When I informed our CEO about Jane’s complaint, he just laughed.
“C’mon, she had to know what our culture was here, right? That’s just boys being boys.”
Yeah, he and the CFO must have talked.
I said, “This could get serious – you know, sex discrimination?”
Our CEO was incredulous. “Are you kidding? These guys are writing a kick-ass product and are going to make us a lot of money. If she doesn’t like it here, she can just leave.”
Oh. Forgot to mention our CEO was older than the developers. He was in his late twenties. Guess it wasn’t too surprising he felt this way.
Striking out with the CEO, I decided to try talking to Jason directly. I stopped in the Coding Pen late one night after everyone else had left.
“Hey Jason, have a minute?” I asked.
Jason didn’t look up from the glow of us his dual monitors and just said “uh huh.”
I gave him the run down on Jane’s concerns and said if we want to grow into a successful firm, posters like “Red and Juicy” would have to come down.
Finally, Jason stopped typing and looked up at me with sleepy eyes. He yawned, took a swig of his energy drink and said, “The poster stays dude, or I leave.”
After a couple more attempts at reasoning with him, I finally gave up. Jason knew he had the support of the CEO and could do whatever he wanted.
Luckily for me (and ultimately the company) the next day, the CEO was leading a potential investor on a tour of the office.
A female investor.
Amazingly, no one had the foresight to think this investor would be offended by the poster. Maybe not so shocking because the mindset in the “brogramming” culture is that sexist material hanging on the walls, sent in emails and in conversation are acceptable if the company has bright prospects.
After all, an investor would care more about making money, right?
The investor very calmly explained to our CEO that if he had any hopes of raising money, those posters had to go. From what I could hear through our very thin walls, she gave him a pretty good lecture. This investor cared about protecting her investment, and didn’t want it squandered as the result of a lawsuit.
The next day, Jason’s poster was replaced. And coincidently (or not) Jason received a huge raise. He didn’t go anywhere.
Jane was placated, although from time to time the conversation was still a bit sexist around the edges. This culture likely won’t change as long as males dominate the software development field.
And what did Jason replace the poster with? He put up some random Star Wars poster.
Thank goodness Princess Leia was mostly clothed.