Solving tech's diversity problem may be a key to saving San Francisco
"The brogrammer is always someone else," wrote Kate Losse, a freelance journalist, in an April blog post. "He is THOSE Facebook guys who yell too loudly at parties and wave bottles in the air, he is not the nice, shy guy who gets paid 30 percent more because of his race, gender and appeal to the boy-genius fetishes of [venture capitalists]."
The overarching point of Losse's article was this: There is a subtle sexism, and also racism, in the tech sector, which shuts out women and people of color. The looming stereotype of a douchey brogrammer can obscure the smaller, more indirect ways in which minorities and women are shut out of the industry.
Tech's disturbing (but unsurprising) lack of diversity is being highlighted amid an economic backdrop that has resulted in widespread displacement of San Francisco's working class and minorities.
Some are seeking to create opportunities for Bay Area communities of color within tech, as a way to even the scales. A swell of new applicants with programming skills — including people of color and women — may soon come knocking. But in the time it will take school-age coders to cycle through the first generation of new computer science classes, Silicon Valley is going to have to take a hard look in the mirror.
Some of the Bay Area's hate toward tech may be rooted in a perceived lack of access. 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.
The age of the brogrammer is now, and it's as socially progressive as the paleolithic era, meaning: not at all.
FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT
Talk to anyone in the realm of new technology companies and startups, and they'll surely tell you this: Tech is an inspiring, creative field, where pure skill is the key to unlocking any job you'd like. The dress style is casual (hoodies, of course) and the perks flow like wine (or energy drinks).
When the Guardian visited the CloudCamp social good hackathon, we saw video game arcade machines in the ground floor and beer flowing throughout. Another company, Hack Reactor, had desks attached to treadmills and a life coach on hand to mind employee health. These are accoutrements de rigeuer, stunningly standard. But tales of true Silicon Valley excess abound: One CEO offers employees free helicopter rides, many offer in-house chefs and extravagant travel.
Interns in Silicon Valley are enjoying huge perks like free meals, massages, swimming pools, nap pods: http://t.co/BdaaOdC95P
— Manufacturing.net (@MnetNews) June 10, 2014
Skill and ability alone are the keys to unlocking this lifestyle, the tech industry says. Workers' fervor can take on an almost cult-like zeal.
"I think the sharing economy is addictive," said Rafael Martinez-Corina, a panelist at the Share2014 sharing economy conference in May, touting tech's biggest stars like AirBNB, Lyft, and Uber. "Once you get it, you want more and more. You get into car sharing, you want to get into food sharing, time sharing."
He asked the audience, "Who else is addicted to sharing?"
Almost every hand went in the room shot right up. Cheers immediately followed. Hallelujah!