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Yeah, honestly this seems like addition by subtraction. The last thing I would want at work is to navigate around ultra-sensitive trigger-warning micro-aggression seeking activists. Not that all the people leaving were that, but it sure sounds like a lot were. At work I just want professionalism and respectful behavior, along with people that have moderately thick skin and don't seek to find offense everywhere.



I read a summary of the situation and it seemed to me like both sides handled it poorly. It sounded like there was indeed a lot of activism, which is something you don't really want in a workplace, but the C-levels didn't handle it terribly graciously either, what with looking at past logs to find an employee's messages. It's more than a little impolite, I think.

I have to admit there's a certain elegance in filtering out political people by banning public discussions of politics, though. I especially cringed at this bit:

> Jane Yang, a data analyst at the company, told me that restricting internal conversations would negatively affect diversity and inclusion efforts. For example, she said, the company’s profit-sharing plan gave more profits to people who have longer tenure — a group that is majority white and male. Making that discussion off limits internally could ensure that inequality in profit sharing becomes a structural feature of the company.

It's not like they had a rule that white males get more money, it's a seniority rule! It seems unreasonable to me to extrapolate that to systemic racism in the company.


"It's not like they had a rule that white males get more money, it's a seniority rule! It seems unreasonable to me to extrapolate that to systemic racism in the company."

That's exactly where systemic discrimination originates.

Hardly anyone wakes up in the morning and decides that it's a good day to oppress G people. They wake up in the morning having some amount of privilege, discover that it might be threatened, and their actions that day try to avoid reduction of privilege, even if it means treating G people unfairly. It's not anti-G people at first, it's just pro-self.

Over years this becomes a de facto systemic discrimination, generally without a rule that explicitly says "we don't want G coworkers". Instead there are rules that mean that everybody works on G holidays, the microwaves can't be used for "smelly" food (and guess what, all G food is "smelly" by default), and of course, rule is by seniority in the company which just happens not to have any senior G people in it. Somehow fewer G people get hired, and those that do are in low-status positions.

You can pick your own value for G; it could be gender or nationality or ethnicity or religion or skin color or whatever. It works the same way.


In what way do you think that a rule like "the people who have been here the longest should get a bigger share of the company" is unfair to a group of people that is segmented by anything other than "time with the company"?


If you want to ignore that there's an inherent bias towards companies being started more often by people of certain social or racial profiles, sure. But you'd be willingly be ignoring it, and that's why systemic problems are so insidious to fix, they require a more active analysis than "I'm not actively trying to discriminate someone".


> If you want to ignore that there's an inherent bias towards companies being started more often by people of certain social or racial profiles, sure.

Right, so it's not that the rule is biased, it's just that there's general bias because of other things and this rule isn't compensating for it, which are two very different things.

Equality of result is, by definition, a way to bias things towards a different group, and as a proponent of equality of opportunity, I think that's not a good way to build a just society. That's why I'm against trying to "fix" rules that aren't biased in the first place (ie rules which people who support equality of result consider "not biased enough the other way").


"Making that discussion off limits internally could ensure that inequality in profit sharing becomes a structural feature of the company."

The main concern seems to stem from making the discussion off limits. No "fixes" have been proposed. The first step to solving a problem at all is to admit that there is a problem. Being apolitical is privilege. For the unprivileged, simply defending ones rights and dignity is a political issue.


The woman owned and founded startup I work for is completely unable to hire the diverse candidates we have interviewed because they are completely unaffordable at a startup.

Why is this?

Because executives at various massive tech companies are getting massive bonuses connected to how many diverse people they hire. They give lavish salaries and large chunks of equity to people who they otherwise would not. Somebody who is getting offers like this is naturally going to have all of their incentives misaligned for joining a startup.

My company's back end code is Java and Python and we interviewed an engineer who I was willing to teach both of these languages to. She happened to be a black woman and only new PHP using the laravel stack. Zero experience doing front end coding and not really a standout when it came to databases and barely new cloud.

She asked for a large equity stake, but also wanted a salary of $195,000. We are not at all in the Bay area and this salary is completely ridiculous for somebody who also wants a lot of equity and has very few skills that connect to our code base.

She was hired at Amazon for some rather boring role on an internal team that helps the data centers meet energy efficiency requirements by building applications that are essentially dashboards for internal decision makers.

We actually talk on regular basis now because I give her some advice for learning Python.

She was simply negotiating based on her market value and her own fiscal priorities and made a sound well-reasoned decision.

