The Valley of Problems

“Silicon Valley has a culture problem. The list of allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination against women in the tech industry seems to grow daily”, writes the New York Magazine. This culture has always been apparent in this part of the States. A female developer Adria Richards got fired in 2013 when she confronted 2 men for making lewd comments at a computer programming conference, PyCon, by tweeting about it with their photos.  In 2015, Tinder faced a lawsuit from one of its own co-founders, Whitney Wolfe, alleging “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination” before she left the company in April. She had accused senior executives at the mobile dating startup of conforming to ‘misogynist, alpha-male stereotype’. But as 2017 progressed,  with Google rejecting a man based on his past records of abuse and tech moguls coming out and apologizing for their awful deeds, there seems to be a change in the culture.

Here’s a list of 10 scandals from 2017 that kept Silicon Valley’s sexist culture fresh in our minds:

  1. Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, says Uber was investigating her and blaming her for all the deleted accounts of users whose trust has been lost in the taxi service. This happened following her blog post in which she wrote about all the sexual harassment she went through in the company. The startup’s co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigned from the post in June owing to the same.
Susan Fowler
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  1. As the Googler behind the Android smartphone software, Rubin had achieved a rock-star status in the Valley. But soon enough, stories in The Information emerged that he had been subjected to an internal Google investigation in 2014 after a female employee complained about “an inappropriate relationship while he was at Google.”
  2. A constant member of Forbes’ “Midas List” of Tech’s Top Investors and once named “Venture Capitalist of the Year” by Deloitte, Jurvetson had to leave his post at Draper Fisher Jurvetson after the company caught him lying about “serious allegations” of inappropriate behavior with women he worked with, according to Recode.
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  1. After virtual reality startup, UploadVR was sued for sexual harassment in May, a male startup CEO publicly commented that lawsuits like this make him “VERY afraid to hire more [women]. It just seems like such a huge risk as CEO.” His comments went viral and he later retracted, apologized and deleted them. 
  2. Anita Sarkeesian, a critic who was viciously targeted by trolls after speaking out about sexist tropes in video games says, “It’s frustrating to be known as the woman who survived #Gamergate”. After more than half a decade of continued backlash, she is still fighting to change the industry and is writing a book celebrating women overlooked by history.
Anita Sarkeesian
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  1. Tech workers often sign non-disclosure agreements promising not to reveal trade secrets, but in addition to those standard NDAs, some lawyers say that Bay Area companies are using non-disparagement non-disclosure clauses to stop the employees who experience harassment at their workplace from speaking out. 
  2.  In June 2017, programmer Coraline Ada Ehmke was fired from her job at GitHub. She knew she was going to want to publicly speak about her time at the company when she was sexually harassed, so she turned down the company’s severance package which would have bound her with a non-disparagement non-disclosure agreement. She got another job and later on wrote a tell-all of her year at GitHub. For doing the same, she had to take an extra step and get an OK from her current company. 
  3. Female employees at Telsa arranged a company town hall meeting in March 2017 to retell instances of sexual harassment and mistreatment from male managers, an event the company says has already led to leadership and policy changes at the electric car maker. But surprisingly Tesla CEO Elon Musk did not attend the meeting which concerns the reputation of the company.
elon musk
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  1. The founder of the powerful Silicon Valley incubator 500 Startups, Dave McClure, officially resigned from the company he created the following day after a female entrepreneur accused him of unwanted sexual advances. He apologized on Medium, admitting that he was a “creep”. 
  2. Google rejected a guy with a history of harassing Jessie Frazelle, a well-known developer, at their previous workplace Docker. The issue had gone viral but Docker CEO at that time Ben Golub declared, “She did not at any time claim harassment from people inside Docker. We parted ways on good terms.”
Image Source: Twitter

Even though we would like to hope that the Valley is progressing, when Dave McClure and VC Chris Sacca came out and apologized after being publicly accused of sexual harassment, many praised them for confessing and didn’t condemn the actions that caused them to confess. Hope is all we can do.

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