Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds. According to a Facebook post from the government-operated China.org.cn, “Internet companies across China are embracing programming cheerleaders: pretty, talented girls that help create a fun work environment. Their job includes buying programmers breakfast, chitchatting, and playing ping-pong with them.”
Congratulations, Silicon Valley! Your culture of workplace sexism is now your greatest export. Stories of women feeling unwelcome to the tech industry are neither new nor uncommon, though it is less common to see such blatant examples showing exactly how workplace sexism is the status quo.
Because this is the Internet, there’s no shortage of Facebook commenters ready to come to defend the good fight. To quote a few:
“They can be programmers too. They choose not to be.”
“Stop talking about stereotypes, sexist and other things. We must ask them girl on why they took the job [sic], maybe they like the job and maybe they are doing this job part time for extra cash. We won’t know, so don’t judge too early.”
“How is this any worse than cheerleaders at American football games and other sporting events where they’re expected to dress in tight, skimpy clothing and prance around like monkeys?”
It says something about the culture being cultivated when the main body of the workforce is so universally accepted as “socially inept men” that they are specifically catered to at the cost of alienating anyone who doesn’t fit that profile.
It really doesn’t help the case for the tech-industry workplace not actually being toxic to women when managers seem to be going out of their way to make the office look like a dating simulator, a Hooters, or a host club. Of course there’s no shortage of folks who seem to think it’s a great idea. To pull, again, from Facebook:
“Being in the offices dominated by guys I can say this is not a bad idea, because I got a lot of friends who got problem with their social life and can’t even hold a proper conversation with a girl, as long as they are there for motivation and social training I believe there’s a positive impact on this [sic].”
“Anyway as long as it is a healthy job that brings positivity and improves the communication skill of the computer introvert. Why not? Maybe can help to create true love encounter [sic].”
“I think this might actually work? It’s good for nerds to spar social skills with girls in environment where there is no risk of embarrassment and rules are clear.”
“Escort business has been around for a long time, so what’s the news here?”
“Its programmers are mostly male and terrible at socializing, and the presence of these girls have greatly improved their job efficiency and motivation.”
The last one is my favorite, because it’s not actually a comment. This is actually the closing statement of the original news item. Seriously.