The age of the brogrammer

Solving tech's diversity problem may be a key to saving San Francisco


"Die techie scum." Those words are sprayed ominously on sidewalks throughout San Francisco. They're plastered on stickers stamped on lampposts. They're even scrawled in the bathrooms of punk bars, the very establishments now populated by Google-Glass-wearing tech aficionados.

Journalists from San Francisco to New York have opined on the source of the hate: Is it the housing crisis? Tech-fueled gentrification? Rising inequality? Those same journalists later parachute into the tech industry to periodically peer at its soul: Is tech diverse enough? Is it sexist? Is it a true meritocracy?

Those issues are often looked at in a vacuum, but perhaps they shouldn't be. Perhaps those problems are all interconnected, and solving tech's diversity problem is also part of solving income inequality in San Francisco, giving longtime San Franciscans a chance to join the industry many now view as composed of outsiders and interlopers.

The average Silicon Valley tech worker makes about $100,000, according to Dice Holdings Inc., which conducts annual tech salary surveys. Opportunity in the tech sector may bolster San Francisco's middle-income earners, vanishing like wayward sea lions from the city's landscape. Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that 66 percent of the city is either very poor or very rich, showing a hollowing out of the middle class.

Some tech CEOs are addressing their employment needs with a foreign workforce. Mark Zuckerberg and a cadre of tech CEOs have lobbied Senate and House Republicans to reform immigration in their favor, hoping to lure out-of-country workers to fill tech's employment vacancies. Politico reported Sean Parker gave upwards of $500,000 to Republicans in 2014, all for the cause of immigration reform.

Conversely, a movement is already underway to bring San Franciscans into tech's fold, based on the idea of a win-win scenario: San Francisco's public school students are overwhelmingly diverse and lower income, while the tech industry is not.

Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yahoo recently released their diversity numbers, showing the companies are mostly white and male. This accusation has long haunted Silicon Valley.

Two years ago, Businessweek heralded the "Rise of the Brogrammer." The stereotype is as follows: He preens as he programs in his popped collar, his startup funds fuel the city as he hunts "the ladies," and he is insensitive toward women in the workplace in the most fratboy-like way imaginable.

But while outlier brogrammer douche-bros certainly exist, whose classist opinions ignite widespread ire (think Greg Gopman's statement comparing homeless people to "hyenas"), the real brogrammer threat is more insidious, more systemic.


the playing of a race card. Techies are not all white - many are Asian but you conveniently ignore that.

But of course your real whine is that the racial breakdown of tech firms doesn't exactly align with the city's demographics. To which I'd respond - why should it. Nor does the Warriors.

As for economic diversity I would simply point out that making 100K a year doesn't make anyone "rich" It's barely above the average, in fact.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 12:39 am

How does diversifying tech help SF. All you'll get is overpaid Black people and overpaid Latino people to go along with your overpaid White people and overpaid Asian people.

All the poor residents will still get forced out.

Posted by Ned on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 8:15 am

Please provide comparative analysis reports on different occupations in your answer.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 10:45 am

If tech companies could pay less, they would. Witness the anti-poaching scandals involving several big tech companies. They schemed to hold down techie wages.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 10:06 am

Yep, "shut up and be more humble"--that's a start. Not an easy concept for the millenials who think the sun rises and sets from their bums. They're ruined my city. Yes, my city and I do resent them.

Posted by Guest Marcello on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 12:58 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

Bitter, party of one, your table is ready.

Posted by Richmondman on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

A more self-righteous and entitled generation was never born.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 11:08 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

Queer Arab American publisher, female news director, female art director, female senior arts editor, female music editor… I'd go on, but the law (quite rightly) prohibits me from discussing staff ethnicities other than my own. Please feel free to look over our masthead.

-- Marke B.

Posted by admin on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

Steven once referred to you as "Persian." Maybe he just thinks all you Middle Easterners look alike.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

... Puerto Rican/Aruban/Irish/Italian here!

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

Nothing wrong with being Dutch.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 4:33 pm

but I like to say that so people don't go "oh you have relatives in Holland?". Aruban-Dutch probably a way to say that more clearly.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

marke, you really would have been better off ducking given that this topic is SFBG's Achilles heel (along with union busting of course)

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

you are like unto a bunion on the achilles heel of life, o guest!

