does nothing but alienate women.

In addition, there are personal/professional costs too:

* It does nothing but create the perception that you're not a professional worth listening to.

* It also does nothing to make a non-brogrammer want to hire you (or the company you work for) in the future.

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That's the premise of South Park, and why I accept it. They pick on everyone equally. That is the only "fair" way to express that sort of humor.

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Another thing I like about South Park is that they only seem to make fun of things people can help -- they'll make fun of black culture, but not black people.

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What sickens me most is that these people don't believe they're wrong. I won't generalize every individual who's ever made a stupid comment, but I can tell you anecdotally that these 'brogrammers' resent being called out for sexist remarks and turn to like-minded cliques where acceptable discourse includes long-winded rants regarding the harrowing campaign of persecution set upon them by the likes of 'liberal whiteknights' and 'feminazi bitches'.

These guys aren't actively conspiring to exclude women from tech (in fact, they tend to jump at any superficial opportunity to demonstrate the opposite), but they're angry about being called sexist and they really don't want to capitulate to the suggestion that their behavior merits serious adjustment (which is not surprising considering the correlation of ego with 'brogrammer').

The surplus of cash and minor acclaim only emboldens their resolve; there is a subconscious belief that their financial success has conferred the wisdom to authoritatively determine the appropriate bounds of sexual commentary for a professional setting and anyone who can't deal with sexist bullshit can just get the fuck outta tech because the startup is king and sensitive women (and men) just can't handle the heat of 60 hour weeks spent reclined in front of a widescreen LCD.

These chauvinistic kids really need a wake up call, but frankly, I fear the money is just too good for them to ever really care.

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I went to school with these guys. I don't have a lot of sympathy for them, but I do have a little. They did find a place in the sun. Right now their skills match what the market wants. So, like everyone else, they're going to remake the workplace in their own image. Working there sounds like it would be acutely unpleasant, but from what I understand, it's basically the same as a big chunk of finance culture. When tech stops being faddish, those people will go back to finance (which is so demonized anyway that Mother Jones doesn't report on what it's like to be a woman in finance).

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These "I'm shocked, outraged, sick to my stomach." postings make me always a bit uncomfortable.

It seems to me that there are two ways one can approach this subject. On to proclaim that these are intentional acts of portraying females in a negative light and keeping them out of the tech industry. The other, that these are just a bunch of nerds, trying (and in large parts failing) to make coding something "oool" or a "manly" thing to do.

As always the interpretation of these things is to a certain degree based on the personal frame one puts these events in a context with.

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> It seems to me that there are two ways one can approach this subject.

There are a lot of ways you can approach this subject. I'm going to rely on an example I used before[1]. Let's assume that if you're on this site, you probably build some kind of web technology. Were you aware that a portion of your users are colorblind? Did you just do a mental double-check and go "shoot, I should check up on that?"

You didn't actively do anything against colorblind people, it simply wasn't on your radar. You can go through your entire site design, do A/B testing, deploy, get good results, and still be completely unaware of this. When someone comes up to you and says "I'm colorblind, you should add 'OK' to this green button because it's hard for me to use your site without that," what do you do?

"Sorry! I didn't intentionally mean to make it hard for you to use! I deeply regret that you can't use the site."

or how about

"Hey! Chill out! We were just trying to make a good site and the numbers say we're ok!"

Both of those answers sound pretty awful and insensitive. And yet, these are the responses to your "two ways" listed above. Probably the correct answer is "Oh wow, we weren't aware that was a problem. We're going to go fix it, can you tell us specifically what is wrong?"

Which is exactly the kind of response we need to sexism in technology. It boils down to being aware of how your actions make other people feel, and when an issue is brought up you consider it earnestly. When you figure that out, and learn to handle when you haven't, you can stop "being afraid of accidentally offending someone" (itself casual sexism) and you can actually work to make things inclusive.

One great read on this is Ellen Spertus' MIT AI Lab Technical Report[2].

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3772919

[2] http://people.mills.edu/spertus/Gender/pap/pap.html

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What's wrong with the first answer?

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Here's the thing - It doesn't matter.

If you run {startup X}, and your business guy puts out a presentation with women in bikinis that makes one of your female employees uncomfortable, and you don't do something about it immediately, she has a potential sexual harassment claim that is going to cost {startup X} _years_ worth of funding in legal fees and damages. The "oh {business guy} is just a bit awkward and didn't know any better" defense is NOT going to go far in court.

If you thought some piece of software had a chance of failing and costing you millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of distraction, wouldn't you do _everything_ possible to fix it? Legal policy needs to be treated the same way.

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I sincerely hope that this is not what people perceive to be the problem with it. (It's also wrong. Sexual harassment claims require repeated offenses that generate a climate of hostility. Yay, corporate sensitivity/harassment training ;)

The bigger issue is that - should you have a woman on your team - you just told her in not so many words that you perceive women more as a piece of visual stimulation than an actual person. That hurts.

The even bigger issue: You subtly say to all the attendees of your talk that you consider it OK to look at women that way. Enough people do that, you have created a climate of harassment - it just stretches over an entire industry.

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You're right that it shouldn't ever have to be the main reason, my point merely is that the punishment is a critical threat to your business, which is something that I think would strike home even among the most misogynistic members of the tech crowd.

You're wrong about it requiring repeated events [1]

[1] http://www.connellfoley.com/seminar/employharass.html - Search in the page for 'Taylor v. Metzger'. (IANAL, but it's usually better to be safe than sorry when it comes to not being an idiot.)

