Yahoo has apologized for providing lap dances on stage at a Tawian programming event. Critics aren't mollified, and that's probably just as well: it's all but certain something like this will happen again soon.
Certain, that is, if you judge from recent history. Here's a roundup of tech chauvinism flare-ups from just the last couple of months:
- "Booth babes" were explicitly discouraged at the TechCrunch 50; some people still hired the attractive spokesgirls.
- On stage at the same event, Penn Jilette promoted his iPhone magic app by explaining how it helped a stripper increase her tips. Oy, said Twitter
- When the fit, female co-founder of the startup TotalTrainer gave a presentation at VentureBeat's Demo conference, some male geeks in the audience got snarky about her body on Twitter, provoking a backlash against their "sexist tweets."
- Attendees at TechCrunch had to be warned not to mock the accents of speakers from foreign countries, according to co-organizer Jason Calacanis.
What's more, the girls who danced on stage at this year's Yahoo Hack Day were merely a sequel to the gyrating women who appeared on stage last year, notes Kara Swisher at All Things D. That's despite the fact that an all-woman team won the top prize at Yahoo's first Hack Day, in 2006, and that Yahoo has a tough-as-nails female CEO.
Chalk it up as evidence that, whether a woman calls the shots or not, the tech world remains heavily male dominated. It goes beyond that, though: Human relationships, across the gender divide or not, get severely twisted in Silicon Valley's intense startup culture, where they're all too often pushed aside to make way for technical achievements (think marathon coding sessions) or business success. The Hack Day incident is as much about interpersonal awkwardness as sexism (does this guy look like he's enjoying himself?).