& cplSiteName &

Silicon Valley Writer Foresees End of Bro Culture

Sarah Thomas
3/15/2017
50%
50%

AUSTIN, Texas -- SXSW -- The end of bro culture is nearish, according to someone who was once deeply entrenched in it. While it's too late for the current crop of bro-CEO-led tech companies, a new generation of companies will be the ones to spark lasting change.

Dan Lyons is an author, journalist and one of the writers for the HBO series Silicon Valley, but he was also once a fish out of water at the bro-heavy HubSpot. His experiences there inspired him to write the book Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble and also to develop the theory that it will be the next generation of companies that fixes corporate cultures "that favor mostly young white men at the expense of women, people of color and old people" -- a.k.a. "bro culture." (See A Women in Comms Glossary.)

Susan Fowler's recent account of her year at Uber and the subsequent fallout signals two things, Lyons told SXSW attendees during a keynote address: the end of the era of people putting up with abuse and staying quiet, and the beginning of the end of bro culture. (See Culture in Crisis: What's Next for Uber & Tech?, Uber Engineering SVP Out as Probe Continues and Uber's HR Nightmare: Company Investigates Sexual Harassment Claims.)

Lyons says the new norm in the Internet age is startups run by bro-CEOs, white males with no experience or adult supervision that are arrogant, obnoxious and amoral, who hire clones of themselves under the guise of "cultural fit" and harass or at best ignore the women that get hired, and who don't care about ethics or rules, rather encouraging bad behavior. This culture has become pervasive in tech, and it's poisoning Silicon Valley.

Author and bro-culture survivor Dan Lyons shares his experience from the keg-lined trenches of HubSpot.
Author and bro-culture survivor Dan Lyons shares his experience from the keg-lined trenches of HubSpot.

After being laid off at Newsweek, Lyons decided to try his hand in the world of startups and joined HubSpot, where the average age was 26 years his junior. The startup had every cliché, he said, including a nap room, keg and push-up club. In his words, it was a mix of frat house, Montessori kindergarten and scientology program. The company had its own culture code and was all about team spirit, yet it also featured high turnover, low morale and a deeply entrenched bro culture that didn't match the surface-level culture they projected.

"On the surface you're making work fun, but you're also taking away things that make people happy like job security, stability, saving for retirement, work-life balance, fair share of equity, opportunities for all, women can get promoted, women can have kids and return to work," he said, adding that bro culture also ultimately takes away employees' dignity.


Women in Comms' first networking breakfast and panel of 2017 is coming up on Wednesday, March 22, in Denver, Colorado, ahead of day two of the Cable Next-Gen Strategies conference. Register here to join us for what will be a great morning!


Lyons believes this type of culture exists in service of a business model -- that of cash. Companies go public without making any money, which was never the case before the 21st century. Case in point, out of 60 tech IPOs since 2011, only ten made a profit. Twitter, for example, went public losing money and has since lost another $2.5 billion. Yet its founders and venture capitalists still got rich.

"If you're not trying to build a long-term sustainable company, you're trying to make a movie you sell to the public market, then you don’t care about employees or diversity," he said. "You want to get rich quick."

So, why should the tech industry bother changing its way? Besides not being fair, Lyons said, it's simply not working. There's a business case for diversity, but there's also the very likely scenario that you end up in crisis management mode, much like Uber is now. Eventually, you have to change.

"At some point, people will wake up and realize this model of throwing a bunch of money at bros won't work," he said.

A helpful breakdown of who the 'bro-CEO' tends to hire (hint: it's guys who look a lot like he does!).
A helpful breakdown of who the "bro-CEO" tends to hire (hint: it's guys who look a lot like he does!).

So how can the industry change? Lyons suggested that if the culture exists to serve a business model, the business model, and the focus on growth at all costs, needs to change as well.

Taking advice from women in the industry, he said new companies should always have at least one woman on their board and one in the C-suite from the very start, and that they should start a women's group in the company on day one. This way, according to angel investor Heidi Roizen, it opens up the conversation and shuts down harassment immediately. Create good jobs and treat employees well, pay taxes, be part of the community and hire with diversity in mind from day one, Lyons suggested.

"Forget about Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber: It's too late for them to change," he said. "The next generation is where it's going to be fixed. It's the companies that haven't been started yet."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

(8)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/20/2017 | 3:15:11 PM
Re: note to headline writer
There will be no way this culture can continue. People just aren't going to tolerate working in bro culture. It's not the way a successful company should be run. I'm not sure what will happen to Uber long term but I do think short term change is on its way. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/16/2017 | 1:19:57 PM
When?
Bro culture will end when women and other underrepresented groups start more companies.
alison diana
50%
50%
alison diana,
User Rank: Moderator
3/15/2017 | 9:49:35 AM
Diversity Makes Money
This week, yet more research came out that showed diversity's benefit to the bottom line. If you work primarily with men or women, then your company is less likely to generate higher revenue, a study by Sodexo found (I read about it on USAToday). 

