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back to article Girl Geek Dinner lady: The IT Crowd is putting schoolgirls off tech

Sexism in The IT Crowd and other TV shows that chronicle of life in the tech industry is preventing women from considering a career in IT, said Sarah Lamb of women-in-tech-group Girl Geek Dinners. Jen from the IT Crowd The IT Crowd's Jen: Not an inspirational role model The portrayal of IT workers as sexist and women as …

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Re: Not At All

Mileage varies, as ever. Don't forget, even if all the men treat the women with the respect they deserve, women may still be put off by a very much "male" atmosphere if you are one of very few women in an otherwise all male organization.

We have some outstanding female students (but far too few), and the general attitude of our male students is one of respect (though quite a percentage shows signs of the usual nerdy awkward behaviour towards the opposite sex, but that is par for the course). Strikingly, most of our female students are from abroad. This shows that not all women (by quite a long way) aren't interested in IT. In international conferences in image processing I would guess that about 25-30% of delegates are female (mainly Asian). It seems to be a thing in western culture to keep women out of technology (a long-standing tradition, as women were banned from most guilds in the distant past). I do see a gentle upward trend in the number of Dutch girls enrolling in our course, but we have a long way to go.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

@Khaptain. Working for a spell over in the USA in the 90s, I dated a girl then a project lead at Apple and those male and female colleagues I met were also full of enthusiasm for creating new ideas and products. I was working with Microsoft at the time, same went for co-workers there. Hardcore coding then as now more of a male preserve but not exclusively. Recall several very talented female designers who could also code.

I doubt if things have changed for the worse in the techno corporate world of Google etc.

However. A good idea not to over-generalise from our personal experiences, especially if those are rather limited.

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Facepalm

Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

Is this a pastiche? Did you really just congratulate yourself on tolerating "three pretty ladies" on your staff?

Fuck. Ing. Hell.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

Khaptain - I agred wih everythin you sed, until you pointedd owt tha you spelletd the werd 'tea' rongly. Sory, cant be agreing wit poeple who carnt spel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

No, but it could be a kind of collage, I suppose, or maybe a farrago ;)

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Holmes

Re: Quantity is irrelevant without quality

Women being treated as peers, and spoken to politely in an IT workplace is the norm in my experience. All the incidences of sexism in the workplace that I have seen have been perpetrated by people without technical backgrounds.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: never seen technical people making nasty sex-related jokes about women.

I have. Well sexist at least. But only when the woman was both the equivalent of the teacher's pet AND stealing her male counterpart's ideas because on her own she was technically incompetent. On the other hand, I've never seen them make a joke about someone who WAS technically competent. Because we rather enjoy having them around.

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What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

Are women and girls stupid creatures who are influenced by stupid movies ? Less intelligent and rational than men ? Only if you accept that premise, then these claims are true.

Now, let's go into FACTS. Women have been raising kids since the time we can remember. Kids feel more comfortable with women than men. Women actually lactate, while men have dud teats. Girls are much more likely to have horseriding and dog-walking as a hobby. That is, because evolution has made them into beings respsonible for caring about other humans. The horses, dogs, cats, hamsters and guinea pigs are "training animals", so to speak.

So it is entirely reasonable to see more men fiddling with dead, cold machinery (include computers) than women. Nobody laments the dearth of male midwifes (are they "middle-men" ?), male kindergarten personnel, nurses and so on.

Finally, the complaints about "nasty, sexist male coders" are vastly overblown. What makes life in programming or electrical engineering hard is being technologically incompetent. But it doesn't matter whether you are a girl or not. Your crap will be named and shamed, that is why some IT technologies such as Linux or BSD are acutally working as advertised, most of the time. If you cannot stand this amout of rigour, then please quit. There are enough broken things around us, we don't need more of these "social science" people fscking around here. They did enough damage in the financial industry with their half-brained "innovations".

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Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

Typing "FACTS" in capitals doesn't make your assertions true.

"Kids feel more comfortable with women than men."

Is that an innate trait or environmental conditioning? I had the misfortune of being made redundant when my daughter was 3 months old. While I was out of work and doing 50% of the child care, she showed no preference for her mother or me and I was actually more likely to settle her to sleep. Since I returned to work, she has a distinct preference for the person she spends most time with, i.e. her mother.

"So it is entirely reasonable to see more men fiddling with dead, cold machinery (include computers) than women."

Speak for yourself! I'd rather be fiddling with women!!!

"Nobody laments the dearth of male midwifes (are they "middle-men" ?), male kindergarten personnel, nurses and so on."