If my company hits it big one day which of course is typically not high probability, people like you will show up and say that we are systemically racist. Ironically the twisted incentives at these massive companies are creating this issue. As long as women are significantly less interested in jobs involving things just like men are significantly less interested in jobs involving people we're going to have to admit that trying to bring things to 50/50 proportions is going to create weird incentives that will further create side effects.


> She asked for a large equity stake, but also wanted a salary of $195,000.

That level of pay is reserved for absolute top talent with at least 15+ years of experience everywhere I’ve worked. Only a major corporation could afford to waste that kind of money on a junior level dev.


How do they not open themselves up for a lawsuit for that kind of pay discrepancy?


So long as your discrimination is targeted at a politically approved "historical oppressor" group, you're fine.


Aren't a majority of startups founded by immigrants?


Only when it suits the narrative. Also, white or light skinned immigrant don't count, of course, because in the oppression olimpic doesn't matter what your past history is, only what group you belong to in the present.


I think you are being downvoted because of HN’s inherent bias on topics regarding diversity and inclusion (although the flamebaity tone might also be at fault here). But I think this point needs reiterating as it is important to the discussion at hand.

I my self am an immigrant that don’t consider me self a member of any minority and I can attest to this. I don’t experience discrimination in my day-to-day activities, nor on the job market. The only discrimination I experience is what I inherit from USA’s immigration policies. I.e. I have more restricted international travel and my visa is tied to my employer (which I would imagine would be far worse of an experience if I would belong to a minority).

And this makes sense given the sibling threads. Being from a majority group in a country where I have good access to quality education, health care and other services, as well as good job opportunities. This indeed gives me a privilege that I take with me as I migrate. Non-immigrants that have been rejected these opportunities don’t have it this good.

In my experience immigration status alone is not enough to put into a group that has increased risk of being discriminated against.


Makes me mad because wife is an immigrant, but of the wrong kind - light skinned, came here legally - and while she grew in disadvantageous situations much like everyone else reaching the shores illegally, she got exactly zero support from the state, while everyone else was receiving welfare, free healthcare and privileged access to education and the job market.

When we eventually settled she had a long backlog of health issues, which we had to pay out of pocket to the tune of dozens thousands, because the mythical European free healthcare is only for the extremely poor or the tax evaders.

So fuck people towing the line of "we help immigrants because they are resources" - there are few feel good resources that are ultimately discriminatory and capriciously allocated to the most noisy groups, leaving people in need screwed because activists don't fill their diversity quota cards below a certain melatonin concentration


> In my experience immigration status alone is not enough to put into a group that has increased risk of being discriminated against.

This logic is kind of bizarre. You don't want to generalize, but only when it comes to putting people from one group into a different group for which you make generalizations.


In what ways could a rule giving advantage to people who are taller possibly have anything to do with men vs women? Would it just be a coincidence that the tall person bonuses happen to go mostly to men? After all, they go to a few tall women too, so does that prove there is no reason for women to get upset about this policy?


If the job is about reaching high shelves, yep, that's an excellent bonus scheme.


The answer is remarkably simple given the nuances of the topic:

The rule that “the people who have been here the longest should get a bigger share of the company” is unfair in a society which has a history of segregation that favored one group over another, and still is dealing with the aftermath of said segregation.

To justify: The favored group has more chance of being an early hire and therefore having better current benefits. On a large scale this leads to systematic discrimination which is not cool.


So explicitly pay more for certain people on a race/gender basis?

Aside from that being illegal out of the gate due to discrimination laws, who comes up with the formula? Is it revised? What kind of additional bonus are we talking?


In fairness, your second paragraph falls victim to the fallacy of "the problem you mention does not exist because solutions to it are too hard".

Yes, the things you mention are hard to design/decide upon, but strictly speaking that's not an argument against the parent (ie it's not that bonuses based on race/gender are wrong because they're hard to do).


> So explicitly pay more for certain people on a race/gender basis? ...

Literally no one said this.

Please try to stay in the actual conversation–it makes for a much healthier discussion.


It's a logical extension of the rule that you have to adjust for bias in every facet of employment compensation. You just don't like where the conversation is going because it sounds like a policy most would reject, so you don't want to talk about it. The person they were responding to later agreed that any policy that doesn't fix bias is biased in itself, so what's wrong with applying this any part compensation? There's clearly a pay gap here so isn't paying certain groups more not fixing this bias?


No, just don’t engage in policies which have these biases. Pay people the fair wages they deserve, give equal vacation times, be accommodating to people with families and to people with disabilities. And arguably favor higher pay over bonuses and stock options.


Higher pay is also often a function of seniority (even more so in industries that don't favor job hopping).

