Sunday, September 17, 2017

Has Anything Really Changed for Women in Tech?

CreditGizem Vural
San Francisco — Just five years ago, I sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm in Silicon Valley where I had worked since 2005, for bias and gender discrimination. The lawsuit, which I lost, led to the venture capital world closing ranks against me. I had trouble finding work. People were afraid to support me publicly. I was called a fraud, and greedy, and was accused of being in a fake marriage.
Now, over the past year, at least a dozen women have publicly shared their stories of being discriminated against and harassed in tech by their managers, by investors or by board members. Privately, I have heard dozens more.
What I also hear, over and over again, is the question, “Has anything changed?”
The huge change is that people now acknowledge the problem. Women telling their stories are believed, for the most part, by the public and by the press. In February, with a clear and powerful blog post about her time at Uber, Susan Fowler blew open the doors on bad behavior in tech. She made deliberate choices that made her an unassailable commentator: no litigation, no P.R. firm and detailed descriptions of each incident left no room for a smear campaign or any question of impropriety. Her clear and precise retelling of the harassment and retaliation she said she suffered — and the failures of management to fix it — are now widely known.
Before her post, others who spoke up publicly and privately about their experiences of harassment were at best ignored. Some of those people — whose names are unfortunately not well known — include Adria Richards, Amélie Lamont, Gesche Haas, Julie Ann Horvath, Kathryn Minshew and Kelly Ellis. Most were disrespected and harassed online, and many found it hard, as I did, to find work after public shaming. We saw Gamergate attack female game developers and their supporters. But they all paved the way for Ms. Fowler to be heard and believed, and for subsequent stories about sexist tech culture to be accepted at face value.
Continue reading the main story
What followed Ms. Fowler’s post was a first: a public overhaul of Uber; two investigations; a report from Eric Holder, the former attorney general, with recommendations for improvement; the forced departures of at least 20 employees linked to the findings, including some executives; and the board’s stating its intent to follow the report’s recommendations. Many details were leaked or dug up — board conversations, a full audio recording of a conversation the former chief executive Travis Kalanick had with Uber’s female engineers. More women stepped up to report harassment in tech by venture capital investors and board members.
Ellen Pao. CreditBrian Flaherty for The New York Times
Apologies have been free-flowing. Venture capitalists have made their mea culpas and the leaders of some well-known firms have resigned. One partner at Greylock even wrote a “decency pledge” for the industry — and Greylock’s C.O.O. was asked to resign shortly thereafter. Even Mr. Kalanick gave a tearful apology — around the same time his team’s listening session with female engineers fell flat.
We’re hearing about companies writing codes of conduct covering anti-harassment that they want their investors and board members to sign.
On its face, it all sounds like meaningful change, right? Or at least it sounds a lot better than the very recent public shaming of women who came forward and the sweeping of bad behavior under the rug. But let’s not be blinded by optimism or biased by what we want to see: Certain actions, and lack of action, could keep us in this unfair loop indefinitely. Public apologies and one-off actions are superficial ways to react to criticism or put on a happy face, but they often cover up company culture failures that are hard to fix, especially if no one is seriously trying.
Many continue to describe Uber and the outed venture capitalists as a few bad apples, not indicative of the entire industry — forgetting that the whole saying is actually “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” Their behavior is part of much broader and deeper culture problems that permeate all tech — which ignored, encouraged and sometimes rewarded bad behavior — at different levels. We see companies changing C.E.O.s, but the reasons are shrouded, and they install new leaders with similar backgrounds.
We see bad actors resurface unscathed. Uber’s Travis Kalanick is said tohave made a strong effort to return as C.E.O. — and more than 1,000 employees apparently supported him. The ex-Google employee who was fired after he wrote a memo that promoted harmful gender stereotypes and questioned women’s biological suitability for tech jobs has hired a lawyer who appears to be preparing to sue the company.
I have heard from several women who spoke up in this newspaper and elsewhere this year that they continue to face harassment. They have been told that discussing their experiences has limited their careers.
And most companies don’t address the great underlying problems: the exclusion of and biases against people of color, older employees, disabled people, L.G.B.T.Q. people and many other underrepresented groups.
They continue to pay only lip service to diversity and inclusion, favoring tepid diversity initiatives over real solutions. It’s all superficial until we see leaders actually changing company cultures by making hard decisions, leading uncomfortable conversations — and firing those who are unwilling to include everyone.
So how do we clear biases and power imbalances in tech so that everyone has a fair opportunity to succeed?
We need C.E.O.s to hold themselves and their teams accountable for true diversity and inclusion. That means all people from all groups, not just women. That means understanding intersectionality — that employees can face multiple biases based on identity. That means all activities across the company, not just hiring.
Practically, it means measuring progress, holding people accountable for results by setting goals and basing their compensation on hitting those goals.
C.E.O.s lead the transformation from the top, and they need individual employees to focus efforts on change as well: Speak up, help others speak up, build bridges to those who are interested in changing and learning. I know that there is a real cost to speaking up. I have also seen that every voice can make a difference. Five years from now, if enough people speak up for others, the answer to “Has anything changed?” has the potential to be an unequivocal yes.

