Issue of the week: The rise of the ‘brogrammer’

Writing software code is now dominated by “bros” who bring a frat-house atmosphere to the tech industry.

Silicon Valley has a serious “brogrammer problem,” said Tasneem Raja in Mother Jones. Writing software code, once the realm of “undersocialized mouth-breathers living in their parents’ basements,” is now dominated by “bros” who have infested the whole tech industry with “a competitive frat-house flavor.” The blatant sexism is staggering. At the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, I heard an executive for a tech start-up valued at $250 million talk about “gangbang interviews,” nudie calendars, and how to “attract the hottest girls.” These guys don’t even seem to realize how off-base they are. One firm recently advertised “friendly female event staff” for a recruiting event in Boston; only when sponsors started pulling out did it apologize. Such “testosterone-fueled boneheadedness” does the tech industry no good.

This is just the latest form of an age-old pattern, said Katie J.M. Baker in These same “douchey smart guys” used to end up on Wall Street and in law firms. Now they see Mark Zuckerberg—“the pioneer brogrammer”—making billions while investment bankers are getting laid off, so they’ve shifted to programming for “the cash and the fame.” At least that’s what they think they’ll get, said Jesse Brown in But for all their talk about living to “crush code and pull chicks,” the programmers I know in Silicon Valley inhabit a far more mundane reality. These guys hang out in Ikea-furnished condos with dirty fridges, work 80 hours a week, and go “out together for greasy food.” I’ve never met any of the girlfriends they’ve talked about. For all their posturing about being the new cool dudes, the guys who are really good at programming “are still the same guys who have trouble engaging in a face-to-face conversation.”

It might be funny if it weren’t serious, said Douglas MacMillan in Women made up only 21 percent of programmers in 2010, down from 24 percent in 2000. And many women in the business will tell you that “the perception of tech as being male-dominated” is a main reason for that decline. Of course it is, said Rebecca Greenfield in “Bro-dom is a club ladies can’t join, unless they’re wearing bikinis, or serving beers, or grinding.” Silicon Valley’s frat-boy atmosphere “turns off 50 percent of the workforce,” and makes its products less likely to appeal to women, who are the biggest users of social networks. Exclusivity like that is “something a once creative culture doesn’t need.”

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