What Can Men Do?

I too am gonna call BS on you blaming being a jerk on having Aspergers - As NuclearZenFire said

Assigning that behavior as a trait of Aspergers, a disorder which is almost by definition the opposite of being highly attuned to the complexities of deep social clues, is grossly inaccurate.

What’s worse is that - with 16 years in Professional SW engineering - what I have seen is that those who were the biggest jerks were just jerks - most often neurotypical but very insecure and they just loved to throw their weight around. The ones who seemed to be on the spectrum tended to be MUCH quieter, introverted but generally lacked skills in the communication space. They said inappropriate things, bad jokes and the like - but in general wanted to be liked and rarely were jerks - at least not consistently.

If anything I think blaming those on the Spectrum actually blames some of the victims of the jerks - not the jerk themselves. This is a very dangerous path.

Please focus on the BEHAVIOR you want to stop - and stop playing diagnostician - you (and I) simply are not qualified.

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I’m sorry I have to be that guy who dumps on true love, but let’s be honest: the odds of any random office romance working out are pretty slim.

I’m sorry to be the guy who dumps on making stuff up: the odds of office romances working out are actually better than almost all alternatives. About ~40% of people have workplace romances, and of those workplace daters, a huge percentage (30% according to a 2012 CareerBuilder survey of over 4000 people) married co-workers.

Workplaces are amazing self-sorting devices (versus a bar, match.com, etc). You tend to be put in heavy contact with people who share interests, education and backgrounds. Banning workplace relationships – is impossible, useless and tragic. The next logical step is banning workplace friendships. (in hippy voice) Let love bloom man.

Even the President (of the United States) met his wife on the job, Bill and Melinda Gates did as well, and a good chunk of my friends! It is a common American love story.


Hi Jeff!

Found this on Twitter. I grew up in a family that drops the F bomb, so I didn’t take Shanley’s post as angry as you did, when you admonished her on social media for not writing her ideas like Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

I thought her idea of having men exclude themselves from all male conference panels was very innovative and bold. I think she would have been taken more seriously if she was a man who had suggested it, because somehow when a woman says it – it sounds angry to men.

As someone who gets chills from Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I wouldn’t say Shanley did women wrong by voicing her opinions, but if you or others were offended, I can understand.

I appreciate your concern about women, and you have some good points. However, the answer to making tech more woman friendly is more than “Reigning in your natural Asperger’s tendencies” and #5 “Don’t sleep with your coworkers.”

Asperger’s is a condition, and it should not be equated with a tendency to patronize women.

I hope you found my feedback helpful.


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Preventing sexual harrassment by instituting a no-dating rule is kind of like trying to prevent rape by mandating celibacy. It won’t work, and it only serves to draw attention away from the real problem.

Work is an environment where a bunch of people with similar interests spend a lot of time getting to know each other. Expecting people in that proximity not to pair up occasionally is naive. Even worse, a no-dating rule drives relationships underground, which means if an abuser does show up, the fact relationships are “against policy” can be used to silence the victim by implying the victim has a motive to lie about the real state of the relationship with the abuser.

The way to stop abuse is to make sure everyone knows what abuse looks like, and that when it’s discovered something is done about it. These are two things the tech industry (like many other male-dominated industries) are very, very bad at.


Hi Jeff, it is strange to see you in the “Tech Sexism” discussion. For those of you who do not know me, I am a 47yo, and a geek, front-end, jeans and t-shirt variety, not truly hard-core. I can walk up and down the stack, but am happiest near the user. I am in awe of my neighbor for whom everything is an excuse to wire up some hardware, but it is not me. I have MSCS from uiuc, and have done ~7 startups in the last 20 years, and bunch of volunteer geek work.

The entire “Geeks are sexist, and their culture is not inclusive” discussion feels like it is happening in an alternate universe from mine. The facts they throw around do not match my personal experience at all.

  1. 20% of programmers are women? In my career, I’ve worked closely with >100 serious coders, and I remember 6 of them being female, 1 transgender. In the last year, I’ve worked with about 10, and none of them were women.