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True, but it requires extreme circumstances. Unfortunately, the kind of harassment women usually experience is not counted at that. I'll bet money that no jury will consider bikini pictures extreme harassment.

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Or, young males (I am male but no longer so young) are just generally oblivious when it comes to empathizing with others, particularly women. Blame testosterone.

I believe the problem can be curbed by companies that watch out for this sort of thing, but you'll always have a certain unpleasant minority of "boys being boys".

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> It seems to me that there are two ways one can approach this subject. On to proclaim that these are intentional acts of portraying females in a negative light and keeping them out of the tech industry.

I'm not sure I've actually seen this interpretation being presented here or anywhere else (though I veer off blog comments, they are sometimes good, but not worth the risk of reading the Facebook-quality ones). I think it's pretty well recognized that this is the product of both immaturity and stubborn ignorance, which makes it acceptable for too many folks in this industry to just trample over women nonchalantly with their attitudes and ``jokes''.

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This article specifically addresses whether these are intentional acts on the second page, and actually states clearly that they generally aren't:

"The most telling aspect of these incidents, says veteran Seattle developer Christy Nicol, is that none of the company leaders involved appeared to realize initially that they'd done something wrong. They had simply crafted messages aimed at young men, apparently assuming: Who else would be drawn to programming jobs?"

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I'm not sure how that makes it better. The consequences are the same.

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Being a little too old to be a brogrammer (heck, I still remember when the notion of casual workdays was a novelty), I have a simple rule that I follow:

"If you're on the clock, act like it."

That typically means no inappropriate jokes/comments or profanity in workplace communications (email, conversation, slide decks, etc.), dressing appropriately (i.e., casual at work, but not too casual, dressing up for meeting with third parties), etc.

This idea might be considered "old school" here on HN, but it has kept me out of trouble for a long time, and I'm sure it could work just as well for 'brogrammers' as well.

I know that the tech workplace culture is quite relaxed about many types of borderline inappropriate behaviours, but to use another clichéd rule, "just because you can doesn't mean you should".

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I feel the same way, and have instructed people to "be as edgy and offensive as you want on your own time".

This isn't really a culture/society thing. This is a workplace/professionalism thing.

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It absolutely blows my mind that people are still dumb enough to get up at tech conferences and do sexist (in this case sexual) presentations.

A backlash seems almost inevitable at this point. Maybe they figure any publicity is good publicity?

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No, it's "king of the mountain, piss on the peons" syndrome. You mix two parts cash infusion, one part Valley atmosphere, a soupcon of pseudo-hacker swagger, then mix in a big glass and let the "semi-technical biz guy" speak on behalf of geeks.

My pet theory is that there is a super-secret, down-low, unspoken sociopathic streak running through the Valley that is fairly reminiscent of Wall Street: Aloofness and cold cruelty almost approaching either "evil genius" or "autism spectrum". They don't see alot of women in high positions in the Valley, but they hire them for booth candy or front office whatnots. So, of course, they're doubly cruel to women.

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Let's compare the scandals we've seen in the last few months with what is (allegedly) said during the typical day at Goldman Sachs:

https://twitter.com/#!/gselevator

While much of the behavior we've seen is silicon valley is far from exemplary, there really isn't much comparison with wall street, at least not yet.

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As someone who worked in finance and realizes that it also has problems when it comes to these issues, those tweets are exaggerations/parodies which play into the bankers being sociopaths/douchebags trope. Half those things said in the workplace would get you sent to HR in a blink of an eye.

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My feeling is that they probably don't even recognise that they're being offensive; if what's being said here is true, that they basically work out of a slightly more grown-up frat house, it makes sense that they'd believe that kind of talk is acceptable.

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My money would be on something along the lines of, "Yeah, those guys got a lot of backlash, but my presentation is different, it's funny!"

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That might very well be the case, in general.

Though not foreseeing a backlash about "gangbang interviews" at this point strains credulity - the network of tech conference presenters is small and well connected.

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I don't know about that. Some people simply have no idea how crude their own jokes are.

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I didn't realize this was such a big problem. I don't think I've ever met a brogrammer outside of the Internet.

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I've been in the industry for decades and interacted with thousands of developers over this time. I've never seen, met or heard a legitimate report of a brogrammer, being an immature, extroverted party going frat house programmer. It's basically an ESxP on the Myers-Briggs. That personality type doesn't get programming or design at all.

I have definitely seen this personality type in sales and executive positions though, also banking and finance, and among VCs.

But among programmers? No.

Now let's talk about why the US has fewer female programmers than Russia, China and India since that's not always been the case.

The work environment is the reason, and also pay. Hostile and confrontational gang-attack style interviews such as the person mentioned in his talk (and spoke out against) are a turn off for many, and women more than men. The writer walked out on the talk before he got to his point, but it sounds like, by criticizing the practice of gang attack interviews, and about to talk about attracting women, he may have been about to point out that fraternities that treat women as peers and respectfully end up with more female interest than fraternities that engage in gang assaults. Comparing recruiting to courtship is not a bad analogy. People don't like being abused and high quality people are going to avoid being in relationships, whether work or personal, where abuse is occurring, such as the many places that have gang attack style interviews.

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Exactly. Everyone has worked themselves up into hysterics over the individual words that he used, while failing to recognize what he was saying.

