Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Ellen Pao: My lawsuit failed. Others won’t (thecut.com)
682 points by gkanai 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 538 comments

All: this article was flagged but we've turned the flags off because it contains significant new information. Threads about sexism have upticked in contentiousness lately—as has everything else, it seems—so would everyone please take care to follow these rules?

1. Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all;

2. If you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do.

Yes, there's redundancy there; we appear to need it.


Articles like this really make me aware that men and women like Ellen Pao and her former partners live in a separate parallel world: three degrees, $10 million golden parachutes, private jet flights to ski resorts, affairs with a creepy married co-worker in Germany, machismo-driven muscling for VC connections, bisexual finance wizards who kickstart an Ivy-League LGBT program, dominance games over which chair an exec sits in, PR firms hired to smear uppity former partners... it's like a movie.

I worry that the media looks at cases like this as typical of the experience of women in tech, and downplays the impact of obvious and unobjectionable steps like "recruit junior devs from the ranks of biology grads" and "give expectant mothers maternity leave" because systemic changes aren't as interesting as diversity training or a VC partner's lawsuit.

Yeah, that really struck me as well.

I've been in tech for close to 20 years now. I get paid pretty well compared to the national average pay, and globally speaking it's off the charts.

But the figures and activities mentioned there are completely alien to me. This is the (a?) world of high finance and I can't relate to it.

I've seen a lot of casual and systemic sexism in the tech industry, in the trenches and at the coal face so to speak. I think it's often this that is the focus of criticism of the industry as a whole, and I think it's this that's a valid criticism of the tech industry.

To be absolutely clear - From what I've read here, Ellen Pao was treated really, really badly and has a whole litany of valid complaints, I just don't recognise the business painted here to be "tech".

> I just don't recognise the business painted here to be "tech"

I get this feeling off a lot of high-profile stories, whether tech, banking, real estate, or something else altogether. Theranos gave me some of the same sense, that the business wasn't 'medicine' but 'power'. Back before his campaign, Trump's Scottish golf course did also. He bought cheap land that wasn't zoned for a golf course, because at that level zoning laws are business hurdles to have altered, not boundaries to work within. The hiring collusion story in tech as well; it happened in the Valley, but was a consequence of power, not tech.

At a certain point you're not talking about the culture of some specific industry, you're talking about the culture of the rich, powerful, and cutthroat across any industry. I think it's an important distinction to maintain.

You can't relate to them and they've probably lost the ability to relate to you. I grew up in a small Eastern European country where everyone knows someone who managed to profit hugely during the times of upheaval in the 90's and one of my school buddies from back then likes to go watch F1 races in Monaco from the deck of his speed-boat. When he's not spending his summers kite-surfing on the shores of Turkey.

I mean, I'm also in tech, in the US, which means my salary is higher than 99% of salaries in the world, but I can't begin to dream of living the same lifestyle my buddy can enjoy, and he's most likely small potatoes compared to the "wolf-of-wallstreet" types mentioned here.

It's unbelievable.

I think the reason it matters isn't because it's the same industry. It's because VC firms often play a huge part in how the workplace culture develops in the firms that they invest in. They have board seats, and CEOs often look to them for guidance.

"I just don't recognise the business painted here to be "tech"."

Perhaps. But those VCs and CEOs and COOs are your bosses. Just as engineering cannot be divorced from the effects of what is built,"tech" is hard to separate from it's own environment. And it appears that the same antics continue down the stack.

> But those VCs and CEOs and COOs are your bosses.

No, they aren't. I don't mean to be hostile here, but I object strongly to the implicit assumption that 'tech' means "heavily Sandhill-funded software companies operating in the Valley".

I've worked at several software companies, some good, some bad. But I, like a very large portion of American 'tech' workers or even 'CS-degree bearing programmers', have never actually worked for a Silicon Valley company, much less one with major VC financing, much less one where VC culture has shaped everyone else's environment.

That's not to deny that there can be a very real issue here. But as an example, banking has similar serious issues at the top, and I wouldn't assume that every realtor's office, even ones ultimately tied to Merrill Lynch, had the same issues. Even if a realtor did have issues with sexism and discrimination, I think it would be unreasonable to assume that they came from what happened at the top carrying 'down the stack'.

I think it does a real disservice to 'tech' in general to understand it entirely in light of people like Travis Kalanick and Justin Caldbeck. I think it even does a disservice to efforts to fight sexism and harassment; the behavior of the richest and most powerful people in tech seems to have more in common with the rich and powerful of other industries than the rank-and-file of tech.

And I worry that this concept of trickle-down misbehavior will do exactly what the top comment points out - obscure everyday issues and opportunities in favor of a focus on a small group that's behaving quite differently, and can't be easily improved.

Where I am now, not so sure. I contract with an SME that's now owned by a big German car maker. Previously I've worked with Big Blue and a lot of smaller firms not reliant on VCs so far as I can tell.

The nearest would likely have been when I worked with London "unicorn" Powa Technologies, and we all know how that went...

> I just don't recognise the business painted here to be "tech"

VC Cash influences power dynamics between tech companies very very heavily. If you're not in SV and chose to get funding elsewhere and are successful, safe bet that an SV competitor of yours will get better funding than you and eat up some of your potential market size. Each big firm will fund one top competitor in the space and let them duke it out, so how long will you last without their funding? Odds are high there are many companies with diverse founders and superior products who lost the battle to a competitor funded by one of these VCs. If top VC firms don't have strong female and diverse partners, they don't see the value in businesses that serve female and diverse markets as well.

Pardon my pedestrian take, but I think we're on similar pages. This is the weird, bizarro-world we inhabit because these "markets" are run by supply-side money flows. These companies don't have time to deal with the pesky issue of actual demand. Having more cash to burn is not a "sustainable competitive advantage", but we're probably long past that being meaningful to anyone.

Agree - I think many of the recent examples of Silicon Valley issues in the media seem more related to Silicon Valley VCs who inherit more traits from NYC finance, sales and hedge fund/investment banking than the hacker in the garage inventing next generation networking, programming language, search engine, machine learning or open source project.

In fact many men (and women) who chose engineering/computer science were explicitly trying to escape these questionable finance/business 'cool kid' types by specifically going into the technology field. [1]

Additionally, I think as technology becomes more ubiquitous in mainstream industries like fashion, real estate, retail, lifestyle manufacturing, tech will be taking on those industries historical problems with lack of diversity.

Many of Binary Capital's investments overall read more like applying smartphone/Uber type apps to a specific industry vertical. They seem a little light on tech, heavy on social/consumer aspects.


And a big concern is that the proposed fixes will be focused on increasing diversity training for engineering and computer science (while for sure a good thing speaking as a father with a daughter!) should really be focused on increasing diversity training for finance, investment banking, sales, marketing in all sectors.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html

> I think many of the recent examples of Silicon Valley issues in the media seem more related to Silicon Valley VCs who inherit more traits from NYC finance, sales and hedge fund/investment banking than the hacker in the garage inventing next generation networking, programming language, search engine, machine learning or open source project.

The cultural zeitgeist simply shifted which is why the media is full of stories of "baddies" in the tech. Culturally, tech boys are the new finance boys who of course were preceded by rock-star boys. Hell, we even call tech boys with the devil may care attitude "rock stars". Do you know what were finance boys called in the late nineties? That's right: "rock stars". Want to know who culturally is on a top of the mountain? Look at whom the likes of Miranda Kerr and Amber Heard are dating.

Did anything change in finance? Nope. Still the same types of people go into finance. Interns/juniors are still being hazed err... harassed, "rock stars" still spend thousands of dollars in strip clubs entertaining clients, etc and everything is still for sale.

I got a bit confused when she ticked off her resume--how does anyone get that much experience at all top flight companies in just a compressed amount of time? Despite the obvious issues she has faced, my career is a completely dead, non-starter compared to hers so how can she complain?

Also, I think places like Kleiner don't need to exist and the world would likely be a better place without them. But that's just my take on it all. There's better ways to live than being inside one of those pressure cookers. Enjoy the Eastern European hookers, though.

It is all relative right? She did do those things and she probably had to work harder than her male peers to get to Kleiner in the first place. I think dismissing her "complaints" is just not fair. Discrimination can happen anywhere at any professional level, the teeny top .00001% and the bottom percentage of wage earners making minimum wage. Just because it she is arguably very successful does not mean her claims have no basis.

Sorry if I am taking the tone of what you wrote wrong, I know this is a sensitive topic. I will admit I did have a sort of similar thought, "But you are still very successful and wealthy compared to practically anyone else, you are winning Ellen!" But then I realized money doesn't matter. What matters is purpose and validation of your effort in a professional environment. When your bosses and peers are constantly shitting on you, even if they are giving you a lot of money it hurts in ways that are almost impossible to know without putting your life and a little piece of your soul into something only to have it rejected by people you desperately want the respect and peerage of.

>> she probably had to work harder than her male peers >> to get to Kleiner in the first place

Probably not. The article mentions (to Ellen's credit, BTW) that Doerr was specifically looking for Asian women to hire. That's ironically probably also one of the reasons why she wasn't treated seriously: diversity hiring casts a permanent shadow over even the candidates with abundant qualifications.

"How can she complain?" Did you hear what she had to put up with? Are any of us such saints that we wouldn't be upset? I'm definitely not.

Also, consider what she might have accomplished without those hurdles.

I read stories like this and I wonder how representative they are. I'm from the different world of enterprise software and I couldn't imagine any of these things happening.

The only conversation that I've ever heard in mixed company that was even remotely similar to the ones she mentions is one time a female co-worker mentioned at lunch that her roommate was an erotic dancer at a men's club so there was a brief conversation about where she worked/how much she made/weirdest story/etc.

I'm curious if the difference between my experience and the stories I'm constantly reading is a result of selection bias or if startup technology really is a very different beast than enterprise tech from a sexism point of view.(I suspect a little of both)

What struck me was that the same Jenna Jemison obsessed CEO was one of the most ardent spokespersons for "Lean In".

As someone once said, "some of the most vocal feminist men are some of the creepiest".

It's as if it's their red herring for behaving badly.

Going from her quotes, it's as if they went out of their way to be obnoxious.

Another interesting anecdote is Kai Cole (Joss Wheadon's ex-wife): http://www.thewrap.com/joss-whedon-feminist-hypocrite-infide...

That is such a strange article. It shackles Joss Wheadon with this additional moral failing for cheating on his wife as if his feminist ideal should stop him from falling for the trappings that all rich powerful people go through.

Somehow because he has particular views of the equality of men and women, it should give him an above average amount of will power to stop himself from temptation?

Feminism is a political stance not a moral super-power. The great majority of people with access to something will not hold themselves back. Men in positions of power will have women throwing themselves at them. Most men will succumb to that temptation the same way the majority of the population with access to food will eventually succumb to the temptation to overeat.

At some point almost all people will get fat as they get comfortable and older. From all accounts I've heard, nearly all professional atheletes and musicans cheat. If you had beautiful women throwing themselves at you, you would probably succumb to it eventually. Most men do. Women's sex drive and biochemistry is different and most attractive women have had men throwing themselves (or at least have 2nd hand experience through a friend) and thus it isn't equivalent. Most women don't know what it's like to have what you were chasing your whole life, chasing you. It's like being a lion and have gazelles trying to leap into your mouth all the time.

When you add the fact that his casting someone (and he was known for casting relatively unknown actors) could change the course of their entire career and thus life, and most of those who could benefit the most are literally a self-selected group of the most beautiful women in the world, it's no wonder why he cheated.

So, to take all of that and heap some kinda extra moral failure on him is unfair. If she cheated, it wouldn't be some failure of her feminist stance. She would just be someone who cheated.

It was merely a betrayal of a loved one but, doesn't mean that all of a sudden he hates women because he cheated.

> Somehow because he has particular views of the equality of men and women, it should give him an above average amount of will power to stop himself from temptation?

I don't know.

From my own reading of her article, it seemed like her (feminism-related) issue stemmed from him using feminism as both a shield and excuse to pick up women.

But, to _try_ to answer your—perhaps rhetorical—question, I'd say yes to the extent that somebody who talks the talk should walk the walk. Having extramarital affairs isn't respecting your wife. IMO, it's similar to an unabashed anti/non-racist repeatedly using racial slurs. Like, there's a bit of dissonance there that needs to be spoken to.

obvious and unobjectionable steps like "recruit junior devs from the ranks of biology grads

I don't follow how this is an obvious decision. Would you please elaborate? If the target software isn't dealing with the biology domain, why would I prefer biology grads over computer science grads? It seems like the lack of formal knowledge around CS fundamentals could prove a hindrance, while the biology knowledge wouldn't be an asset.

This principle may be workable for some portion of the work space, especially for your typical webapp or webservice. We flout the 'anybody can learn to code' concept, and that's true to some extent. But if the domain space is low-level hardware, highly algorithmic or heavy in the domain modeling space it seems completely reasonable to prefer someone with a formal background in CS.

Not biology, but I've had great success hiring mechanical engineers to write code. I'm not sure what it is--perhaps some mindset they learn in school--but I've yet to meet one that didn't develop into an excellent software engineer as well.

So perhaps biology has a similar synergy.

The vast majority of jobs now are not 'low-level hardware, highly algorithmic or heavy in the domain modeling space'. They're corporate CRUD-style apps, existing software maintenance, and other such things. There's no reason that a bright student with a biology background couldn't be a perfect fit for these sorts of things if they have some contact with a computer science class or two.

There's no reason that a bright student with a biology background couldn't be a perfect fit for these sorts of things if they have some contact with a computer science class or two.

Sure, it's completely realistic for a biology student (or any other discipline) to serve in a junior or line developer position in many corporate environments. If you're just wiring Spring beans together, writing test cases, or doing basic sysadmin work there's not much CS doing on.

My experience is that the differences show as you become more senior or you want to do things off the beaten path. Once you start dealing with comprehensive troubleshooting (back-to-front), non-trivial data modeling, and architecture the lack of fundamentals starts to slow you down. Understanding a DAG is pretty important in certain cases, and if you weren't exposed to it that's alot of outside learning. It's doable, but you have to put in more and more personal time to keep up. Whereas the CS folks are building on at least passing knowledge over four years of study.

To put my biases on the table, I'm a self-taught dev that went back for my BS degree. I have strong bias towards the value of a CS education.

Biases on the table: co-authored a paper on machine learning, graduated undergrad summa cum laude from an CS honors program with a 4.0 GPA in courses in CS, then dropped out in the first semester in an CS MSc program due to personal issues. You'll find no stronger proponent of a classical CS education.

There is plenty of time for someone to learn about DAGs (really, they're not rocket science) while they're a junior dev, and a bright person, given a series of tasks slightly increasing in complexity and difficulty, will have no trouble learning the fundamentals.

Most of my CS classmates were much more interested in going to school to get their degree to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or maybe work for him. They'd cram for tests between beer pong and bong hits and forget 90% of what they were there to learn. I'd rather hire someone who is bright with any college degree (best programmer where I worked at in my last job had a Masters in dramatic arts) than a random somebody with a CS background. Everything I need in theory from a junior dev can be tested during an interview - it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what quicksort is, or how to write documentation, or how to create a new class in Java without using an IDE.

I guess the major difference is that I don't see a CS degree as a sign of a good programmer. I see it as a sign that someone endured classes for four years, and I am open to the possibility that someone with another degree might be a better fit at a junior level than anybody with a CS degree that bothered to respond to the job posting.

Seems like a waste of a bright biology student.

Not if that biology student wants a decent life. There's not much money in science. It pays much, much more to be a mediocre dev.

Nobody is forcing them to take the job, just widening the target audience of the job search.

> There's no reason that a bright student with a biology background couldn't be a perfect fit

There's no reason that a bright student with Chinese poetry background couldn't be a perfect fit. But I think there's reasons why we still have CS degrees even though there's no reason why any bright person can't teach oneself coding. OTOH, if you go this route and say CS degree doesn't matter at all, just drop any connection to degrees and hire people based on tests or something - why link it to biology?

I'm not saying that it doesn't matter - clearly someone with a CS degree is more _likely_ to be a better fit, but I see no reason to limit targeting of job postings for junior developer positions to just recently graduated CS undergrads when there are plenty of other people with other degree backgrounds that might be a good fit as well.

I wouldn't link it specifically to a biology degree, but my initial response was to someone who asked about it specifically.

> recruit junior devs from the ranks of biology grad

Targeting specific groups just because of the racial or gender makeup of the group seems inherently wrong to me.

A biology major doesn't give people many relevant skills for programming. If it was a math intensive subject like Physics, Stats or Math, I could see it being more fair and valid.

It's a bit cynical to say that's done simply in the name of gender. There are certainly many talented people who move away from tech because they look at it from the outside and observe that tech "isn't for them". There is nothing "inherently wrong" in correcting some of that unless you willfully ignore how our society came to be.

> There are certainly many talented people who move away from tech

Let's be honest, most biology majors turned programmers aren't oppressed people who had passion for tech but were discouraged from tech by terrible, systemic biases. They're people who either couldn't make it to med school or didn't want to go to med school who realized that there is more $$$ in the tech field than in biology research.

> It's a bit cynical to say that's done simply in the name of gender.

Not really. In this context, that is exactly what the parent was saying. Again, there are many non-CS majors that give people skills more relevant to programming. There isn't much of a reason to specifically recruit biology majors (other than for demographic reasons or if the company software is related to biology).

> Let's be honest

If you're going to make such a claim, you should provide some sort of proof. By your cynical logic, engineers are no more than nerds who don't have the stones to go into finance--where the money really is.

> There isn't much of a reason to specifically recruit biology majors (other than for demographic reasons or if the company software is related to biology).

I know many talented biology majors who have no interest spending their entire career alongside men smugly assume they "couldn't make it into med school". Or those who actually believe in the work that they're doing. Try telling the hundreds of thousands in research labs working on groundbreaking science like CRISPR that their careers are considered settling.

> Targeting specific groups just because of the racial or gender makeup of the group seems inherently wrong to me.

It did not click in my head initially but damn this is a great proxy.

> affairs with a creepy married co-worker in Germany, machismo-driven muscling for VC connections, dominance games over which chair an exec sits in, PR firms hired to smear uppity former partners... it's like a movie.

I wonder how prevalent such behavior is amongst the truly exceptional people vs the imposters who just happened to be successful due to luck and in many cases sheer force of personality (seems to still work in old school industries). Part of me would like to think that the Zucks, Bezos and Gates of the world don't partake in such shenanigans and would rather just keep their head down and work conscientiously.

Why do we still give a shit how someone chooses to spend their free time? Why can't you be successful and partake in drunken S&M orgies at 3 am? As long as it's between consenting adults, I don't see why it should somehow tarnish your character.

I despise this "soccer-mom-approved" bullshit where the only acceptable free time activity is attending a little league baseball game or organizing a church picnic.

Would Einstein's work somehow be diminished if it came out that he liked to experiment with mushrooms?

I was really hoping that we'd have stopped judging people on these criteria by now. So disappointing that we haven't.

I don't think most people care about successful people partaking in drunken S&M orgies at 3 AM - at least, I don't. What I care about are the people who use their success, status, and position in a company to make other people feel like they also need to be a part of their drunken 3 AM debauchery. Or else face consequences.

I didn't get the impression from Ellen's account that the major problem was the fact that Ajit was cheating on his wife or lying to Ellen about it (although that in itself is not morally OK); the major problem was after she rebuffed him, the backlash that she faced due to his position of power within the company and community at large.

Uhmm you make a reasonable argument but I am not sure why it's a reply to my comment. I was commenting on peoples behavior in the workplace and not how they spend their free time. Did you just inadvertently create a strawman so you could attack it?

You see I like many people here aspire to be successful but neither do I have the personality to for example play dominance games nor the desire to develop such a personality and hence I wonder if that's something that might truly handicap one or just something that imposters do.

That's not the point. But it might tell something about the mentality and the psychology of a category of people, if they are more prone to such 'hobbies' than other categories.

I have a feeling we by now have way too much "tell something about the mentality" things. People seek most minute and irrelevant details about somebody's life and blow them up into the whole narrative about how it reveals the darkest depths of somebody's psychology, all while ignoring the open history of behavior, speech, accomplishments and so on. The idea that all the observable behavior is just a facade and only this one or two particular details about something that was said or done once 20 years ago reveals somebody's "true character" is bewildering in its irrationality, and still seems to be widely popular.

It's projection. Not the "I'm ascribing my attitudes to the other" flavor of projection that most people think of. It's the kind that makes someone go "Oh, of course this other has this set of attributes that make them exactly the kind of person I already have a stereotype for and opinion of."

Secondly, there are people that spend a great deal of mental effort concealing what they consider to be their "true personality." Whether or not that is in reality who they are is tangential to the point that concealment becomes a big part of their life, and they start assuming others do it to. Or if someone was burned by a person that practices concealment, they'll be on guard for it. And that is again tangential to either's _ability_ to read a concealed aspect of another, which are often no closer than the projection described above.

I think it says something about human nature that she was equally resentful of missing the ski trip and the cookie.

The story is so far outside of my ken I have trouble believing it. And yet, like you say, this is a completely different world from mine - maybe people really do act like this.

>I think it says something about human nature that she was equally resentful of missing the ski trip and the cookie

She was not upset about missing a ski trip or a cookie. She was pointing out that women are excluded in things big and small in the VC world of KP and the pettiness of the men she worked with in passing a plate of cookies and bypassing the women. The gesture while petty spoke volumes as I would Imagine was the intent. The same could be said of the excuse of why women were excluded from the ski trip. If the company spent that much money to fly everyone out, do you really believe that KP could not afford accommodations for the women? Certainly they could. It was a passive aggressive way to say, "the women are not welcome on the ski trip" without having to say it directly. The foolish games that children play.

Sorry, what is 'hiring junior devs from the ranks of biology grads' intended to help with?

There's a meme (in the literal sense, not image macro sense) going around that because enrollment rates of women in computer science is dropping that companies should considering hiring junior developers from other programs with a higher rate of women enrolled - typically social science or biology.

I thought that biology was struggling with not having enough quantitative students with an aptitude for complex statistics and simulation, even though those directions have the highest research potential. Hardly seems like fertile ground to find software development in large numbers.

You're only partially correct.

1 ) Its true that there aren't enough quantitative oriented students, and the ones we get really suck. Aka, I searched some text and now I'm co-author!

2) A lot of these directions have really low potential because they are mainly putting spin on otherwise failed or inconclusive work. p-hacker is a pejorative. From personal while simulating a development biology model might be computationally challenging (although often not), the models I've seen seem to be flawed somewhere in their conceptual design as they lack underlying mechanics or a null hypotheses. But after you've spent a few years hanging around doing little work for little pay, you really gotta get this stuff published

tldr; computational people rare add anything of value compared to the holistic (not individual) contributions who actually do the work.

Bioinformatics scientist here.

1) There are lots of brilliant people in the field, but it is also the degree that dumb people who want a science degree or are "pre-med" get. It tremendously lowers the value of my undergrad degree. If you look at high-paying jobs (finance, investing, etc), you'll often find people who say they occasionally hire in a bright scientist who wants to switch industries. They typically hire physics and chemistry majors and are much less likely to hire someone with a biology degree.

2)The computational biologists/bioinformaticians/etc in this field are pretty variable in their CS skills and a good deal of the top performers leave the field because pay is really, really terrible. (ie my compensationv is 65K, high COL area, MS required, 1 year of direct experience under my belt, plus an additional 4 years of experience in the wider biotech industry - trust me I think my life is a joke too).

Thanks for clearing that up. I thought it was a Damore reference.

You used everything to denounce the story. Your comment itself proves that sexism exists even here not in a separate world.

Women engineers in Uber were not from that world and they had the same sexism. But, of course people will find some other way to denounce that too.

It's easy to get hung up on the particulars of Pao's story and get sidetracked into defending or judging her, but I feel that is besides the point. I am more interested in the wider notion of why she wrote this article: to point out that sexism in tech is a thing, and that it shouldn't be.

I'm wondering though: is this just about sexism, or is it about professionalism and maturity? Getting hit on by someone higher up the hierarchy than you can make it impossible to do your job, so that behavior is clearly unprofessional. But getting yelled at by your boss for shipping a bug is also unprofessional, and can also make it a toxic work environment. I'm not saying the two are the same, just that both are examples of unprofessional behavior that many places will tolerate.

Isn't it time we have conversations about what it means to be a professional in tech? Maybe other industries suffer less from these things because they have a longer history and have more guild-like working practices, where professional behavior is more clearly defined. In tech people get away with wildly unprofessional behavior as long as "they get stuff done", and personally I never felt that was acceptable.

Maybe this stuff is also sort of everywhere. Plenty of industries have toxic working relationships. Why isn't professionalism part of standard education tracks? I studied CS and I never learned about what it means to be a professional software developer. How do you have productive conversations with coworkers? How do you organize your work effectively? All of these things you're supposed to figure out on your own, but looking around I can tell that mostly people never do, or only do so after decades of getting it wrong.

