The Boston API Jam, hosted by Sqoot, and its bizarre, misogynist ad copy has convinced at least three companies to drop its sponsorship for the hackathon. Sqoot has apologized and claims it was actually trying to poke fun at “the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated.”
The debacle is symptomatic of a far greater issue in the tech community. Women are marginalized and treated more as objects than as colleagues. The trend is a disturbing one and poses a serious threat to the health and diversity of the tech sector.
The Boston API Jam is a case in point. On its site, the group promoted “great perks,” including this gem that only a group of true muscle-heads could craft:
Women: Need another beer? Let our one of friendly (female) event staff get that for you.”
Basho‘s Director of Product Management Shanley Kane saw the statement and started speaking out about it on Twitter. The support for what she and others said grew, resulting in both Apigee, Heroku and Cloudmine dropping out as sponsors.
“When we saw the description for the event, we realized it was not in line with our company values and withdrew for the event. We are strong supporters of women in tech and we believe the industry has to move away from old sexist middles in order to expand,” said Sam Ramji of Apigee.
Here’s Sqoot’s apology:
While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it.
We’re really sorry,
Avand & Mo
Kane is not buying the apology. She’s right. It’s not really an apology at all. Further, if you read the promotion, it’s clear that the event is even more limited. Gay men? They would not exactly be welcome at this event.
“It’s both homophobic and misogynistic,” she said.
Did they really think they’d get more women there by promising them that women would serve them beer? What? As Kane points out, they had this false assumption that women would not attend the event at all.
“It precluded the idea that women would even be there,” Kane said.
We’ve got a problem, folks. The #brogrammer meme is all over Twitter these days, and the perception is correct. Men dominate the community, and the attitude displayed in the Boston API Jam’s ad copy worsens the situation.
And if you think it is not a problem, I’d suggest you read this story about why women quit technology careers.
Kane makes this point, too. These kinds of flare ups show support but there are far more subtle issues such as women being excluded from executive ranks and viewed as non-technical.
It’s not just the Boston hackathon organizers. This is a problem that has the entire tech community in a jam.