  2. Technically, working with women did not differ from working with men.

  3. Socially, working with some of women was initially different. Why? Because they were pretty women, and they would talk to you. See #4 why women talking to you is interesting. After an initial shock wore off, she’d be treated like a fellow geek.

  4. As a geek, women were not interested in you at all. My geek awkwardness was like women repelant. Any woman talking to you was an exciting event. This awkwardness and chasm between geeks and women was a fundamental part of geek experience, and was universally acknowledged. See Sex question at http://www.joereiss.net/geek/geek.html: “Geeks have traditionally had problems with sex (ie, they never have any)”.

This changed in my late 20s, when suddenly we all got married in a just a few years. I am still puzzled what changed, there was a sudden turnaround, famine to feast.

In conclusion, there was definitely awkwardness between the geeks and women. The awkwardness manifested itself in us falling for any cute girl that’d talk to us, and not doing anything about it (or something meek, like an awkward invitation for coffee). This was universal, in or out of the workplace. Once we got married, the awkwardness was gone, and we were happy.

The workplace described in all these posts is foreign to me. I cannot imagine a true geeky guy ever being agressive towards women. I’ve seen it among sales/business, but not among techies.

But then, parts of the new startup culture feels very strange to me. I’ve never been to a conference where drinks were part of the experience. Walking down the street, I look and wonder: who are these people, and where’s the awkwardness?

I’d love for my little girl to be an engineer.

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Just to address this point that you and @berkun @Tess and @nebrius brought up. I really do not enjoy linking to corrosive negativity. Here’s some of the “work” we’re talking about:

It is a very curious sort of feminism that attacks other people’s looks.

This is not new or in any way an isolated example. There are miles and miles of this sort of thing in the author’s public twitter timeline, scroll for yourself:


I am honestly not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most hateful Twitter feeds I’ve ever browsed.

So – I was not trying to erase the work. I was trying to erase the hate and vitriol that is so strongly associated with this author.

I am absolutely not interested in engaging with this person in any way whatsoever, and I apologize for even bringing it up. But for people who claim I went out of my way to ‘erase’ someone, I want you to understand the motivation: I wasn’t trying to erase anyone, I just do not like linking to negativity. And this is not the subtle kind. It’s rather extreme. Scroll and see for yourself.

In the end, I relented, and linked to the author at the top of the blog post because claims of “plagiarism” and “failure to cite” are distracting from more substantive discussions.


It’s common, true, but I don’t think it should be. A counterpoint:

Being in HR for many years, I’ve seen plenty of office romances. While some ended with a marriage (and a really fun wedding to go to), most ended badly and often required termination of one or both employees. Therefore, if you seek advice on whether or not you should date a co-worker, the folks in HR will tell you, “Heck NO!” This explains why. In fact, they’ll tell you to avoid it at all costs.

And @Liz_Carlson @Charles_Miller I don’t propose avoiding office romances by policy lightly. I believe the risks of office romances are disproportionately borne by women. If we assume that men are in more positions of power, then breakups mean women will frequently have someone with rank on them in the office who has excellent motive to be upset with them. Is that good?

I mean, look at what happened at GitHub. Certainly the GitHub engineer who was harassing Julie at work about dating him would have at least been given pause if the office policy was a strict no-dating rule. It is not a complete solution, but it helps, and that’s my whole point. All these things help, and they are things Men Can Do.

To be clear: I have never doubted that your intentions were good. And I understand your reasons for wanting to avoid negativity, and that they come from a place where your goal is to do something constructive for the programming community and to have a constructive discussion.

But like I said on Twitter, there are reasons why the rules for discussion are different in the feminist community. Using someone’s emotions to invalidate their message is a tactic that has a long history of being used to discount the opinions of women. People have a right to their emotions, especially when talking about subjects where the people who are most deeply involved are often the ones with the most powerful emotions.

I know you weren’t thinking about that history of invalidating emotions. But you have now inadvertently contributed to it, and used that as a reason to discount Shanley’s words.