I can't imagine anything more unprofessional than raving about meeting a washed up porn star and then talking about sex workers in the company of people you are not intimately familiar with. Although you could say it was a 'social' moment on the jet, not a professional meeting (as Pao seems to believe it was) where there should always be much more latitude on conversation topics, it's still very distasteful.

I normally have a very high tolerance for talking about any topic but anyone who says that stuff in public and not in the small company of close friends has bigger issues than just sexism.

As others have pointed out most of these situations sound like grown men acting like frat boys or teenagers, not adult males with a singular problem with how they treat women. These are men who need to learn how to act around other adults and how to treat people with respect in public. Or at a very minimum leave it for your off-time among close friends in private.

Software has largely confronted the 'brogrammer' issue publicly, and I believe is working to improve itself, but it's well known that finance is still heavily influenced by untamed frat boy culture. This is a culture where these immature boys don't get their behaviour properly confronted and corrected. Especially when you throw personal wealth into the occassion.

Not to defend frat culture, but who defines what topics are or are not publicly discussable, and where is this list maintained? Aren't taboos sometimes more harmful than whatever harm the taboo is supposed to prevent?

I'm confused. Either you're legitimately asking for a list or you are trying to say since there's no way such a list exists, we should be allowed to "publicly" discuss whatever we'd like in the company of coworkers.

You're probably better off asking your HR for a training if you can't fathom what topics may be appropriate for work or not. But most of it is common sense.

Is it sexual/racial or otherwise offensive to some within earshot? Don't say it.

Is it possibly offensive but you're not sure if they'd like to hear it? Don't say it.

You're there to work, not to push societal boundaries/ maximize discourse.

It's clear that I've been misunderstood, and I'm not sure how to rectify the misunderstanding. This makes it difficult to have actual discussions about this topic that don't devolve into bandwagon parades.

If we had always followed the "don't say it" default, then it would still be considered offensive to advocate for LGBT or religious or gender rights in the workplace. This is what I meant by taboos being sometimes harmful.

Everything I've seen in all the jobs I've worked shows a massive disconnect between "HR reality" and actual reality. I've seen women openly and proudly objectifying male subordinates in company meetings. I've seen men spending extensive time distracting their female coworkers with no consequences. I've seen women objectifying the "hot catering delivery boy". I've seen salesjerks harassing and flirting and getting away with it, while genuine people are slapped down for trivialities. The loudest and most prolific swearing I've ever heard was in a company with a highly religiously conservative employee demographic.

Nowhere have I seen a workplace where people robotically clock in, work silently, and clock out. Never have I seen a workplace free of non-work-related conversations.

People spend a majority of their waking time at work or on work-related matters. A sizable proportion of couples report meeting each other at work. There's simply no such thing as a work-only workplace. The HR-ification of society only facilitates the kind of abuse and discrimination that the devious get away with and the genuine get blamed for.

> If we had always followed the "don't say it" default, then it would still be considered offensive to advocate for LGBT or religious or gender rights in the workplace. This is what I meant by taboos being sometimes harmful.

Again, you're equating social progress with the ability to say controversial things at work. I would argue that most of the progress LGBT/religious/etc. groups have made have been made outside of office cubicles. More importantly, there's a clear difference between "what are we doing to encourage a more diverse group of developers" to "who do you think is the hottest engineer on our team?"

I'm still failing to see what your point is. Yes, some people can choose to violate the rules and risk getting away with it or not.

I'm not equating anything with anything. I'm saying there's no such thing as a realistic hard-line stance, and pretending there is makes things worse, not better.

You can define it by imagining a male co-worker in a meeting with your mother/sister/daughter/other female relative/female friend. Are you comfortable with your male co-worker discussing pornography and sex work in that level of detail with her?

If not sure, ask your mother/sister/daughter/other female relative/female friend.

If you don't have a female relative or friend to ask - random HN user and Ellen Pao advise you that discussing pornography and sex work in business meetings can make women feel uncomfortable.

At a government training, I once had a harassment trainer explain it very similarly. If you would not say it to your grandmother, mother, sister or daughter, do not say it. If you would not want someone saying, sharing explicit details or even joking about personal relations with your grandmother, mother, sister or daughter the same thing that you are saying about a coworker or even a stranger then do not say it. It is not appropriate. It is illegal and it will have a profound and negative impact on your career.

> At a government training, I once had a harassment trainer explain it very similarly. If you would not say it to your grandmother, mother, sister or daughter, do not say it

And this is the crux of the problem. Let's pretend that I do not have any issue having this kind of a discussion ( in passing, as a single comment or even at length ) with grandmother, mother, sister or daughter?

The law does not provide a list of subjects that you can or cannot discuss. The law assumes that you can understand the harassment law and make reasonable decisions regarding appropriate subjects and or statements. If it is necessary to make a list then it would be the responsibility of the employer to make the list and distribute it and hope that such list is all inclusive.

As far as where information is maintained, as I said, the Cod of Federal Regulation states the law for each of us to refer to. It can be found on the US EEOC website. In short, the following is the law:

Harassment Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

I'd argue it's not about "in tech" though, as another commenter pointed out, this is a completely different world of private jets and deciding where to spend the hundreds of millions these people have on, betting on their 10 million investment becoming a billion. This is the "snorting coke off a model's ass for lunch" world, not tech.

Not directly, but YC and others constantly emphasize how (1) founders define the whole company culture, at least for the years of the growth phase, and how (2) important VCs are as advisers to founders, who are often fairly inexperienced in managing a company.

In the light of those assertions, it sounds fairly hard to believe that the culture of the world described by Pao doesn't have a strong influence in the VC-funded tech startup (and post-startup) world.

Kleiner Perkins', etc., portfolio:


Does the distinction matter? Are you saying this sort of behavior does not reach the level of concern inside of the world of tech, regardless of how that is defined?

I don't think it matters in the sense that people with that kind of money can never be reined in--they just spend more money to route around anyone who wants to regulate their behavior.

> I don't think it matters in the sense that people with that kind of money can never be reined in

They can be reined-in using the same money the value so much. If retirement funds stop putting money into their funds (because of bad PR or any other leverage), then they'll start to behave.

Do these people act like this because the money has completely unhinged them? Or do unhinged people enter careers like this and escalate to these levels because, well, they're unhinged and it's easier to act that way if you've got teh cash?

It's definitely a concern in tech and there are definitely problems to fix. However it's just that tech's problems with this type of behavior pales in comparison to finance's problems with it (as well as others such as Hollywood and the music industry). This whole article is about finance; about a financial firm that happens to specialize in investing in the tech sector. It's unfair to pin this one entirely on us when it's not even really our industry but the people financing us.

What you mean you developers don't do that like every week?

I've thought since the 90's that programmers need a professional body with teeth.

Doctors have them, lawyers have them, civil engineers have them.

Lots of software written is at least as critical as what the above professionals do.

But software is a young field compared to all the above so I think it'll take time (or several really serious disasters...which is how the civil engineers got theirs).

I have opposed a professional body with teeth because it ends up like a zombie, the original goals look alive but they're really dead. What is left is

a. Protectionism that prevents lowering of wages too much

b. The organization being subverted by its loudest members because everybody else is too busy living their lives.

The examples we see, AMA included, are all plagued with problems. There's a quote about doing the same things and expecting different outcomes but dang made a special request for this thread.

I agree. Professional bodies become expensive self sustaining beauracracy machines run by the very same highly paid idiots Ellen had to work with.

Look at the Australian Computer Society. You pay hundreds per year and have to jump through thousands of dollars of training and such. For what?! That you meet their standards?? What a joke.

I'm a member of the American Association for Computer Machinery instead. At least they charge a reasonable amount and you get a Safari subscription with it.

> Protectionism that prevents lowering of wages too much

This is a really weird complaint from somebody who is (presumably) a developer. [If parent commenter is an owner or executive, then it makes more sense]

Are there other industries where workers actively disdain proposals to secure better treatment at the hands of owners?

Is it so weird that somebody would oppose what they (apparently) consider unethical practice, even if it would benefit them?

Yes. And any more of this mindset could lead us into a functional democracy. Unacceptable.

If you were ethically opposed to all forms of wage manipulation, this would be an extremely minor factor to get hung up on in the grand scheme of things. So to that point yes, he’s correct, it would be weird.

So importing cheap labor is ethical, opposing that practice - is not ethical?

Yes? Paying someone with American citizenship more than someone with Chinese citizenship for the same work should be regarded as unethical as paying a man more than a woman or a white person more than a black person.

Like it or not, we have nation-states, not a global labor market.

The government of EVERY country in the world is elected to take care of their citizens. Why should the US government worry about wages of Chinese citizens - Chinese people have their own government, no?

BTW, the US is already very open (close to 15% of population is foreign born, the highest in a century). In an economic crisis, it is not unreasonable to slow down immigration a bit.

Also, it is ironic that you use the example of China, perhaps the most protectionist major country in the world.

Is your contention that it is racist for the American government to prioritize the needs of citizens who vote for it and live under its laws over the citizens who don't?

American is not a race so it's not racist, no.

But I do feel that it's wrong to restrict the supply of foreign programmers so that an engineer in Silicon Valley can earn $200k instead of 'only' $150k. The average SV programmer is already in the global 0.1%, they don't need protectionism.

>But I do feel that it's wrong to restrict the supply of foreign programmers so that an engineer in Silicon Valley can earn $200k instead of 'only' $150k.

Do you feel that Yelp paying $200k rather than $150k is a greater injustice than poorer countries footing the bill for educating their best and brightest only to see their best and brightest flee to San Francisco because domestic companies cannot compete with 'only $150k'?

> poorer countries footing the bill for educating their best and brightest only to see their best and brightest flee to San Francisco

Do you imply that "poorer countries" somehow own their people and those people owe them indentured servitude until they "return" the "investment" made into them to their "country"? And until then they are not free to move wherever they please and seek as large salary as they can find? That the only "just" outcome would be for people not to seek better lives, whereever that could be, but to stay where they were born, even in worse conditions and despite their wishes, because they owe "the bill" now?

Because it certainly looks like you do. Moreover, it looks like you claim US has a moral obligation to impose this lockdown and not allow any foreign nationals in until they paid their "debt" to the home country.

This also looks exactly like the argument USSR made when prohibiting its citizens to leave. "The country invested in you, so we can't allow you to move freely outside and benefit those capitalists now". I mean, exactly to the letter. It is eery how closely these match.

Nope. That's a massive Straw man you just lit on fire.

Honestly, I don't even really like the Singaporean approach of educating your citizens and then slapping a bond on them either. I think education should be free.

I think the US owes the poorer country if it takes their citizens though, and in a just world, corporation taxes on the companies that employ these people would foot the bill of the education they are are using.

We live in a world where poor subsidize rich though and the USSR being both very poor and having a great education system was one example of that.

I think it's weird that you used scare quotes around the word "investment". Do you consider the idea that there should be a societal gain for educating ones' citizens controversial?

You obviously don't think it should be free because you think it should come with the obligation to stay in your poor country of birth after graduation. That obligation is worth $100,000s in opportunity cost or more.

>you think it should come with the obligation to stay

Jesus Christ. I literally explicitly said that I didn't believe that.

> I think education should be free.

You mean college professors should work for free? Or somebody else should pay for your education? That's not the worst part though. The worst part is where you turn around and say "well, since we paid for your education (with other people's money of course, but let's forget about that), we now own you and you are indebted to us forever".

> I think the US owes the poorer country if it takes their citizens though

So, you think the "poorer country" owns its citizens. Because otherwise how you can owe anybody for something they don't own? Do you owe me for sunlight? For the air you breathe? No, because I don't own it. But if you took something I do own, I would certainly be expecting something in return, you'd owe me. That's directly the idea of ownership, and what you said directly implies ownership of the country (at least "poor country") over the citizens.

> We live in a world where poor subsidize rich

No we do not. It is a completely false statement. Look into any table of who pays most of the taxes, they are widely available online.

> USSR being both very poor and having a great education system

Did you experience that system? Because I did. It sucked. There were a few (half-dozen or so) of good schools per city (if the city is large). The rest were more or less garbage. Even in the good ones, usually some things were taught well (i.e., in one school, math & physics, in another - languages, in another - chemistry, etc. - the rest again was pretty bad). There was a number (maybe a dozen or so over the whole country) decent higher education institutions, the rest was mediocre at the best. And for it being free I was forced (literally, under the threat of expulsion) to sort rotten vegetables in the local agricultural storage depot. Do you know how potatoes rotting for weeks smell like? Did you have to go through a pile of them with you bare hands? It was part of my CS curriculum. Tell me more about how education in USSR was the best. Fortunately, I got the idea eventually and left (I was lucky, by then it was permitted) and got education in a place where you can pay for it with money and not forced labor.

> Do you consider the idea that there should be a societal gain for educating ones' citizens controversial?

I consider the idea that the state owns people because it took their money and made an "investment" controversial. Investment implies you own whatever you invested into. And your claims about people leaving the country after being educated being unfair implies you buy into that concept of ownership.

>The worst part is where you turn around and say "well, since we paid for your education (with other people's money of course, but let's forget about that), we now own you

Except I didn't say that.

>So, you think the "poorer country" owns its citizens.

>I consider the idea that the state owns people

How many times do I have to say "I don't believe this" before you stop turning around and telling me that I believe it?

>Did you experience that system? Because I did. It sucked.

Oh believe me, this whole conversation is making me reconsider my opinion.

The injustice is not (just) Yelp paying $200k instead of $150k, it's an engineer in India with the same skillset earning $30k. Or any number of projects not being undertaken at all because the return is less than $200k.

I don't know what the solution to education financing would be in this scenario; perhaps something like Singapore's Tuition Grant Agreement obligating students to stay in-country or pay a big penalty to leave.

I don't really understand what you're asking, but note that I did not even address what is "actually" ethical or not in my comment. I simply stated that it is not weird (and should actually be expected), that somebody opposes some practice they find unethical even if the practice would benefit them.

Honestly, what's weird is that what I'm saying is even remotely controversial.

Your statement would have been non-controversial if it had not been made in the context of the parent statements.

But it was contextual.

> Are there other industries where workers actively disdain proposals to secure better treatment at the hands of owners?

Sure, every market crash there's one story or another about employees desperately fighting their unions for a worse deal so they can stay employed, while the union insists that all staff get high salaries, but also the newest hires get fired outright.

Higher wages aren't bad, but a fairly serious issue with unions is that they're not very rational when it comes to the health of the 'parent' organization. I suspect that it'd become much more relevant in software, where companies often have rapid growth and short lifespans.

Yes. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uaw-mississippi-nissan-id...

As for wages, I am not seeing developers working at hunger wages right now. Giving some bureaucratic body control over who is employed and on what conditions under the guise that only these people can figure out how to get better treatment and people themselves can't - doesn't sound like a winning proposition now.

It sounds like a good idea, but considering how quickly the field moves, it'll become stagnant and irrelevant within a year.

"You must be an ACXXXYA-accredited Node JS 0.12-p125 developer who's earned his NPM 1.01-a B-level cert and can use Visual Studio 2008 SP3 (no other version has been approved by the body) to write the codes at this job".

After watching committees by the "best and brightest" of us come up with amazing ideas like SOAP, WSDL, and Annex K of the latest C11 spec, I shudder at the thought of giving someone like that authority over my work.

Wouldn't a professional body for "programmers" be a bit like a professional body for "doctors, masseuses, hairdressers, tailors, and priests"?

All of those have something to do with working with humans, the way we all work with computers. And neither group has much else in common.

I'd accept a job title like 'Technical Priest' or 'Code Surgeon'. One of my former bosses half-jokingly changed my title to 'Web Prophet'.

My business card used to say <code-monkey>

Never really taken titles seriously ;).

I take it you've seen this?


That was the inspiration yep.

Well there is the BCS but it is completely irrelevant and it's a mystery how it still exists. It does absolutely nothing for working engineers and seems to be just a front for large employers to perpetuate the skills shortage myth while unemployment among CS grads hovers between 10 and 13%.

I dimly recall we were pitched something about joining the BCS when I was doing my master's - I'm not sure if it was a full presentation or just some pamphlets that were passed around. I don't think any of us joined because it was quite expensive (£139 annually now) and it was supremely unclear what the benefits were.

Since then, I don't believe I've ever heard it mentioned.

[citation needed] on that unemployment figure. Is that a unemployment for recent graduates, or anyone with a CS degree?

I find that figure surprising because:

1) https://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/19/the-colle...

2) This is purely anecdotal, but I've had no problem finding jobs as a self-taught programmer in Canada. I'm paid nearly 6 figures with 3 years of experience in a field where I don't have formal training. If that's not sign of a skills shortage, I don't know what is.

Here you go - 14% according to https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/20...

The Graun being the Graun they can't make the leap of logic to "supply and demand".

> In tech people get away with wildly unprofessional behavior as long as "they get stuff done", and personally I never felt that was acceptable.

As a decent software developer, if my less talented co-workers, or, god forbid, some HR-type, started telling me constantly about how I needed to be more "professional", I would hand in my resignation the next day and go somewhere that didn't absolutely suck to work.

> somewhere that didn't absolutely suck to work

People telling you that you're unprofessional can mean that you're the one making work suck for them.

To be fair, it can mean a lot of things. People use "unprofessional" to mean "I don't like that". It used to be unprofessional to wear jeans to work.

This is very true. Workplace regulations make it very hard to just get people to own up to their true emotions, so there's this HR dance that happens much like you described

I wear jeans to work on days when I have an important presentation to give and want to "dress up a bit".

If I understand your reply correctly, you mean to say that it's acceptable to be a total douchebag as long as you are "talented"?

I think you don't understand it correctly, and I wonder how you can interpret it that way.

I read the point that being "professional" is also about being able to do good programming work and take responsibility for what you do technically - not just appearing at the office at the right time, being courteous to other people and accepting HR buzzwords and policies and opinions without question.

My definition of professionalism is about treating your coworkers and customers with respect and empathy, and doing the work with dedication and craftsmanship.

Appearing at the office at the right time is unnecessary just for appearance's sake, but can be a factor in respecting and empathizing with coworkers, for example to be available for questions. It is usually not that important in the grand scheme of things.

> treating your coworkers and customers with respect and empathy

This can be as subjective as the word professionalism. People always use their own value judgement in these things - whether it's deciding if something is professional, or not, or if something is respectful, or not.

Sometimes, you do have to just follow rules, for the sake of it, because there is no standard in personal value.

I don't think anyone would disagree that being respectful is a "professional" quality. "The staff was very professional." What imagery does that illicit? If you're like me, or just about anyone else I've ever heard use the term, polite is one of the first words that springs to mind.

It doesn't matter if you get your work done. There are a hundred other people who can get your work done and do it without being a dick.

Note: I'm not calling _you_ a dick. I just vehemently disagree with anyone who thinks they get to be a dick (or, more generally, act however they please) just because, to borrow terminology from earlier comments, they're "talented".

Again, we just shift to the meaning of "being a dick", another subjective term.

If you want to pin down a concept, you can't just deal with easily categorised instances - the real distinctions exist in the grey areas.

There's a multi-dimensional gradient between polite and impolite, and where the thresholds lie is determined by personal value. Pick points far enough to either side, and most of those thresholds will fall within - but it is in the "grey area" that they disagree. That is why an arbitrary, but unambiguous threshold is needed as a standard.

There are arbitrary, unambiguous, agreed upon standards of politeness. You don't curse people out. You don't sexually harass women (or men, for that matter). You don't show up for work late every day, smelling like a brewery.

However, those are all things that I've personally seen these so-called "talented" individuals do, because they think their talent makes them immune from criticism. And, sure, that's just my own, anecdotal experience, but the very fact that it's also a widely-held stereotype of these types of people, I would wager that I'm not alone in having been confronted with these types of people.

This isn't a gray area. This is the basic idea of being professional, and it holds true between places where a suit and tie is mandatory and places where you can bring your dog to work every day.

And to be absolutely clear, this is a very Western-centric view. I simply _don't know_ enough to comment on how this applies to more Eastern work environments.

There are arbitrary, unambiguous, agreed upon standards of politeness. You don't curse people out.

This are unambiguous when you are interacting with people before you have established your own norms. It's possible for a healthy team to have a dynamic where cursing out bad code is completely acceptable, while cursing a person is not. The camaraderie built around breaking a social norm (cursing) can offset shock at violating the norm. However, that should change or be re-evaluated every time that norm is disturbed.

It's also possible to go 'too polite', to the point where criticism goes unsaid because you don't want to offend. That's just as toxic of a culture, it just leads to a much slower demise than the flame-outs you get from more visceral bad behaviors.

The thing is, I don't disagree. It_is_ possible to be too polite. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about people who, generally speaking, rub their workmates the wrong way. People who would rub just about _anyone_ the wrong way.

>There are arbitrary, unambiguous, agreed upon standards of politeness. You don't curse people out. You don't sexually harass women (or men, for that matter). You don't show up for work late every day, smelling like a brewery.


>This isn't a gray area.

Argument from extremes.

Whenever the topic of "Well, what do they mean by professionalism?" you'll invariably get a response stating something really obvious, and pointing out people who violated those obvious norms.

Since I didn't, and don't expect to, violate them, this kind of comment is almost useless. Why? Because in no place where I've worked is the use of the word "professionalism" limited to those domains.

You will get people who do everything you said still be called unprofessional. Which is why the question becomes "Well, what does professional mean?" and invariably someone will give your response and we get nowhere.

I worked for a tutoring agency once. Our boss was trying to tell us that we should be careful not to make the student feel like a moron because they couldn't solve a problem we tutors found easy. What does that mean? He demonstrated it to us by saying "Well, when someone asks you an easy question, don't say 'Wow! You really can't do such a simple question?!'"

That demonstration was really helpful. We all went back and occasionally said to a student "Sure I can help you solve this trivial problem".

(No, of course we didn't. The point was to someone who wasn't aware, this approach would be totally appropriate for a tutor to do because he's not making explicit fun of the student).

People who leave with 2 week's notice have been called unprofessional.

People who don't reply to pointless emails have been called unprofessional.

Just open up an "Ask HN" thread and ask people what crazy things have been called "unprofessional" in their work place.

Sorry, but I have to agree with the others. Saying "Be professional" is as useless as "Be cool" or "Be good".

If a company doesn't have proper guidelines and training on what they expect their employees to do, then that company doesn't value professionalism. Not providing guidance and then pointing fingers is pretty low.

Those are all unprofessional. But the point I originally made was with regards to professional being defined "respect and empathy" etc etc.

To what degree tech does, or should, value "professional"/polite behavior is a different topic.

Is it really that hard though? Being professional and polite is the LEAST that you can do. Just say hi to people, don't talk over them, make some small talk, shake their hands when you meet. LISTEN to others. Don't make 'jokes' involving anything remotely sexual. If you follow these steps you are almost certain not to get in trouble, and you will be liked by most people in an office setting. It is not hard to be nice.

I think "wildly unprofessional behavior" is things like sexually harassing other workers in your company, insulting people, that kind of thing.

The problem here is I think people have different definitions of "wildly unprofessional behavior".

Figuring out what behavior is appropriate, understanding the corporate culture, and finding the best opportunities for you to help set and advance the agenda are all big parts of being a professional.

They are skills you have to develop though and young people will make mistakes as they figure out what the boundaries are. If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor in the business, you have a huge advantage.

Ignore the air quotes and you've got a clear picture of reality. The more people need you the more you're able to leverage that need for financial or social capital.

For better or worse at the forefront of your field and at the top of the social ladder the rules are different.

> If I understand your reply correctly, you mean to say that it's acceptable to be a total douchebag as long as you are "talented"?

It's a sliding scale. The better one's results are the bigger douche one can be and get away with it. And that's a very good thing because it ensures that most people who know that they are not that fantastic at producing great results go out of their way to avoid being total douche bags.

Yes, it's acceptable almost by definition. If people don't accept it, it means I'm not talented enough, and I need to find a new place to work.

Or be more "professional", but that's boring af.

If you are told you need to be more professional, or in other words that your less than professional behavior (if it rises to harassment or discrimination) has resulted in a complaint or worse a lawsuit against the company, you may not have the opportunity to hand in your resignation.

What about your current behavior makes you think people will feel the need to constantly tell you to be more professional?

I'm assuming you don't intend to defend mistreating coworkers, so you must think that there is unprofessional behavior that is nonetheless acceptable in the workplace.

For me probably:

Because I avoid meetings that exist solely to stroke manager egos. If it's not related to what I'm doing I don't go no matter how mandatory it is.

Because I avoid war rooms (getting people from every team into a room for days on end to troubleshoot some issue; but where it's not your problem and everyone just does normal work because it's not their problem either - again it's another management ego stroking thing).

Because I don't attend team building sessions especially if they involve sports or touching other people or being touched.

Because I refuse to travel. I generally don't travel for myself, so I don't travel for the company - spending days and weeks in a foreign place with nothing to do away from my family and in an unfamiliar bed teeming with potential nasties. No thanks. Had bed bugs once and it led to me losing everything and becoming homeless for a while. Never again.

Lots of people will think one or more of those are "unprofessional" and that your company owns you. I have bills to pay too but I want to live what little crappy life I have on my own terms and do my job - not the ancillary bullcrap.

