Rebecca Burns in In These Times:
It’s no secret that Silicon Valley has a problem with sexism and racism, but the revelation in October, as Twitter prepared for its initial public stock offering (IPO), that the company didn’t have a single woman or person of color on its board, rekindled a long-running debate on how to challenge these exclusions from the tech industry. The debate had another twist earlier this year with the arrival of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which calls on women to stop lowering their own career expectations. Some celebrated Sandberg’s book as a new feminist manifesto, while others panned it as placing all the onus on women. “At last, a feminism the patriarchy can get behind,” writes tech blogger Shanley Kane. Sandberg’s call for individual women to “lean in” and work harder in the service of their employer also dovetails with tech’s disdain for collective action in the workplace, exemplified by Silicon Valley’s hostility toward the October BART strike. (One CEO of a San Francisco-based tech company suggested this solution to the strike: “Figure out how to automate [BART drivers’] jobs so this doesn’t happen again.”) Is the “tech feminism” embodied by a few white executives incompatible with a movement for workers’ rights in a sector that makes up a growing share of the economy? In These Times talked about the ways that racism, sexism and classism are coded in the tech sector with Kat Calvin, founder of Blerdology, a network for African Americans in tech; Ashe Dryden, a tech diversity educator and consultant; Kate Losse, author of The Boy Kings, a memoir about working at Facebook; and Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.
Kate: Silicon Valley thinks that the gender/race composition of the board doesn’t matter until there is public attention. And that’s part of the problem. Tech won’t be a truly progressive industry until tech companies care about inclusivity from an early stage.
Ashe: Statistically, women tend not to get promoted much higher than mid-level management and are driven out of the industry at an earlier point in their careers, which makes it much harder for them to attain these types of positions. For instance, 56 percent of women leave tech within 10 years, which is twice the attrition rate of men.