Actually, they do:

http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/diversity-in-the-nhs.shtml

http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/primary-teaching-will-it-always-be-a-womans-world-1541

"Finally, the complaints about "nasty, sexist male coders" are vastly overblown."

I'm not sure they are, but in my experience, sexism seems to rear it ugly head in any working environment with a significant gender imbalance, be it among coders, builders, nurses or teachers.

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FAIL

Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

Unfortunately, all the politically correct people try to make out men and women are the same. This is clearly stupid and illogical, but it doesn't put them off. Nature has evolved men and women differently to perform different functions. Yes, these differences are significantly less important now, but many millions of years of evolution won't be changed in a few tens or even a hundred years. Numerous well respected studies have identified various differences between men and women. The old men are better (on average) at spatial awareness and map reading, whilst women are better at multi-tasking has been shown in scientific studies. Doesn't mean this is true for everyone, but on average, it has been shown.

So, men and women preferring different things is not exactly surprising. Yes, some of this will be by environment, but a large amount is through genetics, in this case, chromosones. So, it's entirely likely that men and women will enjoy different jobs for differing reasons. This is all averages of course, and as with everything, there will be exceptions. I doubt if many men find helping with childbirth particularly appealing (apart from their own, and even then.......) and therefore don't choose midwifery. Of course, as with all averages, there are some who do. The important thing is to ensure that anyone can do anything they want without bias being applied. If this results in 90% women in midwifery and only 10% women in IT, that's fine. As long as people are free to choose and the process is unbiased.

I'm always interested with the sexist jokes angle and other such. This is all generally rubbish as the fact the joke is sexist is only relevant when taken in context with the way it's delivered. A sexist joke is not necessarily offensive to a woman (or man) unless delivered in a way to be offensive. I've been in many offices where sexist jokes are commonplace, but they're all said with a twinkle in the eye and an understanding between the parties that it's all fun and makes the environment more enjoyable. Indeed, whilst men might make comments about parking (and driving in general), the women would then retort about multi-tasking or split personaility in men between their heads and lower regions etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

"Speak for yourself! I'd rather be fiddling with women!!!"

Did you really just sexually objectify women in a comment thread about sexism? *blink* It's not even a sequiteur to the original comment.

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Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

@Mad Mike. I definitely agree with the first paragraph! I think part of the issue tends to be that people forget that "IT" is a VERY large subject containing a lot of very different disciplines, each of which tends to lend itself to certain types of people.

I remember reading some research years ago that mentioned how typical personality traits of programmers for instance don't tend to match those of many women, but the more cautious, careful and planned approach required of good DBA's and Sysadmins is a far better match. In fact if you simply look on the Technet forums you'll notice that in the DBA and Sysadmin arenas there are quite a few very skilled and knowledgeable women working in those fields.

The problem in my opinion (and this also applies to getting guys into IT) is that IT education is still very much geared towards the belief that IT = programming. Most courses (school/college/uni) focus on teaching programming languages with some coverage on other areas, so the only people likely to attend them are 1) those who want to be programmers, and 2) those who're into computing enough to put up with a few years of learning things they don't care about to get a piece of paper and get a job in the area they're actually interested in.

If they specifically want more women in IT they need to focus on those disciplines that women actually want to do and have a passion for, show girls that those career paths are available and how to get into them, and stop treating the entire IT world as if it's a single career path.

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Flame

Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

""Nobody laments the dearth of male midwifes (are they "middle-men" ?), male kindergarten personnel, nurses and so on."

Actually, they do:"

Sure. Very, very quietly, with no funding or action.

There are which male-specific awards for nursing and teaching, exactly? Compared to a large number of highly-publicised women-only awards for other areas, and highly-funded organisations promoting women in those areas. Oh, and teaching and assessment methods in schools which systematically disadvantage boys (IIRC, last year was the point at which the average grades for girls were finally better than the average grades for boys in every subject at every level in schools).

It's also interesting that in that primary-school-teaching link you post, Durham University felt it was necessary to first check whether the male teachers did as good a job as the female teachers. I mean, WTF?! If they can't see the inherent sexism in that, then they're part of the problem not part of the solution.

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Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

Numerous well respected studies have identified various differences between men and women.

Is one of the differences that men can't be arsed to provide citations?

old men are better (on average) at spatial awareness and map reading

This is sort of true.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/622576?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21100853503031

women are better at multi-tasking has been shown in scientific studies

This is false.

http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/815.php

Still ... at least you didn't sink to the Clarkson level reactionary twaddle that men are better drivers.

parking (and driving in general)

Oh.