> Had bed bugs once and it led to me losing everything and becoming homeless for a while. Never again.

This sounds like an extraordinary tragedy, and one that really ought to have been considered a workplace accident, in the same category as people who lose fingers to power tools. I'm sorry this happened to you.

> team building sessions especially if they involve sports or touching other people or being touched.

The dark side of team building sessions; they can be both disturbing and extremely exclusionary if they're lead by well-meaning but clueless people.

> Because I don't attend team building sessions especially if they involve sports or touching other people or being touched.

I had never put together quite how awful your average "team building seminar" could be for someone with autism or other physical-touch issues. I've never been in a position to call one, so I've always just left it at "those are annoying". But on reflection, "a room full of people openly pressuring you to let people touch you without warning" sounds like hell on earth for several people I know. And yet it's quite common to make them mandatory and expect everyone to act like they had fun...

"...if my less talented co-workers..."

What about if it's your more talented co-workers?

And if that happened in any organisation I had responsibility for, I'd be happy to see you go.

You really think it's acceptable or even laudable to harass coworkers?

> sexism in tech is a thing, and that it shouldn't be.

To play devils advocate, sexism is a thing everywhere. In some cases, there are good biological reasons why men and women are treated differently, e.g. child care (mostly women) versus hard physical labor (mostly men)

Where those biological differences aren't effective (e.g. typing on a keyboard), then yes, men and women should be treated the same.

But even with that, there may be biological reasons why men and women are interested in different things. Which may mean more women in job A, or more men in job B.

> Maybe other industries suffer less from these things because they have a longer history and have more guild-like working practices, where professional behavior is more clearly defined.

Any job which has "guild-like working practices" is very likely going to be male dominated. Because most guilds were based on men working. e.g. construction, stone masons, electricians, etc. And those jobs are rife with sexism, because of their historical roots.

> I studied CS and I never learned about what it means to be a professional software developer.

Because schools teach concepts, not social skills. They should probably teach social skills and social practices, IMHO. Everyone would be better off for it.

Just to nitpick an issue that some people mix up. On average more interest does not equate on average more skilled within the interested population. Also this gender diff does not play out so starkly in other sciences, eg biology, physics, etc. And, some decades ago in the west, and currently in other countries/civilizations, this gender difference does not pan out. This seems to point to other factors beyond genetic differences.

> On average more interest does not equate on average more skilled within the interested population.

But it might impact supply and demand of applicants with a certain background (either educational or self-study). Companies can take responsibility for the demand, but not the supply of human capital. Solutions are more likely found within education, family and youth culture. The top tier companies (like Google) can't hide behind that fact, since they generally get first pick, but that would make it even harder for lower tier companies to uphold an effective diversity policy.

There may be a strong business opportunity to exclusively invest in and hire minorities. If you have (a lot of) money and believe minorities to be discriminated against due to culture, hiring policy or financial rewards, it logically follows that you should invest in minorities. You would get, on average, better people that are more competitive.

Nothing argues quicker than profit. And the end of the day, we live in a capitalistic society. The economic arguments are the only types of arguments that will change anything.

If the invisible hand of the free market has a bias where it does not properly allocate its resources for maximum profitability, go bet against it and get rich.

I do believe it's notable that in other sciences (including subsciences of biology, psychology, and others), these differences do play out - in the opposite direction.

There's a useful graph somewhere of various degrees earned by gender split. The numbers run the gamut.

Could you provide a source please? Interested to read about it!

Thanks in Advance!

Here's a piece in response to the damore memo, written up by an evolutionary biologist.


It spends a while at the beginning on credentials and the importance of using citations (something damore failed at), and starts getting into the science at 'universal across all cultures, are we sure?'

Conversely, this one, incredibly well cited, seems to make the case that it's pretty clear that the genetic differences are the reason: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger...

Very good article, by the way.

Damore didn't fail at providing citations. You did apparently fail at reading the original document, however. References were deliberately stripped out by Gizmodo, and then republished by everyone else.

> You did apparently fail at reading

Uncivil swipes will get your account banned on HN, so please don't post like this again.


>Damore didn't fail at providing citations. You did apparently fail at reading the original document, however.

Maybe read the medium post he linked to? (The irony of your comment is killing me). If Wikipedia, The Atlantic, and the NY Post appear as citations more than primary literature, it is absolutely a failure to cite (as described in the medium post).

Please don't do this. There have been many take-downs of his full document (that include the so-called citations).

The one legit paper he linked to (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= didn't reach the conclusion he was claiming. That paper demonstrates that in egalitarian developed societies men are less oppressed by other men, not that there are innate differences. In all cases women's behavior is the result of being oppressed to a greater or lesser degree. In other words in less developed societies many men are just as oppressed by the powerful as women and use the same coping strategies.

He also failed to address the fact that interest doesn't necessarily correlate with ability. Research shows men and women don't differ in empathy unless men know they are being judged, which suggests it is a culturally-imposed trait and definitely not universal.

He makes a lot of assumptions without bothering to explain them, eg: assuming effective meritocracy and blindly ignoring his own caveats, never resolving the conflict with his own arguments. He never once presents ANY evidence that cognitive differences between men/women influence performance in software engineering.

Here are just a few papers: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2005-11115-001 http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-01642-012 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2000.... http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9450.1963.... http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3438111 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10666324 http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/resources/sociology-online-p... https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951011/

There are plenty of books and articles on the topic: https://www.amazon.com/Pink-Brain-Blue-Differences-Troubleso... https://sites.google.com/site/dianehalperncmc/books/sex-diff... http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/11/brains-men-and-women-... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/02/science/monogamys-boost-to... https://aeon.co/essays/is-the-struggle-for-equality-a-fight-... https://carta.anthropogeny.org/moca/topics/sexual-body-size-... http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2014/11/179827-the-data-on-div...

One interesting result is if you can get women to picture themselves as men most of the cases where we do see differences disappears, again suggesting the vast majority of differences are cultural: http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/picture-yourself-as-a-s...

Honestly it doesn't take much effort to stop with the confirmation bias. Do some actual research on your own and don't just look for sources that reinforce your existing biases.

James Damore wrote a document mostly describing his feelings and sprinkled in a few footnotes to make it look like he had done some research. He is woefully out of date with the current research (because he obviously didn't do any). That's pretty much what everyone does regarding this topic, both on HN and elsewhere.

It has become a demoralizing slog to repeatedly attempt to educate people when they are both a) so ignorant on a topic and b) so absolutely certain they are correct despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I suppose this issue falls into the category of things that "everyone knows" so people Dunning-Kruger themselves into a position without giving it any thought.

The question of whether there are biological differences that make men and women suited for different tasks has been studied for decades. There are mountains of data. Brilliant men and women have written extensively on the topic. For the love of God, please take the time to educate yourself.

Even if you want to cling to the idea that women aren't as suited to programming (despite the evidence to the contrary) you could at least avoid doing an incompetent job by being aware of the research in the field.

There have been many opinions in favor of it as well, many from psychologists. So I too suggest you take the time to educate yourself of that part of the opinion spectrum.

>>But even with that, there may be biological reasons why men and women are interested in different things. Which may mean more women in job A, or more men in job B.

You say biological reasons, I say social programming. The whole nature vs. nurture debate has been going on for ages.

Basically, we have no way of knowing what portion of women's tendencies to gravitate towards certain jobs and careers can be attributed to biological factors vs. to the way they were raised by their parents and conditioned by society.

Consider this: back in the 50s and 60s, women dominated computer programming. It was seen as an obvious career choice for young, talented women. This article explains the history much better:


I'm not sure why this was down voted. I would say other than lifting heavy things and childbirth, every other difference would be social programming, or just societal norms. I mean read about female Russian snipers in WWII. Read about Confederate women during the Civil War running their farms by themselves while their husbands were off to war. Hell the whole pink for girls and blue for boys is a recent social phenomenon of the latter 20th century. FDR had his baby pictures wearing a dress. The person who programmed the Apollo guidance system (it was 100% guided) was a woman.

My point is women aren't into programming because lack of biological ability.

> You say biological reasons, I say social programming.

The science says biological reasons:



Among others...

> Basically, we have no way of knowing what portion of women's tendencies to gravitate towards certain jobs and careers can be attributed to biological factors vs. to the way they were raised by their parents and conditioned by society.

That isn't true, either.

Let's look at Sweden, which is a modern egalitarian society. If society is largely gender-blind, then people should overwhelmingly make "free" choices. i.e. choices which are strongly influenced by biology.

And we see that. Jobs in Sweden are still overwhelmingly split by gender. Engineers are overwhelmingly male, and people-oriented jobs (nurse, etc.) are overwhelmingly female.

Here's another discussion of gender differences:


To deny that men and women are psychologically different is to claim that evolution / biology works on the physical attributes, but does not work on the corresponding mental attributes.

That claim just cannot possibly be true.

Counter devils advocate - let me remap what you're saying to race:

>> racism in tech is a thing, and that it shouldn't be.

>To play devils advocate, racism is a thing everywhere. In some cases, there are good biological reasons why blacks and whites are treated differently, e.g. basketball (mostly blacks) versus swimming (mostly whites)

If the above doesn't sound insane to you, I don't know what to tell you.

White men represent only 23.3% of NBA players despite white people representing 63% of the greater population of the US. Clearly this is evidence of systemic discrimination against whites and the NBA needs to step up their diversity efforts to balance it out. In addition, blacks need to rein in their offensive and exclusionary 'hip-hop' culture in the NBA as it is making whites uncomfortable and reluctant to join or remain in the league.

> If the above doesn't sound insane to you, I don't know what to tell you :)

it would be interesting to actually look at various aspects of human history and the touted expert contributors to various fields...

We, on HN, are keenly aware of Turing's contributions - the fact that he was gay has literally no bearing on our appreciation of his contributions;

Wifi as you know it (frequency hopping) was invented by a female

Many people with many contributions to the advancement of modern civilization were... human!!!!

Now, if we really want to be inclusionary - who are the undersung animals? The jelly fish, lab rats, telomeres of the immortal, Pavlov's dogs?

This whole argument is quite stupid (stupid that it is even an argument)

Fighting over merits is bullshit; hey Sur Gregor Clegane, squeeze through that doggy door. Hey Gary Coleman, bring me that 500 pound axel!

Physicality surely has its pigeon holes, mental capabilities do as well: clearly gender does not.

Brianne of Tarth could dig a bigger ditch than theon or Tyrion...

The sad thing is that Google has built itself on an interview process of supposed meritocracy - and witha single memo exposed themselves as not being such... wage fixing etc...

Human judgement is the real culprit. Bias. Where is it learned, innate or developed? How do personal, professional,psychological, physiological or familial bias occur and present?

Well, they clearly just present all around you! They are everywhere - so how to judge another?

The problem with the issue at hand is that we are using professional/physiological situations to judge psychological/other factors...

Bias silos exist. I'll defer my time to the gentleman with better articulation ability than I.

>In addition, blacks need to rein in their offensive and exclusionary 'hip-hop' culture in the NBA as it is making whites uncomfortable and reluctant to join or remain in the league.

Wow. You realize that you, or whoever you read or heard this from, has absolutely no evidence to back this up, right? Not to mention we're talking about passing up millions because someone played Future in the locker room, if there's a white dude that'd do that, I dunno what to say. But best of all is when you listen to white players in the league and how they've picked up black colloquialisms in the speech (listen to Dirk Nowitzski talk), or are rather comfortable doing shit like that time fucking Doug Collins and Jalen Rose were quoting "What happened to that boy?" by Baby and Clipse.


(it's a play on current PC tropes on the lack of women in tech and how insane they sound when applied to race/nba)

Just because you can substitute words doesn't invalidate the point.

Replace with religion and blacks and whites with Jews and muslims, sure the paragraph can still be written as such, but still doesn't change the original meaning.

Perhaps you'd like to expand on what "the original meaning" was to you?

If it wasn't obvious, one of my points was that being good at swimming is just that - it has nothing to do with software engineering. The whole "inherently different" argument is a red-herring if it has no provable bearing on the ability to do the (software engineering) work.

edit: my main point though, was that differences in statistical sport affinities are not, and do not explain "racism" - just as difference in statistical career-affinity is not, and doesn't explain "sexism".

The person you replied to already pointed out that the difference has no bearing on their ability to do the work in question, and that, as such, men and women should be treated equally in that area.

>Where those biological differences aren't effective (e.g. typing on a keyboard), then yes, men and women should be treated the same.

You argued against a strawman.

While I appreciate your point of view, I do think there are more differences between men and women than there are between the various "races" of humans.

That being said as long as a job/role's requirements are appropriate and fair, there should be no reason a senegalese (black) woman, philippino (asian) man, or danish (caucasian) woman can't be a software engineer, soldier, nurse, or nanny.

> Counter devils advocate - let me remap what you're saying to race:

That makes about as much sense as saying "let me remap what you're saying to hair color"

> If the above doesn't sound insane to you, I don't know what to tell you.

It does sound insane, because it is insane.

But it's your text. Not mine.

The problem is that you're making the following insinuation:

there are no more differences between men and women than between black people and white people

That statement is simply not true. In terms of physical prowess, men are stronger, faster, etc. There is just no question:

* the record for mens "clean and jerk" is as much as the womans record... plus the woman who's doing the record

* national / olympic womens teams (soccer, baseball, etc.) compete with mens high school teams... and lose.

* the records for swimming, sprinting, marathon, etc. show huge difference by sex

What is insane is denying biological reality, while insinuating I'm no better than a racist.

The jump from sexism to racism made perfect sense to me, they're pretty analogous; an entire group of people has significant and pervasive adverse experiences over a part of their identity. ..We don't have a systematic cultural problem over people born with red hair, but if we did there would be a word for that too. Your analogy sounds insane and his doesn't because his stays within the domain of cultural issues.

More importantly, your original point dodges the issue of sexism altogether. Obviously there are biological differences between men and women, but sexism is not an issue over who is able to bear children and who has more estrogen in their body. Sexism is about an unfair social power dynamic. Nobody is denying that there is a biological reality to it; the conversation is over how to work with that knowledge to give both men and women an even playing field.

Take one example that men will sometimes fall in love with women they work with, or vice versa. Without any rules or precedence you can end up with seriously messed up power dynamics, like a man in a more senior position pressuring women into unwanted sexual situations in which rejection puts them at fear for their jobs. Sexual harassment laws exist to try to protect against this, and inter-office relationships are generally forbidden as a preventative measure.

Sexism is a really difficult and nuanced issue, and to say "yeah but this will always be an issue because men and women are biologically different" trivializes it and takes away from the discussion.

> The jump from sexism to racism made perfect sense to me, they're pretty analogous;

Except I wasn't being sexist. The re-phrasing of my comment as racism was offensive and demeaning, and entirely not analogous.

> Sexism is about an unfair social power dynamic

Such as men dying earlier than women? Such as 80% of homeless being men? Such as 93% of "on the job" deaths being male? Such as never-married childless women earning more than equivalent men... going back to the 1960's?

I could go on.

My point is that everyone touts the party line of "OMFG women are oppressed". Very few people look into the facts. And when all the facts are presented, it's a whole lot more nuanced than "think of the Women!"

> to say "yeah but this will always be an issue because men and women are biologically different" trivializes it and takes away from the discussion.

You're reading a whole lot more into my comment than I said. That shows rather more projection that reality-based discussion.

> In tech people get away with wildly unprofessional behavior as long as "they get stuff done", and personally I never felt that was acceptable.

Which is completely false and not based on any facts. Businesses have different policies. You can't reduce all IT in world to a few businesses in the Silicon Valley. That's preposterous. And I doubt IT has anymore "unprofessional behavior" than any other industries. There is absolutely no data that demonstrate that.

> And I doubt IT has anymore "unprofessional behavior" than any other industries.

My girlfriend works for a major company in corporate real estate. The stories she tells put most stuff I've seen leveled at IT to shame. Managers that scream at employees in front of everyone else and bring them to tears, constant bickering, backstabbing, and general refusal to do their own job or help you do your job in any possible way, even though you're on the same team, people getting thrown under the bus constantly, people getting panic attacks and taking leaves from the company because they've been verbally abused so much, you have to have a high level of assertiveness and a fighting attitude to get anything accomplished. She's gone from men in charge of her to women, and she thinks it actually got worse with women in charge, because they pretend to be friendly but are secretly doing everything they can to undermine you.

How these people stay employed and these companies stay in business I have no idea. I know the turnover is really, really high at her company, and they've lost a lot of bids recently.

It's not true of everyone or every company in corporate real estate, but the nature of it seems to foster and encourages that type of behavior. Big money, high stakes, if you win the company millions of dollars in business they let you be a total asshole. Well, at least if you're high enough on the totem pole.

She's been trying to get out of it for years, but she can't find anything else that pays as well for her skillset.

> I studied CS and I never learned about what it means to be a professional software developer.

This is a shame. As part of my CS degree I was required to take a "management" module that covered a bunch of legal aspects of the job, and a professional skills module that covered a bit more of what it means to be a professional engineer. The modules weren't great and many (myself included) looked down on them a bit while taking them, but looking back I know they helped and I would advocate for more education like that in CS degrees.

I think an interesting issue is that the higher you are in a hierarchy the more rules don't apply. It's impossible to govern with rules because they are the source of rules themselves.

Some rules transcend companies and are socially tethered like ethic, morals, maturity, responsibility, etc... But disregard for social judgement is actually a strength in achieving power.

This may be why grassroots true change takes so long. The upper levels needs to pass away because they can't be convinced because they aren't bound by anything.

Most people think they can handle power, but the "true" freedom it provides will corrupt almost anyone because most people are unaware of just how much they delegate thoughts and outlooks to outside frameworks. ("Culture")

"Isn't it time we have conversations about what it means to be a professional in tech?"

Many cultures and subcultures in many times and places have had cultural protocols for people to indicate that they are interested in each other and would potentially like to do whatever, and protocols for acceptance and rejection of said advances. Perhaps tech (and to be honest the office workplace in general) needs to work something out for that. Most "nice" people end up holding themselves to restrictions that turn out to be grossly stricter than what the actual law says, so the "nice" people feel stifled when they actually aren't, and the not-so-nice people have no real guidelines and just do as they please.

It would at least give some guidelines to people on how to act, because right now the guidelines are all mostly negative... don't do this, don't do that, don't do the other thing, but I don't know the positive guidelines. That's sort of difficult to navigate through.

So, caveats. First, please don't read into my first paragraph anything that isn't there. I am not endorsing any particular set of protocols nor claiming that any particular set was perfect. I am simply saying it might be helpful if something existed; feel free to craft it to your sensibilities. Second, I'm married with no intention of changing that, not in SV, and psychologically and politically not a match for SV culture anyhow, so I'm not trying to suggest any specific protocol because anything I'd suggest wouldn't stick anyhow. (Or possibly there is a clear protocol and I'm just so out of it that I don't know what it is on account of not caring, but I'd expect more people to be discussing it in these matters and I don't see that, so I assume this is not the problem.) Third, I make no claim that the mere existence of such protocols would suddenly magically make all harassment go away, but having something, especially something with positive suggestions about how to go about courting, would be a good start. It's hard to referee a game with no lines on the field. (That may be the most important sentence in this post.)

My only specific feedback is that "nobody should ever be approached for anything ever and anyone who is approached has all rights to go arbitrarily ballistic on social media" is simply unrealistic; humans are gonna human. Part of the eventual contract would have to be that whatever an "approach" is, you do get one chance, and if you get the "go away and never raise this again" then yes, you are obligated to do that. The protocol could include some way of opting out entirely; without an argument that this should be used by tech, as an example, I would point out this is one of the purposes wedding rings serve.

It's an interesting suggestion, but it may also distract from the sexism issue.

For instance, the company in question discriminates against women when it comes to promotion of employees. I have a friend who worked at a very well known company where she experienced the same problem.

I think these apparently structural problems should receive continuous attention, otherwise maybe they will never be solved. So, I think it might not be a good idea to shift the focus away from that discussion.

I disagree with the "many other industries" part--I'd say maturity level overall is pretty low and incompetence among men and women in the US is pretty high. There's not enough emphasis on business ethics, but that isn't the true problem, it really goes back to basic education and how most people don't really have one. Business itself is simply toxic to humans and it doesn't help that it drives people insane.

"I'm wondering though: is this just about sexism, or is it about professionalism and maturity?"

I don't think it has anything to do with either one of those things, but everything to do with some people just being sociopaths. It seems to be concentrating on people with power over others.


If you are wondering about the down-voting I can explain. While both your points are correct your tone is disrespectful.

While I appreciate your comment, I think you are wrong. The facts don't fit the desired narrative, that's all.

She couldn't prove sexism in court. Twice now.


Why would you defend false allegations by Pao? They hurt women that actually do experience it. They also give more evidence to the fact that women do use the system to get rich quick by suing in hopes of getting a massive settlement.

She should be condemned and her claims should not be used to demonstrate sexism, which is what you're trying to do.

Did you mean to reply to a different comment? This one says

> It's easy to get hung up on the particulars of Pao's story and get sidetracked into defending or judging her, but I feel that is besides the point.

in its opening sentence.

This crosses into personal attack. You don't have anything like the basis you would need to credibly post such inflammatory claims, so this comment breaks the HN guidelines. We ban accounts that do this, and I'm sorry to say you've done it repeatedly in the past. Please fix this if you want to continue commenting here.


What exactly is a "personal attack" here? I posted widely published information. There's even a link.

Obviously you went beyond facts into making an unsupported claim about motive.

I think that it's really interesting that conversations about venture capital and conversations about engineering both get to be lumped into a more general conversation about sexism in Silicon Valley.

A lot of engineers have a good bit to say against the existence of widespread sexism in engineering, myself included. Engineering in computer science has long been represented by a nearly nonexistent barrier to entry outside of one's capabilities and their relevance to the position. Even traditional, and technically very relevant, lateral predictors to output are such as formal education, are largely ignored. Your accomplishments and capabilities interviewing are ultimately what get the hire, with very few exceptions. Anybody who has been in a hiring position can speak to the utilitarian pursuit of the placement; race and sex are the last thing on the mind come hiring time.

All of that being said, however, I don't find it remotely hard to believe that Ellen Pao's recounting of her experience in the world of venture capital is far from the truth. I'm actually relatively certain that she's spared us a good bit of the details. But this isn't engineering, this is finance; quite rarely about the utility of any particular individual in a role, and almost entirely centered around pretty horrible characteristics. Cronyism is the most important characteristic in the club, trading favors, trading connections, looking the other way, getting away with this, getting away with that. The whole thing is a zero sum game, because nobody within is creating any value, you're only ever vying for a piece of the pie baked by the outsiders who actually produce things. As Pao points out, any partner you have largely considers you as a mechanism by which they are to have less investment capital available themselves, and any senior sees you as a way to bubble up the greatest picks for them to skim off the top.

The point is that the business is not about merit, it's about being in the club and playing ball. To deviate from the standards of the club just means you're less of a sure thing when it comes to being a crony, and it doesn't take much to understand why a woman is an outsider in a club like this.

So when we talk about sexism in Silicon Valley, let's please not conflate these two very different businesses. One of them is made up of worker bees, and we don't care what kind of bee you are as long as you're outputting honey. The other one is literally Wall Street pretending like it's anything but.

I agree with your "how utilitarian the hiring process is" but be aware that this starts earlier. As a CTO I was wondering how to hire more women for more diversity [1] because not enough women applied. After going to girls camps, meetups, talking to women with not much success (not due to the women), I asked some female engineers - especially one from Soundcloud, thanks! They told me my job ad is already wrong. This opened my eyes and the world was no longer the same.

It caters to males with: We give you 1,2,3 and want you to have skills 4,5,6. Having having several job ads targetting several audiences helps a lot e.g. fresh from university, senior developers who have seen it all, women, dads who want 9-5.

[1] essenially more diversity results in better ideas and market fit with a tradeoff of less productivity measured in quantity

Can you give a more explicit example of how the job Ad should look? I don't quite understand.

(These are generalizations as happens with marketing personas [1] - individual targetting with ads would be better, also for real I would spend more than 5 min to create those personas)

Many women are more self-critical than many men. So if you have a huge list of needed skills, women might apply less often. Do write only the really relevant skills, don't copy and past from previous apps. Do not require what can easily be learned (e.g. JS frameworks). Add more about they why of your company, why do you exist? What makes your company really unique? Women might think about maternity, are you especially equipped to handle this? Women - again generalized - be interested in social interactions, how does your company provide them? They might fear sexism, how do you deal with that? Write one ad for this persona.

Students from university are eager to try out the stuff they've learned, they want to learn new stuff and use the shiniest toys. They don't care if working longer. Write one ad for this persona.

35 year old dads have different priorities, and the job might not be their biggest priority to spend time on. So they might prefer 9-5 jobs. Write one ad for this persona.

Senior developers might be older, have seen it all. They've been in the mill of new shiny toys for years, and everything looks the same. Write one ad for this persona.

[1] http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/persona-template-for-agile-...

