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If it’s a dudebro culture, of course women won’t be a “culture fit”

Remember Dave Winer’s speculation that women were biologically unfit for the tech industry? He should have just asked the women why they were avoiding the field — it turns out when you do that, they don’t say “Math is hard” or “I just like shopping”. Instead, they point to abusive, denigrating policies and a culture of self-congratulatory dudebros.

I have another peeve in the comments. There are complaints about the industry being reluctant to hire women of child-bearing age, and the defense from some women is “I’m not going to have children!” or “I’m a lesbian!” That’s nice. Do you think women who want to have children should suffer a career penalty for that? Isn’t it more than a little unfair that no one complains about men of that age, because the assumption is that they won’t have any obligations to participate in parenting? Maybe industry and academia should recognize that their workers are human beings, men and women, and that they will have desires and needs outside of the cubicle that you must respect.

It’s depressing stuff to read when you have a daughter with an aspirations of a career in technology. I think she can kick all the dumb dudes’ asses, but she shouldn’t have to.

Comments

  1. says

    “He should have just asked the women why they were avoiding the field….”

    It is my understanding that a fundamental inability to talk to women in a sensible manner is the defining characteristic of a dudebro.

  2. Brother Yam says

    Maybe industry and academia should recognize that their workers are human beings, men and women, and that they will have desires and needs outside of the cubicle that you must respect.

    What are you, some sort of Commie?

  3. ludicrous says

    “He should have just asked the women why they were avoiding the field…..”

    Good advice but incomplete. You left out an essential component of advice for men asking questions of women: Listen to the reply, stop talking and listen to the reply, stop talking and listen to the reply, stop talking and listen to the reply……

  4. says

    Maybe industry and academia should recognize that childbearing and childrearing is difficult work, which should not only not be an obstacle to professional success, but should be compensated in its own right.

  5. rq says

    SallyStrange
    I agree, but being already compensated for having children may or may not get me penalized in an interview process anyway, since I already have a source of income, I must not want that job so bad, and might get passed over anyway. At the same time, I’d love to be adequately compensated for all the work I do at home already, in addition to getting paid for the work I do outside of home.

    Anyway, regarding that whole childbearing age thing. It’s the main reason I’m terrified of losing my job: because, even though by law they’re not allowed to, employers will see my rearing of 3 children and my still-childbearing-age as a huge drawback to absolutely anything else I may bring to the table.
    Also, I think it would be nice if people would complain about how (most!) men don’t bother to take so much time off work for family stuff, like sick children and the like. That would be really nice, put some much-needed social pressure to at least think about it as a co-parent, rather than the stereotypical father-figure.

  6. says

    “It is my understanding that a fundamental inability to LISTEN to AND UNDERSTAND women in a sensible manner is the defining characteristic of a dudebro.”

    There, FIFY. Trust me, those dudebros are all too capable of TALKING to women. Or perhaps I should say AT women.

  7. janewhite says

    I sometimes think the family-leave problem has to do with a short job cycle. If you’re going to hire someone for 30 years, a few months of lost productivity followed by a few years of schedule limitations doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You’ll get her hardworking, energetic twenties and her focused, ambitious forties and fifties. So her attention is divided in her early thirties, big deal.

    If you’re going to hire someone for maybe 4 years, then you don’t want to be dealing with parental leaves. Better to just force her out of the workforce for awhile, then hire her back. At half her prior salary, of course, that’s only fair. (sarcasm.)

  8. says

    Instead, they point to abusive, denigrating policies and a culture of self-congratulatory dudebros.

    Circa 1990, we had more female students than male students in our computer science program. That all changed over time, and the assessments made at that time would fit the “self-congratulatory dudebros” view. The growing use of the PC, and with it, a male dominated gaming culture, seemed to turn off female students who might otherwise be interested

  9. René says

    kick all the dumb dudes’ asses, but she shouldn’t have to.

    Always happy to correct natives’ mistakes [/copy editor at ESP], but BQFFT.