Regardless of how positive you’re trying to be, I don’t believe that what you’ve done has been positive. And I feel like if you’re going to step into feminist issues, you have a responsibility to try to understand feminism, even the parts that take you out of your comfort zone.

I know that to you this probably looks like a disagreement between a reasonable person and a crazy person, but your perceptions have misled you. This is a disagreement between someone who has spent an enormous amount of time fighting for women’s equality and someone who is still in the early stages of learning about it, and in my opinion, you are the one who has erred here, regardless of your intentions.

Shanley’s speech is not failing in it’s goal of reaching out to you, because her goal is not to reach out to you, and no one has the right to tell her that that should be her goal, regardless of what you think the purpose of the feminist movement is or should be.

On the other hand, I have tried very hard here to write in a form that you will recognize as polite and constructive, because my goal here is to reach out to you. I have learned a ton from your blog over the years, and I really want to help you try to understand this. But please, please don’t take my choice of tactics here as a way in which I’m in some way “better” than Shanley. I’m not. She’s the one who has devoted her life to this cause, and she deserves the respect for it.


I wouldn’t say that – you did though, which is interesting.

I would say that any sort of “feminism” which thinks it is OK to have the kind of hate and vitriol filled public dialog exemplified in the above screenshots and links should seriously consider what its purpose is and whether it is achieving its goals.

I’d much rather engage with someone like you who is attempting to be constructive. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can have a reasonable dialog where we are both respectful of each other. That matters to me, and it should matter to you. That is what being a human being should mean.

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I can think of very few things more intolerable than a corporation I work for 9-5 telling me who I can and can not date, that is insanity.

Therefore, if you seek advice on whether or not you should date a co-worker, the folks in HR will tell you, “Heck NO!”

Honestly, who cares? HR is a risk-reduction institution, they don’t care about human beings despite the name, they care about risk reduction and employee retention. This is why HR isn’t the core of innovation or executive leadership. HR people at corporation X deciding who you can date, fun stuff. What if they don’t want you dating people who work for competitors, fine with that as well?

I don’t propose avoiding office romances by policy lightly

Then lets get to specifics. Outline your exact policy for office romances (and I hope you implement it in real life as well). Is it a “zero tolerance” policy, where both people will be fired on the spot? Is it going to be implemented in such a way that even the founder can’t be excluded from the ruling? What limitations might you want to put on people dating competitors … as a github employee, can I really date a bitbucket employee? Where does the power of the corporation end?


Would Shanley’s vitriolic behavior make more sense if you looked at it as a form of Asperger’s?

By the way, you don’t think that 33% representation is “hugely better” than 20%? That is 65% higher! In the US, that would be an additional 130,000 female programmers. HUGE! At a minimum that is what we in tech should be aiming for.


Exactly this. It’s Shanley’s actions that are in question here, not her emotions. Regardless of how strongly you feel about something, it’s still possible to hold yourself to a basic standard of courtesy. (Particularly with online posts, where you can step back, calm down and edit before pressing the Send button.)

Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m not discounting Shanley’s opinions. I’m just not at all motivated to even find out what they are, because to do so, I’d have to put up with all of the other crap. I recognize that things can be said purely for shock value to get someone’s attention, but once you have it, do something constructive. Even then, choose words carefully. If the shock value comes from someone saying “Fuck you, asshole. Your face makes me vomit.”, I’m not going to bother listening to the rest of what they have to say. You say she deserves respect for devoting her life to a cause, and I agree. But does she not also deserve to lose respect for behaving this way?

By contrast, Tess, your post is a perfect example of having a constructive argument. You completely disagree with what Jeff said, but didn’t turn that into personal attacks at all.

Edit: I assume that if I get any reply to this at all, it will involve a reference to “tone police”. There’s no winning that argument, for either side. You’re free to express yourself however you like (without getting into illegal behavior, of course), and I’m free to ignore you, which is what I tend to do if someone’s just lobbing insults at me instead of trying to have a constructive conversation. If you know that some people will react just like me, and you don’t care about that, then there’s no problem for either of us. Keep up the “you’re a shitbag” posts, and I wish you well in making progress toward your goals.