A bit off topic, but I think the whole "shiny toy" perspective misses a lot. Both junior and senior developers are fundamentally thinking about maximizing the value they get from their employment. The value generally isn't "fun" and "shiny". I suspect that maps somewhat accurately to what a junior developer wants, but mostly because they don't have enough context (yet) to distinguish between "shiny" and "great for my career".

Anyway, the pitch for all of the above is "This job will be great for your career". Describe to junior developers what their next resume will look like. Lists of shiny tech probably work, but honestly think about what a great 3-5 year resume looks like and help them blow that out of the water. Describe to a senior developer how they'll have more agency and autonomy, how they'll be helping steer the organization at a strategic level, etc. A senior developer wants to be working on promising tech, but they need to be able to call shots at the same time. Otherwise, they're just a more experienced associate developer.

Or maybe the job won't be amazing for their career. I guess that's fine, but in that case you should be describing other benefits that make up for that.

All of that goes for all candidates: Male, female, married, single, junior, and senior. "Here's why this will be the best job you can take right now."

Other than the hostile and draining work environment, Pao's biggest complaint was that her employer wasn't giving her the career opportunities she thought she deserved. It wasn't tech but the major differences is what a shot looks like in an investment role versus a development role.

I have seen a local city event going through several iterations of marketing for what is practically the same form of event, and it has been personally very interesting to see how depending on the wording the participants end up being dominated by either women or men.

(Generalizations clause applying), marketing that focused on adventure and competition caused more men than women to sign up. Marketing focus on self improvement and social engagement did the opposite. The data has a low sample size (<10), so take that for what it is.

Were there less than 10 participants in total or less then 10 iterations of the event? In the latter case, the sample size would be much bigger. Every single person deciding whether to go or not provides a data point.

10 iterations. The number of participants was set at maximum 15 women and 15 men, where the first event had 15 men and 4 women and the second event had 15 women and 2 men. I don't recall the exact numbers for the later events, but it was interesting to watch the observed experimentation in the marketing material, and I was there for all but one of the events.

This seems like a step towards the diversity and inclusion Damore suggested in his memo.

This is great advice on the importance of persona driven design.

[Edit] You should A/B test.

https://textio.com/ is basically dedicated to this problem and has a solid blog.

I fear that maybe there are things that we're so used to that we don't even notice them, kinda like David Foster Wallace' allegory of fish not noticing the water.

The idea of there even being a completely objective way to evaluate people is already suspect. I'm pretty sure, for example, that there are many teams where spending long hours in the office will, all else being equal, be considered a good sign. And of course, when decisions about promotions are made, it doesn't hurt to have cultural rapport with your superiors. And that may include football, or being a useful teammate in Counterstrike more often than a shared appreciation of theatre.

It's really hard to objectively evaluate programmers, and there are many disciplines where it was shown that they do discriminate even though they would profess to be completely objective. One famous example is the hiring of musicians for orchestras, where behind-the-curtain auditions resulted in many more women getting hired than before.

Note that I'm pretty sure these people making hiring decisions did actually believe they were being objective. They did not intent to do any harm. But that's not enough. You have to actively work against some parts of human nature, and try to find ways to make it impossible for yourself to fall into such traps.

> Engineering in computer science has long been represented by a nearly nonexistent barrier to entry outside of one's capabilities and their relevance to the position [...] Your accomplishments and capabilities interviewing are ultimately what get the hire"

I'd just like to highlight that this is specific to Silicon Valley, and maybe the wider startup/GAFA scene. It's definitely not the case in the "old school" in which 90% of software engineers work. If you're looking for a developer job in Accenture Bangalore, Citigroup London, or Lufthansa IT Frankfurt, I guarantee that your diploma matters more than your capabilities.

I've made it to CTO/CIO/EVP level positions in Fortune 500 companies with no college degree, though admittedly outlier technical and social skills. My anecdotal experience does not match what you are describing.

That said, I also think the person you are replying to misses the point in a big way. Just because hiring managers aren't discriminating overtly doesn't mean there are not serious sexism problems in the industry. Not the least of which is that many women don't want to work in the gross/creepy sausage-factory that is many IT shops. Hell, some dude a few posts up was saying he would quit if told to act professionally. How do you think that is going to go when a woman joins his team and it's time to take down the porno wallpaper?

"the gross/creepy sausage-factory that is many IT shops"

Not sure the sexism is where you think it is.

"How do you think that is going to go when a woman joins his team and it's time to take down the porno wallpaper?"

I think you have not worked in a lot of IT shops. Never saw any porno items in there. Only shop I've seen porno wallpapers was in an auto parts warehouse and only in the male changing room.

I agree. And I hope this Ellen Pao issue cracks this system wide-open.

Because there is systematic bias in finance (would they put somebody with a tattoo on a board? somebody with a nose piercing? somebody who didn't go to college? As well as minority underrepresentation)

I can't imagine if boards did blind interviews, or even merit-based interviews.

I think the uncomfortable truth is, we in engineering try so hard to make our own little meritocracy, but we live underneath a bunch of spoiled 1% capitalers who see people who have less than a million (or of low class) as non-people and they keep wrecking our work [because they aren't actually as smart as Sergey Brin for example] and turning everything we make into ad-tech. (All the while patting themselves on the back)

I don't find it remotely hard to believe that Ellen Pao's recounting of her experience in the world of venture capital is far from the truth

Can you clarify this? I'm confused because it seems at odds with the rest of your post.

My point is that a lot of engineers get very annoyed when the topic of "sexism in Silicon Valley" is brought up, because anybody who is in a hiring position for specifically engineering knows exactly how utilitarian the hiring process is.

For positions and treatment of individuals working in venture capital, however, I don't imagine very many engineers would have much to weigh in on. So what I'm getting at is that I'm pointing out how overloaded the concept of "Silicon Valley" is. Engineering and venture capital are two completely different worlds with the same title slapped on them, and it makes it very frustrating when communicating about things like this. I sympathize with Pao, but the title of the article is literally "This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley."

> My point is that a lot of engineers get very annoyed when the topic of "sexism in Silicon Valley" is brought up, because anybody who is in a hiring position for specifically engineering knows exactly how utilitarian the hiring process is.

To me, that shows a stunning lack of personal awareness. I've done hiring in tech. I'm an engineer. I'm also a woman. And I know I'm biased against certain groups. I purposefully offset that by making sure there is some sort of measurement (usually a coding exercise) with as objective as possible metrics for judgement (I explicitly state the criteria they'll be judged on so they're aware) that dictates whether they move on to the next stage or not.

If I need to offset my subconscious biases as a woman in tech who spent many of her formative years living in different African countries, than I can only imagine the types of biases a white man who has lived primarily in the suburbs will need to be combatting.

For such a man to be "annoyed" because "anybody who is in a hiring position for specifically engineering knows exactly how utilitarian the hiring process is" is a major part of the problem. You can't correct for biases (often subconscious or quite subtle) you're refusing to acknowledge.

Your example of how you offset your bias is by establishing an objective metric via a coding exercise. That is literally the most common practice...

I have a series of technical questions that I ask a candidate specifically meant to isolate important technical abilities. Each of my questions almost obviously highlights one particular problem-solving ability that I expect from a quality engineer, and each question's answer is evaluated to ensure that that one specific criteria being met.

The objectivity by which I evaluate this is subject, from your perspective, because I've alerted you that I'm a white male. However, you know literally nothing about me, the questions I ask, or my primary motive when seeking an employee. I am the director of engineering at my company, and it would be extremely detrimental to my own team if I were to pass up a quality candidate of any race or gender who fits my specific (and purely technical) criteria for a hire.

Your response instead says that I demonstrate a stunning lack of personal awareness, even though not only do you not know anything about me, but I am actively engaging in a conversation about the topic for which I've clearly reflected heavily on. If you want to be less subjective (and quite frankly, racist and sexist) in your own evaluation of an individual you don't know, I suggest that you not make so many assumptions about a person upon discovering that they are a white male.

> ...anybody who is in a hiring position for specifically engineering knows exactly how utilitarian the hiring process is.

Well, it attempts to be utilitarian. However, there are routinely articles on HN, from the perspective of the prospect and the company, about how much of a crapshoot interviewing for coding is.

Yes, it's a crapshoot. There can be bad hiring decisions. There can be bad business decisions. And people can be jerks or rude. People are passed over promotions. That happens all the time to everyone. But it's problematic when someone sees each event as happening to them as some conspiracy against their race/gender/age/whatever, as opposed to someone just disagreeing with them or dismissing their argument because they think it's a weak argument. And this is made worse because some people view everything through the lense of identity. It is literally the only developed conceptual framework they have. And when you try to explain, no, it was because I thought Y was better, then there must be unconscious bias, that you weren't even aware of.

So fundamentally this debate is about the existence of an objective reality that does not have, at its base, gender or race or other attributes. Most of us who are engineers see a different base and it's pretty condescending to have someone explain to you that you prefer the person who aced the interview to the person who struggled because of some unconscious bias, or that you asked the wrong questions, etc.

When I interview, I have a bank of questions and answers already written out. Each question has a well-defined definition of passing. I decide which question to ask based on the topics that the person lists on their resume. That is, question selection happens from reading the resume, and it happens before the interview. If they say they know javascript, I give them something from the JS pile. If they say they know crypto, I give them something from that pile. I don't want to ambush them with stuff they don't know. The assumption is that if they know the stuff they say they know well, then they can learn what they don't know as needed.

And believe me, there are huge differences in how people do on these questions. For example, in the javascript test, I have some code with vulnerabilities that I ask them to find. I give them the code, explain what it does, explain what I want them to do, and either stay in the room or walk away, depending on what they want. After 20 min, I come back and ask them what they found. A large number of people find nothing. Some find one, but not the biggest one. Some find everything. Some are not able to understand how the code even works. This is for a security role.

If they say they know crypto, then I have a bank of crypto questions. For example, I write down a common authentication and key establishment protocol. Then I ask them what could an attacker do if the last confirmation message was not sent. There are huge differences in outcomes. Some people are confused and have no idea. Others start confidently making stuff up. Others actually identify attacks that would be possible, demonstrating an understanding of cryptographic protocols. None of these differences are based on race, gender, age, etc.

There isn't too much of a middle ground -- most people either succeed or fail. Now, they may have failed because they were having a bad day, or maybe they don't do well at technical interviews, or they might have lied on their resume, but there is an objective reality. This is what people mean when they say the interviews are utilitarian. But I honestly don't think that a large portion of the population is capable of understanding that. They really see everything in terms of identity, so the questions must have been sexist, or I was being unfair to the interviewee.

Now the battle becomes, must everyone else also reject objective reality? Must everyone else throw away the notion of ranking candidates based on their ability to reason abstractly and demonstrate problem solving skills in a live interview, or must we just adopt a notion of "qualification" ? E.g. do we give everyone a job based on their GPA/list of degrees, or is there room for performance based evaluation of individuals? This debate is very important to tech, because there are a lot of incompetent engineers with degrees that really impact a team. There is a big difference in productivity between good engineers and bad engineers. Joel Spolsky is spot on here: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/10/25/the-guerrilla-guid...

In engineering, actual talent matters, and it matters a lot. This isn't like hiring a bus driver. You don't get promoted for having been there for X years, and you don't get hired based on your credentials. Your idea doesn't get adopted because "it's your turn" to have your way. Individual talent matters, and the fact that we may not always detect it accurately is not evidence of the hiring process not being utilitarian or any kind of identity-based discrimination.

I often think the bias occurs before the interview in terms of the pipeline. For me, that's my largest self-correcting area. There are groups of people or people who present themselves in a certain way that I simply don't want to interview because it feels like 'wasting my time'. Clearly that's bullshit and I make an active effort to overcome those biases and, if anything, now am overcorrecting (a better mistake to make imo). Once they're in the room, you're outline seems like a solid way to measure they're abilities.

Of course I'm not saying there isn't opportunity for bias here as well (mainly in the selection of the question), but you've offset it magnificently by having written down the correct answer and (hopefully) prioritizing getting said answer rather than the manner in which it was conveyed ("I think..", questions rather than statements ("It's x, right?"), "Maybe it's..", etc. since those types of self-effacing comments are often seen and presented as polite forms of communicating for women).

In my case, I'm not a recruiter, so I interview everyone they ask me to interview -- I've never played a role in the original vetting.

I think most large companies have a formalized system of initial screening -- which has been criticized for relying on keywords and such. It's done by HR. After that, there's a phone screen which is much like an in person interview -- the questions should be pre-written based on the resume and generally they are. In my company I've worked to write up large banks of questions w/answers and distributed them to people doing phone screens for this purpose, and I've used that in my own phone screens.

What people should do is formalize the interview process which helps in so many ways -- a repeatable process with repeatable questions lets you compare people across times and gives a lot of insight. It also helps reduce bias.

I do think that small companies tend to do a worse job that big companies with established HR practices. That's not only true for HR, it's true across the board. Young people who are inexperienced are going to make mistakes. Certainly there is going to be "culture" type bias in start ups and other small companies at least during the screening process. I wouldn't say that's too relevant for "Silicon Valley", as you have these issues in small businesses in every industry.

While it may be true that the hiring process in the tech industry is has a more utilitarian basis than in other industries, it is quite a jump to go from there to concluding that sexism in tech (at the "worker bee" level) is not a problem.

Consider the high-profile stories of how women get treated in the industry after they are hired.

https://techcrunch.com/2014/03/15/julie-ann-horvath-describe... https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-on...

Even if we assume the hiring process is 100% utilitarian and unbiased (which itself is quite a questionable claim), the tech industry still has a serious problem with the way it treats women once they are hired.

So attempting to argue that the problem comes from the venture capital side and not the engineering side comes across as a little naive.

Your entire position seems to be:

Traditional barriers to entry, such as having a college degree, tend to be ignored in a small subset of programming jobs (notably Silicon Valley).

Therefore, the hiring process in programming is more utilitarian than many other industries. Your talents and accomplishments matter the most in getting you hired.

Therefore, sexism in tech is exaggerated.

No, it's not utilitarian. Cultural fit dominates as a hiring criterion in software dev, and "cultural fit" can be a proxy for racism, sexism, any sort of discrimination you can think of.

I can tell you that about 90% of candidates I speak to are male, about 80% are white, Eastern European, or South & East Asian. The demographics of the hiring pool are very much aligned with the demographics of the workforce.

In terms of "cultural" fit, you're right. I do a lot of work with Hindu Indians and Muslim Pakistanis, because I have an enormous "cultural" overlap with them as a white male from Southern California. Oh, wait, I actually hired them because they were excellent engineers.

I think what people are saying is that they don't believe you when you say that hiring in IT is only utilitarian. You think you are being utilitarian, but instead you are leaning on your biases. In the same way the person in the article said that they hired women because there are some jobs they only feel comfortable giving to women. This is a utilitarian perspective -- women are better at X, I want X to be done well, I will give X to a woman. In the article this was described as "grunt work".

Someone might think, "I need to hire an ivy league graduate to do the algorithms work" and feel they are being utilitarian. After all, there must be some value in the incredible price tag of that education.

For me, that's still feeling a bit iffy, but much more reasonable. The more we discriminate, the more discrimination we embrace. At what point is discrimination good and at what point is it bad?

There are clearly protected classes where we are not legally allowed to discriminate. There are classes where we can discriminate, but shouldn't. And there are classes where we must discriminate, otherwise we would just be hiring random people off the street.

And even though I completely agree with everything you wrote, I think there is value in reflecting on what it means to be discriminatory and what focusing on utility might bring us. While I think it is very much beside the point of your post (which I thought was excellent), there is a bit of hubris to gloss over the issue of hiring for utility without examining how this is problematic.

Before you ask -- a different model may be not to hire for utility, but rather to consider hiring as a responsibility you take on. Your responsibility is to help that person be successful. Are you able to do it it? That, in my experience, is a far better view than hiring for utility.

The problem I have with the allegation of "leaning on biases" is that it is impossible to disprove. You can never get out from under that allegation no matter how hard you try! NO ONE is without bias, no one is completely objective because we make decisions based on past experience and there's no way to create past experiences that are identical for everyone. I know from past traumas in my own life that I have heavy biases towards lots of things and I will never betray those because to do so is to deny how much pain was caused. That is life and it's time we grew up and got over it already.

I think the key is not to try to avoid biases (which sounds like strange advice, I admit). Discrimination is how to separate bad from good. Everyone also has preferences which help us select good (for us) results. We have experience which guides us to choices that have been successful in the past. All of that is bias -- it influences our choices and not all of it is bad.

It isn't bias, per se, that is problematic. What creates difficulty are the consequences for poor choices. What we colloquially call "discrimination" is really someone being blind (or uncaring) to the results of their own poor judgement. All poor judgement is harmful, but there are some classes that we single out for special treatment in society.

There are many examples in society where we make "allowances" based on discrimination. We might accept smaller women fire fighters than we do men. We might accept people from certain religions to wear slightly different uniforms. We might allow people with a physical impairment to have an aide for taking a test. By and large, these are choices that are meant to create good consequences, but they are discriminatory nonetheless. Indeed, it is societal bias which determines which allowances are considered to have good consequences and which are not (I expect that some people would question or reject one or two of my points, for example).

Of course, not everyone is good at making judgements. Additionally we sometimes have cultural biases which encourage us to make certain poor judgements. It's important to realise that all poor judgement is harmful. Honestly, it doesn't matter if you make my life a misery because of my skin colour or because you don't like the way I talk. It doesn't even matter if you do it simply because you are unskillful and don't realise (or care) that you are doing it.

But you can't make it illegal to be a jerk. Everybody would be in jail at one time in their life. Because there are some classes of problems that are pervasive in society, we can address the problem there. We can address specific problems with large classes of sufferers. The other potential benefit is that hopefully people will start to realise that their behaviour is undesirable. So if they think, "I can't use sexual innuendo as a way to politically lock out a female rival", they might start realising that politically locking out any rival is not really a beneficial strategy.

I say might. I'm not really expecting that much, but one can live in hope ;-)

Sorry for the book. I feel frustrated in the same way that I imagine you do. I just think that we need to help people steer away from the "thought crime" of bias and start getting them to focus on the "real crime" of harassment. If we complain too much about "bias" (or the allegation of bias), I think we risk people getting stuck on that point and never getting around to discussing how we learn to act better to each other.

None of what you said counters the comment you're replying to.

I was confused too by the unnecessary triply inverted double non-negative on steroids.

I read it as "our biases are subconscious". A lot of the white men being jerks to their female and ethnic minority colleagues aren't aware they're doing it, or if they are it's justified because it's a "meritocracy" and the techbros ascribe significantly more merit to whiteness and especially maleness.

Given that reality is subjective, how would you separate "lots of men are being jerks and don't realise" from "lots of women are hyper-sensitive to perceived slights that aren't there and don't realise it"?

I've seen so many accusations of sexism in tech by now that I tire of it. When investigated, it seems to always boil down to one of two things:

1. Some guy hit on me and I thought it was gross^Wharassment.

2. I feel a general aura of sexism that I can't pin down or concretely identify but I'm sure it's there, so I've become instantly triggered by mundane things.

All too often the latter feels like women (and male feminists) on a power trip. The feelings of being offended aren't real, it's just a way to convince/force others to do what they want.

I'm thinking of cases like the dongle incident for that. A trivial remark over nothing that led to guys getting fired. But the Damore memo is another good example. Guy points out that lots of scientists think men and women have different interests for genetic reasons, so maybe we should be more willing to discuss that -> outrage, firings, power successfully exercised. Nobody is ever actually offended by science, or even abstract arguments about science and politics, even if they may claim to be. The offence is manufactured to meet an end goal: the punishment of those who do not bow to the power of the ideology.

Nobody is ever actually offended by science

The people trying to get evolution banned from schools probably are.

Some of the responses I saw to the Damore memo, seemed to boil down to that some things should not be said regardless of truthiness.

Attempts to even look for differences in intelligence or I think personality by race tend to get shouted down rather quickly, because historically they've been used to justify some seriously nasty shit.

The offence is manufactured to meet an end goal: the punishment of those who do not bow to the power of the ideology.

I really don't think it's all that calculated. There are things that people want to believe, or feel it is necessary to believe, and they get upset if you tell them they're wrong (evolution), if you tell them they're only partly right (Damore), or sometimes if you even look like you might be thinking about questioning them (race).

A lot of scientific inquiry is un-politically correct and therefore "wrong" even though it was arrived at by the correct processes. That is especially true when cognitive traits among races have been compared. Many just can't accept certain findings because it's "racist." So instead of making decent progress for humanity, we ignore the hows and whys and flounder around aimlessly instead of seeking a way forward for everyone that might actually succeed.

>All too often the latter feels like women (and male feminists) on a power trip. The feelings of being offended aren't real, it's just a way to convince/force others to do what they want.

Please explain this statement further. I am trying to understand how the person who is harassed is the person with the power or on a power trip as you put it. Wouldn't the best way to avoid such a scenario be to avoid the circumstance of making unwanted or unwelcome statements? How in the world can you definitely tell the feelings of being offended are not real?

If the "person who is harassed" is actually a "person on a power trip", they will find "unwanted or unwelcome statements" in any behavior that you do. Because they can set the definition for "unwanted or unwelcome statements" and will abuse that to satisfy whatever their agenda is.

You can definitely tell in cases where the target of this is a particular individual in a group setting; the double standard in treatment becomes stark after a while.

I am not saying that abuse never happens by someone who is looking to get rid of someone they simply don't like or a boss that gave them a bad review. It has happened and no doubt it will happen again. However, rest assured that it does not take long for the person who is complaining of unwanted or unwelcome statements to see that, historically at least, they are viewed as the problem.

In general, businesses, regardless of industry, have tended to view complainants as the troublemakers (or at least a legal risk) and their future at the company is affected in one form or another. Anyone that can sue a company is a threat and threats are not typically viewed positively. The individual may achieve a short-term goal (or satisfy their agenda as you point out) but long-term they are not on the winning end of the game they are playing.

Any individual who would use complaints as a career driver, or to drive whatever agenda you are alluding to, is in for a rude awakening. This would apply to those who complain of harassment, whistleblowers', or simply well intentioned employees. We have yet to come up with a way to resolve the issue and protect reputations, career advancement, etc for the parties involved when it comes to unwanted or unwelcome statements that reasonable people can disagree about.

Note: I am not addressing repeat offenders or blatant harassment. I am only addressing situations where a comment was not meant to offend but is offensive to someone but reasonable people differ on if the comment was offensive. Clearly people are different and what offends one does not offend someone else. These are the difficult situations that I am addressing, not someone showing up in a bathrobe at a coworkers hotel room.

> However, rest assured that it does not take long for the person who is complaining of unwanted or unwelcome statements to see that, historically at least, they are viewed as the problem.

The amount of actual time that "long" takes can vary wildly, and assumes that businesses are generally competent at identifying and eliminating "threats." "Long" can sometimes be years of the behavior. Many businesses, even successful ones, are not fully aware of what goes on inside the company.

Even with those issues aside, none of these things you mention will stop you from being the first victim of someone who manipulatively uses complaints about objectionable comments to screw you over. Most places need a pattern of behavior established before they're willing to assign blame to the complaintant, especially if the complaintant is difficult to fire for other reasons (e.g. is a member of a legally protected class or is connected to someone up the corporate food chain).

And yes, I know you're talking about comments and other things that are subjective like that. Those are the ones most likely to be abused, because they can be interpreted in multiple ways.

> Wouldn't the best way to avoid such a scenario be to avoid the circumstance of making unwanted or unwelcome statements?

And how are we supposed to do that?

Not talk about porn actresses or sex workers maybe for starters.

Any matter that gives you an edge or leg up in business will be utilized period.

> person who is harassed

Depends on if you mean objective, or subjective harassment. Offense could be described as the latter. The power comes from being able to provide the latter, and it being treated as the former.

> Nobody is ever actually offended by science

I'm not going to look it up, but it wouldn't surprise me if science shows that men are more aggressive than women.

It does hurt my feelings when people assume that I'm going to be aggressive/dangerous because I'm a man.

There are many other examples of how science can offend people, but this one affects me the most.

Assuming that's true (and I suspect it is, testosterone is rather powerful), as a male I don't find that to be offensive. If it's indeed true than I can no more be offended by it as I can be offended that in the winter the sun sets earlier than I would like it to. I genuinely have trouble understanding how someone would be offended by the way physics and chemistry work.

Now the issue with some studies that can be considered flawed at best being used as a justification would be a problem but that's an entirely different argument here, I feel.

This idea itself is quite ironic in a self-reflectional way, given that "being offended by something" is also just another manifestation of how physics and chemistry work.

The problem happens when you start digging into such science as the data isn't clean cut. It makes the outrage over scientific data that more complicated.

For example, aggression is context bound by the cultural environment. In some cultures aggression would be to talk to an elder without being spoken to first. To argue then that men are biologically more disposed to mechanically perform such aggression is silly, so we would need to disassemble what aggression is and how it plays out in our culture.

If we take violence, we find a similar patterns. Researchers have tried and failed to find any correlation to violent crime and testosterone levels (as long those are within naturally occurring). Similar, a household with two men has equal risk to have a domestic violence happening as a household with two women. Passive aggression is a different topic all by itself, but is clearly defined as aggression.