Posted by admin on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

were female (and of course white and privileged).

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 9:21 am

"Longtime residents see a sea of newcomers, often white, often male, who aren't pulling up a seat for minorities to join the new gold rush."

There's ya problem right there. You're waiting for someone to pull up a seat for ya.

The white techies didn't wait for that to happen, nor did the Asian techies. Instead they developed the skills that are in demand.

Perhaps the SFBG could highlight examples of non Whtes or Asians who have been blocked from learning these skills?

Any examples of Google sending away highly qualified candidates because they weren't White or Asian?

A heterosexual male can't complain that he didn't get a date with a Victoria Secrets model because she didn't 'pull up a seat' and invite him over. You have to become what she wants and then aggressively let her know about it.

While other guys are standing around waiting for someone to help them.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

"The white techies didn't wait for that to happen, nor did the Asian techies. Instead they developed the skills that are in demand." Let's expand on that. Neither did the black techies or the Latino techies. They developed skills that are in high demand and got good jobs. Or is the BG saying that they didn't get there on their own merit and are just tokens diversity hires?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

workers were much worse, which in most cases they are, else they would be hired in what is the biggest meritocracy in the Bay Area

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

actually, some Asian techies are calling out how stereotypes of their perceived skill helps them in the workplace more than other minorities:

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:23 am

A true post-racial person would not endlessly look for racial disparities and think that matters.

I cry for the education being meted out in colleges now. Precious sentimentality has replaced critical thought.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:38 am

You bring up a fair point I was hoping I adequately addressed in the article. That people are NOW being trained for skills they didn't have before (due to class and income reasons), but the question I was hoping to highlight was this: when skilled diverse applicants arrive, will tech accept them? Or will they say that one Hispanic guy just wasn't a "culture fit", as seemingly happens now. So yes, people need skills and training, but the point is this: even with skills and training, can they still get the job?

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 3:36 pm

Really??? You think an entire industry made up of hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds, if not thousands, of companies are turning away qualified Latino and black applicants because they aren't a good "culture fit"? Do you have any proof of this? Or are you just throwing stuff against a wall and hope something sticks?

But you just proved that you have no proof. You just said that there aren't that many blacks and Latinos (not minorities because Asians are actually a minority) didn't have the training. So should tech companies hire unqualified people because of some progressives idea of what they think diversity should be?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

degrees from places like Cal Tech. You can't just stick someone in a programming class at CCSF for a year and expect they're going to be hired at the same level as someone with a Ph.D or an MA. The expectation this is going to happen really illustrates a vast gulf between reality and fantasy in the minds of people who do not understand these types of businesses at all.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

I addressed that in the article, talking about CS degrees, education, and more. I know it's a long read at seven pages, but you should really give it a shot.

And to the comment above, I would say there are numerous stories of racism/sexism that occur in subtle not so subtle ways that shut out underrepresented ethnicities.

One perspective I didn't have space to include was this one:

I'm not going to do all your research for you, but reading my section on the Mirror-tocracy I hope you can see that it's a problem of people hiring people that look and act like themselves -- a problem industries have faced in the past, which tech now has to overcome.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

This is absolutely absurd. So sick of the race baiting progressives who are getting closer and closer everyday to acknowledging what it is that they really want and that's quotas. Why are they always measuring everything according to how much melanin a person has in their skin? It's divisive and hateful. As a mixed race person (though I probably don't count in their racist eyes because 50% is Asian) from a background FAR more disadvantaged than anything these suburban guilty white limousine liberals, it is painful to see them spew this unproductive, misleading rhetoric.

Their message is, "the game is rigged, whitey hates you, and you'll never succeed on your own without government intervention. Don't even bother trying to better yourself by education, hard work, and just simply getting after it, because 'the man' will only kick you back to the curb. Your only way out is to bitch that someone who has more money than you has wronged you in some way, and claim your rightful status as alpha victim in the ever expanding grievance industry."

The saddest part is that it's working. Sad disillusioned young people who thought that their CCSF major in Chicano studies and protesting would be a marketable skill set are now shocked when they are unemployed and the kid who stayed in on weekends and majored in electrical engineering is being wooed with offers from multiple companies. Enough with the propaganda progressives. There is one way and only one way out of this cycle and that's hard work and education. Quit telling people that the game is rigged and that they can't because they can. Your message is racist but people are buying into this phoney baloney bullshit and thinking that the reason they are failures is not because they lack skills but because everyone else is a racist. Knock it off.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

It got John Perez all the way to the Speaker's gavel (although it looks like he's not gonna make it to Controller).

