Silicon Valley’s Future is Female
Silicon Valley finds itself in the crosshairs once again.
For anyone who has followed news coming out of the tech world, vile reports of sexism are not surprising. After Susan Fowler, a former site reliability engineer at Uber, published a stunning account of the harassment, gaslighting, and discrimination she encountered while working at the rideshare startup, many outside observers were stunned at the utter lack of justice she received even after reporting these incidents to the company.
The unfortunate thing about these reports, however, is that they are all too common in the Valley — a quick Google search unearths unsettling accounts of sexism from women of all backgrounds and reveals that many of these women are never afforded the justice they deserve.
The state of affairs is disheartening for current employees, and an overlooked effect of Silicon Valley’s dudebro culture is the message that it sends to the next generation of engineers and programmers.
There are thousands of young women out there who represent a huge pool of computer science talent, but are potentially dissuaded from pursuing from coding professionally because they can see themselves being pushed out in the future by casual sexism, unequal pay, and organizational structures that are indifferent to their needs.
If Silicon Valley doesn’t change course, then they would be actively hurting their own chances at remaining a viable industry. Over the last few years, it’s become apparent that there is a skilled worker gap in the United States — every sector is becoming increasingly reliant on tech skills, but there are simply not enough people who are prepared to fill those positions.
People from minority groups, however, represent a significantly underutilized talent pool.
It’s in Silicon Valley’s own interest to start making changes to its toxic cultural norms. Not only is the cultural status quo proving to be inadequate in addressing hiring shortages, it’s creating an embarrassing image of tech as an industry dominated by an immature boys’ club.
Just this week, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on tape getting into a dispute with his driver, which led to Kalanick issuing a public statement admitting that he needed “leadership help.”
Now more than ever is it evident that diverse representation is necessary at every level. Companies should be encouraging the development of their female employees and employees of color, and rewarding them for standing up to unacceptable behaviors instead of punishing them for defending themselves.
People who are currently underrepresented in the industry need to be able to make more space for themselves, especially at the top levels.
Ultimately, a toxic company culture is determined top-down, and having diverse leadership creates an environment that fosters different perspectives instead of tamps them down.
For young women and minorities, these stories should serve not as a deterrent but as a call to arms. We demand that there be a space in tech for us, because without us there will be no future for the industry. If Silicon Valley resists change, then we’ll just have to do it ourselves.