  10. Leslie Brown says

    First time commenter, this issue really chaps my hide. I was really keen to work in computers when I was in my 20s, way back in 1979. I applied for a place on a government run programming course, and sat an aptitude test along with about 250 others. I found the test quite straightforward, completed it in about half the allotted 2 hours, and was eventually called for an interview.
    I was told that even though I’d scored exceptionally highly on the aptitude test, they couldn’t offer me one of the 12 places available, as I might have children! Despite explaining that I’d recently split from my husband, and also had no desire ever to have children (and I never did*) they didn’t waver in being discriminatory asses. They did say that because of my exceptional test score they would have to put me on the reserve list, but none of the men who got a place through positive (& I later realised unlawful) discrimination dropped out.
    I suppose that I’m not the only woman treated that way, and that some of those privileged men are now in charge, assumjng their innate superiority rather than that some of their positions are down to discrimination.

    I got my own back later by working for our Equal Opportunities Commission and taking comfort in helping other women take cases against that government organisation.

    * and yes I know having children should never have been an issue.

  11. Rey Fox says

    Maybe industry and academia should recognize that their workers are human beings, men and women, and that they will have desires and needs outside of the cubicle that you must respect.

    Perhaps, but are you sure those desires and needs are more important than maximizing profits for the shareholders? I mean, really think hard on this one, we don’t want to be hasty in downgrading the importance of maximizing profits for the shareholders.

  12. says

    Speaking as a hiring manager for the software industry in MA, I completely agree that this attitude is pervasive. It percolates all the way through organizations, including HR (and in my experience is not specific to only software development, this is for any role within a company). I have also found that the attitude seems to be worse in IT (especially systems administration) than in development. I have hired a number of women and a few of them have become pregnant in the course of their tenure. All this generally means is that as a manager you schedule around the maternity leave. Considering that you typically have months of notice this isn’t a problem. Anyone who claims this should be a reason for excluding a woman from any job is simply full of shit. Additionally, having had both men and women on my team who have newborns, the men struggle just as much as the women for the first year after the birth (mostly due to lack of sleep).

  13. says

    Maybe industry and society in general should recognize that, if they want there to be a next generation to carry things on, then *everyone* has an obligation to contribute to that — not necessarily personally, by any means, but by providing an infrastructure and environment that enables and encourages the creation and rearing of that generation.

    But as usual, it’s all about maximizing “our” short-term utility, while shirking all other costs.

  14. Larry says

    If a woman has children, her ability and desire to work 16 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week, will be seriously impacted. This then might impact the start-up from going public and thus making the founders and investors seriously rich. Dudebros, who have no life, simply sleep under their desks when not working those 16 hour days and thus keep the founders on track for that golden payoff.

    Its economics, really.

  15. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    If a woman has children, her ability and desire to work 16 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week, will be seriously impacted. This then might impact the start-up from going public and thus making the founders and investors seriously rich. Dudebros, who have no life, simply sleep under their desks when not working those 16 hour days and thus keep the founders on track for that golden payoff.

    Right. Because it is unthinkable that a man could be married/partnered and have a child and participate at all in their child’s life.

    That’s women’s work.

  16. says

    This meme that all tech work is with edgy startups that require 16 hours a day, 7 days a week of concentrated effort needs to be eviscerated right now.

    My brother has been a computer programmer all his adult life. He’s nearing retirement age. He has never, never, ever worked anywhere other than for Fortune 500 (currently at Fortune 50) company. He works 36 hours a week, gets health care, comp time for the times when he has to be around for inventory or some other overtime-type work.

    I suspect that 90% to 95% of all tech work — probably more — involves companies and industries that actually follow Federal FUCKING LAW with regard to work hours, overtime/comp pay, and the rest.

  17. says

    Right. Because it is unthinkable that a man could be married/partnered and have a child and participate at all in their child’s life.

    I believe the intended implication is that men who are steeped in dudebro culture tend to be jackasses with poor relationship skills, and thus are unlikely to be partnered in such a fashion.

  18. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    Isn’t it more than a little unfair that no one complains about men of that age, because the assumption is that they won’t have any obligations to participate in parenting?

    Without meaning to make this All About Teh Menz; as a bloke, I am particularly insulted by societal attitudes, most clearly demonstrated by laws regarding Parental Leave, that blokes not only wouldn’t but shouldn’t have as central a role in parenting as the mother. PHMT. .

