Is the tech sector hostile to women?

A series of events straight from the fraternity house makes things worse in a field already rife with sexism.

By Kim Peterson Sep 11, 2013 1:54PM
Pax Dickinson (@paxdickinson via Twitter)The technology field has never been all that welcoming to women, but a series of recent events show just how little progress has been made when it comes to gender equality.

The website Business Insider came under fire this week for the outrageous Twitter comments of Pax Dickinson, its now former chief technology officer.

Dickinson (pictured) had been dropping some jaw-droppingly offensive bits on Twitter for some time now, but people started getting fired up when he said this on Monday: "feminism in tech remains the champion topic for my block list. my finger is getting tired."

It didn't take much probing to find several other examples of things a technology executive should really never say. "A man who argues on behalf of feminism is a tragic figure of irony, like a Jewish Nazi," he mused last year.

Another message said basketball star LeBron James has more dedication, ambition and drive because he raped an entire city. Kobe Bryant "only raped one girl."

People are prone to dumb comments on Twitter, but Dickinson was in a position of power and hired software developers. So people noticed when he said things like "Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented female developers as they do worrying about how to hire a unicorn."

At first, Business Insider's Henry Blodget tried to sweep the issue away, telling Valleywag that Dickinson "was speaking for himself, not Business Insider." But the criticism continued, and within a day Dickinson was gone.

Can it get worse? Oh yes. Let's cruise on over to last weekend's TechCrunch conference. In the first presentation of the day, two programmers unveiled an app that will take pictures of you while you're looking at women's breasts. The programmers did admit that "women just aren't that warm to it," Salon reports, and probably could have asked any woman cringing in the audience for confirmation.

That was followed by a presentation about "Circle Shake," which included a man pretending to masturbate. Yes, children were in the audience, and no, that didn't seem to impact anyone's judgment.

TechCrunch, which is owned by AOL (AOL), later apologized. "Sexism is a major problem in the tech industry, and we've worked hard to counteract it in our coverage and in our own hiring," co-editors Alexia Tsotsis and Eric Eldon said in a note on the site.

TechCrunch linked to an article in MIT Technology Review noting how gender bias helps push an estimated 3,000 women with doctorate degrees out of the scientific workforce every year. That article was from 2008, but clearly things haven't improved much.

This is an industry dominated by "brogrammers," one that pays women 49 cents to every man's dollar. That alone sets women back to begin with, and people like Pax Dickinson are just there to make sure they don't progress any farther.

More on moneyNOW

Sep 12, 2013 1:21PM
Dickinson looks like the kind of guy you would like to smack the sh*t out of, even if you didn't know anything about him. He should be doing a 2 am infomercial for some product nobody wants.
Sep 11, 2013 2:56PM

Sexism is clearly wrong, and those who engage in it should be fired. It is also wrong to drive down wages by flooding the US market with low-wage foreign nationals, but those who do that are called innovators and get bonuses while those who need to compete for crumbs see our standards of living decimated and destroyed.

Sep 16, 2013 9:25AM
As a woman in a male dominated technical field of performance testing, I am hard put to find many women colleges.  The hiring standards at the company I work for are the same for everyone. Unfortunately, HR wants to enforce a lighter requirement for women in order to get "more women in the door".  To this a say "Bull $&**!".  I am  a woman.  I took the obligatory training class.  I passed the same tests as my male counterparts. I know from experience that my employer is not sexist.  I know the recruiter personally.  He has told me that when he is at the job fairs recruiting, women are not interested.  On the other side of the coin, suggesting that women cannot do the job is bull.  My manager is a woman and is very well known in the performance test community as being one of the best.  
Sep 12, 2013 3:24PM
as a women, i was the best in my programming classes, ended up teaching everybody else  so either i'm the exception or all of you are full of it and this guy is just a big bully
Sep 16, 2013 1:13PM

Why is anyone surprised that sexism is alive and well? A black boy gets shot by an hispanic man and everyone cries racism and the entire country is in an uproar so much so that the president feels the need to make a speech. A 14 year old girl gets raped and subsequently commits suicide because the male sexist pig judge thought since it wasn't a beat up kind of rape it wasn't that bad so only gave the offender 30 days in jail. Exactly what about that shouts equality?? Exactly what about 3 male youths who shoot an Aussie aren't fully developed until they are 24 years old so we can judge them less harshly but a 14 year old girl is fully in control over herself when faced with a teacher who wants to have sex with her, shouts equality to anyone???


You could never show a black man crawling on all fours with a chain around his neck but you can a woman. It's called pornography and it's nicely tucked away protected by the system made by men for men.


Men wont change until women change and get angry all over again.

Sep 16, 2013 9:01AM
It is easy to see from many of the comments here that the article is correct. You have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that hostility and sexism are alive and well.
Sep 16, 2013 10:18AM

I have come to believe that putting women down is a masculine ritual that (some) men routinely perform for the benefit of other men, that is, look at me, I am a macho jerk, therefore I am a real man, and not a pussy.  This is like the feminine ritual of screaming and have a panic attack and pretending to be helpless when a small tiny insect appears:  it's like saying, I'm a cute widdle helpless girlie-pie, and therefore, a real woman, not a butch...  in reality, normal people don't need to act like jerks or be afraid of little bugs.  It's all just phony, trying to project an image.  Sad, isn't it?

