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Blog

Help Wanted: Young Males Only, Thanks

Saturday, April 14, 2007 12:30 pm

Dude, check out my band! There’s J-Mac on the servers, TJ on the DB, and Mikey over there on the Wacom. We’re really rippin’ out some chords here, but we need a front man – can you shred? Yeah? Sweet! Let’s jam.

Sooner or later, I figure this job ad will show up on Craigslist, which is full of postings seeking “rockstars,” “ninjas,” and “kickass” coders. It seems that nowadays, to get a job in Web design, you’ve got to be young, not-so-dumb, and full of…well…exuberance.

I’ve been casually job hunting and networking over the last year while working on a really great project, but the landscape has completely changed since the last time I was looking. At first, I thought I was just seeing some stray remarks from a few Neanderthals, but it’s definitely becoming a trend.

Run, Jane, Run

It seems that every week, there’s a new article out about how the IT field is losing female workers. Ed Cone has been following this trend in CIO Insight. In his latest article, Women in I.T.: Where the Girls Aren’t, he points out a report by IT advisory firm Cutter Consortium. Authors Lynne Ellyn and Christine Davis state that “the exodus has been quiet,” and in their report, they explore potential reasons such as a lack of respect or diminishing opportunities.

Cone mentions that his magazine has received quite a few comments from their female readers, but that it’s “all anecdotal evidence; much work remains to be done on the question.” I agree. Everyone knows it’s happening, but no one knows why, and no one is speaking up. There’s the fear that we’ll look like troublemakers. Or, get branded as a “feminist.” Or, ridiculed as complainers. Or…and I have to pause here…receive death threats.

I’ve been in IT for a decade, and it’s been an interesting ride so far. But, if I had a daughter I’d caution her against pursuing a similar career. My single biggest reason: the industry’s lack of professionalism. IT is such a young industry compared to traditional career paths like law, medicine, education, finance, and other fields. Without an established business culture, anything goes. And that’s the problem.

I thought IT was beginning to mellow out and gain some respect, but in some ways, it seems “above the law” more now than ever. I’m not saying it’s necessarily easier for women in other career paths, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. Rather, IT is in its infancy, and it still has a quite a bit of growing up to do before it can be taken seriously.

Lord of the Flies Meets Logan’s Run

The first glimpse of this I got was learning about Drupal code-ins where everyone gets together in a hotel conference room somewhere for pizza and 36-hour, sleepless coding parties. I sense this atmosphere may extend to the workplace. Beyond ping pong tables, techie gadgets galore, and Nerf balls, I’m wondering if employers will start offering desk-side urinals and unlimited No Doze as incentives.

Then, Facebook’s 22-year-old founder, Mark Zuckerberg, became a poster boy for ignorant and arrogant CEOs everywhere. Last month, he was asked to share tips at an event for aspiring entrepreneurs, and according to VentureBeat, he said:

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? I don’t know. Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family. I only own a mattress. Simplicity in life allows you to focus on what’s important.”

Stupid Job Ads

While he didn’t say “young, technical and male,” I sense that could be an underlying current here. Is Zuckerberg’s attitude the exception or the norm in today’s IT workplace? I’m not sure. But, I think a way to start addressing the loss of women in the industry may be to point out concrete examples, rather than just giving our impressions of what is happening.

So, I’ve decided to start posting stupid job ads here when I see them. Some are worse than others, but all, in some way or another, seem more like ads for “Rush Week” (when fraternities and sororities are out on campuses actively recruiting new members) rather than real jobs. They are casualties of what I’ll call the “Zuckerberg effect” — what happens when coolness and success merge with youth and arrogance without reservation or structure.

Here are two to start off with:

1) Posted on the Drupal Groups board and Advomatic’s Web site (Yes, you guys rock and there may not be a lot of women out there with Drupal skills, but why perpetuate the stereotype?):

Advomatic is looking for Drupal Ninjas…

Us: A decent sized progressive Drupal development firm, working with some of the biggest sites in the Drupal Community.

You: A talented individual with php skills, MySQL skills, CSS skills, Drupal skills, sword fighting skills, etc, etc.

The offer: A short term 1 month contract working on a client site, leading to full time employment in May if you know your stuff.

If you like us and we like you, the possibility to join the company on a long term basis, or if you don’t want that, a sweet 1 month gig.

2) Posted on Treehugger.com (Sorry, Treehugger – you guys are awesome, but why not just indicate that it’s a low-paying position rather then mentioning age?):

Junior Software Engineer/Webmaster: You´re young and hungry but have done a bunch of Internet work and are excited to be part of a meaningful company. You´re organized, timely and communicate well. You´re dependable and good at coding and bug-fixing. You´re into a virtual position. Drop us a line with why you´d be a good fit for us and what your salary expectations are…

Comments

  1. I think its rather sexist to say that only dudes can be interested in ninjas. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I can say with some confidence, that woman can have sword fighting skills. However, that skills reference was more of a napoleon dynamite reference than a shout out for more dudes.

    We actively attempt to hire more women developers (One of our obsolute best in fact is one, but sadly is our only one.), problem is, they are all taken. I tried being creative with the job description simply to make us stick out. But I guess I see you are saying. It might actually be deterring people from being interested in us, what with the juvenile drivel that is actually in our job descriptions. We’re just so desperate to find more talent, and its extremely hard to find right now. I’ll take the serious approach next time.

    I would like to say however, that we do not care what the age, race, or sex of our applicants are. In fact I was actively recruiting a 50+ year old woman with amazing skills. However, she was probably turned off by my snarky job description. So we continue the hunt. If you have any ideas or are interested in jumping on board, please, give me a hollar. (I’m in Denver, if that helps.)

    And I’ll have you know, our virtual office is not a haven of juvenile sexist idiocy. It may be occasionally juvenile, and occasionally idiotic. But not really a testosterone laden chaos machine. You might also be happy to know that only 5 of our 11 staff are under 30. So we got that going for us. But if you have any ideas how I can recruit more female developers I would love to know.

    Cheers,

    Mordecai


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