  19. says

    @20: Indeed. My wife and I (both EEs) have always worked for large telecom/network manufacturers, and while there have been episodes of crazy overtime (for which only sometimes was there overtime pay), it’s mostly been 40-ish hour weeks. And we managed to raise two kids without neglecting them.

  20. says

    @22: In Canada, fathers are now entitled to parental leave on the same basis* as mothers (ie: can collect the Employment Insurance benefit).

    *That may not be exactly right as I don’t know the details. It came in too late to be useful to us.

  21. tashaturner says

    I’ve noticed that the more 12+ hour days put in the more mistakes made. So from an economic standpoint having workers who have a life outside the office frequently results in better quality work which is better for everyone involved. I’ve also noticed that individual managers who hired diverse teams seemed to get better, faster, more creative results, less bug/features, and more of a team environment rather than everyone working in their own sandboxes and kludging stuff together because dudebros not only don’t need to talk to women but when it comes to their work they don’t talk to each other… So again from an economic standpoint dudebros are not good for stockholders either. Just my anecdotal evidence from the years I was in the tech field before health problems forced me to retire in my mid-30s and watching my dad (major dudebro) and my mom in the tech field most of my life as well as my husbands (no not at the same time LOL).

  22. bryanfeir says

    And pregnancy/parental leave in many places in the U.S. is a joke anyway.

    Here in Ontario, under the Employment Standards Act, any pregnancy qualifies for 17 weeks of Pregnancy leave. (As long as the woman was hired at least 13 weeks before the due date.)

    On top of that, all new parents (including adoptive parents and common-law spouses of birth parents; same-sex spouses are explicitly mentioned as qualifying) qualify for 37 weeks Parental leave starting within the first year after the child comes into their care to help with child rearing. This is reduced to 35 weeks if the employee also takes Pregnancy leave, but that still adds up to 52 weeks. Since both parents can take this, it’s perfectly within the rules for one parent to take pregnancy and parental leave, then the other parent to take another 37 weeks of parental leave after the first parent gets back, meaning the child will have a year and a half with at least one parent home.

    Of course, while the law includes a right of reinstatement, that’s no guarantee that any company will actually abide by the law unless forced to, and I’ve read more than a few articles about companies having to be forced to.

  23. bryanfeir says

    Hmm, my bit above was posted before Eamon Knight’s comment @24. Fathers don’t get exactly the same benefits, as they don’t get the specific pregnancy leave which can start much earlier, but all parents, including adoptive ones, get parental leave.

    http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/guide/pregnancy.php

    Granted Labour law is one of those things which varies by province, but all provinces have to abide by the Constitution, specifically the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which places a number of limits on what the law can do.

  24. daemon23 says

    As a white male software dev myself, I read these stories and just feel sick to my stomach. How do you fix a culture?

  25. says

    As someone who has participated in quite a few job searches, I can say that this attitude does not fly here. Each search gets preceded by a lecture from HR about what we can and can’t do, and questions about sexual preference, marital status, kids, etc. are completely off the table. And if someone raised concerns about a candidate possibly being distracted by children, there is a whole swarm of us here (and not just the women in our department) who would slap them down and tell them that if that happened, we would make arrangements to deal with it.

    And I think our hiring results reflect that, with no regrets on our part. We’ve been happy with everyone we’ve acquired in our tenure track searches.

  26. M can help you with that. says

    I’ve noticed that the more 12+ hour days put in the more mistakes made.

    IIRC people are good for up to 6 hours of focused work at a time; beyond that, more hours in the chair actually become counterproductive. A lunch break extended enough for a good nap can help, but it only goes so far.

    And no, as far as I’m aware, testosterone doesn’t protect against the decline in productivity. So yeah, not only the “only dudebros can work the necessary 16-hour shifts!” wrong, it would be wrong even if it were right.

    Somewhere there must be (or maybe just “needs to be”) a subset of the tech industry that recognizes that macho bro tech culture is counterproductive and wastes good talent in addition to being ethically horrid…and hires women and non-dudebro men as techies. It could be a shortcut to effective team development…

  27. says

    @7: Thanks for correcting/filling in the details. As I said, this has all come in since we were in the relevant situation (mid-80s), so we just said “Hooray for progress!” but never bothered to look it up.

