Not one **** goal, as they wouldn't have said in 1934

I've just got back from a derby game between Arsenal and Spurs. Which I was really looking forward to. Turned out pretty boring, really, and my mind kept wandering all the time, back to the description of another derby game by a well-known writer. Here's a few sentences from it. See if you can name the author. "But for all that it was a good match, clean and fast and exciting . . . nearly everything possible has been done to spoil this game: the heavy financial interests; the absurd transfer and player selling systems; the lack of birth or residential qualifications for the players; the absurd publicity given to every feature of it by the press; the monstrous partisanship of the crowds."

All sounds fairly contemporary, but it's not. So try to guess the year as well. The match he was watching was between Notts Forest and Notts County. That's a clue, of sorts.

It could well have been written about today's match, which was fast and clean, surprisingly clean for a derby. I've seen Arsenal-Spurs games where they've been kicking lumps out of each other even before the kick-off.

The heavy financial interests, we know all about them, and the absurd publicity. As for the lack of birth qualifications, the writer was struck by the apparent anomaly, to him, of Nottingham players coming from London, Liverpool and Scotland. He should have been living at this hour. Oops, that's another clue. Now you know the writer is dead.

The monstrous partisanship of the crowd was very evident at Arsenal. And gave me a lot of pleasure. I enjoy rival supporters slagging each other off. Today, the Arsenal crowd spent a lot of time singing "Arsene Wenger", which they don't usually do. Not because he's not popular, which he is, but because his personality is low key, academic, unemotional, not the sort of person to sing about, especially at this stage in the season. But the singing was subtle. The Arsenal fans were trying to tempt the Spurs fans into replying by singing "George Graham". But they didn't fall for it. They still haven't taken George to their hearts. Not yet. Not without some sort of achievement.

If they had shouted his name, it would have led to the loudest jeers of the afternoon from the Arsenal crowd. Instead, they had to be content with some low boos when his name was read out before the match. I think George can handle that. "Stand up if you hate Tottenham." That went on all afternoon, as one would expect. I don't mind that either. Better than thumping each other. Just in case, the police were out in force, the largest number of coppers I have seen for several years. Took me back to Spurs-Arsenal games of the seventies when there were pitched battles in the surrounding streets, running fights, near riots. It's a sign of how much football has changed, with our bright new stadia, filled only with people who can afford the prices and who don't, on the whole, go for a punch-up. Not of the physical variety.

While walking to the ground, I didn't spot any Spurs fans. Even inside, you had to know where to look for them, or listen for them. They had left behind their Spurs scarves and repro shirts. All colours were being hidden. Not a rattle in sight. Oops. That's another clue.

It was only towards the end that I spotted a Spurs banner being pulled out of a pocket and hastily waved in the air, just for a few seconds, when we got a corner. Sorry, when Spurs got a corner.

All through the game I had to keep shtum, trying not to give away my Spurs affiliation while sitting amid the Arsenal season ticket holders. What I do in these circumstances is politely clap a good bit of play, from either side, but sit still if either scores a goal. Fat chance. It was a goalless draw, typical anti-climactic local derby.

Why is it called a derby by the way? The term goes back to the 19th century and is now used all over the football world, regardless of the language. The city of Derby, unlike London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham and elsewhere, never had two rival football clubs. I assume it must therefore come from the Derby, the big horse race. A big football match became known as a derby match. I think. Haven't got the time to look up exact derivations and references in my football library.

Not when I'm sitting here, looking at that description of a Notts Forest- Notts County match. The two clubs have not been in the same division for some years, so that was a hint that the match was not exactly up to date.

The writer himself didn't come from Nottingham. He was passing through, on a journey through England. That's the final clue.

Yes, it was J B Priestley in his 1934 book, English Journey, getting a taste of a very English event.

One of the other things which intrigued him about the game was that he found himself sitting behind two middle-aged women. He clearly had not expected to find any women at a football match. The two women kept up a running commentary. "Nay Bob, you ought to ha' let 'Erbert 'ave it," one shouted. "Nay Tom, don't stand still," said the other.

Priestley guessed they might have been related to one of the players. "For they were in possession of Christian names and used them freely in giving advice."

I didn't quote that bit earlier on. You would have known at once it wasn't contemporary. We all use the Christian names of players today. And anyway a Christian name like 'Erbert isn't very common. And today, advice from the crowd, female or male, would have included some choicer language. Swearing, as we call it. Priestley would not have quoted that, not in the 1930s.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 20 November 1998 issue of the New Statesman, A prejudice as American as apple pie

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.