Wanted: Programmer Motivators. The Pretty Kind.

In China the fast-paced and demanding technology scene is male dominated to the extent that women, so far, have barely got a toehold in it. However, there is one area of the tech experience where women do predominate; as ‘motivators’ for program coders, who are usually male, single, work long hours, and normally considered to be geeks and nerds. Their job description would make an American coder wince — they are expected to work a minimum of sixty hours per week, only get a half hour for lunch, and are paid a pittance when compared to what their compatriots make in North America or Europe. Still, there are tens of thousands of them in the booming tech scene in China, and their bosses want them to keep working like dogs — so they treat them, in some respects, like pampered pets.

Programmer motivators are hired specifically for their good looks and bright personality. They move from desk to desk, from office to office, wherever the programmers are working, to give them shoulder rubs and chat them up as they sit for long lonely hours in front of their screens. While China has laws on the books prohibiting gender discrimination, it’s not something that is much enforced.

China’s tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent are aggressively hiring programmer motivators to bring programmers snacks, make them tea, and otherwise see that they are as relaxed as possible as they work towards carpal tunnel syndrome. Could this be a stepping stone for women to higher positions in Chinese tech? Only time, and a few more back massages, will tell.