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Irony seems lost on the whole tech community lately...

Brogrammers are funny for three reasons spanning three groups:

1) The irony that hacker culture has adopted the mores of frat culture. 2) That people think 1 is actually serious and adopt the faux culture. 3) A truly clueless group that thinks the whole gig is for real and "offensive".

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4) Facebook.

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> I don't think I've ever met a brogrammer outside of the Internet.

Precisely.

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Nerds don't have to bro to make women want to go.

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Do these companies not have HR departments? Occasionally idiotic things slip out from employees at bigCo's too, but they're swiftly dealt with. (Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of examples of hideous sexism at big companies, but I haven't ever had a job that didn't present a very clear sexual harassment policy on the first day.)

I'd have to think that the very words "uncomfortable work environment" would strike fear into the hearts of any investors, far more than any competitive threats.

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Of course they don't, they're a fucking startup. They don't have pointy haired bosses or 900 page corporate manuals outlining when it's OK to take bathroom breaks.

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That's _entirely_ different from "If you do anything that will make anyone of {these protected classes} uncomfortable by saying/doing something relating to {their protected class} membership, we could be sued for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and you will be disciplined".

HR lawsuits are a _huge_ risk, _especially_ for a small company, it seems like a no brainer for people smart enough to run an internet company not to know that a piece of paper and a clear set of instructions, and dealing with this stuff appropriately could save them millions down the road.

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I agree with you, but set aside the risk of a lawsuit. Creating an office environment where some people feel uncomfortable or bullied is just wrong. It's also bad for business.

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Absolutely!

I guess that I'm not surprised that people could want to set up environments that I consider wrong, or stupid, etc; that happens all the time.

My surprise is that a culture dominated by graduates from elite colleges who grew up with American norms can be completely blind to the idea of sexual harassment/protected class lawsuits.

Maybe it will just take one promising startup _in our industry_ to get totally sunk by a big lawsuit to really help change things, but if so that's a sad statement.

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Sure, go ahead and sue me for my money that doesn't exist! Paper millions != real hard millions

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There's not enough women for people to worry about it.

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Oh please, this isn't black or white. HR dept are not all like that and are beneficial for companies to have. Companies should not. think that the only options are "don't protect women" and "900 page manuals about bathroom breaks"

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For a startup that has minimal chance of ever getting the capital to get off the ground it is black and white. I'm not talking about a company with 200 employees and a Series C.

Playing company can certainly bleed you dry before you ever get a chance to build something that can sell.

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You can get HR paperwork from a third-party web startup for like $30/head or whatever, just like every other little productivity tool startups are all buying from each other in the Silicon Valley bubble.

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also, don't they have marketing teams that might want to protect an image they work so hard to build.

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No, lots of these companies might be half a dozen people and not need or have the work for a dedicated HR dept.

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I've been a "nice guy" my whole life, and sometimes it's socially detrimental (read: being too nice to girls that were hoping I'd be more than nice). At some level, I find the idea of brogramming attractive. Yes, I said it, and I know how awful that is. But consider that some very nerdy, possibly more insecure guys could look at this culture and decide they want to be part of it. They get to maintain their nerdiness and love of coding while making social changes that elevate them, at least in their mind.

I've never wanted to join a frat because they all seemed like idiots, but I can't say I haven't been jealous of them for the girls that seem to hang around.

All that being said, do you understand what I'm getting at? No, I don't wish for hipster sunglasses and drunken weekends. I am what I am, and typically that means I'm too shy and/or nice to girls for my own good. But at some level, the brogrammer culture looks cool to a guy like me.

I hope that makes sense and adds something to this discussion, it seems like most people are a bit older here and only approach it from that perspective.

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I'm not saying this is happening to you, but for the longest time, I had this idea in my head "I'm nice, women don't find me attractive, therefore women don't find nice guys attractive. Look at that guy over there, he's an jerk to everyone and women love him. WTF?" It's easy conclusion to come to, but it's a dangerous logical fallacy that can cause you to hyper-focus on the wrong thing.

Different women find different things attractive, but one thing that is almost universally unattractive is desperation and a lack of confidence.

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Only one minor point from me: the Dan Shapiro quote is a bit off.

> To literally handicap yourself by 50 percent is insanity.

From the figures I've seen, the handicap is in the 25-30 percent range based on the percentage of women in the industry.

But I like his line of thinking. It's an old libertarian argument too: racism and sexism will be rooted out the market by those smart enough to take advantage of the inconsistencies in the labor pool. It's a tremendous opportunity if it's as bad as it seems.

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Only certain types of men would be attracted to this type of culture. It's very possible the handicap is more like 75%.

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23-30% seems pretty high. My graduating class (big public university) had less than 10%.

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Yes 20% now. But think long term. If we get rid of the sexism then there will be more women in tech. There is a shortage of programmers, so we increasing women increases possible workforce, good for companies.

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I'm the shirtless guy in the top-left photo. I feel pretty bummed that something we did to parody the ridiculous 'brogrammer' movement was used in this context : (

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It's a ridiculous article leaping to ridiculous conclusions. Don't be too bummed.

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I find it fascinating that being offended entitles people to extra credibility and lower standards of proof. It would be interesting to imagine a world being offended made you less credible, and forced you to have higher standards of proof.

(Incidentally, can anyone think of a case where you've smacked your head and said "Wow! If only I'd given more credence to the people who are most emotional about this stuff, I would have made objectively better decisions!")