Join any union in the US, and seniority is pretty much the only metric used to evaluate fair compensation and benefits.

I don't understand what you are asking for.


Basecamp does all of those things...

You really need to read up on how they operate before commenting about them like this.

"It doesn't have to be crazy at work" is a good read that explains where they're coming from.

Understanding that, this move is completely rational.


Sorry, I thought it was clear from the context that we are talking about how seniority rule—and whether it is discriminatory—in general. The original quote is:

> > Jane Yang, a data analyst at the company, told me that restricting internal conversations would negatively affect diversity and inclusion efforts. For example, she said, the company’s profit-sharing plan gave more profits to people who have longer tenure — a group that is majority white and male. Making that discussion off limits internally could ensure that inequality in profit sharing becomes a structural feature of the company.

> It's not like they had a rule that white males get more money, it's a seniority rule! It seems unreasonable to me to extrapolate that to systemic racism in the company.

And the reply was:

> Hardly anyone wakes up in the morning and decides that it's a good day to oppress G people. They wake up in the morning having some amount of privilege, discover that it might be threatened, and their actions that day try to avoid reduction of privilege, even if it means treating G people unfairly. It's not anti-G people at first, it's just pro-self.

The argument here is that if we evaluate by a metric that benefits the in-group more then the out-group you end up with doing discrimination.

In the comment you are replying I’m giving examples of fair pay and fair accommodations in general. It is a respond to GP which misunderstands previous post that we should be paying minorities higher to adjust for the bias that is causing seniority benefits being unfair. But as I have said, that is simply not what I’m (nor anybody here is) arguing.


> The argument here is that if we evaluate by a metric that benefits the in-group more then the out-group you end up with doing discrimination.

Yes. That's the point. The in group in this case has invested more time. They get more reward. What you're suggesting is rewarding those who have done less more than those who have done more.

Talk about a fucked up sense of equality.


You are either misunderstanding or operating under false assumptions.

a) Misunderstanding: I’m not suggesting that people get rewarded that have done less. That conclusion does not follow from: don’t engage in reward system that disproportionately benefits your ingroup. I see how you would arrive at that conclusion, but it is false. Not engaging in policies that disproportionately reward your in-group does not necessitate rewarding an out-group by a different metric. These are not two sides of the same coin.

b) False assumptions: Staying longer at a company does not equate having done more. It is entirely possible (and even quite common) that a new hire will contribute a lot more then established workers. A new hire brings with them a new perspective. They might not contribute directly, but they might be asking the right questions which gives more senior workers a better perspective etc.


So the objection is that rules that don't attempt to fix biases are inherently "biased by default", even though the rule doesn't actually contain bias itself?


That is more like a corollary to the rule. If society is biased, and you don’t adjust for said bias, then you will get biased results.


Right, but that uses some sleight of hand to make the claim that you can/should adjust for bias everywhere instead of at the source, which isn't something everyone finds fair.


I mean sure. If you have the power to fix the aftermath of centuries of discrimination, that would be amazing. However that is for sure easier said then done. In Cuba it took a civil war, a revolution and a total economic upheaval. I doubt there is popular support for anything like that in most countries.

If you are in favor of a revolution, all the power to you... But if not, then I’m sorry to say that our best option is the slow, painful and gradual correcting for our systemic biases for the next generations.


I don't think it takes a revolution to make a social safety net, ensure good education for every child, and institute free healthcare for everyone, but that probably sounds too close to "socialism" for some people's comfort.


Why do you think all those things would satisfy those that suffer from systemic discrimination? Presumably there would still be a bias towards promotion, opportunities and compensation. Great if you get healthcare from the govt but I don’t think people are suddenly going to stop these types of complaints.


Because childhood nutrition, healthcare, schooling/community and other living conditions are huge causal factors towards a talent pool of people who are prepared to pass a software engineering interview? The original complaint here is all about 'seniority' being inherently unfair due to those societal conditions.

Trying to 'unbias' (meaning a calibrated, countervailing bias actually) at the other end of the funnel, where incidentally 80%+ are already super liberal, doesn't really get the same mileage.


Ok, if we do assume those things do fill the funnel, what do you do foe the next 20-30 years while you wait for those changes to pull through? Tell the folks to “sit tight, we fixed it”?


Well, we're not going to hire software engineers that don't exist in the name of equity. And, yes, the answer to 'how do I do better in this seniority system' is literally always 'wait', no matter who you are.

If people are primarily upset about general societal things rather than clear cut workplace discrimination, I would submit they should focus their activism at those societal things.


