Everyone agrees the rant author is a scoundrel. The real question is: how can you avoid having his type in your startup? There are ways.
Sexism is a big tent. It includes sexual harassment like overt unwanted contact, inappropriate comments, sexual advances, and withholding promotions for unreturned affection; it also includes gender-based bias — far more common and far more difficult to label and identify. Each of these two extremes deserve significant attention from companies, but this article is devoted to the latter. Gender-based bias, or ‘Dude-bro’ism’ is a culture of bias that proliferates in tech. Like all outbreaks, prevention is cheaper and easier than treatment within work environments and corporate culture. Prevention begins at the first job interview, but also requires steady maintenance to keep away. This is a guide for prevention.
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.
“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.)
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.
Unilever gets serious about Honest Company. With the help of its celeb co-founder, Jessica Alba, Honest Company sells green household goods and beauty products. Now it may be about to sell itself. According to The Wall Street Journal, the firm is in “early stage” talks to be acquired by Unilever for more than $1 billion — a big price tag but not as high as Honest’s last investment round, which valued it at $1.7 billion. Last month Unilever paid a similar price for the male-focused Dollar Shave Club; now it’s going after women. Honest has had its woes — including reports that its ostensibly green laundry detergent contained an ingredient it had promised to exclude. However the deal plays out, it’s another sign that BigCos are hunting around for smaller rivals that can fill holes in their product lines and services — and appeal to younger consumers who just don’t feel the love for impersonal conglomerates.
Do idle hands need work or play? In the glorious future that John Maynard Keynes and other economists envisioned nearly a century ago, advances in productivity would make it possible for hard-working strivers to slack off a bit while staying well-off. But it hasn’t turned out that way, writes Derek Thompson (The Atlantic). Instead, well-educated, professionals are working harder than ever, and surplus leisure time is accumulating among degree-less have-nots instead. These unemployed masses turn out to be more contented than you might expect, thanks to the entertainment surplus tech has built for us — chiefly in the form of videogames. There’s a touch of Huxley’s Brave New World in Thompson’s portrait of the hedonistic underside of our employment landscape: Should we be relieved that at least there’s something enjoyable for people to do — or outraged that there’s no alternative? Over in The New York Times, you can read a more narrow-eyed take by Michael Lind: We’re never going to get back “good old jobs” with high pay, stable futures and great benefits, Lind maintains. And the government already does a lot more to help underpaid workers, via tax credits and hidden subsidies, than it admits or we realize. So maybe we should just be honest about the less-employed future, and make it possible for all of us “to have good lives, even if [we] can’t all have good jobs.” (With at least some time for videogames, too.)