The science isn't what is hurtful. What hurts is when people hate me for what I am. Being hated for attributes that a person has (but not necessary defines them) is very harmful. Scientific data can sometime cause this and I would say often do when data is taken out of the cultural context in which it is observed. It doesn't make science the culprit, but it does require a more careful discussion by all sides in order for the data to be useful. The Damore memo is an example where such discussion fell apart almost the instant it was created and blame can be pointed at many places except for science.

We didn't make it to the 21st century by not being aggressive and dangerous.

> When investigated, it seems to always boil down to one of two things

Investigated by whom? Yourself? What criteria are you using, or are you just using your "general aura?"

> The feelings of being offended aren't real

So they are liars?

> Guy points out that lots of scientists think men and women have different interests for genetic reasons

Guy implies that leading to them being less fit for programming without evidence and segues into promoting an alt-right agenda.

> Nobody is ever actually offended by science

People do get offended by poor science used to prop up a political agenda (Global warming, anyone?).

> The offence is manufactured to meet an end goal: the punishment of those who do not bow to the power of the ideology.

So your logical conclusion boils down to a conspiracy theory with the opposing power being a group of lying women on a power-trip. Now why wouldn't people want to enter into a constructive dialogue about gender differences and their effect on the workplace with you to try and improve things?

> Nobody is ever actually offended by science

Nope. What they are offended by are assholes using science incorrectly to back seriously sexist arguments that "explain" how they're inferior.

What about publications that use memos incorrectly to "explain" how their authors are sexist?

You are right that in order to make any progress there needs to be a way of disentangling this mess but you cannot simply create distance from the distasteful situations described in the article. It is important to realise that regardless of which league you are in, it is still the same game that is being played.

This problem cannot be tackled head on - it's simply too pervasive and too corrosive. Perhaps a way out is to look to the values that we hold dear and develop more fully a sense of professional pride that takes merit and adds egality and decency so that being an Engineer means that you hold yourself to a higher standard in all aspects.

I agree, they aren't particularly related and a lot of things get folded under the "tech" umbrella.

I don't find it remotely hard to believe that Ellen Pao's recounting of her experience in the world of venture capital is far from the truth.

What, specifically, makes you say that?

> nobody within is creating any value, you're only ever vying for a piece of the pie baked by the outsiders who actually produce things

What? I wonder how anyone who has real interaction with VC and financial sphere in general can have such an opinion about the industry.

An interesting read. Though, for me, VC in general is not the kind of job that favors people who are nice. When people are rude to you, or try to use you, there's a multitude of ways you can interpret that. For Ellen, it's sexism. What baffled me was that in the opening paragraphs she felt the need to point out that the powerful men were white. For me, it set the tone for the whole article, and painted a clear picture of her attitude towards the case and people involved. Given the current political climate in SV, it's a poor attempt at manipulation, and doesn't help her come off as reasonable.

> " I was sure the white men booked on the flight..."

I agree, saying it was white men who were booked on the plane did sound a bit off to me, but also consider the environment she worked in:

> "When venture capitalists say — and they do say — “We think it’s young white men, ideally Ivy League dropouts, who are the safest bets,” then invest only in young white men with Ivy League backgrounds, of course young white men with Ivy League backgrounds are the only ones who make money for them."

There clearly is a culture in her industry of judging people by age, colour and sex so it is likely that she has become used to doing the same, at least in terms of colour.

This does not make her comment right but it does give it context and should not detract from her main arguments.

I disagree. Ellen Pao is a woman of color, and she has no choice but to be aware of how she is perceived by others and by white men in particular. White guys can afford to be color blind, because racism doesn't affect them personally. She doesn't have that luxury.

A coworker showing up at your hotelroom door in a bathrobe is not "rude". It's textbook sexual harassment. Sexual harassment isn't just in the eye of the beholder, there are clear rules for professional conduct and those rules were repeatedly violated. Note that the _majority_ of women in tech report having been sexually harassed to some degree. So I don't think your skepticism about sexual harassment is helpful, given how ubiquitous it is.

Your suggestion that Pao has a specific negative attitude towards white men (i.e. she dislikes white men) is beyond the pale. This is a really underhanded attempt to discredit her.

> White guys can afford to be color blind, because racism doesn't affect them personally. She doesn't have that luxury.

This has the natural implication that vast majority of white guys are color blind as a result. This assumption can generate a lot of unfounded biases, especially by those who are taught from a young age to perceive every white male as being oblivious to racial issues in their day-to-day lives.

It takes quite a bit of ignorance to be color blind in modern culture regardless of your race. Even without certain groups pushing for awareness at every opportunity.

Outside of maybe rural areas in North America and some parts of Europe it's hard not to be confronted with a wide variety of social interactions with other cultures - but even the bubble of rural areas are being broken down by technology as we all grow up with online identities.

How one confronts other cultures is a different issue than this inherent color blindness, racism is not necessarily a result of obliviousness or total ignorance but many times a result of some harmful - but willful - ideology.

Therefore, I believe it's appropriate to react with at least some skepticism when someone immediately shoehorns peoples races into conversations. Especially when their race would not otherwise have any influence on the subject at hand. In this case it was men talking about sex workers and porn stars, which certainly isn't unique to white men.

That said you shouldn't necessarily be dismissive of race in every topic, people's race has an important influence on their realities and I take issue when people try to pretend it has zero influence. My point is merely is that this should not be limited to just referencing white males, as it's unfair to act like this is a unique phenomenon for the majority of white male. Unless of course you're okay with basing opinions upon cultural stereotypes rather than the variety and shades of grey which make up reality.

The white males she references on the jet are very much the exception to the rule in any American city. This "frat boy" or "bro" culture is a problem that needs to be dealt with, and is a common problem in the finance world, but that doesn't mean it's a standard feature one should expect from white males generally. And most certainly not a basis from which to stereotype them.

Not to mention that sexism is as (or often more) prominent in many Latin American, Arab, and African cultures than you'd find in your average white american male. But even then stereotyping them as such merely based on their race, rather than their local cultures or subcultures, is fraught with risk. Would the men in these racial groups lack of 'color blindness' then make it more or less relevant to bring it up in such a conversation? Or is it only okay as long as it's 'white males'? See the logical issues here?

If she had said "white frat boys" I would have had no issue with the inclusion of race. Context and culture matters.

> What baffled me was that in the opening paragraphs she felt the need to point out that the powerful men were white.

Exactly my thought. The moment I read that word I stopped being neutral towards the article and started considering it as "shit talking".

If you're writing about sexism there is really no reason to point out the men involved were white.

It sounds like "Look at those privileged nasty men!!! And they harrassed me!" instead of "These nasty men harrased me!".

Sexual harassment and power structures are intertwined. That's part of what this whole story is about. If they weren't so powerful, it would be much harder for them to get away with this, and they would probably be less likely to do it in the first place.

Their whiteness is a part of their power. It's not the only, and maybe not even the primary reason for their power, but it's certainly relevant.

I didn't get that from this article at all. It seems like she made clear points about how she was treated differently from her male colleagues. The story didn't strike me as "people are rude [and Pao has contorted the rudeness into sexism]."

All I could think as I read this is that "gee, I would really hate being a woman in that environment."

Maybe the high-stakes of VC just means that the amplitude of this entire system is higher than a "normal" tech job? "Mild/ordinary" sexist things like not advancing and not being allocated interesting/challenging tasks are replaced by conversations about porn stars at work.

I think the implication is that the 'white' part is irrelevant to the sexual harassment she faced and just serves to muddy the waters. Would the treatment she experienced have been any more or less wrong had it been at the hands of non-white men? It's telling that the main harasser in her story, Ajit Nazre, is not white. And yet nowhere in her piece did she mention his ethnicity. It's not a huge leap to assume that the 'white' part of 'white men' is being added for effect and to try to curry sympathy for her cause by conflating two different forms of discrimination when she only experienced one. In fact one of her complaints was that Nazre, another person of Asian descent, was promoted over her. There's no evidence, nor has she ever made the accusation that she was the victim of racial discrimination.

Racism and sexism are two very different wrongs that are often found in the same situations. But they have very different origins, motivations, results and remedies. Therefore we should be careful when we talk about them not to conflate them when only one of them applies to a certain situation.

It is though, IMHO, wrong to call out Pao for blurring this line when so many of these diversity conversations also blur the lines. There are some fundamental differences between racism and sexism that necessitate taking different approaches to each problem and yet people seem so intent on grouping them together under a single 'diversity' label which is, to my mind, counterproductive.

> When people are rude to you, or try to use you, there's a multitude of ways you can interpret that. For Ellen, it's sexism.

What specifically are you referring to as being rude or trying to use you?

If seems based on the legal definition of sexual harassment it was sexism it was harassment and then when they excluded her from meetings, sought negative reviews from people she worked with, withheld positive reviews in order to give her negative performance reviews and ultimately say her work had not improved over time they retaliated for her rejected unwanted advances.

So it was not sexism it was sexual harassment and retailiation. Just because she did not win her court case does not make it less illegal behavior. It appears she was out-gunned.

Ellen, as I see it, refers to sexism in the industry in the general aggregate....the hiring of few females, the treatment and harassment of women, the lack of promotions that qualified women receive, the lower pay, the unwarranted and unwanted comments, the unwarranted and unwanted texts, the lack of diversity, etc.

White males are overly represented but I think it's fair. After all the US is white male culture at the higher levels so those who grew up with this culture have an advantage. They are fish while everyone else are forced amphibians. It's natural for advantages to compound.

Change in culture often comes with damage of supplantation of existing cultures. US culture is unique in that is can coexist with other cultures but isn't entirely replaced. At least not the high status portion. The low status portions have been excised. (trump supporters)

To replace high status white male culture there needs to be an equivalent high status opponent. Pao's article I think is useful in that it targets this directly and doesn't just stop at discussions on passing whiteboard interviews for IC2 positions.

It's expected as with any invasion that there is collateral damage. Trump supporters feel impotent and sidelined. These higher level incumbents are a lot more crafty and a lot more powerful. We can't even deal with rascists except defang them and wait for them to die.

This is why high status Chinese/Indian female/male culture doesn't exist in the valley for the most part, at most upper middle culture. There's not enough space at the top and it isn't worth it to start a war. Because in culture wars, home turf always wins. Giving coal power plants unlimited nuclear fuel or tidal plants unlimited sun doesn't tap into the necessary power.

Chinese/Indian high culture taps into society. For people in the valley this source of power is removed. I'd say that US high status white male culture is more standalone and deals with pure power in the ability to manipulate or coerce people. Interestingly this spreads more easily across gender than race though often the new entrants must give up their old culture in many ways.

For males that don't give up their mother culture they can feel marginalized and impotent, feeling that everything is unfair. For those that do they see no imbalance. The gap for women though still exists.

I don't think it's fair to interpret every rude behavior as 100% due to sexism. Nor is it okay to dismiss all sexist behavior as general rudeness. Some people are treated some times different by some people partly due to their gender and race.

It's your prerogative to have a different perspective on the facts presented. But "manipulation" implies intent to deceive, which shouldn't be thrown unless you have good reasons to do so.

Sexism in Silicon Valley or sexism among the corporate elites?

I doubt the average tech worker, who doesn't travel in private jets, casually talks about porn actresses and sex workers at their job.

However, I have often heard and read such anecdotes about elite executives, also in non-tech sectors. I'd say that kind of attitude is more related to the impunity that comes with power than with tech or non-tech.

> I doubt the average tech worker, who doesn't travel in private jets, casually talks about porn actresses and sex workers at their job

Or, if they do, they look both ways before doing so. The old joke "How does every racist joke start? By looking around" applies pretty handily.

Hits too close to home. I had a co worker who would only tell "jokes" when the manager or the one woman on the team wasn't around.

I'm not even against the telling of jokes that are. . off-color. But they really don't belong where you might cause distress. If you think something is offensive enough to warrant looking around before saying it, maybe save it for home.

My girlfriend (a Jew) and I crack Jew jokes all the time. . .at home. Even though no one in my workplace is Jewish (that I know of), I still wouldn't crack most of the jokes we use at home in my workplace. It's just not appropriate, not by any reasonable standard.

Maybe the degree is different. At my last job the CEO joked about sex with his twin's wife in the hallway. A director looked at porn during hackathon. A manager told some awkward story about his sister in law and stripper poles at a team outing. And an employee made some dumb sexual pun. Guess which one got in trouble.

Maybe the higher up you are the more brazen you can be.

Power makes people comfortable and comfortable people don't always act in a way befitting of their position/environment. I don't think this is anything new... there are always people in power abusing their position.

>I doubt the average tech worker, who doesn't travel in private jets, casually talks about porn actresses and sex workers at their job.

Many in my circle of friends refrain from doing so online in public as well. Never know when someone will take offense to what you've said in the past, smear you with your jokes, and take it to your employer. Better to sanitize your tweets lest you become unemployed.

"I didn’t have time to go through all my emails to figure out which ones to give Kleiner, so during the discovery process we gave them practically everything, some 700,000 emails — most of which we could have legally withheld. ... During depositions, they brought up everything from my nanny’s contract to an exercise I’d done in therapy where I listed resentments. Emails to friends, emails to my husband, emails to other family members, even emails to my lawyers."

This is the single most incompetent legal behavior I've ever heard of. It shows such a profound lack of judgement that, by itself, it is enough to blacklist Pao and every lawyer advising her.

Yea, that's a surprising move. The "we have nothing to hide, we'll give you everything" approach to discovery can end up with exactly what happened, if the other side likes to use war of attrition and pressure tactics: deposition questions, and related lines of inquiry, that have no relevance to the issues. They're engaged in solely to wear out and dishearten the producing party. You'd think her counsel would have known this.

How hard would it have been to run a few keyword searches and get some paralegals or junior associates to filter out the irrelevant material? There are discovery firms that do this as their entire business. Or file a motion or two?

And I say that with no strong opinions about either side of the case. It just looks like a bad litigation move.

Edit: It also creates the impression that her counsel either didn't take the time to sort through her evidence thoroughly enough, and/or that offloading a massive dump of unfiltered emails would inconvenience the other side's counsel enough to give her leverage. Neither seem like a winning move. The first makes her side look unprepared, and the second makes her side look like it was playing games of its own.

> How hard would it have been to run a few keyword searches and get some paralegals or junior associates to filter out the irrelevant material?

It's actually trickier than it seems, and the penalties for under-inclusion can be harsh.

Even if you make a good faith/reasonable effor, if you accidentally don't include everything that you're supposed to, you can be sanctioned. So if you do a keyword search for a word that seems innocuous/personal (so that you can exclude those emails) and it turns out you accidentally excluded some emails you were supposed to include (because you didn't have doc reviewers actually read every email that the search returned), you can get in trouble.

And having doc reviewers go through hundreds of thousands of emails could cost $50k or more. How much would depend on how complex the discovery request is.

If they just said "send us emails where you talk about John Doerr", that's easy. If they say "send us emails where you talk about JD, the firm, your mental health, or sexism in SV", that becomes much more difficult/expensive.

Under the circumstances, it is not appropriate to fault her lawyers for the decision not to do doc review in order to cut down on the emails provided in discovery. Remember that the client here is herself a lawyer (Harvard Law School, Cravath), so she bears the responsibility for a major decision like this. This may have been a bad strategic decision on her part, or it may have been too expensive to go any other way. But her lawyers are not at fault.

Note: I am a former SV lawyer, but I do not know any of the lawyers who represented her (or even what firm it was).

I get what you're saying, but in my experience, the risk of sanctions for a good faith production with a few things overlooked is minimal to none. If the other side notices and brings it up (assuming nothing else preventing production), you just give it to them. Problem solved. No judge is going to impose sanctions for essentially doing what the rules of discovery tell you to do.

In Pao's case, it comes across as allowing the other side all kinds of opportunities to go fishing for irrelevant tangents, embarrassing material, overly-personal material, etc., with an almost passive endorsement of that tactic. She wrote that some of this stuff included attorney-client communications! That's terrible. And one of them was a therapy record? Doesn't that sound like a HIPAA issue?

You'd think that effective counsel would try to define the scope of the evidence and the boundaries of the issues on the table every chance they could. A well-thought out document production is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of doing that.

Pretty much exactly this.

Sort by "From" and thread conversations. Far easier than by date.

As an executive, Pao just deciding that this was acceptable, either at the behest of her counsel, or with their approval, demonstrates "poor risk management behavior" that I wouldn't want in any company executive.

Yeah thats straight negligence by her legal team.

"I didn't have time to go through..."

She had to have done this without her attorneys. Big Firms bill by the hour: if you have the money to throw at them, they will find the man-hours to get the job done. "We don't have the time" just isn't a phrase they use.

Unless her team's strategy was to bury opposing council in documents hoping they wouldn't be able to search through them all in time.

That's only a move you pull on some tiny 2-man firm or an understaffed public defender. There's absolutely no reason at all to imagine that strategy was relevant to anyone KP would employ.

why would you blacklist the individual for having incompetent council?

One thing to remember: it's only one side of the story from somebody who had/has serious financial interest depending on the outcome of the scandal. It kind of worries me how most comments take the allegations for granted.

She was offered a multi-million payoff to stay silent.

Sure, maybe she believes her book will earn her more. But she'd need to write the #1 or 2 non-fiction book of the year to get there.

If your career is equally or more remunerative than a payoff for silence, repairing your career-impacting public image would be equally or more valuable than a payoff.

It is reasonable to anticipate Pao is not giving up get career, and expects to make more than 2M from it. The spin about her during this debate has made her look pretty bad.

So... yeah. She could easily be motivated by money, in terms of investing in her long term earning potential.

Millions mean less to someone who already has it, and has a chance to make even more at perhaps even odds.

If your net worth is 200k and you refuse the payout, that says much more than if you are worth 20m

Did you read what I was replying to? I was making an argument against the idea that she is somehow doing this for monetary gain. It doesn't matter how much she values money. If her chosen course of action is somewhat certain to pay less than the alternative, she is demonstrably not motivated (solely) by money.

Did you read my post? I was saying that perhaps she is indeed solely motivated by money. Turning down easy money in the chance to strike it big from the civil suit. If you only see the first part, then she apparently isn't motivated by money. But with the second part it becomes a possibility again.

What is your estimate for the potential upside?

I don't know ... Dozens of millions?

If she wanted financial gains this whole scandal is not a good way to get it. She probably could've gotten more money by being silent and the lawsuit was sure to ruin her reputation. This seems like an honest grudge to me

It is true that she had a financial interest (how serious is unknown) depending on the outcome, but she could have walked away with probably a healthy payout had she signed the non-disparage agreement that is commonplace in these situations.

Healthy payout being maybe 5-10% of her net worth. Risking that for possibly doubling net worth seems reasonable. Going from say 20m to 22m isn't that big of a jump or a lifestyle differentiator.

At that stage, neither is going from 20 to 40 million.

Yes, it is

And Pao makes clear that 1) the other side has ample resources to tell its side of the story (or promote the story it wants told), and 2) did.

If your training and professional career are all aimed at a business in which personal relationships are key, pointing out that those in it, and the relationships they promote, are toxic, isn't especially conducive to future professional development (unless you manage to overturn the entire profession -- a long shot). Pao is taking major risks here.

And I'm not particularly aware of students matriculating into English degree programs hoping to get rich writing novels and/or autobiographical accounts in the same way one hears of engineering, finance, or law degrees.

Your argument is specious.

Arjit, is that you?

First time that I read a comment that reminds everybody that this is only one side of the story. Do you make the same comment on all stories? and if not, why not?

I think it's clear that the other side of the story is a concept that applies chiefly to controversial stories. And this story is extremely controverial.

No wonder people rightfully remind there's another side.

Person sues powerful firm for rightful reasons → powerful firm hires people to stir the mud → mud-stirrers create controversy → story now has "two sides" → balance fallacy causes powerful firm to come out on top in the public eye.

I think it's also important to remember this pattern. It's been coming up a lot in recent years.

> "rightful reasons"

Not according to the judge.

You may say they were rightful, and many people are discussing it.

But at the same time you have to understand that a person trained and appointed to determine if the reasons are rightful, said they are not.

That's were the story started to have two sides.

Let's remember that lack of provable evidence does not mean that the harassment and retaliation did not occur. It simply means she did not prove her case with admissible evidence in order to win in court.

Short of having an audio or video tape, a couple witnesses, or written documents of propositions or threats to ruin her career at KP, she was in a he said she said scenario.

This is true for literal everything in the universe, and is the basis for both a philosophical concept called Russell's teapot and a religious one by Richard Dawkins called Flying Spaghetti Monster. Without provable evidence there isn't much we can assert, so it lands on trust and which side people feel is right. The legal system follow closer the scientific model and demand that the case is proven rather than disproved.

However you are forgetting in our court systems evidence can be thrown out because it was not admitted according to the Rules of Civil/Criminal/Appellate Procedures. At that point it isn't about trust or what people feel, it is only about evidence a jury can consider.

It would be akin to having to acquit someone you feel is quite because the state failed to make their case or because the state made their case but screwed up something on a technicality and now you cannot consider that single piece of evidence in deciding which side prevails.

In courts there is proof, evidence and admissible evidence. At the end of the day only the latter matters.

So was evidence thrown out because of procedure violation in this case?

I would note that this aspect is a construct of common law. In civil law all evidence is admissible, and the facts that would cause evidence to be inadmissible in common law would simply be additional context in civil law.

Not that I am aware of but all evidence is not admissible in civil court. It must be correctly admitted into evidence, it must be authenticated or meet a business records exception, can't be hearsay, etc. and must meet the rules of evidenceto name a few.

Completely irrelevant to this discussion.

You forget that a legal system is a closed-loop system while learning the laws of the universe is (at least generally) not.

When proving the theory of relativity the universe will not suddenly decide to behave differently in order for you to have a harder time proving it. It's an absolute opposite in terms of the legal system.

So when you're trying to operate in an environment that is highly unstable and at times contradictory (killing a person is bad, killing a person who is trying to kill you is ok, killing a person who you thought was trying to kill you but actually wanted to talk is bad, what if any of the parties are lying as well?), then introducing Russell's teapot might just be as appropriate as following the proven path.

As the proof itself might be so weak that introducing something unproven might just be as plausible.

> a religious one by Richard Dawkins called Flying Spaghetti Monster

Dawkin's is not a great argument, though. Reasoning about metaphysics is nothing like establishing facts in a lab or guilt in a courtroom.

Not according to the judge.


Right, I am not used to the American system, and I assumed that the decision had been taken by a judge.

I think it's very important to parse Pao from the reprehensible behavior she describes in her workplace. Being polite, Pao does not come off well in her own personal story. But she was also swimming in a garbage pit.

I have no doubt that what she writes about is true, and probably even holds back on much of the frat house nonsense. There can be entire semesters spent at school exploring other avenues that she might have pursued, and in most cases she truly really was a victim of a truly terrible environment nobody should have to work in.

But for those of us who remember the case well while she was at Reddit, she also isn't only an innocent victim and had made some really bankrupt decisions all on her own. I don't get the impression from this article that she's really done any soul searching since then and she even tries to soft-peddle her affair with a co-worker as just a little bit of a school girl crush and doesn't mention various other questionable behaviors that became public as a result of her lawsuit.

There's a lot of thought that equality in the workplace should not mean "start slotting women into the existing power structures and processes", but should instead take into account differences in style and ideas that women might naturally bring. But it goes both ways, terrible behavior also can manifest itself in different ways. As innocent as Pao seems to think she is in her own bad behaviors (which she either ignores here or downplays), her former co-workers also don't think there was any particular harm -- they're both wrong. To truly respect Pao, you have to also respect that she was capable of making bad decisions and that she needs to own them. In my mind, her behavior is not as bad as her former colleagues, but she could probably throw a softball and hit them.

Pao's story is important to tell, but she lacks the personal credibility for people to care. I really feel like if she were a bit more open about where she also messed up, and her motivations, she would come across as a much more empathetic story teller that would get more people's attention and give her better credibility than her former colleagues. But her general unwillingness to publicly confront, and get out in front of, her own behavior leaves her story vulnerable to various naysayers and that's a shame.

This is such a strange view - you don't care about Pao's side of the story because she's not a complete paragon of virtue? You also seem to be basing that on her time at Reddit, during which, as the article mentions, she was being smeared by Kleiner?

This is still a widespread idea. See how many people look at a shoplifter who was killed by cops, and resolve that the killing was appropriate because the kid committed a crime.

I haven't fully processed it yet. There's a common trope in horror movies where someone commits a minor infraction... say, cheating on their boyfriend, and then they get murdered and the audience shrugs because they were obviously not one of the good guys.

I think the general idea is, we only want people around who have a fundamental allergy to wrongdoing. If you'd commit some small infraction, how can we trust you to not commit a big one in a crucial moment when we are relying on you in the future?

The alternative is to view minor infractions as a normal part of life, and to see them as an opportunity to rehabilitate someone. This approach only works in a somewhat... for lack of a better term, "wealthier" community, where you have some insurance against harm. If you can afford to have kids doing some bad stuff, you can be more forgiving. My perspective is that we're currently in a time of surplus, and so we can afford to live that way, (he says from his apartment in the Bay Area) but I think much of culture is still operating in a scarcity mode.

