When White Women Speak about Unfairness in Tech, Everybody Listens

white women

Two things never cease to amaze me. One is the depth of white male privilege being such that it allows white men to get away with outrageous and inappropriate behavior that absolutely no one else could.

The second is how all  it takes is a blog post from a white woman complaining about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, and boom—it goes viral, becoming the single, most talked about tech news of the week (sometimes for months)—and revs up the diversity in tech talk to 4000 RPMs.

Case in point, the now-viral blog post of former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler. Fowler’s blog post revealed some truly stomach-turning behavior at Uber—which, by now, shouldn’t surprise anyone regularly following Uber news. From Fowler’s post:

On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with.

Ick. To date, Fowler’s blog post has been liked over 10,000 times in less than a week from release and has prompted a lot of analysis and opinion pieces (like this one) from various media outlets, including leading publications such as Fortune. There was such a burning spotlight shed on her complaints that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to address Fowler’s blog and denounce the incidents she described as “abhorrent and against everything we believe in.”

I am glad Fowler was brave enough to put this out in the open. It’s heartening to see such voluminous response. What is frustrating is that it takes a white woman opening her mouth for everyone to acknowledge just how jacked up diversity in tech is.

It seems as though when we, women of color, open our mouths to complain about unfair treatment we are told, as I was at a prominent tech publication that I used to work at, that we have “attitude problems.”

Or, how about the case of Melvin Smith, ever heard of him? Probably not. Smith is a black engineer who claims he was hired at a lower salary than an equally skilled white worker and then was the first to be fired during a staff reduction because he had complained. Smith sued, had his case dismissed at first, and then reinstated upon appeal. And you hear nothing about this case from the usual diversity in tech champions.

If Smith had been a young white woman, he would have been asked to do a TED talk by now!

Even Asian women who complain about unequal treatment in the tech industry are subject to different, and often less supportive, responses than their white counterparts. Former Twitter engineer Tina Huang says she was denied promotions and eventually forced out for airing her grievances. Twitter’s CEO and executives did not come out and condemn any unfair treatment she may have experienced, they continue to deny her allegations, saying her claims are “baseless.”

Ellen Pao, another Asian American woman, sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for $16 million for gender-based discrimination. Not only did she lose that suit, her co-workers during the trial referred to her as “entitled” and “too opinionated.”

Contrast that with Kelly Ellis going public about being harassed when she worked at Google. She tweeted that a male Google engineer said to her, “It’s taking all of my self-control not to grab your ass right now.” Google did not try to demean her or deny the allegations, the company just remained silent. Ellis quickly gained thousands of followers on Twitter and became a symbol of the fight for diversity in Silicon Valley.

And I’m glad. I’m encouraged whenever any woman finds her voice to speak out against injustice. But I wish white women would use the privilege they have to evoke outrage and garner support for others shut out and abused by Silicon Valley culture.

That’s not to say white woman don’t receive backlash for speaking up. Oh, the internet trolls are always at the ready with their hateful little comments and very frightening threats of sexual violence. Yet, very often the companies that a white woman makes accusations against will make a public response promising to investigate the woman’s complaint. Then, the woman is held up as a champion of diversity in tech. They are taken more seriously.

Chances are if you walk into your new, exciting job in Silicon Valley as one of just a handful of white female employees, and you see few-to-no brown people, you may be working in an environment that will eventually turn toxic on you. To white women in tech, I implore: Get as outraged about your company’s lack of diversity as when you’re the one put in an uncomfortable position.

 

 

 


Samara Lynn is a tech editor at Black Enterprise magazine. She has over a decade’s experience in technology journalism, covering smart home and wireless technology; startups; business tech and more. She has also written for PC Magazine, The Wirecutter, CRN Tech and has appeared as a technology commentator on Fox Business News, National Business Report, and Reuters TV. She is the author of “Windows Server 2012: Up and Running.” “Tech 100” is her column focusing on technology and its relation to politics, social issues, and more.

