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Toph Whitmore Headshot

Another Man Against Brogramming

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Flickr: Design Nerd
Flickr: Design Nerd

Okay. Got the joke. "Brogramming." Heh. I chuckled when I heard it the first few thousand times. It's funny in a politically-incorrect way, equating the nerd programmer stereotype with the romanticized frat-brother stereotype: Hard-core coding meets dude-core coolness.

If you missed "brogramming's" rapid media-saturation ascent in the past year or so, let me bring you up to speed: The term arrived on the scene with a wink and a nod, the satire garden grew up around it, mass media recognized a trend, the obligatory Facebook community appeared, thebacklash began, then the dude-why-so-serious-backlash-to-the-backlashkicked in. I'm not jumping on a bandwagon here -- It long ago left that place where they keep all the bandwagons, you know, before they leave.

But here's the truth: Brogramming's not funny anymore. Please, make it go away. Satirically or otherwise, the term "brogramming" presents a vision of high tech as a hard-partying, single-sex frat culture. Yes, I get the joke. It's funny because it's ironic. But it's also inane, puerile, and bluntly sexist. Am I taking this too seriously? Yes, yes I am. And it's because I'm just plain embarrassed.

I have spent my professional career in high tech. It's an industry--that likefar too many industries -- struggles with both subtle and overt sexism in the workplace. My objection to brogramming isn't an objection to fostering principles of brotherhood or fraternity in the office. My objection is that it's dumb. And as we all joke, laugh, and snark at it, we all share in -- and perpetuate -- that dumbness. It's one thing to laugh at the joke. But if you're not empathetic enough to understand why it's not funny anymore, than I feel sorry for you.

We haven't come far enough. We must do more to make high tech more inviting to all. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's good business. As Bloomberg's Daniel Macmillan first wrote, Klout rather infamously built a college recruiting pitch around "brogramming." The Klout CEO explained that the messaging wasn't meant to be exclusionary, and that Klout was even able to recruit a woman at that particular career fair, as if that somehow made it okay.

I can't quite believe that in this day and age I have to point this out, but Klout's competitors aren't looking for talented brogrammers. They're looking for talented programmers. This is not about the #1ReasonWhy. It's not about empowering women to be strong, or about encouraging them to find strength in their community. It's about respect. It's about being human. This is about welcoming, not dissuading, talented people to enter high tech.

It's not about me. It's about my ten-year-old daughter. The one who loves to program video games in Kodu. The one who uses a Java-based scripting language to animate stories about "crazycat." The one to whom I alreadyhave enough to explain. Perhaps naively, I thought by now I wouldn't have to explain that my industry--the one in which I have worked so hard for so long -- might value her skills more if she were a "bro."

Every time a high-techer does something to promote an environment of "brogramming," it paints the entire industry as just a little more discouraging for women. By not speaking up, we sustain this dumb and dangerous myth. And we lose a little bit more of our collective soul. I don't want to lose another talented woman programmer to the (real or perceived) pressures of high-tech industry sexism. I say this for me, for my colleagues, for my corporate culture, and maybe most importantly, for my aspiring programmer daughter. She doesn't deserve special treatment. She deserves the chance to earn the respect of her employer and colleagues. But a culture of brogramming can put her at a disadvantage from the start.

New technology will lead us all into the future. When it comes to building a supportive, inclusive work culture, it's time for us -- all of us -- to step up and lead our industry out of the past. If you're going to foster a professional environment that subtly propagates sexist stereotypes, I don't want to work for you. Of course, I'm just a marketing guy. We're a dime a dozen. The one you don't want to miss out on is my daughter. She's going to change the world.