The other relevant concern is surveillance. If you can't surveil your community, you need to rely on them having an internal model of correct action. If you can rely on surveillance you can allow people to play more fast and loose with rules, with the assumption that you'll be able to correct for it in moderation.

But again, we're not fully into the surveillance age yet, so many people want to rely on the stricter mode of social organization.

> Pao's story is important to tell, but she lacks the personal credibility for people to care.

Was a clear way to say the story is relevant but unfortunate choice of storyteller

Yes, but it was also clear that this view is unsupported and irrelevant to the point of the story.

> Yes, but it was also clear that this view is unsupported and irrelevant to the point of the story.

Why is it irrelevant? I think it's entirely relevant, Pao showed she was pretty deceitful in her suit... how is such an individuals personal case of discrimination not tainted by that?

> Pao showed she was pretty deceitful in her suit

In your opinion (and also rather unsupported). She just failed to prove her allegations to the courts standard.

The company’s smear campaign against (a proven thing) shows her opponents in that case as far more deceitful tbh

Pfft yeah I can just swing "In your opinion (and also rather unsupported)" around too... Pao is as deceitful as her employer, they are a perfect match.

Read it again, that's not what I said.

What specific behaviors of Pao would you compare to the constant harassment and mistreatment she experienced at KP? From my recollection, most of the criticism she received was related to poor decisions she made at Reddit, and it has since been revealed by Yishan Wong that she was not actually the person who made those decisions and that she was used as a scapegoat.

I never understood why Pao just didn't say one of the founders (IIRC) fired the AMA woman and that, despite being the CEO, it wasn't her decision. Everyone was angry at Pao for something she didn't do.

It's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. The higher-up should have announced himself that he had made the decision. For Pao to say this herself might come off as petty or overly defensive.

Yeah actually, you're right. It was the founder who should have stood up here rather than throw Pao to the wolves.

"Compare" is the wrong word, which is why I started my post with the notion of "parsing".

Before I write anything, I want any out of context readers to keep in mind that I think KP is a cesspool nobody should work at and entire volumes of books could probably be written on why it represents a classic hostile workplace for people of any gender and I fully understand how women would be very uncomfortable in the environment. I specifically don't want this to be a case of victim shaming, because KP really did appear to be tolerant of fairly reprehensible behavior. At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that both things can be true here. KP can be a feces fire and Pao can also be an incompetent greed-monger.

This is a couple years ago now, but at specific issue IIR:

- During the trial, quite a bit of independent evidence was submitted that she was frankly pretty terrible at the job she was hired for and was incapable of improving performance to meet the demands of the position despite extraordinary attempts by KP to coach her and send her to training classes. This was heavily documented and sourced from multiple independent reviewers who were interviewed under oath. I think it's worth discussing the biases of those reviewers, and maybe she was just sliding off of the glass ceiling. But during the trial, all of her claims of unfair treatment were covered and KP ended up looking pretty reasonable, even promoting one of her female colleagues who had bothered to properly complain about her ex-lover's behavior resulting in his firing.

- While her complaint about getting passed over for promotion was that she was a woman and therefore discriminated against, she was unable to provide any explanation for why many of her male colleagues who performed at equal or better levels than her had not been promoted and the ones in particular she complained about receiving promotions were all shown to have significantly more experience than her. She also couldn't explain how other women were promoted instead of her. Her responses to questions about her job performance tend to be "I don't want to talk about it" and then redirect to various platitudes about women's empowerment.

- KP also demonstrated that they gave her numerous training and career building opportunities, none of which she's denied, and included things like speech and presentation classes (a clear sign that she wasn't presenting well outside of the company and in-line with her fairly consistent performance reviews) and mentoring. In fact, it appears through the evidence presented at the trial, the KP had gone above and beyond in trying to make it work with Pao.

- Pao has never asserted that she was sexually harassed and that wasn't part of her suit. Bringing up examples of terrible shop talk amongst her male co-workers is interesting and worth discussing, but she didn't even bother to sue for it. Her complaint was entirely based on gender discrimination.

- She tried to persuade other women having problems to not pursue action, while simultaneously pursuing her own. Her action started as an eight-figure payout request because she guessed that's what her ex-lover had made (as she writes here).

- There's a consistent theme with her around money and trying to get what she thinks she "deserves" even if its demonstrated that she doesn't deserve it or where she was treated equally or in some cases favorably over others. For example, after she lost her case, she sought a payout to keep her from appealing that significantly was exactly the amount of money her husband owed in a separate legal issue and financial issue that arose when he declared bankruptcy. She's never addressed this coincidence except to claim that her and her husband's finances are managed separately. Her original damages claim was based on what she guessed the severance package was for a senior staff member who was fired (her ex-lover). In another part of the trial, she claimed she was underpaid, KP was able to demonstrate that in fact, she was slightly overpaid for her level and that her severance package was above norm for people in her position. After losing, she also demanded KP pay her legal fees on account of her suing them.

- There doesn't appear to be any specific evidence that she pursued a formal complaints process with KP, while there does appear to be evidence that other women have pursued formal complaints processes and received satisfactory results from the process. Other women in a similar position to her made better choices and received better outcomes. Pao just simply doesn't address this or entertain the idea that she may have just made some bad choices but instead chose to focus on her perceived slights. She's never addressed the possibility that maybe going together as a group of women to complain about gender discrimination and other cultural issues at KP might have been a better approach.

- She knowingly had an affair with a co-worker, broke it off and then put the onus on the company to fix it. You see her take on things in her article. My take is that this represents extremely poor judgment that was part of a larger pattern of poor decisions on her part. When things got weird at the office because of her terrible decision making, she complained. Changes were made and the court record shows she was asked about comfort levels and proximity to her ex-lover, and even was given opportunity to change work functions to an equivalent job, which she then also complained about. Her ex-lover was eventually fired and she was kept on. Her response was to demand a huge payout, which she writes about here.

- When she was let go, she was given an extended transition period and severance package, but publicly posted a missive that she had been summarily dismissed -- which wasn't true at all.

To me, this comes across to me as somebody who's hopelessly incompetent, slightly delusional, and made a series of habitual bad choices. Rather than improve performance or do any sort of internal searching and growth, she decided to blame everybody else for her failures and wrap her complaints in a sexism blanket.

> revealed by Yishan Wong

If what he said could be trusted. He also made a bunch of questionable decisions at Reddit, so I take whatever he says with a grain of salt.

Ohanian confirmed what he said about Pao, though.

>But for those of us who remember the case well while she was at Reddit, she also isn't only an innocent victim and had made some really bankrupt decisions all on her own.

What I remember of her tenure on Reddit is: She was continually accused by everyone for doing something she didn't do. And as a CEO, she gracefully did not pass the buck to the guilty parties, and assumed responsibility.


It's not OK to harass unpleasant people.

pls.. don't strawman me, i did not say it's ok to harass unpleasant people. If you can't form an argument don't bother commenting.

Yeah, I get the feeling that we're hearing one side of a very two-sided story. Maybe she feels the need to vindicate herself since the court didn't, but it's making her look like a sore loser. And she's trying to poison the well by claiming anyone criticizing her was part of a paid "troll army".

I remember her time at Reddit very well. She was almost universally disliked by the "troll army", AKA normal users who formed their opinions independently.

For a fairly interesting summary of KP's replies / defense, see this article [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pao_v._Kleiner_Perkins

This bit is interesting:

> The defense also argued that Pao was paid more than most of her male colleagues. While salaries had previously been redacted from legal documents, the trial revealed that Pao's salary after bonuses eventually reached a peak of $560,000.

It would be interested to know the salaries of people who had the exactly same position before and after her. If the salaries are at the same level, it's difficult to talk about discrimination.

If you read the article, you'll notice that her salary isn't even mentioned. There are many ways to discriminate. What she does allege is, among other things, being denied a promotion based on feedback that was manipulated to make her look bad.

I presume the bulk of VC compensation isn't salary. And, long term, the real billions come in opportunities to invest and professional connections.

Many of the issues raised by Ellen seem to be bad traits of VC's when dealing with people in general. I didn't have any "good" experiences with VC's for many of the same reasons. They look down at you; they are casually dismissive; they are manipulative; they lie as necessary, etc. They seem to be only as friendly as needed in case they suddenly decide they want to invest.

I'm curious how similar or different my experience would have been pitching Ellen Pao.

Any type of job with even the least amount of authority - however insignificant it ultimately is as long as they can assert it without recourse - attracts the worst type of people. I call it the 'nightclub bouncer syndrome'.

Then again VC is a 'retail' style job and any job where you are continually put into forced social situations can make you cynical and impatient with people. So there's also that side of the equation.

Thirdly, it's also a type of job where you're surrounded by 'yes men' trying to suck up to you. You never get the type of negative feedback loops about your behaviour that you normally would/should. American bigco CEOs and celebrities are notorious for having this problem.

Interesting read. I wonder if the "paid army of trolls" she mentions followed her to Reddit. That would definitely explain the campaign against her.

> "paid army of trolls" would definitely explain the campaign against her.

She banned a number of subreddits, including /r/fatpeoplehate and revengeporn. A move that strikes pretty deep at what people consider to be an open platform where votes define everything.

Subsequently she fired Victoria Taylor, an incredibly popular moderator at /r/ama.

This combined with the perceived idea that threads discussing these issues were being banned, caused a huge backlash against her.

>Subsequently she fired Victoria Taylor, an incredibly popular moderator at /r/ama.

She didn't. Alexis Ohanian did: https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/13/details-emerge-abo...

She actually did very few of the things the Reddit witchhunt accused her of. The whole Pao affair was just another dark period that showed how insane online communities can really be.

She still banned the subreddits though, which completely ruined Reddit and turned it from an interesting place into a ban-happy wasteland controlled by oversensitive mods.

Pao's appointment at Reddit always struck me as odd. Was she really the best person they could find?

Well, obviously she was the best person, otherwise they would not have hired her. The definition of "best" is malleable. You may not understand the reasons why they chose her, but clearly they had them.

> "she was the best person"

No, based on the evidence she seemed to be the best person.

I don't have much of an opinion on what exactly happened, but your claim there is overly confident.

When you hire someone you say that the person you hire is the best person available at that time for that role. Otherwise you hire the other person you think is best.

I'm not saying she wasn't, i'm just saying that neither they nor you can tell whether she actually was. Just that she seemed to be it. Maybe she was the best one, maybe appearances weren't quite that, maybe there were candidates they didn't recognize despite them being better. There are many options. Claiming she actually and factually was the best one is just overconfident though.

And yes, they may have said "she is the best", but that doesn't mean they actually got that right.


This comment doesn't make the grade for civility and substantiveness here.

The way she was treated, though, was disgusting.

I have zero doubt that her gender/ethnicity was a major motivating factor for the majority of people involved in this backlash and that a white male in the same position would have pretty much gotten a pass from the same people.

/r/fatpeoplehate and /r/revengeporn where two incredibly toxic subreddits, and I was personally happy to see them go.

I want to speak up in favour of r/fatpeooplehate. The various weight loss subreddits (such as loseit, keto, intermittentfasting) often have personal accounts of being undermined by family and friends when trying to follow orthodox medical advice. It is hard to avoid getting fat when family and friends are already fat and encouraging you to join them.

sangharakshita (a Buddhist teacher) preached that the central problem of the spiritual life – for most people at least – is to find emotional equivalents for their intellectual understanding. That is wise and true. But if it is misunderstood as a restrictive claim (this is only a problem for spiritual life, for the rest of life intellectual understanding on its own suffices.) then it is dangerously misleading.

It is not enough to understand calories in and calories out intellectually. You still have to cultivate the emotional strength needed to escape your own rationalisations, the rationalisations that other people push on you, and actually put down the fork.

Much of today's USA thinks that it is OK to eat yourself into an early grave. Gluttony has become so accepted and endorsed that getting fat has become socially contagious. When people reject this, there is a phase of being angry: how did I get sucked into such a dysfunction social consensus? One chocolate bar at a time? Then what? r/fatpeoplehate is angry and anger is ugly, but it is also important and necessary. People want to escape the social consensus and, people being people, they cannot do that on intellect along. They need space to vent and be angry.

You can see an example of fat-people-hate at https://voat.co/v/fatpeoplehate/2075965/10239491 FPH is on the side of the people that it nominally hates. It wants people to change, to come to the light side of the plate. The people who banned r/fatpeooplehate don't literally have blood on their hands, that is not how type 2 diabetes works, but they ought to have gangrenous, amputated toes on their conscience.

Does one not think that there could have been a better way to encourage people to lose weight than to laugh at them, ridicule them and, to be honest, hate them? I'm not so sure if I consider your analysis to be a valid representation of the intentions of the people there, though I have little experience with the community itself, this model of "helping" people seems very alien to me, and contrary to what I had (intellecutally) understood to be how people behave on the Internet.

I think also ultimately it is the choice of the person to find their encouragement, as much as it is very difficult. Diet communities are built around the idea of individual desire to improve (which is why posts like "Three weeks in and it's great!" get upvoted there) rather than having it 'forced' upon them.

I don't think he's saying it's supposed to help the people being laughed at - it's supposed to help the reader, by de-normalizing and shaming fatness, so they are motivated to become or stay thin. The target is collateral damage.

I don't really buy it, it's transparently a post-hoc rationalization for a sub engaging in the age-old business of being nasty to low status people because it makes us feel good and superior.

You can click on "view the rest on the comments" on that voat thread he linked to to see what's it's really all about.

Just so that people can get a fair view and not judge from a cherry-picked post, here's a link to the top part from this month[0].

It's a pretty broad sampling of: - Laughing at fat people - "I hate this bitch in this picture"-style hatred - A post literally pointed at the victim at Charlottesville, "exposing the truth" that she was fat, saying they "wonder why" she died.

And in my memory, /r/fatpeoplehate was much more toxic than this at the time it was shut down.

[0] https://voat.co/v/fatpeoplehate/top?span=month

Yeah, what a shitshow. It's a testament to the strength of her character that she still hangs out and posts sometimes. I would have burned that bridge with fury.

(Something, by the way, I would have been afforded as a dude, and that Pao would have surely been ridiculed for until the end of her career. It's sad that institutional forces have forced her to act "distant, even a bit robotic" in these situations.)

I don't think bridge burning is a privilege only extended to men. Nor do I think that if you had Pao's role, and angrily left reddit, that the community would have given you a pass. Why would they?

Maybe, what I should be asking, is where you are getting these ideas from. What makes you believe that men can burn bridges and women can't?

> /r/fatpeoplehate and /r/revengeporn where two incredibly toxic subreddits, and I was personally happy to see them go.

I agree, but we were discussing motive. It's not unfair to expect reddit's leadership to have some insight into its userbase.

If I took ownership of vogue tomorrow and introduced articles about bmx racing, that would be a dumb move. I could complain that the readership doesn't understand bmx racing - but ultimately I hurt the bottom line.

Or maybe they understood the userbase very well, and hence got themselves a sacrificial lamb before banning those subreddits.

Not only are you misrepresenting what Pao did and didn't do at Reddit, your analogy is poor too. The subreddits in question were utter trash, maybe even illegal in how they targeted people, and a very poor representation of what Reddit is.

> and a very poor representation of what Reddit is

I'd disagree, the fatpeoplehate subreddit is basically the same thing as /r/trashy /r/cringeanarchy and other other popular subreddits that are regular fixtures on the popular page.

It's a thoroughly unpleasant website.

I disagree, particularly in regards to r/fatpeoplehate (I didn't know r/revengeporn existed but I know revenge porn is illegal in my country at least). Fatpeoplehate was one of the strictest subs when it came to enforcing the rediquette rules of "not touching the poo": members were very quickly banned if they got caught using the content in the sub to harass anyone outside it.

Once that boundary is set it all becomes a matter of the viewer's morality. You likely think that it's wrong to dislike (or at least not to coddle and treat them like they're wonderful snowflakes) people who let themselves go and even glorify obesity; they did not. What's relevant is that as long as a group keeps to its own circle I feel we have no standing in judging them because my moral values are no better or worse than theirs.

> members were very quickly banned if they got caught using the content in the sub to harass anyone outside it.

Er, not from what I remember. And even still, if a subreddit, even without meaning to, encourages real-life harassment, that's toxic. The fact that they had to keep banning people for being toxic leads me to the conclusion that it just drew toxic pieces of garbage.

There are plenty of ways to encourage someone to lose weight that don't involve typing the word "hate" when you want to get to a community discussing weight loss. Or you could recognize that people have the right to eat and be however they like, even if you don't like it. You have the right to be an asshole and point at them and tell them they're fat and going to die early, but Reddit has the right to prevent you from using their platform for doing that.

There was an interesting idea that I heard last week regarding the whole Charlottesville Nazi incident. It was something along the lines of the Paradox of Tolerance. Essentially, being tolerant of intolerance leads to intolerance. So, in order to keep tolerance alive, you have to snuff out intolerance, before it becomes systemic. You have to become intolerant of intolerance.

Ellen Pao is (ostensibly) intolerant of intolerance, and that, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. I don't particularly like her, but enforcing Reddit's own rules was one of the better parts of her tenure at Reddit.

I would argue that r/fatpeoplehate was effectively two subreddits. It "happily" chugged along for a long time as just another subreddit but at some point it reached the tipping point and became uncontrollable.

It has more to do with her political involvement and activism than her gender or race. There will always be people who dislike polarizing political figures.

spez has gotten much of the same treatment from those same users on 4chan, voat, and the remaining right aligned subreddits. I would argue that worse has been said of/to spez.

I agree that her gender and ethnicity were a factor: when a white male is a CEO, nobody will conclude he isn't in full authority in his role and deserves full responsibility and blame for what happens under his watch and tenure.

This view of Pao as an automatic victim is special pleading and ironically, denies her the agency of a full adult that feminists claim others refuse to grant women.

None of those were Pao's actions, they were done by her replacement.

To Pao's credit, she was very hands-off when it came to trying to impose values on the social aspect of Reddit; given ample chance to change that like her successor did, she generally left the subreddits alone as long as they didn't blalantly violate the rediquette.

The only thing that was contentious that I can recall had absolutely nothing to do with Reddit the social community: she instituted a policy where contract negotiations were forbidden reasoning that because studies showed that women negotiated less, it was an advantage towards male workers (full disclosure: I do find that policy to be an aberration). But that policy had nothing to do with the website, it was a Reddit corporate thing.

I do believe that she was a strong proponent of Reddit being an open playground for discussion and where people of all beliefs could gather and discuss them, no matter how distasteful other people may or may not find them to be.

/r/fatpeoplehate and /r/revengeoporn specifically broke Reddit rules re: real-life stalking and harassment. I didn't and still don't particularly care for Ellen Pao, but enforcing rules was one of the better parts of her tenure at Reddit.

As others have pointed out, none of this is particularly accurate. It is, however, true that a) she was a high profile woman due to her court case b) there exists a misogynistic troll army* that targets high profile women especially in tech c) all that you describe gave them ammunition. What it didn't do was make her a target, she already was.

*Someone else took issue with the phrase "paid army of trolls". The existence of the gamergate/alt-right/etcetera troll army isn't really in dispute. Equally it's well known that actors foreign and domestic have been pushing these viewpoints with actual cash. So while I don't know one way or another whether the alt-right troll army that targets Pao has paid components, I don't think it sounds beyond the realms of plausibility either.

There are trolls on the internet, but pretending it's a unified front is a ploy only useful to those seeking to play out their victim status.

Pao got roasted on reddit because she became the figurehead for widely unpopular community changes. At best you could say she was set up as the patsy by Reddit's board.

GamerGate was a cluster fuck where existing troll groups like GNAA and BWC jumped in, as did the nihilistic lolcow milkers of baphomet and kiwifarms. But the whole thing was started by a scandal over an ex helldump member, whose anti harassment group was later caught doxing and harassing, and whose posse got caught false flagging in the Social Autopsy drama. To pretend like GG is a misogynist troll army means falling for the narrative set out by the media the movement accused while ignoring the realities of the spheres in which it took place.

GG is also not right wing, as Brad Glasgow's research showed, so associating it with the alt-right is more idiotic narrative spinning. Like when feminists lump together MRA, red pill and mgtow as some sort of unholy woman hating underbelly, instead of the 3 very different things that they are.

None of this has been objectively covered, nobody bothered to investigate, only to do what the article above does: feature one sided profiles of self declared victims who stood to gain a lot from that portrayal. Visit r/KotakuInAction for instance and observe how what was claimed to be a "smoke screen" for hate is still going 3 years later, still covering abject failures in reporting, while banning all harassment.

(Repost: stop flagging the truth, you cowards. What is it going to take to admit you got rolled by a sociopath and her pets?)

So I visited KIA like you suggested. It currently seems to be obsessed with nonexistent antifa violence. I'm not quite sure how that supports your claim that these things aren't all just different heads of the same shitlord hydra.

"the gamergate troll army isn't really in dispute"

I'd be happy to see some examples of their actions.


Blaming Soros for everything that's wrong in the world is conspiracy theory paranoia.

I think that's the point. If you look at /r/the_Donald as an example, they believe that all their ideological opponents are paid actors.

This is insidious belief that lets you dismiss different view points as the evil machinations of your favorite villain (Soros and Democrats on one side and Russia on the other).

I think it's much more likely that some people hold different views and express them online. Believing an evil power is hiring people to pretend to disagree with you is probably evidence of unhealthy delusion.

And this isn't?

'The existence of the gamergate/alt-right/etcetera troll army isn't really in dispute. Equally it's well known that actors foreign and domestic have been pushing these viewpoints with actual cash.'

So, you've never heard of Nimble America? Or the Internet Research Agency? Or the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment?

But yeah, all of these things are fake news. Nowhere near as reliable of 4chan or KIA.

You're right of course, but telling the truth gets your comment flagged. I wonder what they're so afraid of...

>Subsequently she fired Victoria Taylor, an incredibly popular moderator at /r/ama.

She did no such thing. You fell for the rumors.

> "paid army of trolls"

Unless she has proof, it's a conspiracy theory, "trolls" don't need to be paid to be trolls. People are naturally mean on the internet. Especially on reddit. So trolls paid by whom to do what? she didn't lose her lawsuit because of people on the internet. She lost because she didn't have a case.

>In response to my suit, Kleiner hired a powerful crisis-­management PR firm, Brunswick. On their website, they bragged about having troll farms — “integrated networks of influence,” used in part for “reputation management” — and I believe they enlisted one to defame me online.

The "I believe" is the operative phrase in this allegation. It's not implausible, however. Comments everywhere on topics where powerful agents have interests (i.e. everything) seem to be subject to a great deal of astroturfing. The existence of groups that do this is not disputed. The trend seems to be getting a lot more pronounced lately, just by my personal observation.

Well, I mean, that's kind of the question, isn't it? She's sharing a lot of personal anecdotes after losing on her claims about those in court.

I do not know what happened or what people actually said, but I won't take the illogical step of inferring things about this case from the outcome of other cases or vice versa and I disliked the fact that this is a lot of scandalous, unverifiable anecdotes that she was not able to credibly establish in a court of law.

Harassment is real. I'm a victim of it myself and the guy who put his hands down my pants was fired for that, though I wasn't really working in tech at the time. I managed both to confront him and to prove it. Her claims, however, failed to be proven in court and therefore I do not find her credible, nor can I without new, verifiable evidence.

I know too well how high a bar that is, but I wouldn't see it set any lower, not even in my case.

No judgement from me on the ultimate truth or falsity of her claim. My only point is that the idea that a PR firm would engage in astroturfing has enough plausibility not to be dismissed as a conspiracy theory out of hand, since such things do actually happen. Other contextual factors certainly do bear on the overall credibility of the claim, but taken in isolation, it is not an absurdity, as the parent comment seems to suggest.

It's a bit ambiguous as to how to read that. I'm going to assume that you mean that you're setting a non-zero prior probability, which is reasonable enough. However, that's currently multiplied by zero evidence as far as I've seen.

Otherwise confirmation bias will simply take over and lead us astray. I mean, it's not exactly falsifiable. I could just as well say that most of the people I disagree with are actually just Perl scripts, not real people.

> The "I believe" is the operative phrase in this allegation.

I doesn't make it a fact. It makes the author look like they are paranoid, and it has absolutely no bearing in the verdict of their case. But it says a lot about their personality. One cannot use that type of argument and be expected to be taken seriously, unless one actually bring evidence that a particular firm engaged in harassment, which is a serious accusation since I'm pretty sure it's illegal.

The were probably Russian too.

This xkcd came to my mind when I read that: https://xkcd.com/1019/

It's sobering to think about how easy it must be (for a sufficiently funded organisation) to effectively determine "public discourse" on a large number of topics.

Then again, never underestimate just how willing people are (all on their own) to grab their virtual pitchforks without much consideration.

She was CEO during the start of a wave of subreddit bans and the dismissal of a very popular Reddit employee (Victoria). Whatever her actual level of involvement in those decisions, I think it's reasonable to say the pitchforks came out because of them. As the trolls found more real or imagined "dirt" about her, it escalated as many were eager to believe it.

