Yay (mostly male) Team!

“Programming cheerleaders” hired in China to motivate male developers

Natali Vlatko
Cheerleader image via Shutterstock

In another blow to the plight of achieving diversity in tech, Chinese startups have apparently started hiring “programming cheerleaders” to spur on their mostly-male developer workforce. From general chit-chat to ping-pong, the practice is catching on.

Motivation in the workplace takes on many forms, but one Chinese startup has started hiring “Programmer Cheerleaders” to motivate their mostly male developers during office hours. The reason? Apparently they suck at socialising.

Trending in China has reported that Internet companies across China are “embracing programming cheerleaders, pretty, talented girls that help create a fun work environment”. Their tasks range anywhere from buying male developers breakfast to playing ping-pong.

This blatantly sexist practice does little to help the need for more diversity in tech. And on top of that, the photos accompanying the piece clearly show that a woman is part of the team, however there’s no mention of cheerleaders being hired for her.

The startup being highlighted for the practice has praised their new additions to the company for “improved job efficiency”:

According to the HR manager of an Internet company that hired three such cheerleaders, its programmers are mostly male and terrible at socializing, and the presence of these girls have greatly improved their job efficiency and motivation.

Tech in Asia have also caught on to the practice of hiring cheerleaders for “brogrammers” and aren’t shying away from calling out the “kind of leering atmosphere for the woman who appears to be the sole female dev in the room”.

Unfortunately, the obviously problematic issue has gone right over the head of some commentators, with Kunal Anand from the Indian Times covering the story by asking if Indian IT will follow suit: “Reportedly, productivity has improved – you listening, Indian IT?”

The question of what motivates developers looks again to be a topic that is polarising opinions, but the task of encouraging developers is something that should come from supervisors and management. The elephant in the room isn’t only the sexism that this practice represents, but the cultural significance of who is practicing it.

SEE ALSO: What motivates developers? (Hint: probably not money)

Expo staff at this year’s RSA Conference were all required to ensure that their attire was “considered appropriate in a professional environment”, and while this particular point isn’t part of the “cheerleader” affair, the sentiment certainly resonates.

By attempting to create an environment that is more open to diversity and committed to stamping out sexism, it’s hoped that the IT industry could move away from the typical male-centric image that most associate it with. Practices like the above however, just hinder the progression the industry needs to make.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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