I disagree with the idea that everything is racist/sexist/ist which is what this seems to support. Why wouldn't the people who have invested more time into an organization reap more of the benefits? Why stick around otherwise?


A situation can suck without being unfair.


The convenience of this scheme is that if you complain about being treated unfairly, you can be either told "sure, it's because of systemic discrimination, we'll fix it right away", or "you're just complaining because you're afraid of losing your privilege" - and this does not depend even a little bit on your own actions and your own achievements or qualities. It only depends on who the powers external to you pre-designated to be "privileged" and "oppressed" - and they did it not knowing who you are, what's your story and probably before you have been born even. Your experiences and concerns can be central or immediately dismissed just because somebody sorted you into one group or another. And it's your own fault, for being in the wrong group.

And the most funny thing about it is that people propagating this system actually thing they fight for equality and against the abuse of power. While this is exactly how inequality and abuse of power is done.


Is there systemic racism in the NBA?


I'm at a startup (tiny) now, and thanks to DIE bonuses and hiring emphasis n at FAANGs, diverse candidates have never been more unaffordable.

Thoroughly middle of the road, PHP programmers who can't do front end at all, demanding large equity stake AND a salary higher than anyone else at company. They are just valuing themselves at market for a black engineer.

It's a shame, because in the chance my company (we are already doubling enterprise customers every 3 months) does well, some journalist will comment on how early employees are skewed towards white/male.

(I should note that founder/ceo is a woman who was so amazing when I interviewed that I took a pay cut for more equity, cuz she's a beast who I'm convinced will lead our company to success)


Guess the experiences here are pretty diverse. I’ve not had a problem hiring or competing with FAANG for excellent+qualified female / non-white talent.

What’s the current gender makeup % of your engineering team, if I can ask? As well, what’s the non white makeup of the engineering leadership and overall leadership team? I found it got easier the less that ratio skewed towards 100%M engineering team and 100% white leadership team :)


Current engineering team is 2 women, 2 men. 2 over 50, 2 under 40. All white.

Leadership team is mostly female, only 1 male, who is CTO. 1 is Latina, others white.

In the past, I joined a company where entire leadership team was Indian and male. I never would have thought to not work there because they didn't share my race. That would have been bigoted.


I elaborated on this more in my other response but:

“ I never would have thought to not work there because they didn't share my race. That would have been bigoted.”

There’s a wealth of factors that go into a choice to work somewhere, and someone not choosing to work at your company because they don’t see themselves represented isn’t necessarily bigotry, but then also wanting an assurance of a safe space and not always knowing whether it will be. I wish I could tell you otherwise but I’ve had these conversations with a wealth of marginalized groups over my career and the teams I’ve built, so it’s not unusual. It’s not a “oh I don’t want to work with these people because I’m [x] and they’re [y]” matter the majority of the time. It’s more often “man, I’m going to be the only [x] on a team of 30 [y]s” which is often culturally uncomfortable for a lot of people.

And yes sometimes on occasion it is “man, I don’t want to be working with a company of 10 [y]s where I’m the only [x]” or “if the executive team is all or majority [y]s, do I know for sure there’s career advancement opportunities here?”

We do have a rampant amount of sexism, racism, etc in our field (just like many others) and so that is something unfortunately people sometimes suspect. I’m not at all saying that this is the situation at your company - far from it - just saying the choices for people are most often verrrrrry far from bigotry.

Not sure of your background but it’s also not too hard for a CIS white male to not sweat working on any other team composition (say, all Indian) vs the reverse, because hey - even if you’re paying a pioneer tax, you’re probably not paying it for long. There’s a lot of advantages that group has that are often taken for granted. :)


Just a note that I’m astounded that a remark saying “hey, I’ve hired a diverse team, here are some structural things I’ve found that helped - tell me more about your team makeup” is something that garnered any downvotes at all. Are there seriously people here who believe this is a bad idea? I’d love to hear more about why you do!


I didn't have a problem with the statement.

I disagree with catering to candidates own biases though.

If a candidate assumes my startup is bigoted because it's all white, despite talking to us, I don't want them here. Stereotypes are stupid, useless, and immoral, no matter who they are directed at. Imagine if I had a problem with all but 1 of my leadership team being female? That would be me making decisions about them based on their immutable characteristics. Fuck that.


Actually that’s not at all why I brought it up. There’s a concept called “the pioneer tax” where being the first X of anything means you’re the pioneer. For example, the first female in a team of 3 engineers pays a much lower pioneer tax than the first female engineer in a team of 20 engineers. Replace female with black or Latina. It’s the same thing there. Career choices are a huge choice; why wouldn’t you choose to work where you’d feel most comfortable with the culture?

