Understanding the Bro Culture in Tech

Women face a large struggle in technological fields. In fact, only about twenty percent of computer programmers in the US are female.1 There are many reasons for this disparity, but one common claim is that men in computer science-related fields actively persecute women in computing by discouraging their involvement through a cultural phenomenon known as “bro culture” or the “bro code”. In short, bro culture is a form of social interaction that perpetuates masculinity over femininity. In his film The Bro Code, Thomas Keith, an anti-sexism activist, filmmaker, author, and lecturer, has theorized that “forces in [popular and] male culture condition boys and men to dehumanize and disrespect women.”2

The claim argues that men in the tech industry actively embrace bro culture and use it to discourage women from entering the largely male-dominated space. I’d like to offer a counter claim and say that men in the tech industry do not embrace the bro culture, they use it to cope with women entering tech. Most men in the tech field do not actively seek to exercise women from computing. In certain instances, the bro culture found in tech is formed out of necessity due to a lack of the proper social skills needed to effectively interact with the opposite gender. While this claim might seem like it is using an another stereotype as a crutch, no matter how much people might like to deny it, not all of the tech industry is like a fast past startup with The Social Network-types of cool sprinkled all over it. It’s an industry rooted in true geeks and nerds, and they do still exist throughout it.

While I could not find concrete evidence to support this next claim, in my experience as a computer science student, I find it to be a truth. Men with fewer social skills gravitate towards STEM majors and professions. One example that helps prove this claim, albeit to an extreme degree, is a study that found youth with autism to gravitate to STEM majors in college.3 This is a gender neutral finding, but it still effects my counter statement all the same. Due to this fact, men in computer science tend to be less inclined to deal with women socially. They fall back on the schema pop culture has presented them, the bro culture, in order to cope with their own insufficiencies. A recent study by Jennifer Spoor and Michael Schmitt published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that women’s success makes men nervous.4 In most cases, all of this may offer at least one alternative view that there is no innate hatred for women in the workplace, men simply still do not understand how to properly react to women being there. I think the key to resolving this issue is to encourage women to enter STEM fields at a younger age. This accomplishes two goals; it encourages women to eventually go into tech related fields, and helps better aclimate the more socially inept male students to environments with more women.

[1] Sydell, Laura (2013). “Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers.” NPR. http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/04/29/178810467/blazing-the-trail-for-female-programmers
[2] Keith, Thomas (2000). “The Bro Code.” EBSCO. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.trinity.edu/eds/detail/detail?sid=9658119d-dacb-473a-9d67-95d718d43b3d%40sessionmgr4004&vid=0&hid=4113&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=cat00309a&AN=trinity.b2318839
[3] (2012). “Youth with autism gravitate toward STEM majors in college – if they get there.” Washington University in St. Louis. http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24568.aspx
[4] Spoor, Jennifer R. & Schmitt, Michael T. (2011). ““Things Are Getting Better” Isn’t Always Better: Considering Women’s Progress Affects Perceptions of and Reactions to Contemporary Gender Inequality.” Taylor Francis Online. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/.VCtUoSldUqo

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