Now Rooney’s got hairs, he’s rediscovered his graces

So far, what do you think? So far, I am missing the Women's World Cup in the summer, oh they were so skilful, strong, clever, never argued with the ref, yet could get stuck in, pass, shoot, head and had great skin, great hair styles, great looks, great - where was I? - oh yes, compared with our lumbering male heroes.

Wayne at least does look much better now with his hair growing, though for some reason it makes his face look fatter, his body heavier, but it has certainly brought back his confidence. He is not getting upset as much, doing stupid tackles. I see a great season ahead for him and Man United.

Hair matters. What else have the poor petals got to think about during those long, empty dreary hours in their hotel room but look at themselves in the mirror and think, hmm, wish I looked like Becks, the bastard. Or, what about another tattoo?

Wayne's hair op has clearly worked, compared with poor old Ed Miliband's adenoids job. He sounds worse, if anything. I do hope Gary Neville does not use the same expert when Sky tells him he'll have to have his voice fixed, and his hair, and his suit, and his posture. Apart from that Gary, you is doing great.

I did fear that Ray-oh-my-word-Wilkins would never improve, not even a tad, that we would be stuck with his banalities for ever, but to my amazement he has already told me something I was not aware of. He was commenting on the Chelsea-Stoke game, after yet another Rory Delap long throw, and he said that Carlo (Ancelotti) had always told Petr Cech to stay on his goal line for the Delap throws. But now he was coming out for them, obviously given different instructions by the new Chelsea manager. Until then, I had not noticed the difference. Well done, Ray.

I still have not got my eyes attuned to Ashley Young in a Man United shirt, or Gaël Clichy in a Man City shirt, Shay Given not sitting for 90 minutes on a bench or Sam Allardyce prowling the touchline at er, God, forgotten already where he has landed, oh yes, West Ham. Players, we are told, take ages to bed down, but it is just as hard for fans when players change their natural habitat.

Aguero looks excellent at Man City, though David Silva is still their best player, but they have acquired so many excellent players recently it is hard to look at the bench and recognise who the waiting stars are. Compared with Arsenal. Dear God, what is going to become of them, shrivelling before our eyes.

Wenger had a form of seizure during the Liverpool defeat, violently attacking his scalp. Is it a form of psychosis, suffering a psychological blow so you inflict physical pain upon yourself, self-harming out of imagined guilt? That'll be five guineas.

No-trick pony

Theo Walcott, what a lovely boy, you would be pleased if your daughter wanted to marry him, or your son, let us not be sexist, but he does not seem to have improved in the past couple of years. As a winger, he has no tricks, can't dribble, can only beat the fullback with speed. As a striker, which he appears to fancy himself as, he can't score, well not often enough. It could be his youth and tendency to prematurely ejaculate, getting over-excited, too hurried, rushing at things. Calm down, dear heart.

Tom Cleverley of Man United is one of the new kids, risen through the ranks, not bought at the international supermarket, so we hope he does well. Still a bit nervous, and no wonder, having to go through life with that surname, boring school teachers and idiot coaches always making the same corny jokes. What a burden. However, it didn't stop George Best, Frank Swift or Robby Savage being handicapped by their nomenclature. It all came true.

Two new mohicans been spotted: Ping Pong, I mean Frimpong, at Arsenal, and Meireles at Liverpool, while Gervinho, the Ivorian who has arrived at Arsenal from Lille, what is he wearing? Is it a beard, is it a bird? Is it a hat, is it a herd? Only two weeks into the Premiership and it looks as if he is a stone wall, nailed-on cert for Haircut of the Season. These things matter, oh yes.

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 29 August 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Gold

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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.