When women are offered as job 'perks'

Two 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.

34 comments

  • Hahaha, good article!

    Commenter
    Carla
    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 9:05AM
    • Yup great article, given that the comparison to Julie Larson-Green is completely irrelevant to the topic apart from a link of supposed "misogyny" (not sure if that is the traditional definition or Julia Gillard's)

      Amusing that the author goes to great lengths to highlight Julie's "experience", pity that experience is as relevant to gaming as the point of Julie Larson-Green is to this article.

      Given that this article is written by a male, i'd say they there is just a hint of jealousy...maybe never got to experience a bromance?

      Commenter
      Xbox one
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 1:28PM
  • No surprises there - it's the modern extension of professional men on business trips being taken by their hosts to strip clubs. Because, you know, women are there as a reward for men.

    Commenter
    Cam
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 9:15AM
    • What's wrong with strip clubs? Men are far better behaved at strip clubs than women are at male strip shows, where they get all handsy and act like wild animals.

      It's natural for men to look at women and for women to look at men. Every straight guy at your work perves at the hot girls and talks about rooting them between the blokes.

      Fact of life. Nothing we can do about it

      Commenter
      Davo
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 3:05PM
    • @Davo: there's nothing wrong with strip clubs per say. There IS something wrong with offering them as perks for men on work-related trips. It reinforces the notion that women are there as rewards for men, even in the workforce context, and that ignores the fact that women are very much a part of the workforce and deserve respect. It also begs the question of what to do when women are part of the business delegation (as a professional woman I have never been taken to a male strip club or had someone assume I must need to see nude males or male prostitutes in order to relax after a hard day's work).

      In fact, this notion is probably the cause of you and your friends perving "at the hot girls [at work] and talking about rooting them between the blokes". Um, that's not a problem in and of itself (women talk about men in this way, I think in fact they might do it more than men do) but in a work context it is inappropriate and it is one the reasons women are reduced to pieces of flesh as illustrated by the advert mentioned in the article. Men need to mature so that they know when it is appropriate to talk about "rooting" women, and when it is not. If you ever find yourself in a management position and the employer of "hot chicks" and you talk to your male colleagues about wanting to "root" them then I think you might find yourself on the receiving end of a sexual harassment claim. Don't say I didn't warn you.

      Commenter
      Cam
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 3:56PM
    • "Every straight guy at your work perves at the hot girls and talks about rooting them between the blokes."

      I've always found those comments awkward, to be honest. I don't want to know what another guy thinks about a woman, but that's probably just me.

      Commenter
      Tim the Toolman
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 3:58PM
  • Sadly, this is utterly believable behaviour. The brevity of this article works - Andrew P Street you done good.

    Commenter
    neonknome
    Location
    WA
    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 9:17AM
    • Well, brovity is the soul of wit…

      Commenter
      Andrew P Street
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 11:06AM
  • It's worth noting that 'brogrammer' in the industry is considered a pejorative term denoting the sort of programmer who doesn't have a hold on the tenets of good design and who perhaps is just in it for the money. In fact in most cases the 'bro' prefix has this meaning, another example in the fitness world "broscience" which tends to mean flawed logic about the body and health that is disseminated as fact. This aside, as a programmer I find it disappointing how uneven the gender balance tends to be as working with all males tends to be a very dull environment all too reminiscent of high school. Female employees in the tech industry should be considered perks for a balanced environment, clearly however this guy only seems them as sex symbols.

    Commenter
    AJ
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 22, 2013, 9:20AM
    • This sounds like a new take on the 'brogrammer'. . . to me it didn't previously involve excluding women, but:

      A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody "bro". Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.

      . . perhaps a programmer with an extrovert personality. Quite possibly with some negative connotations like a) being insecure enough to put on a face or b) exclude ideas through group think.

      This is the first time I've heard it imply the exclusion of women.

      Commenter
      JB
      Date and time
      July 22, 2013, 9:35AM

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