Over the past few months, the term “brogrammer” has been sneaking into popular culture and been written about by a variety of media outlets, including USA TODAY () , Mother Jones and Bloomberg Businessweek.
The Brogramming Facebook page has nearly 24,000 likes.
A brogrammer is “a programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy,” according to the top definition on Urban Dictionary.
The culture of the brogrammer has been portrayed in a variety of ways. The USA TODAY article characterized brogramming as a shift in the portrayal of geeks — “geeks are cool.”
But Mother Jones and Bloomberg Businessweek highlighted a downside. Though programmers were shedding their nerdy image and replacing it with a more stereotypical “frat” personality, the extent of brogramming — especially in smaller technology startups — was considered by many to be sexist and demeaning to the female programmers.
In a career field made up of only 20% women, according to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, many in computing and computer science are worried about the lack of women entering the field and feel that the media attention given to brogramming isn’t helping.
“Things like this that seem to promote a frat house, male-dominated attitude don’t help us in terms of getting increased gender diversity in computing,” said Robert Walker, director of Kent State University’s School of Digital Sciences and computer science professor. “I suspect there are some startup companies that are mostly male and have this sort of atmosphere. It makes no sense to me. We have plenty of studies that show that some diversity on a team make it more productive.”
College students who plan on pursuing technology and computing fields, however, haven’t found the “brogrammer” culture in their classes at school.
“On campus, no one really uses the term, that I know of. I don’t know anyone who would consider themselves a brogrammer,” said Melody Kelly, a freshman computer science major at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).
“I’ve heard the term, but I hadn’t really heard of it as a serious sort of mindset or culture,” said Gabbie Burns, a senior in computer science at RIT. “It was more of a joke or a punchline to things.”
James Merrill, a junior in computer science at University of Wisconsin-Madison, hadn’t heard of the term “brogrammer” but said that he could see that it is basically a shift away from “just nerds programming.”
Even though both Burns and Kelly have heard of some the brogrammer culture at some companies is offensive to females, neither woman is worried about encountering brogrammers in the workforce after graduating.
Burns said that she tended to like more structured workplaces where she didn’t think brogrammers would thrive. “I personally prefer working in an overall environment that has more structure and organization and a degree of seriousness,” Burns said.
Kelly said that the brogramming culture could actually be a positive — up to a point.
“I could see how the extreme partying and sexualization could be discouraging, but I don’t think it would escalate to that level where it would discourage women. If anything, it might be refreshing to have some classmates that would go to the gym.”
Merrill said that brogramming could be seen two different ways. “It’s kind of hyper-masculine but it does also show that the stereotypical scrawny geeky programmer isn’t the norm. So that could be positive, but it’s kind of a coin flip.”
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