“Brogramming” and sexism, and alcohol, have been a pretty hot topic in tech the last few months. I didn’t really have much of an opinion about the subject, but a brief twitter exhange left me thinking.

Tech is a Young Field and It’s Heating Up

Professional fields get stereotypes associated with them. Everyone thinks of lawyers as stuffy, accounts as uptight. Tech used to be the province of the stereotypical ubergeek, but with the current growth and the emergence of Facebook and the mobile space, we’re getting a chance to redefine our industry. The question is, what kind of culture do we want to create?

Brogramming as the Symptom of a Deeper Problem

Testosterone fueled lingo. Women as window dressing. Working hard, boozing hard. We’ve seen this kind of thing before, in every portrayal, true, or exaggerated, of the high school football/jock/in crowd. The quarterback running the school, cheerleader on one arm and the entire universe at his feet. The cafeteria is a structured hierarchy, varsity football here at the head table, soccer there, rednecks here, nerds in the corner…

How many people in tech experienced the downsides of an “in crowd” at some point in their life? Why is this pattern starting to reemerge in what once was the refuge of the loners and the outsides? Whatever the original intend of the brogrammer meme, there have been enough examples of this kind of thing that it’s time to make a full-stop and reevaluate what’s funny.

Lighten Up, it’s all meant to be (ironic|funny|self aware)*

I understand the ironic intent of brogramming, I really do. I have no problem with occasionally poking fun at our own political correctness. I’ve laughed among friends at my share of sexist/off color jokes and told a few. What we’re losing sight of is, that as in programming, context is absolutely everything. Not everything that’s appropriate among a small group of friends is appropriate for a technical conference, nor a meetup, and certainly not at a company sponsored event. Nobody tells dead baby jokes to their mother. It’s the same age old speaker’s rule “know your audience” coupled with the world’s most effective machine at removing context: the internet.

Let’s Take Charge

One of the best things about tech is it is a young industry that moves and adapts fast. We build things, create products out of nothing more than digitally encoded thoughts.  Lets do a little better job of policing our appearance and the culture we’re creating. We don’t need the political correctness police, but lets get control of ourselves before “programmer” becomes synonymous with “douche bag”. Lets build an industry where strength of idea, and execution stay the primary currency regardless of gender. One that has room for those of us who rage in the codebase and the club, and those prefer a quiet night of WoW with friends. If we can do that we’ll not only be one of the pillars of the new economy but also an industry built around inclusion and excellence.