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TECHNOLOGY

5 Reasons the Tech Industry Has Got to Stop Being so Bro

The industry is all the damage to so many and one unnecessary personal implosion after another.

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BY Erik Sherman - 23 Mar 2019

tech industry being bro

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Want to find problems in how businesses work? Step up to the tech carnival knock-'em-down gallery. Three balls to tip the scales on a big brand, and first two throws don't count.

Facebook left left millions of passwords in clear text on internal systems. Employees could get them any time they wanted. (Did I mention that most fraud and identity theft has traditionally started with employees?) And that's aside from all the many, many times Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg or someone else promised that a screw-up would be the last time. "Now we'll take privacy seriously."

Sure, just after the checks from the advertisers clear. Or, wait, there's more money to be made. Never mind. That's bro culture.

Facebook has become a bitter joke. Uber was almost there under CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick. All the sexual harassment and driving people to make a deal whatever the circumstances and all that. It's bro culture.

Or, given the complexity of jets these days, I'll add Boeing to the mix. Two crashes, hundreds of lives, and it turns out that the company reportedly was largely self-certifying the 737 Max, with pressure to get it done faster so planes could get out the door sooner as Dominic Gates, the aerospace reporter at the Seattle Times wrote. Inside leverage: That's bro culture, too.

Tech is swimming in bro culture, which is more complicated than many thinks. Yes, there's misogyny. Guys think they're smarter than women, who aren't daring and strutting enough to actually have the right stuff. Right? Yeah, bro culture.

But so is the writing off anyone who doesn't look the same. The certainty that no matter what goes wrong, you'll pull it off by the end. It's pushing an image of being the job and having to work longer hours, proving that you belong and daring anyone else to spend as much time as you. Bro.

Bro culture is smug and self-assured, usually while being out of touch with the limits of what one knows and can do. Trying to do more than seems possible? Nothing wrong with that. It's only when you assume it will work and forget how far off you could find yourself. Bro culture is pumping yourself up about how you only have to move your company a bit further for the payoff, even when it's something like Yahoo and no one, including CEO Marissa Mayer or Carol Bart--or any guys in the positive for however many milliseconds they lasted--can explain coherently and simply what the company does.

Yes, bro culture isn't just for male bros anymore. It's for female ones like Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. Someone willing to roll the dice when the ultimate gamble could have been some person trying to get blood work done and find out what was making them sick, but who never would. Bro culture is hurtful to too many people and companies. Here are five of its biggest issues.

1. In a #MeToo world, it's more than embarrassing

This is perhaps the easiest one to notice. Denigrating women or people from other cultures, assuming you're better, wrecks careers for no good reason. And it makes the entire company look like a horse's ass. Especially when, as The Verge reported, your company is Google and it's paid $135 million to two executives accused of sexual harassment. That's a big payoff for being a big creepy bully. Particularly when there's probably reams of material claiming that Google has zero tolerance of this, that, or the other.

2. There's a race for talent, so why brush away so many people?

You can't get by in tech without sufficient talent. The issue is so keen that the issue has become a clich. Companies so badly need help that they recruit people from overseas. Except there are still many stories from women who can't get attention, no matter how trained and skilled they are. Really, you say you want to invent the diverless car or reverse aging or cure cancer and you can't figure out how to hire more talented women? Call me and I can put you in touch with women who would know in an instant. Even guys who could tell you how to do it if you were interested.

3. Grown-up responsibility helps you fix problems before they're out of hand

Bro culture is excessively focused on youth because, hey, only the young do technology. Well, unless you want the top in innovation, which studies have shown generally comes from older people, not younger. Not just quality, but quantity. One thing about older people, though, is that they can seem negative. Just because they've already gone through what you're suggesting and realize how many problems you might not yet be aware of.

Bros are incessantly upbeat and optimistic. Even though experience can maybe point out problems that you could avoid with focus.

4. Investors are ready to drop you at the first stench

Some companies seem to get away with anything and everything. That's because, after years, it looks like they're going to make it big and companies want a fast lane to success. Except, the investors are wary and have seen to much b.s. get washed into the stream. Do something stupid and they'll be ready to drop you fast and cut all ties, because why throw good money after sunk bad?

5. To deal with business, you have to grow up, one way or the other

Bro culture reveres never-ending summer days, excitement over the next rise. It's the search for Neverland, except that can quickly turn ugly. There's nothing wrong with growing up, putting away the things of a child, and taking up the real challenge of adulthood. It's the grownups who will really get things done. That happens again and again in tech, and every other industry. Long past time that tech starts the process.

 

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