If I remember correctly she also made some incredibly dumb Reddit comments which indicated that she didn't get Reddit at all.

Really interesting glimpse into this world.

It's unfortunate that this article is getting negative feedback on HN. I think we all need to be careful not to belittle/condemn issues that don't personally affect us.

Oh, this is nothing. Back during the trial, even HN was overrun by the vilest misogynist and racist memes.


Sexism and diversity mean very little to me when faceless corporations define the narrative scope in which they apply.

These are clearly rich and privileged people problems.

Ellen Pao may have lost the trial but she changed - me. In 2015 I saw a tech world ruled by meritocracy with sexism and discrimination being the evils of the Med Man era. Two and a half years (and many other affairs) later I see how naive I was and how much more difficult is work in tech for women.

Reading the comments here I get a feeling not a lot of commenters are reading the entire post (please do), or are reading after already deciding that they won't agree with what they read (if that's the case, please don't bother with the comments and move on to the next HN article)

I thought it was an insightful read as much as I dislike the arrogance that SV seems to possess despite its ignorance of the rest of the world... And the accompanying culture that spills out of that combination of arrogance and ignorance.

SV culture has a lot of problems, sexism is one of them.

I totally agree sexism is a thing, not just in Silicon Valley, but in every strata of our society. And I'm saying this not just as a life long conservative, but also as someone who has had many strong women in his life who have absorbed a ton of crap simply because they are women, including my mother, grandmother and basically almost every woman I've ever met.

I don't like blaming of societal issues for a person's achievements (or lack thereof), but at some point, you have to admit, the same gender who bewilderingly sends dick pics to strangers, talks crudely about women behind their backs, and views them as a means to a physical end, maybe we don't see how we interact with women or at least admit that many of our gender demean women in ways that equates to bullying in one form or another. I normally don't like victim culture, or people who assume the intentions of others to prove discrimination, but I don't think we need that for many cases when it comes to women.

Men and women, on the general, have different societal and interpersonal strengths, and I love all of it (yet don't assume or exclude those strengths from either gender).

But if I'm honest, men and women both have their own forms of aggressive behavior in getting ahead, but men do it even more aggressively, frequently and overtly than women, and often at the expense of women.

Personally, I love each gender's strength. But I absolutely loathe the behavior of many, if not most, of my gender's treatment of anyone in a "weaker" position.

We must do better, for no other reason than each of our strengths is a responsibility to use it to help those who are victimized.

We can hide behind a meritocracy of which we enjoy hidden benefits, but at the end of the day, we should ask, is it because we really are better suited to a task, or have we institutionally created a system that enforces our biases and preferences?

It's probably a mix of both, but until we see our own part in this, were can't actually improve anything.

the same gender who bewilderingly sends dick pics to strangers, talks crudely about women behind their backs, and views them as a means to a physical end, maybe we don't see how we interact with women or at least admit that many of our gender demean women in ways that equates to bullying in one form or another.

Whoah. The fact that some of the 3.5 billion people that share the same sex as myself engage in this lewd behavior renders my* neutrality and view defunct?

Talk about stereotyping!

Did I claim that someone else's behavior limits your neutrality? Or that it somehow invalidates your views?

Also, did I say anywhere that stereotyping was bad in and of itself?

In fact, here is what I did say:

maybe we don't see how we interact with women or at least admit that many of our gender demean women in ways that equates to bullying in one form or another.

Not sure what that has to do with you or your views, but you seem to be defensive simply because I stated a generalization.

And yeah, I stereotype and prejudge all of the time. However, in any power position I may hold, I need to correct for it internally to make sure that instead of trying to confirm my biases, I'm actually being fair and respectful to the other party. And I think this should be done regardless of the genders involved.


Or, because I am a man, I seem to be in a pretty good position to condemn the negative behaviors of my gender in general. If a woman does it, she's viewed as having a prejudice or being reactionary, or going simply off of her own experiences.

I could also list the negative behaviors of women in general, but since the article was about sexism in Silicon Valley, and that most power positions there are dominated by men, it really wouldn't make much sense to start criticizing the group more likely to be the victim of it.

But hey, as long as sarcasm and ad-hominem is working for you, go for it.

I found it really interesting to read this today, even though I followed the case to some extent when it was originally in the news.

With all of the scandals that have hit Silicon Valley in the past year (Uber especially) I have to wonder what the coverage would look like if Ellen filed her suit today? I think it would be much more sympathetic and the outcome would likely have been different. In fact I bet we would have seen some resignations at KPCB, no trial required.

On one hand I feel bad for Ellen since she was possibly a victim of timing. On the other hand, it's possible that Ellen inspired the other women who have since spoken up and she had to take the defeat in order to move the conversation forward.

Something doesn't add up.... when my co-worker or manager makes sexist or racial jokes, my experience tells me that a) the immediate issue to be solved is not the sexism or racial discrimination in my line of business, but this specific person. The only solution -- this person needs to be replaced, not taught to behave (let alone persuaded to change views), and that b) his/hers personal issues very probably don't stop at women and minorities.

But I understand that we have this whole lot of discussions recently simply because, there are too many of such types kind of accumulated in one place, which makes replacing them all even less probable.

So how the industry believes this can be successfully addressed at this scale? I'd think the behaviour of people on the plane she described is simply about basic human decency? So, everything now needs to be codified by HR? "Don't speak of pornstars when on the plane with other people", "Don't bring into conversation how you tortured small animals when a kid"?

The problem is that you can't fire everyone who makes racist or sexist jokes from the industry since they will just group together and start new companies. Those companies will thrive until they become large enough to gain media attention, at which point it leads to another scandal with lots of firings and the cycle repeats.

I'm honestly disappointed that many commenters here are making a lot of judgment about Pao's intentions. It's like no one read the piece properly. Here, let me help you (and get your walls down!)


Claim 1: She's over-reading an already tough environment (which btw men also face) for sexism.

See the Ajit Nazre harassment section. Also note that Pao wasn't the only one targeted.

See the male-only ski trips/ club visits/ etc section. It's bullshit to say that it's not their fault that women are uncomfortable talking about porn stars. It's unprofessional anyway. And seriously, a top venture firm can't afford to accommodate for all members of their team?

"I was later told that they didn’t invite any women because women probably wouldn’t want to share a condo with men."

Still a big presumption to make; Pao may actually be OK with this.

I get the male buddy bonding thing, but arguably doesn't this make it harder for women to feel part of the team too?

See also the Flipboard section. Now this I'm very familiar with; make a suggestion, be promptly turned down, another guy makes the same suggestion later and wahey! Back slaps all around.

See also the section where she was excluded from meetings, discussions and 'scoops.'

See also the section where others (white, male) more junior than her received promotion and she didn't.


Claim 2: Pao is out for attention.

Seriously I can't even -

OK, I'm not going to do a reference here. Think about it: Pao is well-educated and has a very good position at a top firm. She's also just started a family, and instability is the last thing anyone in that position wants. It will take a very serious claim to risk all that.

She was also very aware that the odds are overwhelmingly against her. See section when she asked other women who had sued powerful firms over discrimination. One even said "It’s a complete mismatch of resources. They don’t fight fair. Even if you win, it will destroy your reputation."

See section about how her firm launched an aggressive media campaign to discredit her, including "click farms" to spread negative rumours about her incompetency etc. How Vanity Fair (!) suggested that her marriage was a sham because her husband previously had gay relationships.

She did lose, but for what it's worth, she did end up getting attention - the right sort I would say (see the "Pao Effect".)


Claim 3: Pao did it for the money."

See section when she was offered money to leave quietly.

Though "When I spoke to the COO, he asked how much I wanted in order to quietly leave. “I want no less than what Ajit gets,” I said — which I suspected was around $10 million. The COO gasped."

The same Ajit as above.

Oh yes she's releasing a new book, but seriously, is the profit really enough to make it her primary intention to sue for harassment?

And as mentioned above, even if she won, she would have lost her reputation. There's a reason everyone applauds whistle-blowers, and no one wants to hire them.


Claim 4: Sexism is only an emergent behaviour of a toxic industry. To fix sexism, we have to instil professionalism.

This is true and a good intention, but forgive me this is also belittling the issue of sexism.

For sure, women aren't the only ones with negative experience. You could say the same for other minority groups such as black, LGBTQ etc, and yes even overworked white, male juniors.

But sexism is a major part of what makes the environment toxic. Women make 50% of the global population! And clearly many women in tech experience uncomfortable issues rooted in sexism. If you want to instil more professionalism, you will also need to cover sexism in the training.

See section where the firm admits that they don't even have a HR department until recently.

See also comments that claim women are using their gender as a card. So f---ing patronising.

See section where the firm has very low female presence in the board.

It's true that there is a shortage of females in tech, making recruitment harder. But this is why we need to go beyond professionalism training. To get more gender balance, we need to start at schools. So for those tired of the whole "women are victims" yada-yada (I admit that I also feel the same) for what it's worth, people are now paying attention and working harder to encourage girls into STEM subjects, and make the tech environment more inclusive.


Running out of time, but I hope this is enough food for thought.

I just noticed that software patents and employment anti-discrimination laws have some very similar problems. With the performance of manual labor jobs and physical patents the tests tends to be relatively objective, and that was probably what both laws was designed for. With many other jobs and with software patents this is often not the case, making the laws much easier to abuse for example. As a side note, this is also why anti-discrimination laws still make sense for things like public places and voting, because the test for whether someone is able to vote for example tends to be objective.

Most VCs wouldn't tolerate such boorish behavior on the part of execs at their investments. (They might let it slide for a time, for tactical reasons...) Why do limited partners put up with it when the VCs do it?

The new boss: just like the old boss, but gets to have her ivy league friends write sexism articles about her, despite courts with lower burdens of proof (preponderance) finding none.

>He wanted me to go to school — to learn to be a stand-up comic.

I'm doing this! Some guys are really good at laughing and joking with management, but I am awful. One time a partner walked away from me without saying a word because he didn't like my comment about sports. I felt like that one black woman on Insecure when she shows up to a hockey game to suck up to her bosses and nobody remembers her.

Two possibilities:

1] She brought value to the table and was discriminated against.

2] She brought little value to the table, was one of those whiny entitled people (ooh look I have all these degrees, now I should automatically be promoted), who cannot accept the truth, and resorted to sleeping with a senior partner to compensate and when it all fell apart she got offended.

It could be either.

She has to convince the world it was [1] not [2].

"On January 4, 2012, I sent an email to the managing partners presenting all the facts as clearly as I could and asking for substantive changes and either protection from further ostracism or help with an exit."

What is "help with an exit"? Aren't partners at VC firms free to leave?

It means a help to find a job at another firm.

Nobody I know in the SV founder/investor scene talks openly about their sex worker preferences, their porn habits or desperately tries to trick their coworkers into surprise romantic weekends together. However, I'm clearly not exposed to the demographic that is all about that, and I'd love to know more about it.

What is it about that group of people that makes them behave that way? Do they feel they're too powerful to be reported? Do they just not have the EQ to understand how they make others around them feel? Someone steel man that one for me.

You wouldn't necessarily be exposed to that if you're a man or not challenging your perceived place in the hierarchy.

The talking about porn etc may just have been a clumsy attempt to put the woman in her place by making her feel uncomfortable, didn't work so he switched to talking about sex workers. It's just a tactic for asserting power and dominance. If she wasn't there taking a place he sees as for a man, it wouldn't have come up.

> It's just a tactic for asserting power and dominance.

I think you're right. I haven't read through the article yet but my opinion is that for the most part, social hierarchy is a cultural mechanism to select alpha males. So women who think they should participate in that are seriously misguided, like a deer doe who wants to participate in deer dueling.

In other words, they (rightfully) reject a biological urge for women (which is to be caring mother, more or less) and accept (wrongly) a biological urge for men, which is to take risk and climb the social hierarchy at any cost.

But it doesn't make any sense, the world is actually not a dichotomy between males and females and much larger than that. I think women who want equality (or just want to exercise free will and thus disregard some of our original biology) should support democracy (as opposed to authoritarian hierarchy), first and foremost. Even in the workplace.

In short - I cannot sympathize with her (and other female C*Os, who complain about sexism). She's decided to play a game of thrones, so she is on her own. If she really wants equality between people (not just "sexes"), then maybe we can talk, you can find me on the left.

I think that's a good synopsis. She wants equality because she's clearly one of the elites. She has a point, but it's hard to hear her complaining.

> What is it about that group of people that makes them behave that way?

Your question overgeneralizes. You're attributing to the group, the qualities of a small number of individuals.

There have been several women coming out in the past few months reporting VC partners behaving in a similar manner, hence that being a trend vs being about "just that one group of people"

> What is it about that group of people that makes them behave that way?

Ok, maybe I'm just parsing words here, but your statement can be read as:

"that group of people [VCs and CEOs] behave that way [sexual harassment]"

Which overgeneralizes, because this still appears to be a small number of offenders, despite the recent outings.

That said, I'm willing to believe/accept that the same qualities that make someone think they should be CEO or a power-investor, and not a lowly peon worker, translates into a higher likelihood of douchebaggery.

In a word, power.

"Wealth, as Mr Hobbes says, is Power."

-- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 5


Agreed. Wealth and held power over her job security, so she was in an untenable and precarious situation.

I would say it's money. And a lifestyle that resembles too much with a non stop party than anything else. Just my guess.

I definitely sympathize with her regarding the clear sexual harassment. But my main reaction to this is what an awful world her career was in. Horrible, boorish men, ugly business deals. A world with no aesthetic, no charm, no taste, no honor, no humanity. I would say that any decent person who finds themselves in a career like that in a business world like that should get out, immediately. Switch careers or switch countries. You only have a few decades in the Universe.

Indeed. If she were being held back by sexism in her drive to find a cure for cancer etc. I would have more sympathy. As it is my sympathy is limited by the fact she was pursuing a career focused largely around pure greed.

People are boors, people tell stories about boors, and then only boors (or people tolerant of boors) are interested in working in those industries or at least at those companies. It seems cyclical.

I'm not sure punishing bad actors is enough to escape this kind of culture trap.

A much better article written to show more than one perspective from a few years ago: https://www.vanityfair.com/style/scandal/2013/03/buddy-fletc...

How are the turning off of flags determined, Dang?

Not trying to be rude, but unless there is a set criteria it seems prone to bias...

That was better than I thought it would be. A real, "no holds barred" account, and well written as well. I wish there were more of these, including perhaps accounts of what others have to say about Ellen herself. This really takes the patina off the whole SV venture capital scene. It's like there are different sets of rules, one for them, and the other is for the peons who work for them. A peon would be let go after the first, like, five seconds of that private jet conversation.

Are some comments moderated (deleted without the deleted mention)?

There was a really interesting comment (turning into a thread) about the double standards of women but I can't find it anywhere anymore.

It's not deleted, but it's hidden by default, apparently. You have to click on the [+] in AnonNo15's post.

>and downplays the impact of obvious and unobjectionable steps like [..] "give expectant mothers maternity leave"

This is a bit off-topic, but maternity leave is neither obvious nor unobjectionable. There is significant empirical evidence that shows that policies such as long paid maternity leave harms women's wages and career progression.

Have a look at:

* The impact of Nordic countries’ family friendly policies on employment, wages, and children https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11150-007-9023-0

* Is there a glass ceiling over Europe? Exploring the gender pay gap across the wages distribution https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/92046/1/2005-25.pdf

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15063449.

> long paid maternity leave harms women's wages and career progression

Of course it does. What it benefits is the actual human beings in question (child, mother, father). Most humans think that significantly increasing the well-being of your family, and in particular your infant, is a whole fucking lot more important than wages and career progression. Like all things in life it's a trade off, but an unobjectionally good one.

Analogy: if a woman (or man) spent 8 hours every day of every vacation secretly working, they would definitely get better wages and career progression. Would you recommend everyone starts doing that?

I think that's not the issue under discussion.

It's not about whether taking a year off work hurts career progression, it's about whether offering paid maternity leave creates pressure not to hire and promote women, regardless of whether they have kids. If the result was strictly "taking a year off work delays your career", that would be a fairly obvious outcome. Instead, what we see is "knowing some job candidates can take a year off work with pay discourages hiring and promoting those candidates".

It is, among other things, an indirect argument for paternity leave - if leave is symmetric, you can't preferentially hire/promote the people without access to it.

RE your analogy, I don't think this is true in general. There are many jobs/people where the downtime is needed to perform better. That's certainly the case for me and in my field.

To your main point: You are absolutely right. Germany, for example, tries to symmetries the problem by allowing fathers to take part of the maternity leave. But of course, especially in high paying jobs where companies have to invest a considerable amount into a worker to train them, a maternity leave, or any other reduction of total working time at the company, will affect the salary. The question is now: Do we, as a society, treat the privilege to raise a child as adequate replacement of the lost salary/promotions etc? If not, who makes up for the difference?

As a (happy) dad, I'm very surprised by this :

>>> Do we, as a society, treat the privilege to raise a child as adequate replacement of the lost salary/promotions etc?

I'm very surprised of the opposition you make here.

I'd prefer : Do we, as a society, treat the choice to raise a child as one that doesn't imply the loss of salary/promotions etc?

(but in my case, my employer has never spent tons of money on me; "considerable training" means to me : a year of full time training such as : mastering a foreign tongue, mastering a technical field besides IT, etc. It's certainly not "we'll leave you learn by yourself at night and pay for your lack of efficiency during the first 6 months of work"))

My point is this: There is a business cost associated with people who choose to be parents: They may be absent for an extended period of time (which in some fields is a big problem), they are often less flexible with hours/week, which hours on a given day, when they want holidays. They choose a more healthy work-life balance, which for the employer means "more life, less work". It's also opportunity cost for you: While you care for your kid, you can not go for an extended trip to a different country, or jump head first into a technology to learn at night because your kid will wake you up at 6, and on weekends, you are out and play with him. Clearly this will reduces your chance for a promotion compared to the workaholic who knows all the new buzzword technologies. One could say, yes, ok, I took that trade-off, but now I got to be a dad, and that's worth more to me.

Or, as a society, we can say: You should not need to make that trade-off. Or at least: You should not lose that much. It's hard to correct the disadvantage in terms of promotion, but other things are possible. Some examples, some are horrible: - Force the companies to maintain open positions for (m/p)aternity leaves. Either pay for that with taxes, or make the companies eat the cost. - Give people with kids tax breaks / money. - Force people to take a sabbatical every n years if they don't take maternity leave. (But of course some people will use that time to work on their skills anyway...) - Provide good child care so that people can more easily work and have kids. - Shun people who don't have kids...

What society can not do is make this difference magically go away.

I think you might underestimate the amount your employer has invested in you. Maybe a better benchmark is: How much would it cost him to replace you if you quit your job in three month.

>>> One could say, yes, ok, I took that trade-off, but now I got to be a dad, and that's worth more to me.

That's it ! More precisely : I've chosen to be dad for reasons which are absolutely not rational. Therefore, the question of the trade off is not that important.

>>> You should not lose that much

yep, that's what I'm aiming for.

Thing is, the way you put it, I understood that "business suffers from those people who choose to be parents". For me parents are like taxes : as a business, that is as a member of the society, you abide to respect the rules : you pay your taxes because the society decided it's positive for everybody, ditto for parents.

But I think we agree :-)

>>> I think you might underestimate the amount your employer has invested in you.

>>> How much would it cost him to replace you

Not much : maybe waiting a year to find an ideal candidate (so I'd say a month of work), and then a year to train the guy (say, 6 months). So basically 7 months of salary. not much. Hint : I don't work in hyper hitech stuff, I just run very big, long lived applications; nothing fancy.

> if a woman (or man) spent 8 hours every day of every vacation secretly working, they would definitely get better wages and career progression

In a meritocracy, sure...

But you want humans to have children, right? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think fathers in Norway are forced to take a maternity leave, which are equally long as mothers' leaves. That's seems like a fair solution.

> But you want humans to have children, right?

While I do, I don't think most of Western public policy does. It seems like we've fundamentally outsourced children to third world countries. Raising a child in any state is going to be much costlier than raising him/her in the Philippines for example.

When the children become economically valuable adults - or prove to have enough economic potential (say by being admitted into a university), they are imported into the West. In a very cynical way, this is sort of what immigration has become. Instead of tackling the issue of why people are not reproducing, public policy seems happier to drain the most economically useful citizens from other countries.

Friendly correction: for fathers, it's called a paternity leave. I thoroughly enjoyed mine, and recommend all parents to if possible do the same :)

And some fathers would LOVE a paternity leave (you would't have to force them). I just had a baby 6 weeks ago and took 4 week off (3 paid, 1 unpaid) of my own vacation time.

I understand that the baby is more dependent on the mother and childbirth is obviously more physically taxing on women, but I'd like to see more equality for men too. Women at my company can get 6 months PTO.

> But you want humans to have children, right? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think fathers in Norway are forced to take a maternity leave

In Norway, if you choose the 100% paid leave, it's 10 weeks for the father and 10 weeks for the mother and then 26 weeks distributed between the father and the mother however they like. But those 10 weeks of the father's paternity leave you cannot transfer to the mother.

But it's not forced: If you'd rather work than take 10 weeks of 100% paid leave, you can. The Norwegians might find it hard to understand why someone would not take the leave, but different countries have different cultures.


> There is significant empirical evidence that shows that > policies such as long paid maternity leave harms women's wages and career progression.

Let's be clear here and not mis-assign causality. The workplace's reaction to paid maternity leave harms a woman's career and wages. Not maternity leave itself.

Any kind of leave is a gap in the worker's experience and in the value the worker provides to the company.

No, there's no evidence that paid maternity leaves harm women's wages or career progression. Uniformly across the world, paid maternity leaves correlate strongly with more gender equality in the workforce, including in pay and career progression.

In general, in countries with good parental leave policies, it is forbidden to discriminate against parents for taking them. The returning worker is entitled by law to return at the place he/she would have been assuming he/she had worked continuously.

Your comment is like saying that outlawing murder makes more murders happen. It takes a whole lot of motivated reasoning to make that leap.

> In general, in countries with good parental leave policies, it is forbidden to discriminate against parents for taking them. The returning worker is entitled by law to return at the place he/she would have been assuming he/she had worked continuously.

This assumes that the only form of discrimination happening is delaying raises and promotions during maternity leave. The articles linked aren't addressing that; they're about whether the expectation that women may take long paid leave encourages people to preferentially hire and promote men, who won't (be able to) take similar leave. This isn't explicit, actionable discrimination against returning mothers, it's a hard-to-prove worsening of the glass ceiling to save money on leave.

And no, that problem doesn't make maternity leave a bad thing, it means that we should craft policies carefully to avoid worsening discrimination. But I think it's reasonable to say that a policy isn't obviously desirable if common and well-regarded versions of it may worsen gender inequality.

At the very least, it's worth asking whether there are improvements which could be made to avoid that problem while getting comparable benefits, and in this case there probably are.

The claim wasn't that all paid maternity leave harms women's wages. The claim was that _long_ maternity leave _may_ harm women's wages or career progression in Nordic countries.

Please avoid 'hot takes' and read the article listed yourself.

>There is significant empirical evidence that shows that policies such as long paid maternity leave harms women's wages and career progression.

That's the problem -- not the maternity leave.

That's why civilized countries are moving on, from mandatory leave for mothers to mandatory leave for both parents.

I think using verbiage such as 'civilised countries' to indicate those mandating one's policy preferences (with the implication that those which do not mandate them are correspondingly uncivilised) is counter to the tone HN asks for.

Stop posting evidence, you can see by your downvotes, that when HN asks for "substantive" comments it surely doesn't mean evidence-based.

I got the impression that the downvotes are because of:

> There is significant empirical evidence that shows that policies such as long paid maternity leave harms women's wages and career progression.

Which is not untrue, but has nothing to do with why maternity leave is beneficial, namely for the individual.

Since we asked you to stop using HN for ideological battle and you've continued to do so, we've banned this account. If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.


Please quote a part of the Damore original memo where he explained women were inferior (except, maybe, in numbers as far as the computer science field is concerned)?

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15063187 and marked it off-topic.

In his tl;dr he said hiring more women would be bad for business.

For those about to jump in and suggest that he only mean the current way of hiring women is bad for business, he later suggests affirmative action to hire more conservatives would be good for business because they are more 'diligent'. Note that men are more conservative then women, so this is a double whammy.

> he later suggests affirmative action to hire more conservatives would be good for business because they are more 'diligent'.

"Stop alienating conservatives" is a far cry from affirmative action. Personally, I think quota-based affirmative action targeted at conservatives would have similar downsides as quota-based affirmative action targeted at women. (Essentially, when you are optimizing for something other than profit, it's going to cost money.) However, you might have success with a test selecting for high-conscientiousness workers.

Affirmative action does not necessarily imply quotas. What you suggest ("stop alienating conservatives" or "selecting for high-conscientiousness" with the intent of hiring more conservatives) is affirmative action too.

> In his tl;dr he said hiring more women would be bad for business.