I'm pretty bored of bro culture in general, and startup bro-culture in particular, but the dialogue here seems broken.

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Not that fucking Siri canard again. It was debunked repeatedly. The reason Planned Parenthood wasn't being found by the person's query is they were looking for "abortion provider" or something along those lines and Planned Parenthood wasn't listing itself under those terms. It had NOTHING to do with sexism on the part of the developers.

Shame on the author.

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I don't know of the specifics, bit I would have also assumed that since abortion is a slightly controversial issue now, that Apple blocked it. They don't want porn on app store, so I assumed that they blocked abortion providers aswell.

The other reason I find this "siri sexism" theory hard to believe is how the OP phrased the complaint. "... the male programmers didnt think to include abortion ...". Does the OP really think that everything in Siri is hand entered? That a bunch of (men) sat around and wrote out everything that Siri could be asked? The OP knows about search engines right?!

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They didn't block it. The actual problem was identified and it was that the person throwing a fit was searching for terms that Planned Parenthood didn't list themselves under.

There was no action on Apple's part, deliberate or otherwise, that caused it.

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Yeah that makes sense. When I first heard about the "scandal", I presumed it was Apple erring on the side of caution and banning porn and abortions.

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I just searched google local for "abortion provider", and Planned Parenthood was in fact listed.

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Just want to say - I am not that Matt Van Horn. (I've met him, though, and I think the article is intentionally trying to show him in the worst possible light to drive more page views.)

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So your name is Matt Van Horn, but you are not the Matt Van Horn from the article, but you've met him and he's actually a pretty good guy? That is some coincidence right there.

Regardless of what kind of person he is, the presentation he gave was in poor taste and deserves to be ridiculed. Attacking the writer or publication for wanting to "drive more page views" doesn't change the fact that he gave a sexist presentation.

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Yeah - the coincidence is how I know him.

me: http://mattvanhorn.com

him: http://mattvh.com

Also, I did not see the presentation, so I can't comment on it firsthand, but as portrayed it looks to be in pretty bad taste. I don't know Matt that well, mostly through social media, but I can say that he's never come across as a knuckle-dragging misogynist. So ridiculing the presentation is fair, but trying to make him the face of the problem that is very widespread in the industry seems a bit unfair. (Not to mention this is all going to come up in Google searches for me, a programmer (not brogrammer) who lives and works in the bay area as well. /selfinterest )

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All right, let me get this straight. So this guy gives a speech criticizing gang bang interviews, and people walked out because they don't like the term "gang bang".

Or is it because they are so addicted to gang bang interviews that they aren't willing to give them up and are offended by anyone criticizing the practice.

I also despise gang bang interviews. There is no advantage to them and they should be stopped.

I also admire this guy for having the balls to come up with the disparaging and offensive term "gang bang interviews", because it does a great job of reframing the discussion about this practice. I will definitely start referring to them as "gang bang interviews" myself when mocking the practice.

Cheers!

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I really hope you're just trolling, I hope no one here is actually this obtuse.

But just in case...

Referring to them as "gang bang interviews": * implies an equivalence between having several people take it in turns to overpower and rape you, and having several people take it in turns to ask you questions * brings up the topic of rape in a context where people are expected to laugh * brings up the topic of rape for no good reason

Can you really not see how this would create an unpleasant experience for someone (ie most women) who's been taught since age 12 to fear the possibility of being raped at any moment? Can you not see how this would create a potentially triggering experience, one which would wipe out any benefit from attending the conference, for an assault survivor?

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Not trolling and I take exception to the implication that my point is so worthless.

There are many parallels. As you point out the interviewee cornered in a room and find themselves attacked by one person after another. Most of the interviewers have the agenda to discredit and intimidate the interviewers whose looks or ethnicity they just don't like. If the person "looks cool" though then they go easy. It's hostile and confrontational and the interviewer is expected to take the abuse and not fight back or they are not demonstrating teamwork, where teamwork in many of these companies means being a passive beta that accepts abuse. Very different from talking one on one and having a chance to document one's competency.

Gang bang interviews are a form of violence, they are wrong, and they should be stopped. No one should defend gang bang interviews in tech. Or in any other fields, but gang bang interviews are prevalent in tech mostly, I've never seen the practice in any other field.

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The point isn't worthless, but it's being presented in a jaw-droppingly insensitive way.

Would you dare to say what you just said to an actual rape survivor? Are you that emotionally tone deaf or just misanthropic? Having a bunch of people ask you questions in a way you don't like, in a context where you're free to leave at any time, is not a form of violence. Maybe it's a form of aggression but not one that can credibly be compared to rape.

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My problem with your line of thinking is that as more and more people are silenced because of insensitivity, our freedoms are eroded away.

What he says is insensitive, by why can't we just be adults and ignore it?

After all, pretty much any article on HN involving legalizing MJ offends me, but I wouldn't go to my HR department if I heard people talking about it in the workplace.

Or are you saying I should? When does it end?

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I agree with Phillip Pullman when he says that "nobody has a right to never be offended." and that people should be free to say things that may be offensive, especially on their own time.

The simple fact that you've been offended isn't reason to go to HR. You go to HR if you're being harassed or if people are actively creating a hostile work environment. It correlates with being offended, but it's not exactly the same thing.

If people were harassing you about your MJ legalization stance (or anything, for that matter), then it probably would be appropriate to go to HR about.

