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Summary and Resources
Are you confused or frustrated by the amount of energy spent discussing sexism in the workplace and how men are to blame? Today I'd like to offer some insights and opinions that might help men make smarter decisions about how we treat people to make sure we're not damaging our careers and making it difficult for people to work with us.
Disclaimer: These Are MY Personal Opinions
First a disclaimer. I'm a heterosexual man and these are just my opinions after many years working in the industry that I've observed and experienced. I'm not qualified to talk about what makes the workplace safe for women, but I can share how my own shortcomings and observations of other men's behavior makes it hard for everyone.
Purpose: Get You To Think More Seriously About This Issue
The purpose of this video is not to tell you what the solution to all of these issues is, but to get you to think about how software developer bro culture affects all of us. My hope is that this will lead to you spending some time researching the issue to reach your own conclusions with intention.
What's It Like To Work With "Bros"?
First I'd like to share what it's like to work with other "bros". On an all male, or male-dominated team like I've been on several times, unchecked aggression, free exchange of ideas regardless of how they make people feel, and shaming are prevalent. The people who do this don't always intend for this outcome, but as the team grows and these behaviors are left unchecked, it becoming "the norm" is the result.
Men Can Feel Threatened By Women's Support Of Each Other
I share a story about how a man approached a group of women discussing their lives in the park while my wife was at Yoga teacher training in Boulder. He made the crude joke "what is this the man hater's group?" which underscores how men feel threatened by women's support of each other. Because we can often feel it is a sign of weakness to support each other, we can lash out and say and do stupid things when we are uncomfortable.
Men Fear Losing Relationships If They Show Vulnerability
I also read a brief passage from "Daring Greatly", a New York Times Best Seller by Brene Brown, speaker, PHD, and researcher on shame and vulnerability in modern culture. In the passage, I describe the real struggle men feel when they don't have a safe place to express vulnerability. I've included a link to the book at the bottom of the page. The conclusion I draw is that men can become afraid of losing relationships that are important to them if they show vulnerability.
Misery Loves Company
So why do men continue to behave this way? One reason is the concept of "misery loves company", or the phenomenon where men engage in behaviors and ways of relating that make them feel worse about each other just because it feels good to be part of a social group. Standing up for ourselves to not engage in this behavior and instead hold ourselves to a sustainable, higher standard is the first step in rejecting this attitude.
Domination Focus Will Limit Your Career Progress
We also behave this way because we're modeled from a very early age to dominate others. However, domination will severely limit career progress as we move from company to company, or team to team, as our "bubble" of acceptable behavior is broken and we're forced to interact with wider, more diverse groups of people.
Lacking Empathy Can Cause Others To Abandon You
A lack of empathy will ultimately cause others to treat us with low respect. When things inevitably go south in any shape or form on a project, and leadership looks for someone to blame, if you treat others like objects of your will and not people you will be at the top of the list to take the fall. This is another form of short-term thinking and it doesn't take long for your career reputation to catch up with you - making a sustainable plan for growth much more painful than necessary.
Compromising Work/Life Balance Makes You Easier To Replace
In our quest to advance in our careers, we unfortunately often compromise work/life balance with the expectation that this will help us get ahead. In reality, though it might result in a short term promotion or advantage, we actually make it EASIER to replace us with younger, naive employees that will do the same when we inevitably grow tired. Men can do a better job than this and stand up for a fair balance of work by refusing to contribute to the workaholic mindset.
Industry Veterans Owe It To Younger Colleagues To Improve Culture
Since we will be working with the next generation as we progress, we owe it to our younger colleagues, regardless of their gender or ethnicity, to improve the tech culture. If we accept software developer bro culture as the default way teams interact, we are simply destining ourselves and others to a short career filled with disappointment as we're not prepared with the social skills and empathy needed to progress.
Have you experienced problems with bro culture on software projects? Has it limited your growth? How are you dealing with it? Leave me a comment below.