Mr. Anthony Scaramucci Esq.’s Guide to Workplace Etiquette

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, speaking to reporters. On Wednesday, he made a profanity-laced phone call to a New Yorker writer complaining about his colleagues.CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy workplaces are alike, but each unhappy workplace is uniquely unhappy. (Whither the Russian masters and their earthy, poetic wisdom?) As such, I, Anthony Scaramucci, a veteran of numerous offices, have deigned to jot down a few thoughts I have compiled over the years on how one should comport oneself in a workplace setting in order to maximize professionalism, courtesy and morale:
• Speak always in a calm, leisurely manner befitting that of a genteel employee who has carefully thought through his ideas. And remember, when a provocative new notion strikes at 11 p.m., it may be better to sleep on it rather than drinking five Red Bulls and “riffing.”
• Frequently refer to oneself in the third person, preferably with a nickname that connotes collegiality or suggests you often borrow money from others.
• When forced to criticize others, do so constructively, perhaps with suggestions for how they might improve their spinal flexibility, an integral function of lumbar health.
• To motivate colleagues, devise a felicitous ecological term for your rivals, such as “the marsh,” “the bog” or “the heath on a particularly dreary afternoon.”
• Profess your love for your employer six or seven times a day, and rattle off a succession of his varied athletic feats as if you are an 11-year-old boy discussing his favorite modern or ancient pentathlete.
• Employ modern technology to get the best out of your team. For instance, if you are spearheading a group project, “tag” another staff member with his Twitter “handle” as a friendly reminder that he is a truly crucial part of the project.
Continue reading the main story
• Draw upon biblical allusions when discussing other staff members to heighten the importance of their mission. Perhaps one is like Moses, a heroic, inspirational leader; or Noah, prudently prepared in times of crisis; or possibly Judas, that back-stabbing quisling. Why, have you ever noticed how traitors’ names are often disyllabic and end with an “s”? Interesting.
• The time must sadly come when a superior will be required to let go of an underling. Typically this time is within six days of accepting the position. Always do so in a dignified manner, either behind closed doors or during a live CNN interview.
• Lastly, if ever you must deal with the media concerning the nature of your office, consult first with your workplace’s communications director. He will be experienced enough to remind you to state beforehand that your comments are off the record unless otherwise indicated.
Continue reading the main story

Dear (Potentially Soon-to-Be-Former) Health Insurance Policyholder

CreditErik Carter
As heated debate over the future of the American health care system continues on the Senate floor and on Twitter, we are sending this form letter to notify you of your options should you lose health coverage.
In the event of a Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and/or replacement of the Affordable Care Act, and/or a signed contract between Mitch McConnell and the Devil himself, we want to be sure you are fully somewhat prepared.
First, you should know what to expect. Upon learning that you have lost access to adequate health care, it is not uncommon to experience a range of emotions, including but not limited to:
• Anger
• Frustration
• Hopelessness
• Complete absence of feeling (i.e., death)
So, what do you do if you lose coverage? Let us assure you — we absolutely feel a slight sense of empathy for your predicament, so to assist you in planning for your and your dependents’ inevitable medical needs, our team has created this helpful guide for dealing with some basic health issues without insurance coverage:

Controlling high blood pressure without insurance

Are you at risk for developing chronic high blood pressure? Let’s just assume that you are — these are extremely stressful times.
To keep stress-induced blood pressure increases in check, consider relieving tension by walking into the woods and screaming. Or, walking into your local congressional office and screaming. Yeah, that’s right, just scream! Let it all out! Keep going until you rupture a lung! Scream, baby, screeeaaaam!!!
Note: Do not actually scream so loudly that you rupture a lung. If you can’t afford medical care for high blood pressure, you certainly won’t be able to afford care to fix that.
Continue reading the main story

Ensuring a safe pregnancy without insurance

Having a baby? Let us be the first to say, congratulations! Or if you’re unmarried, let us be the first to say, shame! Shame on you, dirty harlot!
Either way, without insurance coverage, you may want to consider a home birth. Home birth is a beautiful, intimate way to deliver your child. And more important, it is cheap. So when you start feeling contractions, do not go to the hospital — simply get into your bathtub, or a kiddie pool! And then … push? Maybe? Something like that. Oh, and in all the fictional home births we’ve seen on TV, they usually burn sage or incense and sing or whatever. Try that.
Look — when it’s time, we’re sure those maternal instincts will kick in and you’ll know exactly what to do. So don’t worry about it. Worrying is bad for the baby!

Caring for aging relatives without insurance

Does your aging loved one have Alzheimer’s, or another cognitive-impairment condition? Well, without insurance coverage or adequate Medicaid funding, a nursing home with 24/7 monitoring and care will obviously be out of the question. And frankly, the toll being a full-time caregiver would take on you is unfathomable. (There’s that pesky high blood pressure again!)
So, what are your options? Well … Have you considered dropping your loved one off in a hedge maze? Alzheimer’s patients are prone to wandering, but with a hedge maze, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that their wandering will at least be confined to a secure, relatively safe location. Plus, old people love plants!

Managing your mental health without insurance

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, try replacing your regular, expensive medication with Tic Tacs and telling yourself it’s the real thing. The placebo effect can be very powerful! (Or have you tried, you know … just being happy? Why can’t you just do that?)

Treating cancer without insurance

Ooh — the big C, huh? Tough break. Is it at least one of the good ones? You know — one that gets its own 5K? Maybe you could race for your own cure! Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regi — oh, right, never mind.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle without insurance

Ehhhh. Forget it. Just start smoking. Without health care, you’re probably going to die way sooner than you think. And if you gotta go out, might as well go out lookin’ cool, right? Yeah! There you go! High-five, cool guy/gal!!!
We hope this resource will be useful in the event that we are no longer able to serve as your insurance provider. If you have any additional questions or concerns about your or your dependents’ current or anticipated medical needs … uh …
Too bad?
Your (Potentially Soon-to-Be-Former) Health Insurance Company