“I don’t think the question is whether the doll is boring, unimaginative toy, but more what type of interaction and scenarios it encourages.”

My daughters have constructed every kind of scenario imaginable with them. They spend hours of imaginative play, having the dolls (I’m including stuffed animals here) act out every kind of role you could think of, and some that you couldn’t think of.

They build rooms, machines, spaceships and who knows what else out of pillows, books …

You’d just have to see it, I guess.

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I tend to agree with the earlier Jeff.  Do we really need another article about the gender gap in tech? Everyone knows about it now.  Very few, if any, effective solutions have been proposed.  We are failing to address the most basic and seminal question about this issue: why is this a problem?

While I appreciate the content of this post, titling it ‘What Can Men Do?’ frames the discussion by excluding women in tech. I almost stopped reading at that point. Why not title it ‘What Can We Do?’. Women need to be just as aware and supportive of co-workers that aren’t the default young white male.

Programming, while challenging, doesn’t require you to be a genius. Like you suggest, standard web development is much closer to brick laying than most would feel comfortable to admitting. With that said, biological arguments for lack of women in programming fall flat, since differences in mathematical ability between women and men are very small. Here’s a slideshare if you would rather see this in graph form:

Is there then something cultural that skews the numbers toward men? Probably, yes. There were more women in programming back when it was not a prestigious profession, and seeing that programming has probably gotten a lot easier over the years with better layers of abstraction, there should be more, not less.

From the smithsonian mag (www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/computer-programming-used-to-be-womens-work-7180610)

As late as the 1960s many people perceived computer programming as a natural career choice for savvy young women. Even the trend-spotters at Cosmopolitan Magazine urged their fashionable female readership to consider careers in programming. In an article titled “The Computer Girls,” the magazine described the field as offering better job opportunities for women than many other professional careers. As computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper told a reporter, programming was “just like planning a dinner. You have to plan ahead and schedule everything so that it’s ready when you need it…. Women are ‘naturals’ at computer programming.” James Adams, the director of education for the Association for Computing Machinery, agreed: “I don’t know of any other field, outside of teaching, where there’s as much opportunity for a woman.”


What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”

How do we combat this? To start with, we should increase exposure at an earlier age (programming is also useful in many other stem fields), and create a more inviting workplace. I cringe when I still see things like codebabes popping up on hacker news. We have work to do.

Women often fail to advance in their careers because not enough maternity leave is given, and will usually sacrifice their careers over their family. A good way of avoiding this is by giving mandatory maternity leave for both genders. Raising children is not a woman’s problem, it’s an everyone’s problem.

Going though your advice:

Abide by the Hacker School Rules

This could also be titled: be a good mentor/co-worker. In addition to this I would suggest a pull-request style code reviews. Since the code review is done before changes are merged into master, this prevents random code refactors from 3rd parties. Knowledgeable parties can comment on the diff, you can get more eyeballs on the code to spot simple errors, all while the original dev is in charge of changes.

It’s a positive feedback loop. Of course you need to take care in phrasing your comments, but there are style guides on that too.

People have a hard problem separating critique of code from comments about themselves. Even the best of us will write crap code under time constraints/stress. Don’t take it personally and keep comments civil. Also don’t feel threatened by a competent person that is not a default young white male. We have enough to deal with from impostor syndrome to deal with that drama.

Really listen. What? I SAID LISTEN.

Or don’t assume I’m incompetent If I’m not a default young white male. I know it’s hard, but please try.

If you see bad behavior from other men, speak up.

Sadly this is why we have HR, and why flat orgs probably don’t scale very well.

Don’t attempt romantic relationships at work.

This one is a bit tough. If sparks fly and you enter a romantic relationship, one or both parties should be prepared to find a new job immediately. For an engineer in the current economy, this isn’t too big of a burden.

