I had the pleasure of joining Peter Panapento, Assistant Managing Editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Tennille Robinson, Senior Content & Events Producer at Inc., and my fellow Tow-Knight-er Brian Reich for a rousing conversation about how to employ the successful SXSW marketing tactics pioneered by tech startups to sell a social mission or companies with a social mission in a way that actually moves the needle on the issues they are looking to affect.
I have been following the “brogrammer” meme for months now with a mix of annoyance and exasperation. I was bummed that Twilio, a company whose product I greatly admire, helped start this “joke,” and then followed the hacker news job posting hubbub and subsequent chronicling of “brogramming” by a number of tech mediaoutlets. But as I was reading about Klout’s “Want to bro down and crush code?” job-recruitment poster at a recent Stanford career fair, I for the first time felt some sympathy for the guys who have been running around doing push-ups and calling themselves “brogrammers.”
Sympathy?! Yes, really. I realized that the people trying to recruit “brogrammers” have a goal similar to ours here at Skillcrush.
We want to re-frame the way we think and talk about technology. Although many people can find it intimidating or alien, tech-speak is no longer the singular provenance of the pocket-protector set. Tech belongs to everyone, and the next step is to make it feel accessible.
Almost every single industry makes or relies upon software. Your cat will probably learn to install Wordpress this year. And yet somehow software development remains, in the eyes of your average American, the sovereign domain of the geeky, the nerdy, the under-socialized guy.
This “nerd in the basement” is our image and recruitment problem. It isn’t fun, it isn’t sexy; when I table my own personal response, I can see that these “brogrammers” and I are both just trying to inject software development with some fun and a little bit of sex appeal. We’re both looking to make development feel more accessible to a group that might otherwise have passed it by. Anyone can be an outsider: without brogramming, bros might just feel like…one of the girls.
Therein lies the problem: in an attempt to reach a broader (and necessarily male) audience, the brogrammer ideology takes what is generally latent misogyny** in the tech community and makes it overt.
Right now we have a 4:1 male:female ratio in the tech industry. Is filling your slides with sexual innuendo really what we need to make the industry appeal to more people? As awkward and emasculated as someone might feel in a conference room nerding out about databases, you don’t need to alienate anyone to make yourself comfortable.
Joking is a-ok, but stupid machismo is not cool. I promise there are non-sexist, non-exclusionary possibilities out there for you all. Protip: Everyone loves cartoon foxes.
So, bros, I challenge you to come up with a better joke. You’re smart (hell, you’re software developers!), and I believe that you can find a way to make tech more appealing without soaking it in Natty Light, dressing it in a polo shirt, and further alienating both of the two women who did show up to your party.