When does it end? Right there. Easy.

As far as "silencing" goes, I'm assuming that the commenter above isn't trolling and honestly doesn't know that what he's saying is profoundly insensitive. In an intellectually honest community, people can have discussions around what would and wouldn't be considered insensitive, especially when that's the basic context of the discussion.

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It's a fair hypothesis.

I know a few rape victims. I was able to get ahold of two of them and talk it out.

Their opinion was the described interview tactic does not sound like something they would want to go through and it is reasonable to speak against them. Both also mentioned that gang bangs are not equivalent to gang rapes, differing in consent.

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That sort of seems to dissolve the parallel between interviews-by-committee and actual gang bangs, though.

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Does it though? interviews-by-committee are consensual too...

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"If people were harassing you about your MJ legalization stance (or anything, for that matter), then it probably would be appropriate to go to HR about."

I'm not talking about being harassed. I'm talking about just mentioning it. Just like the girl that wrote that bot that was here on HN and just like the discussion here. Using the term "gang raped" isn't being harassed personally.

It doesn't end here because people will go to HR and get you fired for just mentioning something they deem "offensive".

That's why I talk about silencing. Some people just can't ignore it and want to get the other person silenced. This same type of person has gotten radio hosts fired as well.

I've seen this happen in almost every workplace where I've worked in the past 10 years.

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I've seen this happen in almost every workplace where I've worked in the past 10 years.

You've actually seen people get fired based entirely on a single complaint about a single non-harassing offensive remark? I personally haven't seen anyone fired in this way. It's possible that this phenomenon is pervasive and I'm just ignorant, I guess.

But I'll be honest and step forward and say it: some kinds of speech should be silenced in a professional workplace, (yes, even startups). Sexist or racist or any other sort of othering language is neither appropriate nor necessary.

I know what this means. I'm generally a moderate person, but I do hold some pretty extreme views. I know that even though I have free-speech, I don't have consequence-free-speech and I am mature enough to silence myself when needed. The things that are OK for me to say over a beer with a friend on Friday night aren't OK for me to say around the water cooler on Monday morning. That's just part of being a professional.

If you want to be offensive and edgy, that's great. I love offensive and edgy. Just don't do it at work.

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I find this whole brogrammer phenomenon ridiculous. It seems that it was a joke but now people start taking this stuff serious. I feel really embarrassed for people who describe themselves as brogrammers

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I am not so quick to blame the people who call themselves that. Sure, some 'brogrammers' are sexist pigs who lack self awareness, but I get a strong feeling that the majority of them are just regular smoes who are looking to avoid the alternative programmer stereotype that is thrust upon them by society at large: 'doesn't shower, and likes science fiction a bit too much'.

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yes I get that but how about going to gym, being groomed and well dressed and well versed WITHOUT conforming to the Bro stereotype, you know...like a INDIVIDUAL

It's not like you have the choice between being a BROgrammer or a PROgrammer. You can also be an Software Engineer that doesn't conform to either stereotypes or "subcultures" if you would call it that. People who call themselves brogrammes seem to lack the creativity to adopt a personal style that combines the best of both worlds: a smart, well dressed individual that enjoys working out without making a big fuss about it.

/rant

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Or they could just decide not to make their career their personal identity. I rarely feel the need to go out of my way to talk about my career, or tell people what I do, unless asked, in situations where I know their line of work has nothing to do with mine.

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The trick with stereotypes is that you don't have to opt-in for people to apply them to you. Be an individual... and people will still stereotype you.

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I think that non-tech people, especially recruiters, could be responsible for taking something like this and running with it. Recruiters, especially non-internal ones, are often grasping at straws and they may hear something about "brogramming" and take the concept and run with it thinking that they can seem cool to recent grads, younger developers, etc.

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I don't think anyone seriously describes themselves as a brogrammer. It's all a big joke that some people just don't get.

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"It's all a big joke that some people just don't get."

You could say the same thing about hipsters, but they are still a real part of the culture.

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My problem with Van Horne's presentation is not that it was sexist or offensive, which it was, but rather that he made himself (and path) look like frat boy douchetards.

Here's the VP of Business Development for a company valued at $250MM, and he acts like a child. The sexism, to me, is less repugnant than the notion that an idiot like this would have such a high degree of authority in such a highly-valued company.

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What's interesting about the brogramming phenomenon is it seems less about programming, and more about how to be what most would consider a pompous idiot (I am being kind with that term, another would be 'd* bag'), who just so happens to program. The implication here is that programming is not cool unless you are a brogrammer. I think this shows a lack of understanding or awareness about the basic philosophy of programming (see: pompous idiot).

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Path... Uninstalled.

If this is how there "executives" think, I'm sure they could care less about the ethical use and protection of user data.

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Did you miss the part where Path was caught hacking users phones to steal their addressbooks?

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I did miss that one - I guess I uninstalled too late but that paints a pretty complete picture of the company.

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Two things:

First of all, this isn't programmer culture, it's executive culture. MVH got to the position he is in because his world view matchs the world view of executives and VCs in the industry.

Second, I'm amazed that people can be critical of 'bro' culture in this article, but when Peter Theil's course material appeared here, people were supportive of it, even though it was essentially an intellectual argument that this is the type of culture you want to promote at a startup.

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Let's pound on programmers, they're an easier target than the bankers.

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How much of this is a real issue versus something that is so incredibly annoying that any trace of it feels big? I haven't met a single 'brogrammer' in my professional life yet...

