Know the signs of potential ‘dude-bro’ culture in an organisation


In order to recognize “dude-bro culture”, let’s first understand what it truly is. At best, it is a culture that encourages the millennial equivalent of “old boy networks”, a fraternity traditionally designed to support, encourage, and network with fellow males. It goes without saying that these networks are often far too gendered and misogynistic. They keep women out of the inner circle, passing on opportunities singularly to fellow dude-bros.

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At its worst, dude-bro culture is one that is comfortable with, or insensitive to, casual, and even serious, sexism and gender-based harassment. These dude-bros often truly believe – and are not afraid to voice their opinion – that women join the workforce to “pass time” and that employers hire them not for their talent and expertise but because of the diversity mandate. They think maternity leaves are “paid vacations” and that it is perfectly alright to expect only women to shoulder the responsibility for office housework. What is common among organizations with thriving dude-bro culture? Their glass ceiling is often made of iron and impenetrable for genders and personalities that don’t relate with or can’t emulate fellow dude-bros.

An employer with thriving dude-bro culture is often helmed by men who have never really learned how to engage and interact with women as equals. Thanks to the trap that is culture-fit-based hiring, these organizations end up hiring similar men at all levels.

The bad news is that it is hard to figure out if your future employer has a thriving dude-bro culture in the brief interactions you have during the interview process. The good news however is that we live in times of open internet, and it is not hard to find out what really goes on behind the façade of inclusion and diversity.

The founder/leader is a dude-bro

Listen to his speeches and interviews. Watch how and whether he engages with women on his social media handles. Is he an entitled brat in the garb of a fully-functional adult? Can you find frequent instances of mansplaining? Does he wear his insensitive and often unnecessarily aggressive masculinity as a badge of honour? Does he easily and frequently use gendered insults? Has he ever been vocal about issues like about diversity, inclusion, sexism, harassment, and women at the workplace? What do women on Glassdoor have to say about him?

Many employees and leaders in recent times (Uber’s and TVF’s to name a few) have allegedly revealed their dude-bro mentality in what were not even weak moments. A successful dude-bro often truly believes that it is exactly this trait that is getting him laurels, not his strong team, and definitely not just being at the right place at the right time. So of course he is not afraid to showcase it. If the leader is a dude-bro, chances are that the organization has a thriving sub-culture of dude-bros too.

Only drunken revelry in the name of employee motivation and celebrating successes? Dude-bros might be at work

Often, such celebrations do nothing for anyone who doesn’t find drunken revelry exciting. Drunken revelry to them does not mean an excuse to cross boundaries of professional behaviour. Not a very inclusive celebration then, is it? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that non-drinkers are exclusively either women or non-sexist men. But let me just say that drunken revelry in office parties is often where closet dude-bros come out. Watch out for the signs.

The company they keep is of fellow dude-bros

Watch out for the company the organization keeps. Do you find that most of their VCs and influencers, partners, analysts and advocates are also either part of an old boy network or fellow industry dude-bros? Chances are that it is a case of mutual admiration between the organization’s dude-bros and the ones that are part of the larger industry circle. After all, you know what they say about birds of the same feather.

Any allegations of possible misogyny or dropping standards of professional behaviour are quickly dismissed as mere fabrications or “mavericks being mavericks”

Let’s face it. You really don’t need to behave unprofessionally to be a true maverick. If maverick leaders and founders don’t have the intelligence to see how their behaviour affects their own and their organization’s reputation and how it could even cost them the very careers they are so proud of (as it happened in the case of Uber as well as TVF) I’d find it extremely hard to trust their judgment. It is really that simple.

Watch out for signs of how an organization or leader responds to allegations. Does it commit to investigating and improving, or is its first reaction just rubbishing allegations with some platitudes to boot? It is a sign of how seriously the organization takes such insinuations and how committed it is about building an inclusive workplace.

The leadership team is almost exclusively all-male

Saying that there just aren’t enough women in industry circles that are good enough to join top ranks is extremely misleading, especially in our times. Study the leadership team closely, consider the gender ratios, and watch out for signs of possible glass ceilings for women. In the last few years, more and more organizations have come forward with their plans for diversity and inclusion at the workplace. Have they been able to successfully turn their plans to real action? Even organizations that may have succeeded in being more diverse overall could suffer stubborn bottlenecks when it comes to promoting women to the highest offices. It goes on to become a vicious cycle of dude-bros deciding who to promote, and no prizes for guessing whom they eventually do. Yes, almost exclusively fellow dude bros.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that women must boycott such employers. In an ideal world, we would. What is the point of spending one-third of your life in a place that doesn’t value you because of your gender alone? But often, financial commitments and lack of better opportunities might mean we take up whatever is available. More importantly, thanks to our deep-rooted conditioning, there just aren’t enough employers around who are truly committed to building diverse and inclusive workplaces. That should not be reason enough to keep us out. That being said, knowing how to recognize the dude-bro subculture is still essential. At the very least, we will be better prepared to challenge it and demand change when the time comes.

Read Also: Will Silicon Valley’s bro culture finally go bust?


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