Silicon Valley is so comfortable with red plastic cups and keggers that people started calling its engineers "brogrammers," a commentary on the fraternity-like culture that makes it OK to do business meetings at strip clubs.
But things are starting to change. When a team at Twitter threw a frat-themed party at the office last night, they got reprimanded. Twitter publicly apologized. Add that to the list of things you just don't do at headquarters when your workforce is 70 percent male, and you're facing a class-action complaint for gender discrimination. Fraternities at U.S. colleges and universities are facing greater scrutiny after some found themselves at the center of allegations of hazing, underage drinking and sexual assault.
"This social event organized by one team was in poor taste at best, and not reflective of the culture we are building here at Twitter," said Jim Prosser, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Twitter. "We’ve had discussions internally with the organizing team, and they recognize that this theme was ill-chosen."
It wasn't just a spontaneous frat-house party. Tables were stacked with dozens of pizza boxes, Solo cups were arranged in pyramid form, and a sign said "Twitter Frat House" in Greek-style lettering.
Silicon Valley has recently had to confront some of its cultural flaws. Last year, several large technology companies including Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. released their diversity data, showing a male-dominated workforce. A gender discrimination lawsuit by Ellen Pao against the venture capital firm she worked for, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, raised questions about whether she missed out on promotions because of the way the firm treated women. Although she lost the suit, the trial put a spotlight on how bias can affect career trajectories.
Twitter isn't the only company that has embraced frat-themes: Facebook also has some Facebook-branded beer pong tables, for example. But this time, an apology followed.