Ideally the earlier you can intentionally focus on diversity the better. This also goes for leadership too - both for hiring other leaders and it’s an easy demonstration that the company’s commitment to diversity isn’t just for token representation purposes.

Anyway...yeah, nothing about catering to candidates biases or people judging you as bigots. I sense the anger here at that but hopefully you can see that’s not where I’m approaching it from.


I really appreciate your extremely informative response.

I think you hit a very good point with the pioneer attacks and it's a higher cost as the team gets larger.

Funny enough I experienced the pioneer tax myself one time but for a different reason than ethnicity or sexuality: Socioeconomic status. People can't tell by looking at me but within about two sentences they can very accurately HEAR via my speech patterns that I grew up in a lower socioeconomic class than 99% of US born programmers in the industry. I have a very rural dialect but I do work hard to have excellent grammar when I speak. Over the years I've worked hard to suppress the accent while at work and I'm sad to say that it's been very effective in reducing people's biases toward me. Of course that's just anecdotal it's not like somebody was scientifically measuring anything. And I'm fully aware it's a huge luxury to be able to hide what makes you different from people, as opposed to race/gender/etc.


Appreciate you too!


I think that’s the entire point DHH was attempting to make: internal issues don’t need to be connected with broader issues like colonialism and racism.

That senior execs making more money is due to their tenure and merit, and not because they’re white and male.


I feel like a lot of companies (including Google) are still reeling from Google's "Bring your entire self to work" philosophy. It does feel like good management where companies like Coinbase have reified their mission/goals, and given those who feel like solving X needs to be included, a nice payout to leave. The world has a lot of complex problems and not every entity needs to work on fixing all of them--that may in fact be counterproductive.


Given how Basecamp is known to pay, they're going to attract a significant amount of top talent that is already aligned with the new culture.


Oh, have you seen tweets from Basecamp leaders calling people out? you could actually say that the execs are activists as well based on their posts on social media.


Not really sure where I sit on the whole thing, still, but I've seen this parroted as a "gotcha!" and I don't think it really is. The founders' activism is _public_. The ban is only on activism _at work_. The fact that so many people don't _get this_ is sort of proving their point.


That's not the case. They're explicitly saying employees are welcome to discuss the founder's activist preferences at work. They've also heavily used their workplace for activism. For example, they invited a political candidate to base a campaign out of their offices.


Yes, on social media. Outside of their basecamp account.


If you're looking for people with moderately thick skin who don't seek to find offense everywhere, a good place to start is to avoid the folks who wrote this blog post:

> every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It's become too much. It's a major distraction.

https://world.hey.com/jason/changes-at-basecamp-7f32afc5

There's absolutely no reason to believe that there were any "ultra-sensitive trigger-warning micro-aggression seeking activists" at Basecamp among the employees. All we have is a blog post from someone who is overly sensitive to reasonable professional conversations and didn't want to deal with "unpleasant" conversations at work. It's a story told from that person's perspective and we shouldn't take it as absolute truth.


How often are conversations in the political/SJW space “reasonable” and “professional”?

Never, in my experience, because the said activists tend to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of being a bigot.


Exactly. And it's especially evident when you look at their Twitter accounts


Hm. In my experience, I've always found them reasonable and professional and I've never been called a bigot.


>There's absolutely no reason to believe that there were any "ultra-sensitive trigger-warning micro-aggression seeking activists" at Basecamp among the employees.

This is objectively false. There is 100% undeniable proof of these types of employees being there, including one of the heads of data analytics:

From https://janeyang.org/resisting/

> Racist capitalism is poison that has weakened every facet of society and been used to “justify” horrific crimes against humanity while destroying our planet. We need massive power and wealth distribution enshrined in national and international policies.

From https://janeyang.org/2021/04/13/im-getting-some-feedback/

> Guess who tends to beta spray? Men. White men, in particular.

From https://janeyang.org/2021/03/18/live-forward/

> If you are white or a man, especially a cis-gendered heterosexual able-bodied white man, do the fucking work. Learn about the characteristics of white supremacy, push through your discomfort, and reflect on how you show up in the spaces you have power. Be ready to apologize when you screw up (we all do!) and then do better. And whatever you do: do not demand that your friends or colleagues or employees or neighbors or acquaintances who belong to historically marginalized groups explain to you all the ways you perpetuate harm and how society got here. Pay an anti-oppression professional for training and coaching; don’t expect us to get you up to speed for free.




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