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

Guilty white suburban limousine liberals? I'm mixed Latino, went to mostly poor public schools, and grew up in urban San Francisco. Don't attack my character, attack my points!

And it's not about victimhood, and it's not even about individual racism/sexism... It's about a system designed to not let certain people in, and the need to restructure that system.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 8:56 am

black or Hispanic kid can't get a job in tech.

All you've done as far as I can see is whine that they either aren't applying or aren't qualified.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 9:20 am

Excellent post.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 9:59 am

I read the told some stories about things that happen in every major industry, even the NBA.

For example the major sexual harassment story that you tell is at Tindr between a manager and an employee who were involved romantically. This happens everywhere. The SFBG isn't going to investigate the John Avalos/Raquel Redondiez situation for obvious reasons, but the stuff that you ascribe to tech could happen anywhere.

Also, that Model View Culture post that you link to says "The faces that dominate the public image of tech -- Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates -- are reflective of the reality of tech’s make up: white men from middle class backgrounds."

Well guess what? Steve Jobs has been replaced by a gay man. Steve Ballmer has been replaced by Satya Nadella, who emigrated to this country at age 23. The other faces of tech include Yahoo's Marisa Mayer and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg.

So I ain't convinced that you turned up anything unique about tech. In fact, I find it very hard to believe that any tech company would walk away from a talented programmer because they weren't a White or Asian male.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 6:28 pm

Exactly - tech companies care about talented programmers, who are in short supply. They could care less if you're Indian or Asian or otherwise - they need to fill seats with talented people.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

It's more than that...they WANT to have a work force that looks like America. It looks good to investors and the press.

From a business standpoint why would you want to limit your recruiting to specific demographic segments? Is your competition going to do the same?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

You make a fair point about larger tech companies wanting to hire people in tech. They do! Startups, which I wrote about, are a different story. I suppose it can be confusing, I use Google Facebook LinkedIn and Yahoo statistics to paint the portrait of WHO works in tech, but then go on to write about the problems of startups. I can see how one might think I'm writing about the larger companies unwillingness to hire people of color and women. I'm not. It's mainly a startup problem.

But if it's research you want, Level Playing Field Institute conducted rigorous, expansive research, which I cite in my article. But if it wasn't clear enough for you, let me expand (from LPFI's website):

The Tilted Playing Field: Hidden Bias in Information Technology Workplaces report was released September 2011. The report reveals that hidden biases within the workplace can produce unequal opportunities and outcomes for employees depending on their race and gender. This study reports on data collected from a sample of IT engineers and managers in large companies and small startups nationwide. Use hashtag #HiddenBiasIT to join the discussion on Twitter.

The report has three significant findings:

(1) IT workplace experiences vary significantly by race and gender.

Women and underrepresented people of color encounter negative workplace experiences (e.g, difficulty balancing work/family, exclusionary cliques, bullying) at rates significantly higher than their male and white counterparts.
Being a woman and/or underrepresented person of color predicted the likelihood of experiencing negative workplace incidents.
(2) Negative workplace experiences lead to increased turnover in IT roles.

Underrepresented people of color were least satisfied with their job, least satisfied with skill development opportunities, and most likely to leave the company in the upcoming year.
As the number of negative work experiences reported by individuals across the study increased, the level of satisfaction with their current job and likelihood to remain with that company significantly decreased.
(3) Diversity is not a priority for gatekeepers, despite a talent shortage and high cost of employee turnover.

Despite vast underrepresentation of women and people of color in IT, 68% of the sample indicated satisfaction with their company’s diversity efforts.
However, men and women in startups differed drastically in their satisfaction with their company’s diversity efforts. And underrepresented people of color were nearly twice as likely as whites to be in favor of a company-wide practice to increase diversity (80% compared to 46%).

here's the full report

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 10:55 am

Yes, there is bias in the tech business. They are biased in favor of those with tech skills.

If they are 80% white/asian and male, who gives a crap? Do you hear whites and asians whining that they can't make a NBA team?