Oh dear.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

No offense, but your own article (Criss, 2009) partially contradicts your summary of it. Women were not significantly faster at performing tasks while distracted, but they were significantly more accurate. In common parlance, defining that as "better" isn't unreasonable.

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Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

Yes we need more women in IT to make us sammiches and cups of tea and to call over for a shag in the closet when we need it.

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Calm down dear....

Sarah... poppet.... the IT crowd is a COMEDY. It doesn't 'chronicle life in the tech industry' - that would be a DOCUMENTARY, like Hollyoaks..

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Re: Calm down dear....

I always thought the IT crowd showed what happens when big business assumes that a "manager" only needs to know about "management" and not the actual stuff their department does. I have had managers (male and female) and none of them knew anything of what we did, and then just proceeded to micromanage how we did it...

no the IT crowd is not representative of IT, it is representative of big business in general. unlike Hollyoaks, which is representative of suburbs of British Roman cities!

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Re: Calm down dear....

"the IT crowd is a COMEDY."

It is? Perhaps someone should tell Graham Linehan: that TV series is about as funny as having your head repeatedly slammed into a brick wall. It's clearly written by someone whose heard a lot of random anecdotes about the IT industry, but who has never actually worked in it.

(Also, Mr. Linehan: your formula is showing.)

Then again, I work in the games industry. It's hard to take "The IT Crowd" seriously as a comedy when you've had long conversations with graphics artists on the merits of specific types of bubble wrap as bedding. Or "conducted" a roomful of Commodore Amigas during an overnight testing session of Championship Manager 2's (rather ill-advised) Amiga port.

The latter project could have given TheDailyWTF enough material for an entire year.

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Re: Calm down dear....

Next you'll be telling me that Dilbert isn't offensive to dogs.

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JDX
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Re: Calm down dear....

Unless you worked in IT support you wouldn't really know how realistic it is.

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Re: Calm down dear....

In the IT crowd the woman isn't a geek that's the whole point.

Of course its portrayal of male geeks is so flattering I'm sure it has converted 1000s of teenage boys from wanting to be footballers or rockstars into dreaming of a career on a help desk

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Anonymous Coward

"The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

Unhelpful, but quite honest. There's a particular kind of guy who feels that he is too clever and reasonable to be sexist; instead he makes perfectly sound and logical arguments (to his mind) about why women won't ever be any good at technology in general or computer science in particular. This sort of guy is pervasive in the industry, and a detriment to any sort of mixed-gender teamwork.

On the bright side it is a particularly western phenomenon (maybe its just coincidence, but almost all of the Iranian, Malaysian and Pakistani compsci postgrads I've met were women. The split was about 50/50 with Chinese and Russian students) so the problem will resolve itself when we grow up or when we are crushed by the far more capable workforces that exist everywhere else in the world.

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Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

"when we are crushed by the far more capable workforces that exist everywhere else in the world."

Umm, yeah. In the year 2500, when some hyper-intelligent Green beings from Andromeda have educated them about the hard process of creating good software. In the meantime, we will use Qt from these five million Norwegians. The bazillion of asians will "enhance" some broken corporate java-app-monsters in the meantime. We will still not see anything innovative in terms of products.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

"The bazillion of asians will "enhance" some broken corporate java-app-monsters in the meantime"

You tell em, chief! You know what those uppity yellow skinned folk need? They need some good, honest hard working white folk to organise em!

Hint: the market for atrocious, outsourced, enterprise java monstrosities was generated by western companies trying to cut overheads. Much like manufacturing, little by little coding expertise will trickle away from the west. Once upon a time, 'Made In Japan' was a byword for cheap crap. What makes you so certain that countries where IT and computer science are seen as respectable and worthy professions for people of either gender won't one day produce software companies that will outperform their western counterparts?

Maybe its because that funny skin tone of theirs interferes with good software engineering?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

"...There's a particular kind of guy who feels that he is too clever and reasonable to be sexist..."

@Handle 4711 - Just to be clear: Based on your comments above: He's talking about you.

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Stop

Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

I am not saying that western corporations are not complicit with the java-app-monsters. I am just saying they are not doing anything innovative yet. They are cheap, there are lots of them, but there is not much creativity.

The latter is in my opinion their major problem. Many asian cultures despise tough criticism, but that is exactly required for meaningful inventions.

I could also write about American gas guzzlers, corrupt Anglosaxon banksters and American war-industry here. I did in the past, but the current discussion was about women and asian coders. Shall we change to the fact that America is about 5% of world population, but consumes 25% of the world oil supply ? I can surely flame that fact, too.