"When the ratio of male and female managers hovered between 40% to 60%, the team was 23% more likely to have seen an increase in gross profit over the previous three years as compared to teams dominated by one gender," the article says.

In another article, State Street says it's going to use its extensive investment weight to make sure the companies that benefit from its dollars include a diverse grouping of people on their boards - or they'll pull the funding plug. I'm not a huge advocate of going after quotas, but voluntary means haven't got women very far to date so perhaps this version of quotas from the private sector may work.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/15/2017 | 9:49:11 AM
Re: Can you teach an old dog?
The culture in Silicon Valley -- and just about anywhere else we care to look -- is set by the people with the money -- in this case, the VCs. Hard to see that changing anytime soon.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/15/2017 | 9:45:05 AM
Re: note to headline writer
Good point. He was definitely a fan of the end of the bro culture drawing near. I changed the headline and fired the headline writer.
Kelsey Ziser
50%
50%
Kelsey Ziser,
User Rank: Blogger
3/15/2017 | 9:42:19 AM
Can you teach an old dog?
Lyons has a bit of a dismal outlook there at the end...it's too late for "Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber" to change? I hope it's not too late. At what point does a company become too entrenched in bro culture that there's no way back? Can enough squeaky wheels affect lasting change?
Bundybundy
50%
50%
Bundybundy,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/15/2017 | 9:40:06 AM
"End" of Bro culture?
I'm trying to decide if this is an early April 1st article. Bro culture and the cash out business model and culture were well entrenched 20 years ago. Awareness outside of SV that it exists is great, and will surely make things better, but an end to Bro culture sounds like a bigger change than is realistic.
jbtombes
50%
50%
jbtombes,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/15/2017 | 9:36:41 AM
note to headline writer
Not sure 'decries' (i.e. laments, criticizes, disparages) is the correct verb here. Otherwise, nicely done. It's good to hear what (big, grown-up bro) Lyons is thinking about.
From The Founder
Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Creating Dynamic Networks to Meet Business Needs

5|26|17   |   4:24   |   (0) comments


As enterprises need more dynamic networks, service providers need to deliver on-demand, virtual services to meet those needs. AT&T is creating a networking fabric to mix-and-match SDN technologies for enterprise customers, says Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president for offer management and service integration, in an interview at Light Reading's
LRTV Interviews
EdgeConneX on Industry Headwinds & Tailwinds

5|26|17   |   2:41   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017, EdgeConneX CTO Don MacNeil discussed the value of partnerships in the digital world.
LRTV Documentaries
4 Steps Toward a Higher Network IQ

5|26|17   |     |   (0) comments


At the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, EXFO CEO Philippe Morin explains how sensors and analytics can boost a network's intelligence and enable on-demand customer experiences. Find more BCE 2017 coverage here.
LRTV Interviews
BT's McRae Sheds Light on 4K Strategy

5|25|17   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's Big Communications Event 2017 in Austin, Texas, BT Group's Chief Network Architect Neil McRae talks about what it took for BT to broadcast live sports in 4K. Catch up with all our BCE coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
From the Founder
How the NIA Aims to Advance NFV

5|25|17   |   08:07   |   (1) comment


Following a recent board meeting, the New IP Agency (NIA) has a new strategy to help accelerate the adoption of NFV capabilities, explains the Agency's Founder and Secretary, Steve Saunders.
LRTV Custom TV
Better Solutions That Address Growing Scale

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


For Comcast, the X1 rollout and 17-fold increases in broadband speeds in the past 16 years are among factors driving the need for Energy 2020 solutions that reduce cost and consumption, says Mark Hess.
LRTV Custom TV
Ethernity Network Delivers Instant Offloading of Network Functions With All-Programmable Intelligent NIC

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


David Levi, CEO of Ethernity Networks, explains that programmability of the hardware makes the company's All-Programmable Intelligent NIC uniquely beneficial for communications service providers that need advanced data appliances with agile support of virtualization. Utilizing the company's patented network processing technology, Ethernity offers data path ...
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Vodafone Gets Obsessed With Cloud-Native

5|25|17   |     |   (0) comments


Vodafone's Matt Beal updates us on Project Ocean and explains why simple virtualization isn't enough of a goal for network transformation. Catch up with other BCE 2017 keynotes and news at http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE 2017: Intel's Take on Network Transformation

5|24|17   |     |   (0) comments


In this BCE 2017 keynote, Lynn Comp discusses Intel's vision for areas such as analytics, automation and service assurance. For more videos and BCE coverage, see http://www.lightreading.com/bce.asp.
LRTV Documentaries
Order From Chaos: The Steve Saunders BCE Keynote

5|24|17   |   17:27   |   (0) comments


Kicking off BCE 2017, Light Reading founder Steve Saunders lays blame for NFV's slow ramp-up and urges telecom to return to old-fashioned standards building and interoperability testing.
Think of this as the video sequel to the recent columns he's written about NFV and the prospect of a telecom app store. (See

LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Cities Clamor for More Clout at FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/23/2017
What's Blocking 4K TV Today
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 5/22/2017
Sonus & Genband Finally Combine to Form $745M Company
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/23/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.