Berners-Lee challenges 'stupid' male geek culture

The inventor of the web has called for an end to a culture that alienates women and puts them off entering a career in technology

The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has called for an end to the "stupid" male geek culture that disregards the work of capable female engineers, and puts others off entering the profession.

Berners-Lee said that a culture that avoided alienating women would attract more female programmers, which could lead to greater harmony of systems design. "If there were more women involved we could move towards interoperability. We have to change at every level," he said.

According to Berners-Lee, a culture exists where women can be put off a career in technology both by "stupid" behaviour by some male "geeks", and by the reactions of other women.

"It's a complex problem — we find bias against women by women. There are bits of male geek culture and engineer culture that are stupid. They should realise that they could be alienating people who are smarter and better engineers," said Berners-Lee.

Engineering research facilities that interview candidates based only on how many papers they have had published also risk adding to the problem, according to Berners-Lee, because of an apparent in-built bias against women.

One academic went through a sex change, submitted the same papers under both identities, and found that papers were accepted from a man but were rejected when they came from a woman, said the web inventor. This bias is unaccountable, but adds to institutional bias, he said.

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