  28. John Horstman says

    @20: Word. My aunt and uncle are both programmers: she works full-time for NASA and he’s a consultant/contractor. She works standard hours, and he works irregular (but generally reasonable) hours, mostly from home (which allowed him to be the primary caretaker of their son). With all the social media start-ups, I’m wondering if everyone has forgotten that the Nineties’ dot com bubble was a bubble, and not representative of the core of the tech industry. Most of those start-ups fail.

  29. says

    At the software company I used to run,* I had a team of women software engineers. They worked just great together, wrote good solid code, and did it on time. As the company got bigger we got a “real HR person” I was told I couldn’t do that.

    if everyone has forgotten that the Nineties’ dot com bubble was a bubble

    For one thing, it was a “throw halfassed code over the wall to 10 million people” bubble. One of the reasons that many of the big dotcom companies are gone is because their infrastructures were made of sand and their code was duct tape, spit, and stolen intellectual property. It was a financially unsustainable model as well, which is why I was bleakly amused to see Facebook follow it. It’s like they’re dying to be the next Myspace or Yahoo! …

    (* not the one where I work now, which has one of the best workplace environments I’ve ever seen and is in the running for “best place to work in Maryland” award…)

  30. Arete says

    My partner has worked at tech companies as a software guy since before he graduated from college. Though any of those companies may have considered “women cost because babies” as a hiring disincentive (and every group he’s worked with has skewed heavily male), he has NEVER worked as long of hours at any of those jobs as I have worked at mine, has always had better vacation and sick leave, and is waaaaaaay better paid. I conclude that it is possible that tech companies use this as an excuse, but that it is likely not the norm that tech jobs are so much more demanding than other jobs, making them uniquely incompatible with motherhood. Regarding my own position in academia, I am remain undecided. I guess we’ll see.

  31. violet says

    It doesn’t even make sense to see having a child as such a liability. For whatever time is lost due to the parent’s caretaking needs, the parent’s motivation to keep and advance at their job is going to multiply exponentially due to the desire to be financially stable to provide for their child.

    Having a mandatory parental leave period for every new parent is probably the best way to address the issue. At my company we have parental leave available to everyone, but as long as I’ve been there, only female employees have used it, even though several male employees have had children during that time.

    Even if leave is available to everyone, if men don’t take it, then it just furthers the perception that women are a potential liability and even highlights it more.

    A mandatory leave for everyone eliminates any (perceived) greater liability for women and is honestly easier than trying to change the attitudes of every company. And hopefully with such a practice in place attitudes would change naturally over time when every business doesn’t collapse because of people taking leave.

  32. Julia Sullivan says

    I resent anyone, particularly women, being penalized in advance for giving proper attention to the important and difficult work of parenting children.

    But I also resent other people assuming that, because I’m a woman, I must automatically be interested in parenting children. So I think that people responding “But I don’t want children!” in discussing this may be venting about this prejudice (that all women want to be mothers) rather than endorsing the former prejudice (that mothers are suboptimal employees, which is so patently false a load of crap).

  33. says

    My partner has worked at tech companies as a software guy since before he graduated from college. Though any of those companies may have considered “women cost because babies” as a hiring disincentive (and every group he’s worked with has skewed heavily male), he has NEVER worked as long of hours at any of those jobs as I have worked at mine, has always had better vacation and sick leave, and is waaaaaaay better paid. I conclude that it is possible that tech companies use this as an excuse, but that it is likely not the norm that tech jobs are so much more demanding than other jobs, making them uniquely incompatible with motherhood. Regarding my own position in academia, I am remain undecided. I guess we’ll see.

    Even if tech jobs were insanely demanding (they’re apparently not; my roommate considers his 45 hours a week to be very strenuous), the implication is that fathers are also supposed to, you know, raise the kid. I mean, most fathers DON’T put in the same amount of time, but the idea is ‘they ought to’, so a demanding job has no excuse preferencing dudes.

  34. Kale says

    I’m a 20-something, female, in-house web dev. And I’m going to echo others have said here: my job involves a solid 40 hours a week (M-F) with very few exceptions. I don’t sleep under my desk, I don’t work crazy hours for six days a week. The tech team is one of the highest paid groups in the company and the boss doesn’t want to pay us lots of OT.

    Most tech jobs are probably like mine: working for a non-tech, non-start up company and being fully capable of living a normal human life while still getting your job done.

