Why Are Tech Firms Still Hazing Women?


The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories

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Someday we may no longer need in-depth chronicles of the tech industry’s woman problem. But not yet.

This month’s Atlantic weighs in with a cover story by Liza Mundy titled “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” The answers are depressingly familiar yet worth reviewing: Startups are “frequently run by brotherhoods of young men — in many cases friends or roommates — straight out of elite colleges” who seek “culture fit” as they scale up. Tech’s engineering culture celebrates individual genius, and the stereotype of the innately brilliant coder is male. Tech companies see themselves as meritocracies, but — thanks to the “paradox of meritocracy” — the belief that all decisions are merit-based gives leaders and hiring managers license to exercise their biases.

Sexism is still where the tech industry’s change-the-world rhetoric meets the reality of entrenched social biases. The gender breakdowns of most tech companies remain alarmingly lopsided. Recent high-profile illustrations of the industry’s failure to treat women fairly — from Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins to Susan Fowler’s account of sexism at Uber — have led to some important movement, including the founding of Project Include and the increasingly common practice of large tech firms releasing diversity data.

Many companies have adopted unconscious-bias training programs that teach employees that they shouldn’t beat themselves up for being biased — it’s universal — but they should aim to identify their built-in biases and adopt practices to counter them. But some critics worry that this “fast and feel-good” technique can “make bias seem inescapable, even okay.” One promising technique that’s shown results — even at a big, old-line company like Intel — is to tie ambitious hiring goals to company-wide salary bonuses. Even more effective is for newer startups to follow the lead of Slack and a handful of other companies: They’ve built in a commitment to diversity from the start so they don’t have to struggle to retrofit it later.

Why Business Should Embrace an Independent EPA

Trump isn’t the first president to appoint a leader for the Environmental Protection Agency who seemed more interested in wrecking it than running it. That honor belongs to Ronald Reagan. After his appointee Anne Gorsuch left in disgrace after a stormy two-year tenure, Reagan brought in William Ruckelshaus, who’d been the first EPA head under President Nixon, to put the place back together again.

In a fascinating New York Times piece, Ruckelshaus recalls meeting with chemical industry executives from whom he expected to hear the usual “death to all regulations” demands. Instead, they told him how much they needed and wanted to see the agency’s credibility restored. “A strong and credible regulatory regime is essential to the smooth functioning of our economy,” Ruckelshaus writes. “Unless people believe their health and the environment are being safeguarded, they will withdraw their permission for companies to do business.” The message couldn’t be more important: No voters, red or blue, “want their kids choking on polluted air or drinking tainted water.”

All Our Home Office Doors Are Open

“BBC Dad” and his ebullient, video-interrupting kids took the internet by storm yesterday. Maybe it was the four-year-old daughter’s side-to-side skip that got to you. Or the infant’s walker-borne glide. Or the mother’s cross-floor dive to hustle them out. Most of us have had some experience of a similar mishap, where we leave a door open by accident and personal life come crashing into work existence. But few have had it play out so globally, first on broadcast TV and then in endless viral replays (The Wall Street Journal).

That’s why Korea expert Robert Kelly’s 15 minutes of fame may also mark a watershed moment in the era of the home office and remote work. The same digital tools we use to stay connected with colleagues and work from anywhere are also the devices we use to make date plans, coordinate child-care arrangements, and keep our lives together. Good luck keeping it all straight.

Kelly may have been talking seriously about South Korea’s impeachment crisis, but to his kids, he said later, it looked like he was just Skyping with grandma. Boundaries between work and home are essential for all sorts of reasons of privacy, consideration, and mental health. Yet they are also becoming more and more impossible to maintain.


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