diversity, gender, gender gaps, Inclusion, International Women's Day, Silicon Valley, women in tech, women in the labor force, Women's rights

Silicon Valley on International Women’s Day 2018

It’s been a rock and roll year for women’s rights. Just when you thought the 2016 elections in the US were a reality TV show titled ‘battle of the sexes: who will be President’, along came 2017 and brought us the biggest women’s march in history followed by the creation of a popular movement to end sexual harassment. Much ink has been spilled in an effort to make sense of these momentous events – what were the cultural, technological and historical contexts which set up the conditions of this to take place? What created a perfect storm of feminist consciousness?

On International Women’s Day 2018, I’d like to put on my own analysis hat and look at how these broader themes played out in my microcosm of lived experiences spanning the length of the peninsula between foggy San-Francisco and sunny San-Jose: Silicon Valley. The fabled and the mythological collided with reality more than once this past year, and giants were shaken to their core in the name of equality and justice. Though the Valley, and the companies it sprung which are rooted in the ethos of innovating to improve people’s lives, has always been a place where people came together to be better, it wasn’t until 2017 when the reality of corporate America finally collided with the founding principles of these same tech giants.

Scandals and public outrage aren’t new – what 2017 brought to light were the gender dimensions of these pain points. Although revelations of discrimination, sexism, bro-culture and even harassment have been around for a while, and the pioneering law-suit brought by Ellen Pow really opened up this conversation space, it seems Silicon Valley titans hadn’t been paying attention. Now that both the #metoo movement has risen to prominence and diversity efforts are finally giving rise to a multiplicity of voices and some measures of accountability, the landscape is beginning to shift.

The year kicked off with the infamous ‘Google Manifesto’ written by a Google employee named James Damore who used an internal company forum to post a ten-page ramble which made the case that women weren’t cut out for tech. This so called ‘manifesto’ which was just a really long blog post, used a lot of motivated reasoning and pseudo-scientific studies to try and make this point, but ultimately this MGTOW[1] test-case failed spectacularly. In the effort to subvert the progress Silicon Valley has made on increasing women’s representation in tech, the document and subsequent lawsuit (after Google fired Damore), played into the hands of diversity proponents by encouraging every CEO in the Valley, more than one top VC, and even top journals like The Economist[2], to publish full throated endorsement of diversity efforts. The lawsuit also failed because Google has every right to fire someone who’s creating a hostile work environment. obviously.

Some said the manifesto was simply reflecting an existing feeling of resentment and even ‘the beginnings of a backlash’ against diversity efforts, as though the technocrats behind these kinds of policies (full disclosure: I’m one of them) are to blame for people’s adverse reactions. That maybe in the process of changing a flawed system we’re making some people uncomfortable. Here’s the thing though: change is not always comfortable, it’s not easy, and there are winners and losers. It’s not a level playing field, and in order to make it one, which will ultimately lead to better results across the board, some people will need to consciously make room for others.

If you think about the 2016 elections in which a purportedly ‘disenfranchised’ and ignored part of America’s citizenry, living in poor, under-developed, sparsely populated regions, voted en-mass for a populist candidate, it’s easy to see the dangers of ignoring inequities. This works both ways. Women and people of color who’ve traditionally and systematically been left out of the means of production have been fighting back for a century. The civil rights movement and the feminist movement weren’t welcomed with open arms, they faced resistance by those who were worried about losing their privileges. The same resistance that James Damore expressed in his manifesto, and the same anger that gave rise to Trumpism, is precisely why diversity efforts must continue. It’s also evidence that they’re working.

It’s clear that Silicon Valley is changing, in part through public pressure and in part though thoughtful leadership which cares about increasing the talent pool for their companies and doing what’s right. The ethos of the tech entrepreneur as a white male Stanford or Harvard dropout is no longer true nor indicative of the real leaders of the tech industry. But more importantly, these myths which helped perpetuate obsolete attitudes have no place in the realities of 2018, where women have stood proud and tall together to say that they will not stay silent in face of a system which glorifies and celebrates bad behavior as part of a narrative of prosperity.

