It’ll end in tears at England, ’Arry

For the past 30 years, whenever a new Tottenham manager has been appointed, I have sent him a copy of The Glory Game, a book I did about a year in the life of the club. I like to think I am drawing their attention to a little bit of Tottingham history, about which they should know. But really it's because I'm a creep.

Let me see, good gracious, there have been 17 managers during that time. In 1974, after Bill Nicholson, came Neill, Burkinshaw, Shreeves, Pleat, Venables, Shreeves again, Livermore, Ardiles, Francis, Gross, Graham, Hoddle, Santini, Jol, Ramos and then from 2008, the one and only let's hear it, 'Arry.

They made phone calls to acknowledge receipt, or wrote thank-you letters, which I have carefully filed away. David Pleat was particularly fulsome and literate in his handwritten reply. Even George Graham, with his Arsenal history, wrote nicely.

The only person who did not acknowledge my wonderful gift was Harry. Held it against him ever since, despite loving him dearly as a person.

His press conferences have always been a joy, either a stream of consciousness, nothing to do with the game, or streetwise rejoinders. I have never heard him being personally nasty, unlike Fergie, even when asked an idiot question.

Hacked off

I remember one conference where he was being criticised for some substitution that had not come off. Instead of turning on the hack, he asked what he would have done. "And who would you have had to take the penalty? Presumably you saw it coming that the ref would leave his glasses as home? And I suppose you could predict that your best striker, five yards out ,would suddenly think of his missus in her best Sunday finery, sitting in the passenger seat of his Baby Bentley, would balloon it over the bar instead of burying it?"

Now, thanks to his trial, I know why he never replied. He admitted in court he has a reading and writing age of a two-year-old.

A book wouldn't have been much use to him, except he could have thrown it around the dressing room after Darren Bent had ballooned another sitter.

Most experts, and we are all football experts today, assume he will take the England job in May, if offered. And I am sure he fancies it. He's 64, had 30 years of club management.

Nothing can be as stressful as all those years with the trial hanging over him. And all those years travelling every day from his Bournemouth home to training in North London. No wonder he has had heart problems. Managing England, physically, is a doddle, as his wife will agree.

Even when Sven went to matches, he used to leave well before the end, for another engagement, nudge nudge. Capello, in all his years, only managed once to get to the north-east to watch a game. Basically, managing England is a part-time job.

Cockney rebel

Harry never played for England, which I am sure was a regret. He was not a star player, even in his West Ham days. In fact I can't remember him, yet I did see Spurs play West Ham many times, during the years he was there, 1965-72. A useful winger, so the older West Ham fans allege, but he left no impression on me.

So he'll want to manage his country, make his cockney bantam chest swell with pride. He'll do no worse than anyone else these past 46 years. He'll get the blame when our useless players give the usual shit performance in a major tournament. Not the Euros, that won't be his fault. But the next World Cup.

Four years max I give him with England - and it will end in tears. It is never officially for football reasons. It's either sex scandals, which forced Bobby Robson out. Financial problems, like Venables. Being politically incorrect, like Hoddle. Or slagging off the FA, like Capello.

So what will do it for Harry ? He seems to have a steady marriage, so unless he jumps on an FA secretary he should be safe. Or come out as gay? That might even help, as they couldn't sack him for it.

He is too cute to shoot his mouth off and upset the blazers. It might well be financial, something else from his past which comes back to haunt him.

Meanwhile, we will certainly all enjoy the ride . . .

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 February 2012 issue of the New Statesman, How do we stop Iran getting the bomb?

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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.