Bros, having coffee and a laugh.

Two bros, having coffee and a laugh. Photo: Getty

One of my least favourite developments over the last few years has been the adoption of the prefix “bro” in as many different contexts as possible. Guys hanging out exclusively? It’s a bromance. Cool academic? Dude’s a brofessor. Marketing event targeted at guys? It’s a bromotion.

It’s not just because it’s objectively infuriating, but also that “bro” has well and truly passed the midway point on its gentle transition from “thing involving men” to  “thing excluding women”. It’s much like the way that being rejected by one’s crush went from “unrequited love” to “being friendzoned”: the situation’s the same, only in this version: you women be bitches.

Case in point: brogrammers.   

This is possibly not going to come as a huge shock, but let’s lay this out in unambiguous terms: the tech industry is one which is predominantly made up of dudes. Yes yes yes, there are female programmers and artists and QA managers and executives.  For example, Xbox’s new CEO is the 19 year Microsoft veteran Julie Larson-Green. However, the fact that the Xbox hire was unusual enough to become a widely reported news story is indicative of how unusual it is. What was entirely expected, however, was the furor about a woman being in the role, split along predictable lines: either insisting she would ruin Xbox because she’d only greenlight games about “baking and knitting”, or pointing out that she’s a total MILF.  

And the thing about brogrammers is that they’re not programmers working in a largely male environment; they’re programmers working in an environment that actively discourages women from being involved.  So if women are there – as one IT job ad helpfully suggests – it’s because, well, they are simply part of the job perks.

Last week, New Statesman reported that UK start up company Evvnt.com was looking for a web developer who knows their way around the programming language Ruby. So they posted an ad on the London Ruby user group on 15 July that offered the following ten perks to the right candidate (copied verbatim, including typos):

Let me know if the following would tempt you from you desk…

1. Keg of beer and beer tap fitted to your development desk

2. The recruitment fee as your welcome gift

3. 4 day week

4. Building your own team of e4 from scratch

5. Shares and equity (so dull)

6. Commission from online sales.

7. An endless jar of Cadbury chocolate eclairs...

8. 4X female french, italian and spanish junior / front and backend developers

9. Your own Expresso coffee machine with frothy milk maker...

10. 30 days paid holiday if taken in December and August.

 

Now, you might notice that at first glance no. 8 looks a bit like they’re pimping out their junior female staff. When the post began to backfire, CEO and founder of Evvnt.com, Richard Greene, was dismissive of charges of sexism. Why, he was making the point that he was an equal opportunity employer who hired people of different cultures, obviously, and the notion of working among a gender-balanced UN’s worth of colleagues would tempt someone from their desk almost as much as would an “expresso” machine, right?

As the criticism grew, Greene then claimed the ad was a “social experiment” in making “viral news”, before eventually sacking up and issuing an apology. Except he subsequently jumped into the comment thread to add that – surprise! – he shouldn’t have even needed to apologise because it turns out that they didn’t actually have “4X female french, italian and spanish junior / front and backend developers” to objectify.   

“The irony [is that] we don't have any developers (male or female) – we are hiring [them], that's the point. One minute you offer humor, the next you're a demon.” Geddit? He was offering women that don’t exist as perks that he wouldn’t even offer! That’s what makes it so gosh-darn hilarious, and also ironic in some way that isn’t immediately obvious.

And that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? The fact that you people didn’t understand that his intent was comedic in the first place. Who said anything about sexism? It was just a bit of bromedy, shared between a bunch of brogrammer bros.