Meet the Brogrammers

They’re the Silicon Valley breed recognizable from their hoodies, energy drinks, and eight-figure sums in their bank accounts.



The first time I visited Silicon Valley, I met up with a very young Internet millionaire from Toronto who was on his third or fourth startup, I can’t remember.  He kept a condo back home and one in San Francisco, two of the most overheated real estate markets in the world. In high school he had been a geek, but now here he was, living the dream. So what did the dream look like?

Well, his West Coast condo looked like a dorm. It was sparsely furnished with bare-bones Ikea, his fridge was dirty and empty, and nary a poster hung on the wall. An intern slept on his couch, every night. There was, of course, an XBox. On an elevator ride down, we ran into his neighbour–another young dude wearing a hoodie, a baseball cap and a backpack. I was soon informed that this individual had just “exited” his startup for an eight figure sum. I met many guys like this in Silicon Valley. They worked 80 hour weeks together and then went out together for greasy food. They lived with each other and gamed with each other. It was hard to tell the millionaires from the interns. Some told me of girlfriends, but I didn’t meet any. I didn’t know it at the time, but these guys were Brogrammers.

Brogrammers, it seems, are a new breed of techies who pound energy drinks, crush code, and pull chicks. Brogrammer culture gets a close look this week from Mother Jones, where it is held accountable for its icky sexism. Fair enough. But I’m not sure how seriously we should take the fratty posture of the Brogrammers. Let’s remember: these aren’t actually womanizing louts. They’re geeks, pretending.

Everything and nothing has changed in computing. Programmers have never had more cache. The high school computer whiz now has more hopes resting on his shoulders than a star athlete. But the guys who discover a high aptitude for writing code are still the same guys who have trouble engaging in a face to face conversation. And yes, they are still guys. From the Mother Jones piece:

“According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, in 2011 just 20 percent of all programmers were women. A smaller percentage of women are earning undergraduate computer science degrees today than they did in 1985, according to the National Center for Women in Technology, and between 2000 and 2011 the percentage of women in the computing workforce dropped 8 percent, while men’s share increased by 16 percent. Only 6 percent of VC-backed tech startups in 2010 were headed by women.”

The startup scene is a sausage party. Women are often parachuted into companies to act as social co-ordinators, single-handedly tasked with creating a fun office culture, coaxing the bros from their shells and out to mixers. Inevitably, some of these workplaces have taken on some Maxim-mag style bravado, and to the extent that it excludes and alienates women, it should not be tolerated. But the real problem is not the juvenile humour of a few juvenile guys who have about as much exposure to women as your average Alaskan oil rig worker. It’s the unsettling absence of women from one of the most important professions in society.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown


Meet the Brogrammers

  1. Most people see it as a dull, tedious, boring ‘career’….and while you can get rich doing it, you can lose it just as fast as we saw in the dot.com boom/bust of the 90s.

    In any case, lots of people, including kids have learned, or are learning, how to program….and we’ll soon see a lot of custom-made software. Not as a career, but as part of everyday life.

    Raspberry Pi….this is for kids


    Even NY mayor Bloomberg is promoting it


    • Why most people?

  2. In the university I went to, Laurentian, the majority of women were either in nursing, English, or some other liberal science; likely to try and become a teacher in a province glutted with teachers. Few women are taking post-secondary math or computer science courses. This ratio was echoed just the other day when Wikipedia’s blog once again revealed through its survey that less than 10% of its contributors are women. My girlfriend is a biology major and she gets bursaries simply for being a woman in a hard science, for being a woman that is taking something other than a liberal science or nursing.

    In my opinion, women are way behind when it comes, not only to taking technology/science/computer-related post-secondary courses, but participating in internet culture in general. Women need to play some video games, contribute a Wikipedia article, listen to or make podcasts, develop a make-up app… I don’t know! Something! I’m not a woman and can’t suppose to know how they can care more about technology or the internet(outside of Facebook). We need more Gina Trapani’s.

    • Women are steadily moving ahead in education ….but it’s still a cultural thing. Women are still more ‘socially acceptable’ as teachers and nurses, than as software develpers, astrophysicists and the like.

      • You have probably heard of intelligence but their is also emotional intelligence and the people who spend their time with machinery instead of interacting with humans don’t necessarily do so because it is “socially acceptable” but rather because they find it more comfortable. Women are engineers and there are more women becoming doctors then men. It isn’t about social acceptance. These guys described in the article aren’t out their socializing with anybody but boy/men just like themselves.

        • Please stop perpetuating old stereotypes of women.

          Lots of women prefer maths and science to ‘interacting with humans’ but it is still more ‘socially acceptable’ to pretend otherwise.

          The ‘western world’ has this idea women can’t do maths and science….that is a cultural construct that doesn’t hold true in the rest of the world.

          Separate the personal preferences from the cultural nonsense.

  3. It’s a high-risk, high-reward path to take. Women are more risk-averse than men. Why is this unsettling?

    • I worked as a programmer and I have never met as many immature mysoginistic porno loving turkeys in my life. They spend their time arguing over wwf wrestlers and collect the dolls to decorate their man cave like dwellings. The boss, also male, would yell at us like we were dogs…us I am referring to myself and the only other female in the company and he insisted I cover the reception at lunch and do the shipping/receiving while receptionist was away from her desk…smells like sexism to me. I have worked in the marine trade as well as in the hospitality trade and I the risk adverse theory is malarky, probably a delusion of some doll login Techno geek.

    • You’ve never faced childbirth. THAT is high risk/high reward.

    • There are more females than males in medical schools across the country. Is medicine not a high-risk, high-reward path to take???? Techslave has it right. Spend sometime with these guys that end up in computer engineering at Waterloo and Simon Fraser. Their idea of a fun time in highschool is to get together with their male friends and their laptops and play. They don’t go to parties in highschool with girls.

      • Med school is one of the lowest-risk paths to take. Once you’re a doctor, you are guaranteed never to go out of business.

        I’m not arguing with the nerdiness of comp sci guys. I’m pointing out that the fact that women don’t enter this field can be explained by well-known, proven gender differences such as risk-averse vs. risk-taker behaviour. I realize you don’t like it, but I don’t particularly care.

  4. Programmers have never had more cache
    It’s not often a semantic error is a potential triple meaning. Modern computer architecture does provide programmers with more and larger caches. And venture capitalists have given some programmers with successful start-ups more cash. But the word you intended is spelled “cachet”.

  5. mmm, from that pic, it looks like he’s running Kubuntu, or some derivation of a Linux OS ?
    but hey, I may be wrong about that. Ah well, programmer, brogrammer, schmogrammer,…,
    I always much prefered being called a “Code Warrior”.
    Arrrrr maties’ :)

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