Sep 12, 2013 12:57PM

Not hiring because of Race, Religion & Gender ... etc,  is totally wrong. But you shouldn't hire to make a quota either. Hire the best for your company and let the market and the individual parties determine the salaries. If anyone doesn't like their salaries or situation and you believe you are that good .... its an open market ... see what you're worth.


If a company hires based on quotas, or doesn't hire the best because of Race, Religion & Gender ... etc, there will be consequences. I believe in the one case it does a disservice to the group and makes me question a groups ability within an organization (did they hire the best or because of classification?) and in the other case the business will lose to competition that does hire the best regardless of a classified group.


It's a tragically competitive world. Businesses survive because they have the right mix of people.  

Sep 16, 2013 1:21PM
I write software. I work with females all the time. There are many great females in tech. You can also find asinine people like Dickinson in every field. 
Sep 16, 2013 6:26PM
Hell yes, I've seen it. My wife of 25 years has been out of work for years. She's put in at least 10 applications a week. With no reply after they see her first name. A student of the year, member of IEEE, she holds two degree's in Electronics and specializes in updating blueprints and working with Electronic standards regulators (UL) in the U.S. Canada and Germany, but she can't get a reply from anywhere in the country. She was contacted by numerous headhunters and job placement personnel, who matched her perfectly to what the employers need, only to have them reject her when they find out she's a women. One manufacturer of high tech rear view mirrors, took down the job after a phone interview with her. Then posted it back up a couple of months later. Men without the specific schooling needed for the job, will be hired and taught the job specifics, women aren't even looked at.

You can get a job in the industry if your a women, but they delegate you to secretarial duty, and paperwork. If you see a woman in a position of actually doing things, she's so far ahead of the people around her doing the same job, its ridiculous, and they WON'T give you the same starting salary they give a man. 
A Diesel manufacturer, gave her a phone interview, had her come down to the plant for an final interview. She borrowed money for travel and appropriate attire for the interview, and when she got down there, the only offered her a side job for less than 1/2 the pay, expecting her to relocate her family and be happy with it.

Is the Tech sector hostile to women? Its demeaning and dehumanizing, and men in that industry are all at fault, stop pointing at management or saying "I'm not in HR". Chances are the woman in HR is more qualified than you but not given the chance. 
Sep 16, 2013 8:12AM

First: I will state I am male:


Second:  'Technology' is a VERY broad term   Way too large for generalizations:


I've been in Information Technology, as a manager, for 20 plus years and I know first hand how the money is spent:  Information Technology is an industry where salary parity does exist between men and women.


The statement in the article  "This is an industry dominated by "brogrammers,"  one that for every man's dollar pays women 49 cents"   is so far off base it's pathetic

Sep 16, 2013 12:22PM
Reading these comments give me no hope in the human race. You're looking pretty ugly right now. I hope the apocalypse happens soon...we just need to wipe the slate clean and start all over.

Don't forget that women are the reason you men are able to carry your "legacy" through generations to come, and we're more than just caregivers. We have more to offer than just your babies (which is obviously not enough in itself) so it's time for you to wake up from the 1950s and realize that women also think for themselves, have brains, and are able to use them quite well in all different fields of study. Your minds are narrow.
Sep 16, 2013 3:26PM
I have been told you should not judge a book by its cover but after those statements he looks like and acts like a jerk
Sep 11, 2013 4:17PM
WTH?  They couldn't link it to republicans?
Sep 16, 2013 10:10AM

Before we cry sexism, can we dig deeper into the data? I would like to present statistics of how many women are Computer Science majors compared to men, and the percentage of women compared to men that apply for IT jobs. I know this makes for a good story but as a journalist I would like to see the writer actually present data to back up the claim. If I gave you the statistics that only 9.4% of nurses are men, I can present the headline “Are Women Keeping Men Out of the Inner Circle of Nurses” and looking at the number comparison I could say YES, but if I looked at the amount of male graduates compared to women I could probably conclude that the numbers are just not there for an equal opportunity.

Jan 11, 2014 5:39PM

I know this maynot be a popular comment, but let me say this. I have been in the Technical

Field for 20 years. I have seen numerous Women Technicians, that are able to get away

with things, that my male counterparts could not. Their knowledge level was poor at best, but

once hired the upper management was scared to fire them, due to a lawsuit. It was not

fair to the other technicians, that were expected to fix issues in the Technical Field. If they

want to be employed in the Technical Field, then they should have to study just as hard

as the male counterparts, and perform just as good as them as well.

Sep 16, 2013 8:19PM
This just in..... men and women are different.
Sep 16, 2013 1:30PM
WTF? Is that a GIANT zit unter his lip? He is a total closet queen.
Sep 16, 2013 10:40AM
Since men and women aren't treated equally, I think we should just divided and let men live in their own society and let our women live in our own society because we can't live coexisting anymore.  Women should be more independent, and why bother with men??? 
Sep 16, 2013 10:47AM
Whether it's wrong or not, it still keeps going on, people, and no matter how many times you say that it's wrong, it's not going to change that way. Sexism is just a fact of life, and, if we aren't by now, men and women will never be considered equal. I just enrolled in school for IT, and I will admit I see many more men in this profession than women. But do you think that's going to stop me? 
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