Also, until both parties have semaphored interest outside of work, please treat your female co-workers as you would your male co-workers. We’re there to work, not to be easy dating material.

No drinking at work events.

Just as bad things can happen at an informal happy hour. If you know you’re a bad drunk maybe you shouldn’t drink.


Respectful or not, I can’t help thinking that you are not listening to or understanding my words. I’m choosing not to, but to be honest, that makes me want to raise the volume to an unrespectful one to you in response.

But the fact that something you have said in respectful discourse makes me emotional doesn’t devalue me or what I say, no matter how I respond, and feminism has my back on this point 100%. You cannot understand feminism without understanding this.


I don’t think anybody here is trying to devalue you or what you say.

What I saw Jeff doing was stating what type of content he prefers to promote on the forum he has developed over the past ten years. You may disagree with his decisions, and frankly I’m not sure he correctly balanced this principle with the need to give credit where it’s due, but this is his blog, and he gets to make that decision.

Ignoring someone in 1:1 in-person conversation because they are bringing emotional intensity can be invalidating.

Choosing not to read or link to a stranger on the internet based on a sampling of its content is exercising judgment over one’s own personal resources.

You may reply that’s how it feels for you, and I obviously can’t say you’re wrong, but that isn’t binding on Jeff or how he runs his own blog.

Saying things in such a way that the people you seek to influence can hear you is a skill. In my judgment, Shanley Kane’s tweets fail to demonstrate this skill. Does that mean she is less of a person and her concerns are not real? No. It just means she has failed to articulate those concerns is a manner in which people will hear them, and she would likely meet with more success if she could do so. If this post were riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, fewer people would read it than otherwise.

It is true, that part of this is also that we need to learn to cut through some of that and hear the message behind that.

But it’s a big Internet. I choose not to use my time and mental energy being cursed at to receive a lecture. That’s my right.


I think you mean well, but claiming that there isn’t a problem because you can’t see it doesn’t help.

First off, a woman that goes through the gauntlet of an EE/CS degree and follows through to getting a tech job is more likely to be a fellow geek than not. Just because some people have women bits, doesn’t mean they’re a different alien species.

Yes. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Also see: Object permanence - Wikipedia

Thank you. That’s quite nice to hear.

For you.

Would you expect your male co-workers to be interested in you in more than a collegial manner?

You can still behave inappropriately and be a geek. Have you not read about the numerous incidents of sexual harassment at technical conventions and comic-con? The fact that a woman had to create red and yellow flag cards for defcon to flag inappropriate social behavior is absurd. singlevoice.net

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It is possible to understand without agreeing. The argument seems to be that one cannot ever criticize the way a feminist expresses a message. Not her feelings, but the message.

The idea that the rules of polite discourse vary depending on whether you are a man or a woman is not one that is going to survive scrutiny. It is not devaluing a person to say that they are being rude. It is pointing out that they are rude.

'Tone Policing" is merely used as a method of shutting down discussion. It is not a rhetorical device.

This is one of the central problems with modern feminism, that if you don’t agree 100% with not only the goals, but the method of achieving those goals, you are an enemy who must be attacked.

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I really don’t understand how people can think @codinghorror has plagiarized that other blog post. I have read them both and except for the (rather generic) title and the general topic, there is really nothing they have in common. They both suggest different things “men can do” and also are structured differently. Maybe my understanding of plagiarism is different/wrong, but that is most definitely not plagiarism.

So, anyone care to enlighten me why so many people get upset about this?

Regarding the post itself: I am in the camp of people who think the points #4 and #5 are not addressing the actual problem and can do more harm than good. If people cannot stay “professional” at their workplace after a breakup or cannot drink responsibly, then those people have to change/need help. Having a beer (or some other alcoholic beverage) after work with your colleagues or at a company event should certainly not be mandatory but also not forbidden. If company related consumptions of alcoholic beverages always end up in binge drinking where some/all people loose their ability to be decent humand beings, well, I think there’s a problem worth addressing… but that doesn’t appear to be very common to me.