On International Women’s Day 2018, it feels like the winds of change are finally sweeping the last vestiges of ‘the old boys club’ away from the peninsula, and making room for egalitarian and purposeful measures to increase women’s representation in tech.

Keshet Bachan

[1] ‘Men Going Their Own Way’:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_Going_Their_Own_Way

[2] ‘The email Larry Page should have written to James Damore’:  https://www.economist.com/news/international/21726276-last-week-newspaper-said-alphabets-boss-should-write-detailed-ringing-rebuttal

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diversity, gender, Inclusion, male allies, masculinities, stereotyping

Why we need white male allies to fight for diversity – repost!

This fantastic piece from Mike Dillon at PWC showcases the importance of diversity efforts that include EVERYONE, especially white male allies who are so often excluded from diversity strategies. It’s also worth noting that not including men in diversity efforts places all the responsibility for leading these strategies on women and minorities, who are already facing challenges in the workplace including discrimination and bias.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-we-need-white-male-allies-fight-diversity-inclusion-mike-dillon/

A couple weeks back, I served as a panelist at The Better Man Conference, an annual event in the San Francisco Bay Area focused on engaging men in conversations around inclusionary leadership for women and minorities. On stage, I was joined by a diverse group of fellow panelists: Dr. Ronald Copeland of Kaiser Permanente, Nadia Chargualaf of Telestra, Lesley Slaton-Brown of HP, and Dale Thomas Vaughn of the Gender Leadership Group.

To my surprise, during the Q&A session, an audience member raised her hand and asked me, “As a white man, why are you on this panel? Why do you care about diversity?”

I didn’t see it coming. I felt her comment seemed to question my credentials as PwC’s Chief Diversity Officer. Almost as a reflex I responded by saying: “As an out gay man, I understand exclusion because of my sexual orientation.”

But as I thought more and more about my response, I realized that it shouldn’t matter if I was gay or not. I shouldn’t have to be part of a minority or underrepresented group to care about diversity and inclusion. And if anything, we should want more straight white men to be allies and to be engaged in discussions about diversity and inclusion.

Indeed, everyone should strive to learn from the experiences of those who are different from us. And the more allies we can make by having open dialogues and conversations with each other, the more impact we can truly have.

By engaging in conversations with those who are different from us, we are able to challenge assumptions and break down unconscious biases. This is an important first step in becoming allies and supporting others — which includes speaking up for them, giving them opportunities to speak for themselves, and listening and learning from their unique experiences and perspectives.

As a white male, who is a partner at a major firm like PwC, I am able to use my political capital to advocate for diversity and inclusion in Corporate America. That’s why I am always committed to being an ally for others, to elevating conversations around D&I, and to giving underrepresented and minority groups platforms to be heard. One great example of how we’re doing this at PwC is our HeForShe Ally Champion Network, where we educate both our male and female staff members to come together to support global gender parity.

When fighting for greater inclusion, we have to remember that it takes everyone’s involvement to really make societal change happen. As journalist and immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas reminds us, “You don’t have to be gay to fight for LGBT rights, you don’t have to be an immigrant to fight for immigrant rights, you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist.” As Vargas rightly points out, equality is a two-way street, “my equality is tied to your equality.”

This all brings me back to why having conversations about diversity and inclusion at work is so important. These conversations can be uncomfortable for everyone (white, black, brown, gay, straight, cis, transgender, male, female, etc.). You don’t want to misspeak or ask a question that might offend someone. But it’s important that we build the trust that is needed to have these conversations so we can move forward toward greater diversity and inclusion as allies. I’m proud that at PwC, we haven’t been afraid to have these conversations because we know it is a first step to bringing allyship into the workplace and hopefully beyond.

Mike Dillon

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