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Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

Handle 4711

You are being either deliberately obtuse or terrifyingly naive. The idea that east asian developers are low-skill or lack creativity compared to their US/European counterparts is decades out of date. I taught maths to engineers in a UK university in the 80s/90s and almost without exception the top students in every class were from Taiwan or Singapore. They are not just producing quantity, they are producing quality. I've worked in commercial R&D and consultancy for twenty years and the skill and creativity of east asian developers (both working there and migrants working here) is easily a match for ours. I've worked with recent graduates from mainland China and they are scary good.

It is quite true that a lot of dull development legwork has been exported but that is primarily due to the difference in wages and a desire amongst outsourcing companies to keep the architectural knowledge (not to mention the fun jobs) local. It is certainly not down to a lack of expertise. The one cultural aspect that does prevent them from being direct competitors (within China at least) is the pirate or Shanzhai culture - the fact that cheap resources and a 'casual' attitude to IP means they can knock out cheap and cheerful rip-offs and flog them on the home market. But with a booming middle class and a shift in economic power, that won't be true for long.

Getting back to the original article, the other notable thing about east asian developers is that there is far less imbalance between the sexes. Presumably chinese women don't watch The IT Crowd. I'm sure you can cobble together some theory as to why that would be when women and asians are so evidently inferior in your universe.

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Stop

Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

> You are being either deliberately obtuse or terrifyingly naive.

Although I don't agree with a lot of what they said, I think you are misunderstanding the key point.

He was talking about genuine creativity and innovation. The Asian states do not have a long and fruitful history of novel creativity which currently springs largely out of the whacky and independent mindset of the western psyche.

They are great at replication and incremental development, and the quality of the work is second to none.

But most of the great advances in technology are from the West.

Whether that is a symptom of the culture or a difference in mental make-up I really couldn't say.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lack of genuine creativity and innovation

So that's why even the best Japanese anime are so unimaginative and lacking in originality, while Hollywood consistently turns out creative masterpieces full of challenging ideas and new insights.

I'd often wondered why that was.

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Facepalm

Re: "The portrayal of IT workers as sexist [...] in the programme was unhelpful,

The Asian states do not have a long and fruitful history of novel creativity

Absolutely. The Chinese and Japanese have never invented anything.

FFS.

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Layers of scorn

So The IT crowd portrays women negatively - maybe, I only watched 1 episode (that was enough - didn't care for it). However, the media in general portrays ALL IT people negatively, too.

As she says herself, lack of women in IT is a worldwide problem, whereas The IT Crowd is purely a local "problem", so while it may not help, it's not a big barrier.

What needs to happen is for the media to depict IT people, in general, in a more sane and balanced way. Although the industry does little to help itself, with "geek speak" and its crappily designed and duff products.

Maybe if we could inject an air of professionalism, discipline and pride into our own industry, then that would make it an attractive proposition to newcomers and equally, help retain them over their whole career.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "lack of women in IT is a worldwide problem"

Where "Worldwide" means "Everywhere With English As The Principle Language".

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Happy

Re: "lack of women in IT is a worldwide problem"

Ah, "The Principle Language"!

One of my former bosses advertised for a "Principle Secretary", which all us workers thought was a jolly good idea, since he didn't seem to have any principles of his own...

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Re: Layers of scorn

The IT crowd depicted the men far more negatively than the women.. in fact Jen was the only one with her head screwed on right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Layers of scorn

yep! look what happened to the CEO and his retard of a son.. what does it say about male bosses then? reverse discrimination?

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Re: Layers of scorn

That isn't sexism, because it's depicting men negatively.

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Re: Layers of scorn

"The IT crowd depicted the men far more negatively than the women.. in fact Jen was the only one with her head screwed on right."

You got this bang on here.

IT men get hit by a sterotype in the media harder than women as the usual weird techie nerds who couldn't get laid if they tried. You can blame a whole plethora of shows for that one IT Crowd, Inbetweeners, Big bang theory, they all perpetuate the myth.

Its hardly surprising when confronted by this archtype so often on TV most women choose to avoid the profession like a plague because that is what they expect us all to be like.

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WTF?

Re: "lack of women in IT is a worldwide problem"

Really? When did (for example) Saudi Arabia and Iran make English their principle language? I seem to have missed that announcement.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "lack of women in IT is a worldwide problem"

I don't know about Saudi, but in Iran there are more women with university degrees than men, and that includes the hard technical subjects, my wife is one of them (Polymer Engineering).

