Yahoo Hires Lap Dancers For Conference

Yahoo Hires Lap Dancers For Conference

For Yahoo's latest Hack Days event in Taiwan, the company hired strippers - excuse me, "exotic dancers" - to strut their stuff and perform lap dances on the attendees.  The male attendees, obviously, even though women are - or were - well represented at Hack Days.

Yahoo's Hack Days are an informal conference, designed around programmers creating applications that work with Yahoo's API.  Originally the Hack Days were an internal company festival of sorts, but Yahoo opened them to the public in 2006.  Each Hack Day includes a contest for designing the best application. The first Hack Day's competition was won by a team of women.

Furthermore, Yahoo itself has a female CEO, Carol Bartz.  Bartz hails from the open source community, having been a Vice President at Sun Microsystems.  She has a degree in computer science, so one may assume that she is not unfamiliar with the situation of women in programming and open source.

Geek Feminism is a blog which tracks issues related to sexism in the programming and open source communities.  One of the worst purveyors of sexism happens to be conferences, where sadly a great number of inappropriate and sexualized presentations have been given in the name of "pepping things up." That these presentations may offend women (and men who prefer a professional workplace and conference atmosphere) matters to these offenders not a whit.

The problem is that if someone calls programming a "boy's club," numerically they are not entirely wrong. Although we are over half the population (51% in the United States), women are only 5% of computer programmers, 10% of systems analysts, and the number of women earning computer science degrees has fallen sharply year after year for the last 20 years.  But how we got from there to "Hey let's hire lap dances for our conference," I cannot say.

We have talked about this "boy's room" mentality before, and I discussed it myself here.  Frankly it was a big part of why I left the high tech world.  It's hard enough just doing your job, but having to do your job on top of being either "everyone's fantasy," "everyone's mom," or "invisible"?  Forget it.

Chris Yeh, the Head of the Yahoo Development Network, issued an official apology for having hired strippers for the most recent Hack Day.  Unfortunately Yeh (or whoever is in charge of the Yahoo Development Network's blog) isn't doing much in the way of comment moderation on that post, because… wow.  

I've said it before but I'll say it again: nothing makes me fear for the human race like hearing a straight white man talk about how something obviously isn't racist or sexist.  Because they would know, right?  Obviously!  And there is quite a lot of that going on in the comments, as well as plenty of outright trolling.

But at least Yahoo did see fit to apologize, which is more than many people have done, when this kind of thing has been brought to light in the past.  Score half a point for Yahoo.  But ladies, you may want to stick with applying to Google anyway.