Let the idiots filter themselves out. Obviously they love attention or they wouldn't be doing these things. No amount of negative press on Mother Jones will fix that. The only way is to make it personal: if you encounter this behavior personally, say something.

That being said, our society as a whole is pretty sexist too. I don't agree with it, but subcultures tend to reflect at least some elements of the encompassing culture. Any male dominated field (think about truck driving or construction) will inevitably have this problem I'm sure.

Speaking of truck driving and construction, you don't hear much from those fields about needed more women in those roles. I truly wonder why that is.

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Well you still have job adverts from big boys like twitter saying 'responsible enjoyment of beer' as a prerequisite.

https://twitter.com/jobs/positions?jvi=ooE7VfwO,Job

If that's not appealing to the frat boy crowd then I don't know what is.

Not to mention the fact that a lot of people don't actually drink ( I know hard to believe! ), or have a life that doesn't involve drinking all the time. As someone who's been there and got the T-shirt I get jaded when I see things like this. A lot of the best coders are past the 'frat boy' stage and prefer a mature working environment when they see things like this it sends alarm bells ringing.

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There's a radical difference between a grown up workplace that sips a couple of high quality microbrews at Friday happy hour (my most recent workplace), and a frat house doing keg stands.

And there's a lot of room in between the extremes.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a social culture that enjoys a few beers after a hard day of work. On the contrary, it builds bonds between co-workers and leads to better work product.

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"a grown up workplace that sips a couple of high quality microbrews at Friday happy hour" is exactly what I think of when I see the phrase "responsible enjoyment of beer".

"The frat boy crowd" approach is completely different -- irresponsible enjoyment of being drunk; the beer is incidental.

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It would obviously exclude Muslims, so might be viewed as discriminatory.

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As long as there are alternatives provided - e.g. soda or juice - it should be OK for Muslims and other non-drinkers. Unless the very presence of alcohol is an issue.

Note that in the workplace I mentioned, the CTO (a co-founder of the company) was a life-long non-drinker and participated enthusiastically in after-work social events that involved responsible use of beer and other alcoholic drinks. He just drank soda or water.

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As long as there are alternatives provided - e.g. soda or juice - it should be OK for Muslims and other non-drinkers

Yes probably.

It's all a continuum. Saying pre-req: "enjoyment of beer" is basically "No muslims". Having a lot of social functions depend on beer could be an issue. Imagine the high power workplaces of the past (and now I'm sure) where business decisions were made in the strip club, which women would feel uncomfortable in. Something like that for muslims could be consured as a weak form of sectarianism, and potentially make the employer somewhat liable.

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It's a "plus", not a prerequisite. I really don't see a problem with that one? I used to work at Dean Kamen's DEKA (the place that made the Luke arm and the Segway). It was very un-frat boy crowd. Some Fridays were declared "Beer Friday" and at 4 PM everyone would shuffle into a room and have a couple beers and converse about their projects and ideas.

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I really don't see a problem with that one?

It excludes Muslims? Religious based discrimination is illegal.

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Because as we all know, women don't like beer.

My company has a fully stocked bar. We don't force people to drink, but we have plenty of employees (including women) who enjoy it especially after a long day or in celebration of something.

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What is sexist about 'responsible enjoyment of beer'? For the record, I agree that sexism is a huge problem in tech but plenty of women enjoy beer and it's pretty ridiculous to suggest that any mention of beer is an automatic appeal to men.

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It implies that a drinking culture is important within the company. This tends to appeal to "bros" moreso than other groups and can be a major turnoff to most others.

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It also would exclude Muslims, and could be viewed as religious discrimination.

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What about women who feel empowered by being admired? Who sincerely are much more numerous than those shouting few defaming a really common thing, appreciating women. Yes, there are women who feel badly when they are not admired for their beauty. That said,

Why should we care about those guys losing 50% (or not) potential employees. The only reason I see is those holier-than-thou people just want to impose their view on you. If those views are better the guys will choose them. With our current social decorum, I guess they will. I love freedom of speech.

I personally would have not apologized in the position of Path but I would also not have done what they did in the first place. Treating women that way is not the right way get to them in my circles.

I really don't see where the complaint on Geeklist came from. What about all those music clips/GoDaddy commercial?

It's such a big fuss to me because I read it on HN. I got to stop reading these decorum stories and be more productive.

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If you look past the horrible sexism I see an actually different undercurrent going on here. The clash of cultures is not between these "brogrammers" and women, but between brogrammers and "geek culture".

Geek culture has for various reasons dominated the technology sector for the last couple of decades however the risk and reward situation involved in startups has been attracting a different type of crowd, the brogrammers. The geek culturists feel threatened by this new crowd and so attack them by accusing them of sexism (a valid criticism) as it goes against one of the core geek tenets of tolerance towards others.

I on the other hand, view the inclusion of different subcultures in the tech industry, regardless of how they act, to be a positive thing. I hope more subcultures will come along which will continue to break up the dominant stereotypes in the tech industry (and hopefully address the gender imbalance at some stage ... bring on the sisgrammers!).

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I personally wouldn't be looking for faux-bro culture in a startup, but you should expect people who have common goals+values and move/talk/dress alike to bond. This has value (sure, you still want diversity in thinking/problem solving - but in culture? not directly helpful).