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Re: Layers of scorn

Roy and Moss dated plenty of women in the IT Crowd. The Big Bang Theory seemed to indicate at the start it would be based around dateless nerd geniuses, but Leonard bounces from Hot blonde neighbour to hot Indian chick to hot particle physicist and Howard ends up with stunning blonde biologist. Raj and Sheldon don't do too bad either. The comedy comes from the characters wrecking their chances when they overthink things.

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And doctor who ?

Doctor Who generally shows women in a positive light, ahh but that's only a TV show, NEWS so is the IT crowd, even reality TV is only TV, does anybody think that they are real?

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The IT crowd is shit anyway - easily the worst thing that any of those involved have been in.

It just plays on stereotypes of IT people, which bare practically no resemblance to reality.

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or

one of the funniest comedies, after Father Ted (which presumably demonstrates the lack of honest and caring priests in Ireland)

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Anonymous Coward

I thought that too

But I gave it a chance and found it is actually really funny. Yes it plays on stereotypes but that's what a lot of comedy does, it takes the funny characteristics and emphasises them. I can see a lot of myself in the Roy character and I do know someone who is very like Moss. I don't think they were trying to be sexist with Jen, more taking the mick out of management who don't actually understand what their department does or how anything works and I think we have all met management like that. It would have worked with a man as the manager but making the character a woman allows for other comedy scenarios that just wouldn't work otherwise like when Jen attracts the unwanted attentions of the big boss Douglas.

Going back to the sexism issue, I take it they missed the episode where a company nude calender is proposed and the women cleverly make the men feel like they have to be the ones taking part instead of the women or the episode where Jen turns down another job because she finds that Roy and Moss really can't cope without her. There are more examples of showing women in industry in a positive light but it looks like the researchers ignore these as it doesn't fit it with their pre-conceived ideas.

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FAIL

Re: or

Seriously? Even "Black Books" was far better and more original than The IT Crowd. And Linehan's formulaic cardboard characters were very obvious there.

I've laughed out loud at "Father Ted", which was co-written by both Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, so Linehan can't claim sole responsibility for its greatness.

The first season of "Black Books" was also co-written by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan. But when the writing team was changed in the later seasons, it was never quite as funny.

"The IT Crowd" is just poor. Clearly some people find it funny, but having the overrated Noel Fielding in it certainly didn't do anything to endear the series to me. The writing is tired, the plot contrivances are so ridiculous you can see the payoff coming a mile away, and the characters are pathetically two-dimensional. It's a live-action cartoon that's trying far too hard to be satirical, but failing even to reach mediocre parody. This isn't writing, it's coasting.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: or

Fail because I have different tastes to you? Fail yourself for not understanding that people are different.

As for 'some' people find it funny, I think you will find an awful lot of people find it funny. It is consistently one of the most watched programmes on 4od and also won quite a few awards. Maybe something about it hits a little too close to home for you and that is what you don't like, it's fine for you to laugh at something as long as it doesn't make you evaluate yourself is that it?

The 'work outing' episode almost had me on the floor laughing it was so funny. Normally an able-bodied person pretending to be disabled would be repugnant and yet they managed to make it inoffensive to anybody. A disabled friend of mine who is in a wheelchair found it so funny he was pretending to be Roy and had us in stitches. The whole scenario was ridiculous, pretending to be disabled because you are found to be using the disabled toilets and then managing to dig yourself in even deeper would never happen but as a comedy it was brilliant.

The Friendface episode where they start to only communicate via it even though they are in the same room as each other, are you telling me you don't know someone like that. I certainly know some facebook addicts who can't tear themselves away from it

Or 'The final countdown' where Moss becomes a countdown champion and gets invited to the underground 'street' countdown. 'Good morning, that's a nice tnetennba'

It's just silly and it's supposed to be. If you were expecting an in-depth analysis of the mind of an IT worker then I could see you would be disappointed. However if you take it for what it is, just a bit of fun to pass half an hour and make you laugh then it is brilliant.

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WTF?

In other news...

Father Ted put women off from becoming priests

Alan Partridge put women off from becoming mildly successful very early morning radio show hosts

Black Books put women off from owning a book shop

Coupling put people off from ever watching TV again...

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Holmes

Re: In other news...

I think you'll find its the Vatican that prevent women becoming Catholic priests like Ted

... and Davina Macall put me off wanting to become a woman .

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Coat

Re: In other news...

Ooh, so far 2 fans of Coupling! Knew there must be at least one out there...

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