Enough already with the identity politics and card playing and politicial correctness.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:07 am

soooo on the one hand, there are too many anecdotes and not enough research. So when I show research, I'm quota counting? Now that's just some silly, and rather obvious baiting. I was trying to have a dialogue, which I find productive in comments sections, but if you're just going to go off the rails then I don't see any point in it.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:19 am

criticize others who call you out on that as "baiting".

Can you not address the point made? Why aren't there more Asians in NBA teams? Is that wrong? Answer the question.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:36 am

Hoo boy. Hilarious!

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

He's a white guy who hates whites. Oh, the self hate.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

Who is stopping any qualified applicant from getting hired? This article alludes to it but never gives a real answer. Just some poorly perceived group thought.

This endless quest for "diversity" is so offensive. I only hear white people complaining about it, like they are ashamed of their own culture or something. Like they want some diversity to show off to their other white friends.

If the "brogrammer" offends you so much, why do you continue to buy into their products? No one seems to be willing to put down their laptops, phones, tablets to protest anything. You know why you don't hear much back from the tech community? They are busy doing productive things instead of whining about how they don't look right. How things would be so much better if there were just a few more skin shades around. They are smart enough to know that actually, race and sex affect the end product and its demand 0%.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 2:50 am

across as overwhelmingly precious, self-absorbed and reeking of privilege.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 6:07 am

... I'm mixed latino, not white, and judging by the amount of people who tried to talk to me in Spanish this week alone (5), I'm going to guess I'm perceived as Hispanic as well.

But if I sound too entitled to you, why don't you listen to the "whining" of an Asian programmer, who argues many of the same things I do?

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:22 am

Why are you damn fixated on race?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:37 am

society progressives have all agreed we can only get their by categorizing everything BY and ABOUT race. It's a paradox, I know - but they're really wedded to the idea.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

with it. Not all occupations have to have exactly represent racial breakdowns.

A true meritocracy is blind to race and other artificial categories and stereotypes

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:40 am

trend towards bemoaning their fellow man not being "educated" or "informed," but don't seem to know what self selection is.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

I personally find most techies to be dull, uninteresting people. I don't share really any of the interests most of them seem to have - gadgets, video games, technology, startup gossip, etc...

however, on a daily basis in SF, I am more likely to be personally annoyed by a fairly sizeable list of other people than I am by techies. to name a few:

cab drivers
vapid blondes
thugs around the civic center
old asian ladies who think it's okay to get in your way/cut in line/etc
people in town for conferences (tech or otherwise)
all the people here who think it's okay to walk side by side down narrow sidewalks and not even move aside for the foot traffic coming in the other direction
anyone who thinks car horns are a valid form of communication

the list could go on and on. all of those people have way more of a negative impact on my day-to-day life than tech workers, and yet none of these people are vilified like tech workers are.

Posted by rob on Jul. 17, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

Attributing the lack of diversity in technology employment to the cartoon monster of the "white, male brogrammer" is inaccurate and unhelpful. Indeed, the interviewer who underestimates and unfairly rejects a female job candidate may not be a white male. He may be, with a pretty high likelihood, an Asian or Indian male. The issue is an incomplete diversity, which excludes women, but includes every ethnic and cultural group apart from Black and Latino. This is certainly a moral and practical problem. But resorting to the "white male brogrammer" stereotype is a futile excercise in trying to fix something without honestly looking at it.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2014 @ 5:59 pm

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez’s poorly reasoned hit piece (The Age of the Brogrammer, Vol. 48, No. 42)), while pointing out real issues that should be addressed in the tech sector, misses, in its apparent zeal to create controversy, an amazing fact supported by the very statistics he states as fact in the article. 15% of the workers at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Linkedin are female despite the fact that only 24% of students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are female! Wow! That these companies can still fill 15% of their workforce with women after the STEM curriculum provides female workers to the workplace in the myriad non-computer tech jobs (medical, civil/structural/mechanical engineering, physics, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, etc.) should be heralded as a minor miracle! All students, including women and minorities, should be encouraged to enter the STEM curriculum, given the obvious advantages in the future economy. For the present, Rodriguez owes these “brogrammers” a high-five for filling so many spots with women from such a small pool of female STEM-qualified applicants.

Joe Rut

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2014 @ 10:22 am

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