The rise of the brash, stylish, computer-geek-turned-cool-guy known simply as a “brogrammer” among popular technology startups threatens to further alienate women from enrolling in computer science courses, where for years they have been vastly underrepresented, higher-education officials said.
Mainstreaming of the label “brogrammer”—a combination of bro and programmer—began among technology companies appealing to recent college graduates who are experts at writing computer code. It has since seeped into higher education, where students said it has reinforced the archetype of a tech-savvy student ready for post-graduation life in the technology industry: A man.
“Some people say brogrammer is not sexist, because women can be programmers, too. They’re just called hogrammers,” said Xanda Schofield, a junior computer sciences major at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., where the college’s president has pushed for more women in technology-focused majors. “Hearing that, you realize that people just don’t understand the problem. They’re trying to make programming cool by excluding women, making it boys only. It makes me wonder why someone would try to apply a social construct that’s discriminating when you can just appeal to all students.”
Faculty members and campus decision makers nationwide for years have warned of falling rates of women students in the computer sciences, which hasn’t always been so thoroughly dominated by men. In 1985, nearly four in 10 undergraduate computer science degrees were awarded to women. By 2009, that number had plummeted to 18 percent. The U.S. technology industry reflects a similar trend: Two in 10 programmers are women, according to a 2011 report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.