  35. MJP says

    There is definitely a toxic dudebro culture in the software industry. My second job was so bad as to scare me away from the industry entirely, and I’m male.

  36. Arete says

    Rutee Katreya 39

    Even if tech jobs were insanely demanding (they’re apparently not; my roommate considers his 45 hours a week to be very strenuous), the implication is that fathers are also supposed to, you know, raise the kid. I mean, most fathers DON’T put in the same amount of time, but the idea is ‘they ought to’, so a demanding job has no excuse preferencing dudes.

    Yes, of course, and that should go without saying. My point wasn’t that because tech jobs aren’t demanding, they shouldn’t discriminate against women for that reason (but it would be ok if they were that demanding). My point was that, since tech jobs aren’t that demanding, that reasoning must be a transparent excuse to discriminate for other reasons. Like, for example, as a rationalization of why there are no women around, without having to acknowledge the dudebro culture.

  37. moarscienceplz says

    questions about sexual preference, marital status, kids, etc. are completely off the table.

    Yes, but there’s a sneaky way around this First, at least in California, there’s a 90 day probationary period where you can be let go without cause. Second, the tech industry is notoriously cyclical, so every 2-3 years managers are asked to cull a certain percentage of their staff, again without cause. Thus, if your boss is a Steve Jobs wannabe, and you feel that attending your daughter’s soccer game is more important than working your 20th straight week with overtime, you’d better keep your CV up to date.

  38. theobromine says

    At my company we have parental leave available to everyone, but as long as I’ve been there, only female employees have used it, even though several male employees have had children during that time.

    In 1986, I was an engineer in hightech, expecting my 2nd baby. My spouse (Eamon) and I planned that (assuming all went well) I would spend 6 weeks to recover from the pregnancy and delivery and then return to work full time while Eamon (who worked for a competitor) would at home with both kids for the following 6 months. This was in line with the policies of the employers, both of which had a fairly progressive approach to such things. When I explained this to my manager (himself a father of young children), he said, “Why would he want to do that?” Sad how little progress has been made since then.

  39. rnilsson says

    @theobromine:

    Sad how little progress has been made since then.

    Except hopefully by your kids!
    (And yourselves!)
    Is that company still in business?

  40. theobromine says

    @millson

    My progressive employer *was* the research arm of the recently defunct Canadian tech giant, Nortel.

    But I think the kids came out ok, if I do say so myself.

  41. says

    @49: Except hopefully by your kids!

    Well, indications so far are yes, though neither of them look likely to contribute to the gene pool any time soon (if ever), nor are they in a position to make hiring decisions.

    (And yourselves!)

    Well, we’re atheists now, instead of liberal Christians (which hasn’t made all that much difference to our socio-politics, in itself).

    Is that company still in business?

    Mine is (though I’m no longer there). Hers (which became mine a few years later) went on to become one of the most spectacular bankruptcies in Canadian history. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t us that did it (more likely: the dot com bust, combined with malfeasance and incompetence at the top, a succession of CEOs who stayed just long enough to collect their signing bonuses, and then 2008 to deliver the coup de grace).

  42. rnilsson says

    Well well, malfeasance, incompetence and bankruptcy – aint karma teh pita.
    Shishkebab, folks.

  43. rnilsson says

    Babblin’, on a (Labor Day Holiday Afternoon) … Yes, that might have become a big hit 50 years ago ;-)
    QFbbqT

  44. outaworkee, back at work for now. says

    Kevin @ 20
    Having worked for various companies and having been asked to work extra unpaid hours (unspoken pressure all around) as an exempt employee, what federal laws are being broken? I have even seen employees refuse to work unpaid weekends and then get laid off a short while later.

  45. yahweh says

    Interesting article from The Register relating a woman’s experience in IT.

    The comments are quite enlightening about attitudes from the almost entirely male respondents esp. with the ‘like’ counts.

  46. ischemgeek says

    It is my understanding that a fundamental inability to talk to women in a sensible manner is the defining characteristic of a dudebro.

    Gregory In Seattle, I beg to differ: The defining characteristic of a dudebro is a fundamental inability to recognize women as people. The fundamental inability to talk to women in a sensible manner is merely a symptom of their inability to recognize our personhood.