 

 

 

 

 

When White Women Speak about Unfairness in Tech, Everybody Listens

white women

Two things never cease to amaze me. One is the depth of white male privilege being such that it allows white men to get away with outrageous and inappropriate behavior that absolutely no one else could.

The second is how all  it takes is a blog post from a white woman complaining about sexual harassment in Silicon Valley, and boom—it goes viral, becoming the single, most talked about tech news of the week (sometimes for months)—and revs up the diversity in tech talk to 4000 RPMs.

Case in point, the now-viral blog post of former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler. Fowler’s blog post revealed some truly stomach-turning behavior at Uber—which, by now, shouldn’t surprise anyone regularly following Uber news. From Fowler’s post:

On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with.

Ick. To date, Fowler’s blog post has been liked over 10,000 times in less than a week from release and has prompted a lot of analysis and opinion pieces (like this one) from various media outlets, including leading publications such as Fortune. There was such a burning spotlight shed on her complaints that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to address Fowler’s blog and denounce the incidents she described as “abhorrent and against everything we believe in.”

I am glad Fowler was brave enough to put this out in the open. It’s heartening to see such voluminous response. What is frustrating is that it takes a white woman opening her mouth for everyone to acknowledge just how jacked up diversity in tech is.

It seems as though when we, women of color, open our mouths to complain about unfair treatment we are told, as I was at a prominent tech publication that I used to work at, that we have “attitude problems.”

Or, how about the case of Melvin Smith, ever heard of him? Probably not. Smith is a black engineer who claims he was hired at a lower salary than an equally skilled white worker and then was the first to be fired during a staff reduction because he had complained. Smith sued, had his case dismissed at first, and then reinstated upon appeal. And you hear nothing about this case from the usual diversity in tech champions.

If Smith had been a young white woman, he would have been asked to do a TED talk by now!

Even Asian women who complain about unequal treatment in the tech industry are subject to different, and often less supportive, responses than their white counterparts. Former Twitter engineer Tina Huang says she was denied promotions and eventually forced out for airing her grievances. Twitter’s CEO and executives did not come out and condemn any unfair treatment she may have experienced, they continue to deny her allegations, saying her claims are “baseless.”

Ellen Pao, another Asian American woman, sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for $16 million for gender-based discrimination. Not only did she lose that suit, her co-workers during the trial referred to her as “entitled” and “too opinionated.”

Contrast that with Kelly Ellis going public about being harassed when she worked at Google. She tweeted that a male Google engineer said to her, “It’s taking all of my self-control not to grab your ass right now.” Google did not try to demean her or deny the allegations, the company just remained silent. Ellis quickly gained thousands of followers on Twitter and became a symbol of the fight for diversity in Silicon Valley.

And I’m glad. I’m encouraged whenever any woman finds her voice to speak out against injustice. But I wish white women would use the privilege they have to evoke outrage and garner support for others shut out and abused by Silicon Valley culture.

That’s not to say white woman don’t receive backlash for speaking up. Oh, the internet trolls are always at the ready with their hateful little comments and very frightening threats of sexual violence. Yet, very often the companies that a white woman makes accusations against will make a public response promising to investigate the woman’s complaint. Then, the woman is held up as a champion of diversity in tech. They are taken more seriously.

Chances are if you walk into your new, exciting job in Silicon Valley as one of just a handful of white female employees, and you see few-to-no brown people, you may be working in an environment that will eventually turn toxic on you. To white women in tech, I implore: Get as outraged about your company’s lack of diversity as when you’re the one put in an uncomfortable position.

 

 

 


Samara Lynn is a tech editor at Black Enterprise magazine. She has over a decade’s experience in technology journalism, covering smart home and wireless technology; startups; business tech and more. She has also written for PC Magazine, The Wirecutter, CRN Tech and has appeared as a technology commentator on Fox Business News, National Business Report, and Reuters TV. She is the author of “Windows Server 2012: Up and Running.” “Tech 100” is her column focusing on technology and its relation to politics, social issues, and more.