He did not. The TL;DR said:

● Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

As I said in my message that anticipated your reply, he calls for discrimination to reach higher representation of conservatives in the same memo. Presumably he wouldn't be doing so if he thought that was unfair or divisive, and he explicitly claims it would be good for business. The only factor that changes is "conservative" to "women" one of which he thinks is good for business and one of which he thinks is bad for business.

I don't find that call for discrimination in the text. Are we reading the same document?

When I read it, he mentions conservatives only in the section "Suggestions / Stop alienating conservatives" where he says:

In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.

It seems to me that you are misrepresenting the memo, as so many others have done. Perhaps you have read some commentary, many of which also misrepresented it, and not the memo itself?

I'm not sure why the defenders of this memo always devolve into word games.

"Stop alienating X" is a call for action, and if that call to action is heeded X will feel less alienated and there will be more of them. Because it's targetted at X it is "discrimination" by the dictionary definition of the term and by the general usage. This is true whether X is "women" or "conservatives". In this kind of context it is sometimes called "positive discrimination". The memo writer uses the term discrimination himself in this way when talking about hiring more women.

The relevant bit you didn't quote makes it clear that he sees business benefits from having more conservatives employed:

"Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company."

So, taking action to hire or retain more conservatives, good for business. Because they have skills Google needs more of. Taking action to hire or retain more women, bad for business.

He clearly has no problem with affirmative action in itself, as long as the target being helped isn't women (or racial minorities).

I disagree who is playing a word game here.

When I read "stop alienating conservatives" with the explanation that they should not "need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility", I read that as saying that people shouldn't be openly hostile to other people even if they disagree.

In my opinion, that is not discrimination or "positive discrimination". In my opinion, it's simply being civil to other people.

Okay, well I'll just redefine everything he argues against in the memo, which he regards as discrimination, as "being civil to other people" and then we're at an impasse I guess.

Please quote a part of vertex-four's comment where they claim that Damore's memo explains that women are inferior. Charitable readings and all that.

Although vertex-four probably did mean to imply what you are challenging, I can still agree with the denotation. Someone who gives a scientific explanation (or worse, a "scientific" "explanation") for the status quo to suggest that nothing can be changed about it, would offend a lot of people. Especially those who are disadvantaged under the status quo and want to see that change.

Edit: Ironically, it seems like my explanation of the things that offend people offended some people. (Or maybe it's something about my tone. Not sure.)

I don't understand why anyone should feel offended about someone using a "scientific explanation" in that way.

Shouldn't we laugh at and ridicule those people for their outdated beliefs?

What's there to be offended about by something that isn't true?

Saying things that you know not to be true is pretty much the standard way to offend people.

It can be difficult to laugh at an idea when you see widespread evidence of it from multiple sources on a regular basis, unfortunately.

Sure, yes, I agree.

That doesn't mean the correct course of action is to force societies hand to accommodate someone's hurt feelings.

I argue the correct course of action is for people to develop resilience and emotional maturity.

We're not trying to force society's hand to accommodate people's hurt feelings - we're trying to force society's hand to change incorrect and dangerous/oppressive ideas that it holds, such as that women are inherently unfit for STEM work.

Laughing them off doesn't get anywhere - these beliefs are not a one-off thing, as much as we wish they were - and complaining about these ideas and the prevalence of them gets seen by people like yourself as "having hurt feelings".

I've never met anyone who believes women are unfit for STEM. It's a ludicrous idea.

I just don't understand why getting offended is supposed to help. I'm reminded of the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's "Misogyny Speech" speech.[1]

Being offended means you've lost. The other party has had the desired affect on you: your energy is diminished by their words.

We shouldn't be offended, no. We should feel embarrassed for, we should feel pity for, these poor people who hold outdated beliefs, because they and their beliefs are hold them, and us all, back from a more whole society.

Did any of the great people of history, any of the people who really helped change the world write speeches espousing the benefits of being offended.

1. http://juliagillard.com.au/articles/the-misogyny-speech/

It is a ludicrous idea. Many hold it, unfortunately - and they use scientific research and the status quo ("there's few women in STEM so obviously women are genetically programmed not to be a good fit for STEM" being a common one) to back their beliefs up, usually entirely ignoring the great big warnings in the papers specifically saying that the paper cannot be used to back up those beliefs.

What exactly is "being offended" and why is it bad? Where do you see people being offended, and how do you differentiate it from activism? I mostly see people being angry that even in - especially in - particularly egregious instances, many very vocal people still won't believe that there's a problem. That's different from being offended.

How is feeling pity for the people we meet every day who literally think we are less able than men and who are often in positions of power over us supposed to help?

> I've never met anyone who believes women are unfit for STEM. It's a ludicrous idea.

They post to HN every now and again. I can't link because their posts usually get flagkilled, or their accounts are dead from other fuckwittery. But it happens.

If you have showdead on, linking to dead comments should be possible. I'm not sure whether seeing the linked comment would still require showdead, though.

Why has this disappeared from the front page? I'm reading it, return to upvote, and its gone :(

Users flagged it. This is obviously a substantive article by HN standards so I've turned off flags.

Seems like that may have happened with this very substantive Bloomberg article today as well, worth reading, "How Women Got Crowded Out of the Computing Revolution": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15058338

It was on the front page then disappeared quickly, then flagged and unflagged. I fear however that by the time it was unflagged it lost momentum and never had a chance to make it back.

Here's a thought: Would it make sense to reset the decay rate for unflagged articles to counteract such effects?

Usually the answer given to the question "why is this article on the front page" is "because users upvoted it". Now it seems what users think does not matter.

Flagging is a separate system from upvotes. It still needs upvotes to be on the front page - which it has.

What difference does it make if it is the same system or the separate one? I am talking about users' will being ignored there on the whim of someone, just because s/he knows better.

Flagging is - as far as I know - not intended as some system to impose the users 'will'. HN does not allow downvoting of submissions. Flagging is a mechanism to remove topics which are off-topic and/or low-quality from HN, not to remove topics some people don't like.

Flagging allows a relatively small number of users to bury a story before most have had a chance to see it. Often this is good, sometimes it isn't. In HN, it's the mods right and duty to override when latter happens.

> Now it seems

I get how fun it is to do the long jump, but given that we're talking about something that happens less than 0.0001% of the time, it seems fair to expect a bit better reply quality than this.

I am probably missing something, but does that mean that you can do anything as long as you do it seldom enough?

It means that a tiny floating-point delta is not a bitwise negation.

People were abusing the flag option. It's a good thing that mods fix that.

on the front page for me.

whoa, same here

Shadow flagged I guess.

Yes. But as a man you're not allowed to complain about that. Men cannot be discriminated against or harassed.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15062996 and marked it off-topic.

You mark your comment as sarcasm, but that point has been made seriously many times. There's no discrimination if you're part of the powerful majority, even if as an individual you're powerless. It's fair or it isn't, IDK, but it's no joke, that's for sure.

Hm. So treating me as a part of an allegedly uniform class "powerful men" is ok? But treating others as part of a uniform mass isn't? Curious. Learning so much

There are lawsuits filed consistently in courts throughout the US that say differently.

Edit: very very few filed and very few won

Per the EEOC, in 2015 171 claims were filed for sexual harassment by men. While it is a tremendously small percentage of the more than 6,000 claims, I would assume like domestic violence, men are exceedingly reluctant to file for personal reasons.

And somehow this isn't a topic being forced unto the front page by mods :)

If you have an interesting article to submit about that, I would read it.

Took less than 30 seconds to find a counterexample http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/20/lenscrafters-settle...

And if a man comes to a woman's door in a bathrobe it's sexual harrassment but if it's the wother way around then the man should feel blessed for the honor right?


Ideological flamebait is indistinguishable from trolling. Please do not post like this to HN.

Edit: It looks like you've been using HN primarily for ideological battle. We ban accounts that do this, so please stop doing it. It's not what this site is for.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15062943 and marked it off-topic.

Discrimination and harassment laws are gender neutral and sexual preference neutral. If you are sexually harassed by someone in the workplace, female or male, you have the right to file a complaint and/or a lawsuit. If you are discriminated against because of age, disability, religion, orientation, etc, then skin color is not relevant. Skin color is relevant if you are discriminated against because of your race.

Point is, if you are one of these protected groups you can dress up regular assholery as discrimination.

True but then isn't it incumbent on those around the jerk to say "not cool." Bottom line is a hostile workplace can be a hostile workplace whether from assholery or blatant sexual harassment.

Some would say that gay jokes are assholery but to someone who is gay it may create a hostile work environment. Neither are appropriate. The take away is be aware of your environment, you words and your actions because they all matter.

> True but then isn't incumbent on those around the jerk to say"not cool." Bottom line is a hostile workplace is a hostile workplace whether from assholery or blatant sexual harassment.

I agree that the general takeaway should be "don't be an asshole" but it's important to differentiate assholery and prejudice in the wider debate because the legal ramifications are different.

Edit: Rogue apostrophe

I never mentioned prejudice, I addressed assholery can rise to the level of harassment depending on what is said or done and who is around at the time. Prejudice and harassment are two very different things.


"1. Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all; 2. If you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do."

Dang, just above a few minutes earlier.

It was really interesting to hear about the potential of a troll brigade being dispatched against her during her trial.

I'm not saying I buy it and have re-evaluated everything I've ever heard about her; but it raises an interesting awareness of how often carefully placed comments and bits of information can forever color your opinion on something.

And would you care to tell others why?


Aren't Asians fairly well represented in tech, particularly at the larger SV firms? If they're trying to keep things exclusively White, I'm not sure they're doing a great job of it. This of course isn't to say that bias/discrimination isn't a problem and that there isn't a ton of progress to be made on hiring employees of diverse backgrounds.

Slightly tangential, but what's the generally accepted definition of "techbros"? I see the term used quite often but never really understand who exactly it applies to, it just seems like a nonspecific putdown. I don't work in SV though so I could just be out of the loop.

Probably, because Asians are positively stereotyped as being good at STEM. But a stereotype is still a stereotype.

It's late, and sometimes my reading comprehension sucks, so just to be extra clear, are you suggesting that the representation of Asians in tech is due to the stereotype of Asians being good at STEM and not the fact that Asians are well represented in STEM fields at the college/university level, and subsequently are mostly likely quite competent in these fields which are often required in the tech industry?

It's probably a bit of both, exactly in the way that the underrepresentation of women is also perpetuated by the stereotypes that work to convince many women to stay out of tech in the first place.

IT has, for example, become the easiest way to get to the US on an H1B visa. As a result, Asia saw a boom in IT education, has many qualified instructors coming back from the US etc. It also helps that IT is probably the highest-paying profession where language skills are somewhat secondary.

I appreciate your comment, and I should state that I am aware of the impact that stereotypes, both positive and negative, may play in the broader cultural landscape influencing career choice, among many other things. With that being said, saying it's a "bit of both", in my opinion downplays the extraordinary effort that Asians in the US have shown in gaining admittance to many STEM careers. This is particularly important considering Asians suffer from many negative stereotypes, I would unscientifically say far more negative ones than positive ones, and are often held to much higher academic standards than their black, Hispanic, or white peers with regards to college admissions. I understand that no malice was meant on your part but it still strikes me as somewhat downplaying the effort part of the equation.

I'd also add that your response was far more nuanced than the poster I was originally responding to, which is why I was asking for clarification in the first place.

> the tech scene was supposed to be progressive and enlightened

Why? Tech was a haven for nerdy outcasts who want a world that makes sense because the smartest minds are in charge. If anything it was libertarian since the cypherpunk days. Now we have censorious normies playing at identity politics who lack the obsession yet want the paychecks.

There's a range of individuals, and significant differences between front-line technical and management / finance / investment types.

I recall several stories from the 1990s / eary 2000s dot-com boom that were similarly blood-curdling / cringeworthy.

One involved a chief executive with a thing for his (male) adminstrative assistants.

>Honestly, I might have considered dating him had he been

>less arrogant and less married.

Ah, I see. If you are attractive enough, suddenly it is not sexual harassment anymore.

I am not going to have a shred of compassion for any woman in tech who complains about harassment, while mentioning the dating opportunities that happen to come.

> Ah, I see. If you are attractive enough, suddenly it is not sexual harassment

That's not in the least a charitable version of what she said, and this is a generic talking point of the kind that always moves discussions in a less substantive, more angry direction (as indeed you moved yourself in the next paragraph). Please make a u-turn and post the opposite kind of comment here, or no comment.


You're setting up a strawman. No one is trying to prohibit dating at work. What's prohibited is retaliatory actions (or threats of retaliation) when someone is turned down.

That was not my point.

My point is that the issue "I don't want to be sexually harassed at work" becomes "I don't want to be sexually harassed at work by unattractive men", but the parties in question are not willing to articulate it fully.

You've posted four comments to this thread based on an elementary misinterpretation of the author. Doing that, especially in a bilious way, is a violation of the site guidelines. Please (re)-read them and follow them when commenting here.


The harassment part was him retaliating against her professionally, by excluding her from meetings and deals. It would have been harassment even if she found him wildly attractive, but he proceeded to retaliate after they broke up or for whatever relationship-related reason.

What an odd criticism to make. She's stating that his arrogance and marital status made him unattractive, as he was coming on to her. A perfectly valid way to feel, no?

Rejecting his advances was fine. What disturbed me is that given different circumstances she would have dated him without second thoughts and suddenly "harassment" becomes a healthy relationship. It means that similar actions would end up in different outcomes. Then where is the line between the harassment and non-harassment?

Read the article please. Her complaint is about his behavior after she turned him down, and his sexual advances towards another partner.

> ... Ajit had grown increasingly hostile toward me, excluding me from information and meetings

> Back at Kleiner, I continued to have a huge problem with Ajit. Not only was he blocking my work, he had been promoted to a position of even greater responsibility and was giving me negative reviews. I started to lodge formal complaints about him. In response, the firm suggested I transfer to the China office.

> But when I told fellow junior partner... she grew uncharacteristically quiet. Then she said something I never expected: She had been harassed by Ajit, too. He’d asked her out for drinks to talk shop, and in the course of the evening he started touching her with his leg under the table.

> Later that night he came to her room in his bathrobe, asking to be let in. She eventually had to push him out the door.

What is SEXUAL HARASSMENT? definition of SEXUAL HARASSMENT (Black's Law Dictionary) Harrassment in the workplace or discrimination where unwelcome and unwanted advances are made to a person by one or more other employees. The comments are of a personal nature and often sexual in style and manner.

Clearly the conversation on the airplane, private jet or not, was inappropriate.

To your other point, If she would have dated him under different circumstances, if those different circumstances had existed then his request for her company at dinner (aka a date) would most likely not have been unwelcome or unwanted. Most mature women will not cry harassment if asked to dinner and they turn the individual down and the individual accepts said rejection without further pursuit or retaliation for the rejection. Again, I said most, not all or none, but most. This is the reason that many companies have no workplace relationship rules.

Personally speaking, I do not care how handsome you are, if you show up at my hotel room door in a bathrobe without me having invited you (and even if I had what makes you think you were invited for sex so why are you in your bathrobe?) and you work in a position that can exercise power over my employment, you are not exercising good judgment at all. Why would you not think that your actions might be unwelcome or unwanted?

Now that I've read her own account, I have the same impression I got years ago: maybe, in addition to an environment of harassment, she wasn't actually that good at being a VC.

She recounts the Flipboard incident -- she spotted a good deal early and was shot down, and then others took (a worse) deal for themselves. So... yeah, they ignored and steamrolled the junior partner. Cutthroat and not nice, but it's not shocking behavior unless there's evidence that this only occurred with her or with other female partners. Short of that, I'm willing to believe that this is a full-contact sport, since there's million$ on the line.

So I'm left with two takeaways:

- KP has/had a big problem with partners like Amit, and their tolerance of it.

- Ellen herself was likely not a top performer, but she fails to recognize that.

Isn't that beside the point? Whether or not one particular woman is a great investor or not isn't so substantial. What is substantial if we have a broken system that perpetuates the ingroup and doesn't make avenues for the actual talent (e.g. Warren Buffet) in if it's not bro-y enough.

Rephrasing: KP's environment certainly seemed hostile. But maybe she was marginalized there not due to sexual harassment, but because she wasn't a top performer.

I'm not excusing bad/illegal behavior. I'm just saying, speaking as a manager: underperforming employees frequently fail to understand that their peers are achieving more (sometimes MUCH more) than they are, and this lack of self-awareness can lead to placing blame on the wrong thing.

Her complaints about the office politics make up the bulk of the text - I experienced much the same as a man. Her complaints about woman specific issues, like accidentally having an affair or being upset about not being able to take off 4 months in an insanely competitive industry... I'm not terribly impressed.

The sex talk complaint is interesting though - consider whatever emotional response you've arrived at, but with a slight twist: a straight man having to listen to gay men talk about gay porn stars. So what are we talking about here, 'don't ask don't tell'? Because I'm totally fine with that - I don't enjoying hearing the sexual fantasies of my coworkers (regardless of orientation), anybody know why that didn't work for the military?

Wow, so much to unravel.

First: "Don't ask, don't tell" wasn't about sharing your sexual fantasies in minute details. It was simply about your sexual orientation, and it was discriminatory because it was obviously accepted to mention your opposite-gendered spouse, or have a photo of them somewhere people would see it.

And since you experienced the same as a man: how often did one of your superiors set up a fake meeting on the other side of the continent, which then turned into an attempted 'romantic getaway'. Did you also have to physically push him out of your hotel room, where he showed up in his bathrobe?

Having been in the military when DADT was the rule of the day, I can tell you that it was applied a little differently than your characterization. Yes, locker room talk happened among the junior enlisted (E1-E3), yes the straight guys could get away with it while the gays missed out. That was the extent of it, after you hit NCO there was pretty much no more sex talk - and I never once saw a photo of another dude's wife. We knew everybody's orientation and didn't care so long as we didn't have to hear about it.

As far as the hotel story. Yes, I've experienced a much lower budget version of that - I had a gay VP setup a meeting at an empty satellite office. He made his pass and I stared blankly for a couple of seconds before continuing my work on the white board. On another occasion I had a female coworker show up at my hotel room asking for some help with the presentation she was working on, I handled that the way you should: "I'll meet you in the lobby in 10 minutes."

"Don't ask, don't tell" meant something very different in the US military - barring openly LGBT people from service, but allowing "closeted" LGBT people to serve.

> One day, I was part of a small group flying from San Francisco to New York on the private jet

I am sure life is very difficult for women in Sillicon Valley, but could we start talking about other issues? 99.999% people are less privileged.

Other issues? HN is about the tech industry. It shouldn’t be all roses and technical bits — the unsavory underbelly definitely deserves to be exposed. And unfortunately minorities experience negative things unique to who they are, so it’s important to hear them. The private jet doesn’t matter here — it only demonstrates that discrimination occurs from the very bottom to the very top.

Honest question here, what does privilege have to do with the conversation that took place in her presence and the questions directed to her during the conversation? Is it okay because she had the privilege of riding in a private jet? I am not sure I am understanding your comment.

You appear to be suggesting that HN doesn’t cover any news involving VCs, company management, the banking sector. I don’t think that’s reasonable.

Do we not spend a lot of time talking about other issues?

And are not harassment an issue that also affects less privileged people?

I'm assuming the point here is that if women in board rooms are treated like normal human beings, then civility and respect will soon after trickle down to their less powerful peers who also experience sexism and being left out.

Wow, what an amazing read!

I can't help but feel that this story doesn't really add up.

  > I recommended that she not report it.
She is sharing her story with her team, possibly seeking ways of retribution, and when she finds out a story that can help her cause, and _this_ is her response? To what end?


You don't just go around in a company naming a senior partner and his exploits for "Empathy", not when the stakes are that high.

She just realises that the issue she was against was well over her power, and the woman she was speaking to was even more powerless than her.

If you wish then a pragmatic decision here is to not let her out in the world knowing she'll basically kill herself. That's why kids should not speak to strangers.

This article goes all over the place. Can anyone make a good summary of what point she's trying to make? It reads like an unfiltered stream of consciousness.

I think she's trying to be convincing and using her writing style to do that - but for me bullet points are more convincing.

From what I read, her account is 99% about her personal experience and not he industry at large. How does this equate to "sexism in the valley"? Honest question.

My understanding of what she wrote is that there are not that many people who control most of the money in the valley. These people are all connected. She seems to feel (again, my understanding of her writing) that the people she was working with represented a fairly large percentage of the movers and shakers.

From that perspective, I can understand how she might feel that her personal experience was a good representation of sexism at the top levels of business in SV. I admit to having absolutely no idea if this is correct.

The more interesting question, from my point of view, is whether or not this is really a "sexism in the valley" issue, or if it's a sexism in the halls of power issue. I get the impression that she feels that there are a few powerful people in SV who are perpetuating the problem, but I actually think the problem is much deeper than that.

While I've seen problems with sexism (and racism) in my career as a programmer, it's been pretty rare. On the contrary, when I've been privy to the goings on higher up the ladder (or over in sales) it has shocked me. When I talk to people in other industries it's been similar. My friends who worked their way up in large hotels have had some incredible stories.

So, focusing on SV is doing a bit of a disservice, I think. I can fully appreciate that she can't talk about things for which she has not experience, so SV is what she feels is in her vision. But I don't think it will do any good unless we realise that people in power often feel that they can take whatever they want. And often they are unfortunately correct.

It's a literary style called an 'essay'. I think it's well-written.

I don't think it's trying to actually make the case for silicon valley's sexism–except that it'd be highly unlikely that all this happened to her (and a coworker as well) and nobody else.

If you need further convincing, I submit most of this thread as exhibit 2. Then, maybe check out posts on reddit from the time of her trial.

Then the question remains. What was the point? I would also agreed that many of these comments aren't constructive but I'm actually trying to distill the message.

That might be because it's an excerpt from a book that's coming out.

Every visible trait that makes you seem different from the rest of the in-group counts as a 'demerit.'

- Are you a woman in a male dominated field? -1

- Are you a racial minority relative to the dominant group? -1

- Do you take time off in a 24/7 work culture? -1

- Are you gay? -1

- Are you transgender? -1

- Do you have a physical disability? -1

. . .

If you have enough of these, then the group will likely reject you, and will also rationalize your rejection along the lines of performance or poor 'fit.'

Groups have to take specific proactive steps to prevent this kind of behaviour from emerging naturally.

What can you do to help? If you see evidence of discriminatory behaviour: denounce it immediately and publicly.

Yea, it's a weakness to have to constantly be evaluating a situation with "Was that because I'm black/female/gay/..."

Power comes with the leverage of keeping a function DRY and re-using it. One small change is leveraged across everything. Large changes though are unwanted because of the harm than can happen.

Imagine being constantly reduced to your body. No matter what you do. That hurts. It simply does. It takes away everything you are responsible for, your intelligence, your success, your ideas. You are nothing more than an object for the opposite gender (in most cases women are objectified as a matter of fact, but there is also objectification by women). A little more empathy would do much good.

Are you talking about Jenna Jameson or Ellen Pao?

Assuming this is all true, it would confirm my suspicion that when people talk about techbros, they're talking about the rich 0.001% handling the money rather than the vast bulk of the sector. Conflating the two is eminently useful to some, but it has no bearing on most of the people here. It's a fight of the elite, using popular talking points and media influence to wage a battle using the reputations of tens of thousands as crass collateral.

Aside from a workplace fling with one sleazeball, apparently there's a seedy pleasure trip she didn't get invited on and a plate of cookies. Then the corporate ass covering when she started making a fuss in a company handling millions of dollars.

However, let's face it, competing at that level requires a certain kind of drive and ruthlessness, and it'd be naive to assume Pao is somehow exempt from this.

It's an excerpt from her book, published to promote said book. Of course it's going to be 100% sympathetic. Here's a more neutral take on things, which includes the portion conspicuously omitted here: the lawsuits her husband's embroiled in, and the plus hundred of millions he potentially defrauded pension funds of, which incidentally lines up with Pao's sought damages.

They sound like they deserve each other, and are eminently capable of playing their victim cards for full effect to paper over their own mistakes.


Yeah, she explicitly mentions that vanity fair article.

Among other things, she calls out vanity fair for questioning her marriage, based on the fact that her husband had had previous relationships with men.

It's also somewhat strange how you're trying character assassination by proxy. And that this is a four-year old article, so the story apparently didn't actually go anywhere.

I also believe she does a good job of outlining how the treatment of women is distinct from a general "you have to be aggressive" style of workplace behaviour. What often strikes me most unfair is how women get told to be aggressive ("own the room", as it's called in the article), but then easily faulted for being too aggressive. "Shrill" is one of these words reserved for women only.

And chauvinistic and sexist is a word reserved for men, but few seem to notice that. Equality goes both ways.

I looked around for a follow up to the lawsuits but the Vanity Fair article is still the most informative. Her husband's problems did go somewhere: he lost and is now appealing.

You can call it character assassination by proxy all you want, but the company people keep is still relevant, especially someone whose finances you are legally tied to, and when he's made exactly similar claims of discrimination over matters he had more than a professional interest in.

I allow for the fact that she's a victim, but the article above is not going to let us decide that. I do not listen and believe.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2018

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact