Women offered as perks in a job ad

Geek misogyny, take a bow. Then leave.

Today in geek misogyny: women being offered as perks in a job ad.

Event organising start-up Evvnt.com is looking for a developer, proficient in the Ruby programming language. They're eager to get a good one, so in an advert posted to the London Ruby user group yesterday, Richard Green, the CEO and founder of the company, offers a list of potential perks. Here it is in full:

Let me know which of the following would tempt you from you desk...

  1. Keg of beer and beer tap fitted to your development desk?
  2. The recruitment fee as your welcome gift?
  3. 4 day week?
  4. Building your own team of 4 from scratch
  5. Shares and equity (so dull)
  6. Commission from online sales.
  7. An endless jar of Cadbury chocolate eclairs...
  8. 4X female french, italian and spanish junior / front and backend developers
  9. Your own Expresso [sic] coffee machine with frothy milk maker...
  10. 30 days paid holiday if taken in December and August.

Notice which of those things is not like the others? That's right, number eight appears to be placing female employees on roughly the same level a jar of chocolate eclairs.

Later last night, Green responded to some of the criticism already building up on the mailing list by agreeing with one user that what he had actually meant was "We are an equal opportunities employer and our team contains people from a variety of countries, backgrounds and genders." He tells a different user that "We simply welcome female developers and indeed developers from all nationalities. Mostly to date the developer world does feel very male."

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether Green was tragically misunderstood, or executing a hasty reverse-ferret. But either way, it's not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Last year, almost exactly the same thing happened when a hack-a-thon in Boston was advertised with "great perks" including "massages", "Gym Access" and "Women". That time, there was no backing out, since it goes on to read: "Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you." The company involved eventually apologised.

When women in tech aren't being advertised as perks, they're being told that they probably won't get the job (one ad for a CTO read "this will almost certainly be a man (a female CTO would be too much to wish for)."), getting fired for complaining about sexist jokes, or just having to deal with stuff like this. Hell, there's a whole blog devoted to programmers being dicks. Tech needs to shape up, because this is too embarrassing to continue.

Update:

As well as the comment below, describing the ad as a "Social Experiment… to see what actually creates viral news", Evvnt has posted an apology on its website. It's lengthy, so I won't quote it in full, but here's the operative bit:

 

To be judge and jury or to offer council – I learn today that offering council wins. I also would like to offer my Humble apologies when we get it wrong, today I got it wrong. [Emphasis original]
 
Finding the right tone in ‘text’ is never easy, even harder when your have no relationship with your audience… today we start.

Thanks to Charlie for the tip.

Then there was the time a Ruby conference decided to cancel rather than invite some non-white non-dudes.

The best stock photo we could find of a woman with a computer. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Let's turn RBS into a bank for the public interest

A tarnished symbol of global finance could be remade as a network of local banks. 

The Royal Bank of Scotland has now been losing money for nine consecutive years. Today’s announcement of a further £7bn yearly loss at the publicly-owned bank is just the latest evidence that RBS is essentially unsellable. The difference this time is that the Government seems finally to have accepted that fact.

Up until now, the government had been reluctant to intervene in the running of the business, instead insisting that it will be sold back to the private sector when the time is right. But these losses come just a week after the government announced that it is abandoning plans to sell Williams & Glynn – an RBS subsidiary which has over 300 branches and £22bn of customer deposits.

After a series of expensive delays and a lack of buyer interest, the government now plans to retain Williams & Glynn within the RBS group and instead attempt to boost competition in the business lending market by granting smaller "challenger banks" access to RBS’s branch infrastructure. It also plans to provide funding to encourage small businesses to switch their accounts away from RBS.

As a major public asset, RBS should be used to help achieve wider objectives. Improving how the banking sector serves small businesses should be the top priority, and it is good to see the government start to move in this direction. But to make the most of RBS, they should be going much further.

The public stake in RBS gives us a unique opportunity to create new banking institutions that will genuinely put the interests of the UK’s small businesses first. The New Economics Foundation has proposed turning RBS into a network of local banks with a public interest mandate to serve their local area, lend to small businesses and provide universal access to banking services. If the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and meeting the needs of those who feel left behind, this is the path they should take with RBS.

Small and medium sized enterprises are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and they depend on banking services to fund investment and provide a safe place to store money. For centuries a healthy relationship between businesses and banks has been a cornerstone of UK prosperity.

However, in recent decades this relationship has broken down. Small businesses have repeatedly fallen victim to exploitative practice by the big banks, including the the mis-selling of loans and instances of deliberate asset stripping. Affected business owners have not only lost their livelihoods due to the stress of their treatment at the hands of these banks, but have also experienced family break-ups and deteriorating physical and mental health. Others have been made homeless or bankrupt.

Meanwhile, many businesses struggle to get access to the finance they need to grow and expand. Small firms have always had trouble accessing finance, but in recent decades this problem has intensified as the UK banking sector has come to be dominated by a handful of large, universal, shareholder-owned banks.

Without a focus on specific geographical areas or social objectives, these banks choose to lend to the most profitable activities, and lending to local businesses tends to be less profitable than other activities such as mortgage lending and lending to other financial institutions.

The result is that since the mid-1980s the share of lending going to non-financial businesses has been falling rapidly. Today, lending to small and medium sized businesses accounts for just 4 per cent of bank lending.

Of the relatively small amount of business lending that does occur in the UK, most is heavily concentrated in London and surrounding areas. The UK’s homogenous and highly concentrated banking sector is therefore hampering economic development, starving communities of investment and making regional imbalances worse.

The government’s plans to encourage business customers to switch away from RBS to another bank will not do much to solve this problem. With the market dominated by a small number of large shareholder-owned banks who all behave in similar ways (and who have been hit by repeated scandals), businesses do not have any real choice.

If the government were to go further and turn RBS into a network of local banks, it would be a vital first step in regenerating disenfranchised communities, rebalancing the UK’s economy and staving off any economic downturn that may be on the horizon. Evidence shows that geographically limited stakeholder banks direct a much greater proportion of their capital towards lending in the real economy. By only investing in their local area, these banks help create and retain wealth regionally rather than making existing geographic imbalances worce.

Big, deep challenges require big, deep solutions. It’s time for the government to make banking work for small businesses once again.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist at the New Economics Foundation