When did office life in the tech industry become a bad Animal House sequel? It was probably right around the time someone coined the term "brogrammer" to describe the kind of keyboard jockey who "breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy," as Urban Dictionary puts it.
In Silicon Valley, and in startups across the country, bro culture is everywhere nowadays. Its manifestations cover the spectrum from the harmless to the legally actionable. For every workplace where co-ed beer pong tournaments end with a round of respectful fist bumps, there's another where women employees report systemic discrimination or unwanted come-ons.
Most recently, an anonymous employee aired a slew of grievances against her former employer, ZocDoc, a Yelp-like service for finding doctors, and said she had hired a lawyer to pursue action. The woman claims, among other things, that upper management routinely used crude and chauvinistic language when speaking about and toward female employees. "We take this matter very seriously," a ZocDoc spokeswoman tells Inc. "As a company, we pride ourselves on being a great place to work, and we have a long-standing policy against any forms of unlawful harassment or discrimination."
It's hardly even a surprise anymore when a company advertises women as one of its office "perks," or a high-profile tech conference kicks off with a joke about a a new app for staring at breasts, or a male tech investor declares he wants to change the way women smell through biohacking.
But some companies have worked harder than others to earn their reputations as hotbeds of bro cultures. Here are five that stand out.
Whitney Wolfe, Tinder's former VP of marketing, filed a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against her Tinder co-founders that ended in a million-dollar settlement earlier this year. According to the suit, former Tinder CEO Sean Rad and former chief marketing officer Justin Mateen told Wolfe that listing a "girl" as a company co-founder would devalue their business, and that people would think she was "slutty" if they knew where she worked. Mateen was ousted in September, and Rad stepped down as CEO earlier this month. A third cofounder, Jonathan Badeen, whose LinkedIn profile once listed him as "Digital Pimp," is still with the company.
Tinder did not immediately respond to Inc.'s request for comment.
Snapchat co-founder and self-described "jerk," Evan Spiegel has been a shameless frat boy from the start, and there are leaked emails to prove it. While at Stanford, Spiegel sent emails about advising his frat brothers on how to get sorority girls drunk (Jell-O shots) and spent a lot of his time wondering whether his teaching assistant had even been urinated on during sex.
Spiegel apologized for the "idiotic" emails. But they may help explain why he would go on to create an app that automatically deleted all far-from-enlightened communications.
Spiegel's penchant for running his mouth didn't disappear upon graduation. He got busted telling a reporter that he'd given Mark Zuckerberg the brush-off when in fact he'd been nothing but receptive to the Facebook CEO.
Snapchat spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker did not respond to Inc.'s request for comment, writing instead that the Snapchat team was "too busy playing foosball and embroidering hoodies for each other [emoticon for a happy face with a wink]."
RapGenius.com co-founder Mahbod Moghadam was asked to step down after his totally-not-cool-dude moment following the UC Santa Barbara shootings. Posting the manifesto of UCSB mass shooter Elliot Rodger' manifesto on his website for annotation, Moghadam tasteless decided it could use a little more levity. He called some of Rodgers' statements "artful" before suggesting that the shooter's sister was probably a "smokin' hot."
In a company update announcing Moghadam's resignation, co-founder Tom Lehman wrote that "gleeful insensitivity and misogyny" were not a part of RapGenius' bro-code.
Furthermore, Lehman tells Inc. that RapGenius is "place full of kind, intellectually curious people with diverse talents and obsessions."
Travis Kalanick, the CEO of the on-demand car service, is a skilled provocateur, but when it comes to provoking women in particular, he's shown a special knack. A promotion in France that promised to pair male passengers with sexy women drivers backfired badly, clanging with the all-too-real stories of women riders getting propositioned or worse by their drivers.
Sometimes Uber seems to have trouble distinguishing between funny and creepy. In 2012, the company released a data visualization of riders who took a late ride on a weekend night and then requested to be picked up from the same spot the following morning. Most commonly referred to as "walks of shame" or "one night stands" by the general public, these type of rides were dubbed by the Uber bros as "Rides of Glory."
Kalanick also once notoriously joked that Uber's success has made it easy for the male employees of Uber to pull women in much the same way its customers can summor cars: "[W]e call that Boober."
Uber declined to comment.
A 29-year-old company with 4,000 employees, AOL is far from the sort of freewheeling Wild West workplace where anything goes. Its HR department is bigger than most startups.
AOL is so staid, in fact, that when former Googler (and college lacrosse player) Tim Armstrong took over as CEO in 2009, he felt the need to shake things up by instituting weekly "beer blasts," complete with an "ice luge" for dispensing chilled vodka shots.
Harmless fun tipped over into something darker in 2013 when Armstrong fired an employee on a live conference call in front of dozens of his colleagues, and again this year when he blamed a reduction in employee benefits to "distressed babies" recently born to two new mothers. He apologized for both incidents.
AOL declined to comment.