So, hiring or soliciting hires on the basis of cultural compatibility, where legal, is just a tradeoff. You lose by turning off or dismissing part of the total pool, but if the culture is good, you get more out of those who are compatible with it.

Copying the latest fad culture is counterproductive. The companies piling on without any authenticity are idiotic. They'll end up with dregs pretty soon if they all keep going to the bro well (which I assumed was ironically intended - who knows any sincere bros?)

Of course, ironic culture is real (ironic) culture.

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I was reading this article with an open mind until the SIRI issue was brought up. This is because the groups involved were not listing themselves as abortion providers, but as family planning clinics. Siri can't read minds (yet!). It makes me question the motivation behind the article.

I think everyone realizes that there are far too few women in technology. The thing is "brogrammers" are not at fault here. Girls being pushed a particular way in school is. It is a larger cultural issue.

I will be the first to say that 'brogrammers' or whatever seem a little like dumbasses, but people need to stop taking themselves so seriously and get a sense of humor, aswell.

In my experience females in tech are celebrated.

This to me isn't a gender related issue, but a small general issue being blown out of proportion.

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It's interesting that these 'sexism' articles draw huge number of comments. Usually that would mean there are two strong sides arguing. But since they are almost always one sided, I don't see the reason for this much of 'attention'. Whats the point in arguing, when there is no one to argue with...

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The same guys ranting in here about how feminist they are are also in other threads posting about how unprofessional people are who work 8 hrs and leave at 5 to go to their kid's soccer practice.

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Yes, seeing how many times you can use the word "misogyny" in a sentence does seem to be the new performance art.

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It seems like there are a lot of differences of opinion on this page, aren't there? The fact that hardly anybody is ever going to say they're in favor of sexism doesn't mean there isn't any disagreement, or that there isn't anything to talk about. Clearly a lot of people think this is an incredibly important issue for the community, and a lot of other people believe it's a distraction that at worst is hurting a lot of people through an unfair application of political correctness.

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Using bikini shots in a presentation is over the top but the rest of the article seems a bit petty.

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I don't think this is really a Silicon Valley problem so much as it's a society problem in general. We technophiles are just much more inclined to bitch about it on the internet.

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Sqoot and Geeklist may or not be sexist. If you think they are, respond accordingly by not applying for work with them, not using their products or actively campaigning against them.

But don't assume that they're not allowed to be "sexist" (in quotations because what they've done isn't really "sexist", more like immature). They can run their companies any way they choose, within the laws of the land. They are under no obligation to cater to women.

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They can run their companies any way they choose, within the laws of the land.

The laws of the land are pretty clear about creating hostile work environments.

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How big is this problem? A number or percentage of programmers would help to quantify things. Are all these blog posts about 10 programmers, 10% of programmers?...

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This is not sexism--it's bad taste. A marketing guy that can only use sex to sell sucks as a marketing guy and I'd expect more people to jump on that aspect of the story. (I realize I'm probably jumping the gun, and he could have instances of marketing brilliance).

What Sqoot did was kind of sexist--implying that women were only good for getting beer. What most of these other instances have been are just bad taste.

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There is no one commonly agreed-upon definition of sexism. Also there is degrees of sexism. From "We don't hire women" to subtley making it uncomfortable for female employees to actual gender equality. Things are not Black or White. There is a continuum between "Saudi Arabia style" and gender equality.

(This applies to most -isms aswell)

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The term "hogrammer" is being used to justify the term "brogrammer"? That term seems ridiculously offensive in and of itself.

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Startup = Punk Band.

The worse they behave the more publicity they will get, the more people will know about their product. Plus the Techcrunch/Pando Daily's/Motherjones... of this world need something to talk about.

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the age of the Punk Startup.

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...except that startups are businesses with fiduciary responsibilities to their investors and shareholders and a legal obligation to obey employment law including not committing or tolerating gender discrimination, harassment, or a hostile work environment.

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That's a pretty cynical view of punk bands. Sure, some were behaving badly for publicity. Some were behaving badly because they wanted to behave badly. Some were just about the music.

I, for one, DO NOT welcome the new Punk Startup overlords.

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As an old balding guy working for an East Coast non-profit, I have to ask: how much of this goes on? Is there enough to be a problem, or is this just a meme that has caught a lot of people's attention, and will disappear once we lose interest and get excited in something else?

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Well crying about a certain personality or type of person crowding into your formerly insular world is hardly going to accomplish anything.

The context is a competitive business landscape so let the competition's results sort it all out.

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sexists should be ostracised, and women allowed to hack in peace.

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"Adding Value as a Non-Technical No Talent Ass-Clown."

haha, I love this guy

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Such people are scum. And, everyone has an individual decision to make whether to associate with them -- and thereby enable them -- or not.

Here's the other thing to consider: They are not just sexist. They are classic users/abusers. And that "user" attitude you see them displaying, and perhaps manifesting (though there's probably a fair amount of braggadocio as opposed to effective execution) towards women? Even as a guy, they'll manifest it towards you -- in a second, if they see an advantage.

In short, these are not pleasant people to deal with. My individual choice, enhanced by a few learning experiences, is to avoid getting involved with them -- in any fashion -- in the first place.

And to the potential employer I'll say that, yes, for me this is a non-negotiable "walking point".

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TL;DR; A guy made some jokes anybody would fine perfectly acceptable (if not ho-hum), and a few tight-arsed politically correct prudes walked out as if he was citing from the Main Kampf, in order to show how anti-sexist they are.