 

 

 

 

 

Stanford University Survey: 84% of Women in Tech Told They Are “Too Aggressive”

A fascinating survey, called “Elephant in the Valley” conducted by Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Mickell, Bennett Porter, Monica Leas of Stanford University, and Julie Oberweis of Stanford University — all women in technology and business — shows some startling facts about discrimination against women in technology.

[Related: 5 Black Women in Tech Bring Innovation To the Male-Led Industry]

Over 200 women with 10 or more years in the technology industry were surveyed. More than three-quarters of the respondents are over 40 and have children. They include C-level executives, founders, and those in venture capital. They work for tech startups as well as established tech enterprises including Apple, Google, and VMware.

The survey findings revealed:

  • 84% of women in tech have been told they are “too aggressive.”
  • 47% have been asked to do more menial tasks their male colleagues were not, such as ordering food and taking notes.
  • 66% felt excluded from key networking and social opportunities because they are female.
  • 90% witnessed sexist behavior at their companies or at industry events.
  • 88% have experienced clients and or colleagues direct questions to males that should have been posed to them.
  • 87% have experienced demeaning comments from male colleagues.
  • 75% were asked about family life, marital status, and/or children in interviews.
  • 40% felt they needed to speak less about their family to be taken more seriously.
  • 60% reported unwanted sexual advances.
  • 66% who reported sexual harassment were dissatisfied with the course of action taken.
  • 39% of those harassed did nothing because they felt it would negatively impact their careers.

Have you experienced any of the same as a woman in tech or other fields? Let us know in the comments section below or via social media: Twitter is @blackenterprise #WITsurvey (which stands for Women in Tech)

What Does an Engineer Look Like?

What does an engineer look like? Isis Anchalee Wenger is a platform engineer at a company called OneLogin who appeared in a recruiting ad for her company.  According to reports, the ad sparked some somewhat sexist comments across social media that questioned if a female engineer could possibly look like Wenger.

[RELATED: Female NASCAR Engineer Promotes Education]

In response to the comments, she launched #ILookLikeanEngineer on Twitter to show the world that, despite stereotypes, engineers can also look like her.

“My stories have become such a source of inspiration for so many people. I am now developing a team to build out www.ilooklikeanengineer.com, a safe platform for us all to continue to share our stories and experiences relating to diversity issues in tech,” wrote Wenger in the blog Coffeelicious.

 Take a look below at these women of color who are also proud engineers.


Black Woman Techie Fired After Outing Sexist Jokesters at Conference

adria richards sendgrid

Source: Twitter

A female technology developer has been fired by tech company SendGrid after tweeting about a group of men she said were making sexual innuendos about “dongles” at the PyCon US 2013 Developer Conference in California, MSN reports.

Adria Richards wrote on her blog, that she was at the conference in Santa Clara last week when the men behind her started talking about “big dongles.” A dongle is a device that plugs into a computer, but Richards said the men made the comment in a sexual way.

She turned around, took a photo of the men and posted it on Twitter with their alleged comments.

“Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles. Right behind me #pycon,” Richards tweeted.

The men, who worked for a company called PlayHaven, were asked to leave the conference. And later, one of the jokesters was fired by PlayHaven for his “inappropriate comments.”

After his firing, hackers attacked Richards’ employer SendGrid’s servers in protest, and soon thereafter, SendGrid in turn fired Richards saying: “publicly shaming the men was inappropriate and she had to be terminated for alienating the developer community.”

Twitter has responded under the hashtag #Donglegate. Some feel Richards is being unfairly punished for daring to stand up to the white boys club in Silicon Valley, while others feel it’s she who acted inappropriately by “shaming” the perpetrators in a public forum, and she should have just ignored the whole thing.

What do you think?