Acceptance of ‘locker-room talk’ pervades tech industry

A third of US men with a degree support Donald Trump despite sexist statements

Screengrab of video released by the “Washington Post” showing Donald Trump (centre) and former   “Access Hollywood” co-anchor  Billy Bush meeting soap star Arianne Zucker:  A  recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey survey   indicates that  36 per cent of college educated men in the US   – regardless of ethnicity –  support Trump

Screengrab of video released by the “Washington Post” showing Donald Trump (centre) and former “Access Hollywood” co-anchor Billy Bush meeting soap star Arianne Zucker: A recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey survey indicates that 36 per cent of college educated men in the US – regardless of ethnicity – support Trump

 

Perhaps the most shocking revelation (from an abundance) to come out of the endlessly bizarre US presidential election was contained in tweets and an article by data boffin Nate Silver.

Silver, who runs the FiveThirtyEight.com data-led news analysis website, famously used data analysis to confound the “experts” by correctly predicting how every US state would vote in the last presidential election.

His tweets last week provided gender-divided maps of the US that showed if only women voted, Clinton would easily win the election, but if only men voted, the presidency would swing resoundingly to Donald Trump.

According to an article in the Atlantic on the polls behind Silver’s prediction: “Trump has a huge lead among white men with no college degree, 65-22 [per cent], but also leads among college-educated white men, who back him at 46 per cent to Clinton’s 39 per cent.”

Figures from a separate set of polls, in this case by NBC News/SurveyMonkey, flips that figure on college-educated men when all men – not just white – are included. This showed that 48 per cent supported Clinton and 36 per cent supported Trump. Still: 36 per cent. Wow.

Think about this. These figures are based on polls taken after the now infamous Billy Bush tape in which Trump discussed sexually assaulting women. So, those polled must have been aware of the so-called locker-room talk and the snowballing list of racist and sexist statements coming out of the Trump campaign.

Patronising argument

And though there has been a consistent and in itself, patronising argument that his support comes from those not educated enough to know better – dismissing the fact that millions of people of diverse backgrounds and races, without a university education, were also the force behind Barack Obama’s two presidential wins – these outside-the-locker-room figures are pretty much game, set and match in proving there’s a serious gender issue infiltrating all levels of society.

Only consider the ongoing, festering debate over lad culture, discrimination, “brogrammers” and the unpleasant rest of it in the technology sector.

Horrific online gender-based bullying such as the “gamergate” scandal – read a concise summary of it here – is dismissed by far too many as the insecure ranting of a bunch of puerile male nerds with little else to do, rather than acknowledged as accumulating evidence of a sad and serious, global gender problem.

Technology companies notoriously have a major employee gender imbalance, though to their credit, some have started publishing those figures and attempt to address them.

Fortune compared 2015 statistics in this area from a range of the biggest and best-known tech players and they are depressing. The best came from Airbnb (52.5 per cent men, 47.5 per cent women), which looks pretty good, but then second “best” is eBay, with a heart-sinking 60/40 split (58.1 per cent men, 41.9 per cent women). And it’s a steep slope after that: Hewlett-Packard, 66.9 per cent men; Facebook, 71.2 per cent men; Google, 72.2 per cent men; Cisco, 74.4 per cent men; Microsoft, 75.7 per cent men; Intel, 76.2 per cent men.

Many arguments and defences have been put forward by the industry as to why this is so (such as the dropping numbers of women graduates in engineering, computer science, mathematics and other hard sciences). These, of course, are part of the picture, but the Trump figures point to more powerful reasons.

Overt racism

So, if you are a woman, and you choose to work in the tech or any other industry where a degree is pretty much mandatory, up to half of your degree-level white male colleagues and more than a third of all your degree-level male colleagues of any race or colour, think that kind of thing does not make a candidate like Trump unthinkable.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel this week indicated support comes from the top for this rot, too, by donating $1.25 million to the Trump campaign.

And plenty of evidence indicates this is not just a US issue. It’s just that – as with so much else that is disturbing – Trump voters have brought an ugly issue out into the open.

Not one single industry, company or individual can argue any longer that covert, and often overt, gender discrimination is not a significant, far-reaching and infuriating element of the tech industry workplace. The big question is: how do they – do we – fix this broken system? 

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