There’s a reoccurring theme that continues to happen to me when I go out with my partner and we happen to strike up conversation with strangers. Be it at dinner, attending a wedding as a plus one, making small talk in an elevator, and even attending a conference as a speaker:
I am rarely asked what I do for a living. 😐
I’ll paint the picture for you- here’s a picture of me and my partner at an event…
Why did the all-male leadership at Google fail to make a statement over the weekend?
One of the country’s largest companies had a very rough weekend, and it had nothing to do with its products or services. Instead, Google joined Amazon, Uber, and many other tech giants experiencing a self-inflicted string of massive workplace culture breakdowns.
Google’s current sh*tshow came via an inarguably sexist 3,000-word memo written by a relatively junior engineer. The memo, which covered its misogyny with sophomoric sops to diversity of intellectual discourse, was posted to Google’s internal network, a version of the company’s Google+ service used only by employees. When Vice’s Motherboard got wind of the post Saturday and wrote about it, all hell broke loose. Then Gizmodo got a copy of the actual screed, and Techmeme lit up with follow-ons from just about every outlet imaginable.
If you are a black person in America, then you are probably familiar with the concept of the “Black Tax.” It’s the axiom that states black people must work harder than their counterparts to achieve similar outcomes. It might result from lower pay compared to coworkers in the same position. Perhaps your boss defers a long deserved promotion. Or, leadership delays recognition for a job well done. The Black Tax is the cost of doing business in America while black.
Learning from the past
I first learned about the Black Tax after studying black innovators of the past. My favorite, Garrett A. Morgan, invented the precursor to the modern gas mask and saved countless lives. No one wanted to buy his invention after discovering he was black, so he had a white man sell it while he pretended to be Native American. Another black inventor name Elijah McCoy (to whom the expression “the real McCoy” is traced), was also derided for being black as his peers referred to his locomotive lubricator as the “nigger cup.”
Not too long ago, I attended my first conference as an engineer. To give a bit of context, before I made my career transition into software engineering, I was a musical theatre performer. Theatre, unlike STEM, is a field that is in dire need of men. Seriously, want to do musicals? Can you kind of carry a tune? Are you a dude? You’re cast! But I digress…
So, imagine my surprise when I attended my very first engineering conference as a woman… it felt a little like this:
Here’s how my inner-monologue sounded:
“So…many…dudes… oh! Is that a woman? Hmmm, no… she’s on the catering team. Oh wait! Is that another one? NOPE just a dude with a man bun.” 😐
Last week The Information posted a story detailing multiple incidents in which a venture capitalist named Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital made sexual advances upon female entrepreneurs his firm was investing in (or considering investing in) — six incidents documented in total, three in which the accusers went on the record with their names.
It’s hardly a shock to learn that such things happen in the clubby, male-dominated VC industry, which has had its share of gender-related scandals over the years. But it’s a clear sign that the business of funding the future is in serious need of self-examination and reform.
Uber’s position as the tech-industry’s most embarrassing example of out-of-control bro culture, tolerance for sexual harassment, and growth-over-ethics tactics has sparked a new debate: What can, and should, its customers — that is, most of us — do? In The New York Times, Farhad Manjoo urges readers who are upset by the company’s behavior to stop using its convenient services and find alternatives. He doesn’t use the word “boycott,” but that’s essentially what he’s advocating.
The same digital tools and networks that power Uber itself could be turned against it, but that hasn’t happened yet in any effectively organized way. A #deleteuber campaign last winter raised some noise but apparently did not put a dent in Uber’s growth, writes Brian Feldman in New York. Ride-sharing is a commodity business; Uber and its largest competitor, Lyft, charge roughly the same prices; and Uber’s size gives it the edge on wait times.
“Old boys’ club” is more than a figure of speech. It must be an actual place on the map — one where an Uber board member named David Bonderman has apparently spent his life.
That’s the only conceivable explanation for what went down at Uber’s all-hands meeting yesterday. In the middle of this staff-wide event — called specifically to address the company’s traumatic crisis of sexual harassment and bro-culture misbehavior — Bonderman thought it was a fine idea to interrupt his fellow board member Arianna Huffington and crack a joke about how women talk too much. (Listen yourself — it’s at 6:40 on this recording at Yahoo Finance.)
Y-Vonne Hutchinson on what she learned while creating societies from scratch
A highlight of the NewCo Shift Forum’s program was the Ignite series of talks, short (five minute) presentations from experts across a diverse set of companies and experiences. In this Ignite talk, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder of ReadySet, explains her experiences creating a legal framework in a disputed No Mans Land between Burma and Thailand.
Y-vonne Hutchinson: Before starting my company, I was an international human rights lawyer. I’m here to tell you about one of the most seminal moments in my career. It all started off in law school. (Referring to presentation). That’s me. I don’t know if you can tell, but I was pretty miserable.
Filmmaker Robin Hauser debuts a teaser for her next documentary
Robin Hauser hit a nerve with the debut of Code, her first feature length documentary on the role of women in technology companies. The reaction to that film drove Hauser to dig into the deeper issues behind bias in our society, and is at the center of her next film, Bias, which is coming out next year. At NewCo Shift Forum, Hauser screened a teaser for the upcoming film, and spoke briefly about her work.
Robin Hauser: Unconscious bias is a huge subject that’s somewhat intangible, so I’ll let you know how I got to now. In 2015, I directed and produced a film, along with a great team of people, called “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap,” about the lack of women and people of color in tech. Initially I thought, “OK, this is a subject that’s going to speak to Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, maybe Silicon Swamp.”
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.