Political correctness: or why should the far right monopolize all the moralizing, fear of sexual references and plain old dirty jokes? Progressive people can be prudish squares too.

Oh: and those kind of jokes can be blamed for not many women pursuing a programming career. Like, you know, how video games make kids violent, and lawyer jokes make people not follow a lawyer career...

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Probably a dozen people walked out of this SXSW presentation before I did (no more than 15 minutes in), I assure you they didn't find it acceptable.

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"A guy made some jokes anybody would fine perfectly acceptable" I don't find those jokes "perfectly acceptable", not even close.

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Yes, I can see how a joking mention that "I secured a position in a company buy sending the cofounders nude pictures" can be considered controversial and unacceptable...

in rural Utah, that is. Comedians, from Lenny Bruce to Carlin have used far more controversial stuff --are we, tech people as a group more backwards than the 60's and 70's people that persecuted them?

(That he wasn't a comedian is not a reason to not allow the guy his joke. Or, are there levels of humor only allowable to comedians? I'd take my conferences with any grain of humor one would like to put in them, thank you).

Seriously (or maybe not), humor has to be judged for what it is, not as a manifesto or an agenda.

For example, your "Proposal to make unittest2 more accurate". People could take offense to that, especially if it was presented at a conference "what's with the profanity", "where's his professionalism" etc. You would consider that justified?

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Sorry didn't see this got a reply until now. I hear what you're saying and being a big Carlin fan I agree that "any subject" can be made funny, it's the intentions behind the words, etc.

Perhaps it's a double standard on my part, but the sexism in our industry is poisonous to our future and I think we would all be better off if we considered these topics to simply be off limits.

As for PEP712, while I wouldn't present it at a conference, I would be ok with whatever flack I received due to using the first two letters of a profane word.

However, I would also expect to be spit roasted online and hopefully in person if the proposal was to pop up a nude porn pic if all of the tests passed.

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a) These "jokes" are beyond unacceptable.

b) Violent video games do increase aggression in kids, it took less than 2 seconds to find dozens of journal articles on the subject.

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>a) These "jokes" are beyond unacceptable.

Well, I accept them 100%. And millions of people too, if I judge from every comedy show, comedy movie, joke book, etc.

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> Well, I accept them 100%.

I think that says more about you than it does the jokes.

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Yes, it says a lot. For example that I can take a joke, that I don't agree with the PC hysteria, that I am not a prude, that I like free speech to remain so even if its my opponent that's doing the talking, etc.

It also says that I don't like progressive squares and prudes as much as I don't like far-right nuts and prudes.

It also says that I'm not for censorship and hypocrisy.

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Sexting, rainbow parties, jenkem, and brogrammers. All of a piece.

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You clearly missed the job ad a few months back explicitly requesting a "brogrammer" to fit in with the company culture. Sexting is also quite real (why would MMS be the one medium by which people choose not to send naked pictures of themselves?). So unless you have good proof of rainbow parties and jenkem, you're way off.

Note for my rather ignorant downvoting friends: This was a real job ad from a YC company. It used that exact phrasing. Downvoting me doesn't make it stop being real. Perhaps you should deal with your feelings instead of clicking down arrows to make comments go away when they make you feel uncomfortable.

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I don't know how to refer people to the guidelines without appearing either rude or condescending... but they do say:

Resist complaining about being downmodded. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

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I admit I'm guilty of that at times, but in this particular case, I was not complaining about being downvoted — I was suggesting that the downvoters reconsider their motivations. It was a sincere comment. You will note that nowhere in my comment did I whine about the unfairness of the downvotes or bemoan my lost magical fairy points.

I don't know if I'd venture to call it engrossing reading, but at any rate, I think it's less boring than recitations of the guidelines.

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You threw insults at whoever downmodded you -- you baselessly asserted that they're ignorant, hiding from their feelings, and only downmodding you because you made them uncomfortable. That's a pretty dramatic reaction to someone taking away some of your imaginary internet points.

Sure, it's not complaining or whining per se, but it has exactly the same effect -- whining and insults are, by their nature, intended to provoke an emotional reaction, and so drive the conversation further away from calm & reasonable. And calm, reasonable conversation is what sets HN apart from the rest of the 'net.

Nice tu quoque, by the way ("...less boring...").

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There was nothing to disagree with. What I said was entirely factual. The only conceivable reason to downvote without comment (aside from being utterly irrational) was being upset by those facts.

And yes, I was upset — that people were reacting out of ignorance. It wasn't that I was downvoted, but what the downvotes signified, so I wanted to particularly call attention to the secondary issue I had observed.

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Okay, fair enough. I've let frustration at people on the internet adversely affect my replies far too many times myself. I know XKCD is terribly cliché, but I've taken to keeping "Internet Argument" [http://xkcd.com/438/] in mind. I find it helps ... ish.

I agree with the nobility of wanting to call people on inappropriate downmodding ... it just doesn't usually work as an edit to the downmodded post. No matter how hard you try, it'll almost always sound like either whining or agression. Just like trying to point people to the guidelines almost always sounds like rudeness or condescension. Sometimes you just can't win. ;)

... you know, on any other online community, I'd expect us to be flinging crap at each other like angry monkeys at this point. Even the disagreements on HN are refreshing.

Peace.

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What, pray tell, is jenkem?

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IIRC, an urban-legendary intoxicating gas allegedly created by, ahem, fermenting stool in plastic bottles.

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