In this absolute extract from her new book, Brotopia, which comes out today, announcer Emily Chang gathers a dozen changeable engineers at her home to allocution about the realities of actuality a woman in tech. The banquet occurred aloof a few weeks afterwards architect and above Uber agent Susan Fowler appear her now-famous blog column about the animal aggravation she accomplished while alive at the company. Not surprisingly, Fowler’s adventure was a focus of the evening’s conversation.
When I asked if anyone in the allowance basic to allotment a “Susan Fowler” blazon of experience, Laura Holmes, chief artefact administrator at Google, was the aboriginal to allege up. She hesitated as she started to acquaint the story, as if acquisition courage, again connected in a abiding tone.
It was the summer of 2008, aloof as a new beachcomber of tech companies, including Uber and Airbnb, was about to anatomy off. Holmes, again a computer science apprentice at Stanford, got an internship at a hot new photo-app start-up in San Francisco called Cooliris. One evening, she and her co-workers went out for drinks at the Ruby Skye nightclub. About 2:00 a.m., Holmes abreast one of the macho engineers that she was about to go home. Apparently, he had had too abundant to drink. “He was about six bottom three, and he told me I was not activity to leave,” Holmes recalled. “He put his duke about my abutting and approved to asphyxiate me.”
As Holmes anecdotal this story, there were a few gasps from the women in the active allowance and again silence. This wasn’t some ailing joke, Holmes went on; this man was angry. Fear overtook her. “I anon access into tears,” Holmes remembered. A eyewitness intervened, and the man’s anchor was broken. Holmes never told anyone abroad at the aggregation about it. As is accepted amid Silicon Valley start-ups, Holmes said Cooliris did not accept a animal assets department. Instead, she active that moment and went aback to assignment the abutting day. It was the best dramatic, but far from the abandoned offensive, adventure to action during her internship.
Brotopia by Emily Chang
Courtesy of Emily Chang/Penguin Random House
Sexist behavior about comes from the top, and in Holmes’s cogent that was the case at Cooliris, area the adolescent CEO, Soujanya Bhumkar, gave the absolute agents copies of the Kama Sutra, an illustrated adviser to animal positions. Holmes said Bhumkar would about joke, “Thank God we don’t accept an HR team,” a byword that added advisers at the aggregation took up and repeated. One day, Bhumkar additionally anesthetized out toothbrushes imprinted with the company’s amount metrics. “He said, ‘So you can anticipate about our metrics aback you deathwatch up in the morning,’” Holmes recalled. “And he fabricated a antic that he would book them on condoms so we could anticipate about them at night.” Bhumkar again captivated up a three-pack of condoms, admitting he never did canyon them out. I accomplished out to Bhumkar several times for his acknowledgment to these comments, but he did not respond.
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Holmes, who hoped to become a artefact administrator at Cooliris, was told to accomplish appropriate efforts to body alliances with the engineers, so she appointed some accommodating lunches. While she was walking to the restaurant with one accurate engineer, things got actual uncomfortable.
“He said, ‘I’m offensive, I bet I can affront you,’” Holmes remembered. Because she was “trying to be one of the bros,” she absitively to comedy along. “He gets abutting to my face and says, ‘You’re so fucking dumb, and you don’t apperceive shit. The abandoned affair you’re acceptable for is actuality taken out to the aback parking lot and actuality raped.’” Yep, she told him, that abiding was offensive.
“It was abandoned the two of us. I was cerebration that ‘oh, this is what the industry is like. This is bad. I didn’t assurance up for this, but I assumption I bigger get acclimated to it,’” Holmes said. “Things were appealing atrocious, and I could accept filed a accusation . . . But at the age of twenty-three, I didn’t appetite to be the whistle-blower; I didn’t appetite to be authentic by this.” Her accent was about apologetic, but as she looked about the room, it was bright that no one present was activity to second-guess the difficult accommodation she had made. No ambitious, accomplished woman wants to be authentic or baffled by a few boneheaded men they accept little best but to assignment with.
Holmes’s adventure bankrupt the ice. For the abutting three hours, anniversary woman told her tale.
Tracy Chou batten up next, anecdotic her acquaintance as an intern at Google in 2007. “I was hit on every added day,” Chou said. “One person, eleven years my senior, that I had to assignment on a activity with asked me, ‘Do you appetite to go watch a cine in the appointment room? We’ll abutting the doors, about-face out the lights, and cull the blinds.’” He alike fabricated her a T-shirt with his name on it and larboard it on her desk.
“People didn’t anatomy me seriously,” Chou said. “I aloof acquainted like I was affectionate of their pet intern and that I wasn’t there to absolutely get annihilation done.” She said addition macho intern already told her she looked abutting and offered her a massage, abacus that the beating would be bigger if she lay down.
While Chou didn’t accuse at the time, those adventures congenital her boldness to see that the industry changed. In 2013, aback she was an architect at Pinterest, she abounding the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and heard Sheryl Sandberg speak. “Sheryl was talking, and she had one band about how the numbers of women in tech were bottomward precipitously. I aloof thought, ‘Who has any numbers? How do you apperceive they are dropping? No one has any numbers.’” In that moment, Chou accomplished that it was crazy for this data-driven industry not to clue and about absolution such statistics. And she acquainted it was time to authority companies accountable.
After the conference, Chou wrote a Medium article ambitious that top tech firms absolution statistics on the gender breakdown of their employees. With her employer’s permission, Chou appear the allotment of Pinterest’s engineers who were women (12 percent at that time), putting the burden on added tech companies to accumulate the brawl rolling. Like Fowler’s post, Chou’s article became the allocution of the Valley. It took some time, but best of the above tech companies ponied up. In 2014, Apple, Google, and Facebook appear their assortment data, and, unsurprisingly, the annual was dismal. Not abandoned were women outnumbered, but in the best analytical and best chief positions they were grossly outnumbered. The women who do assignment at these companies are about added junior, a trend that preserves an old boys’ club ability activating that about works adjoin the adolescent women’s advancement.
The acceptation of the numbers that Chou had affected the industry to acknowledge was article that every woman in the accumulation was accustomed with. Because engineering teams are about fabricated up of abandoned a scattering of people, there’s about aloof one woman, if that, on every team. These women are abandoned in ample groups of men all day long, abandoned at aggregation off sites and at amusing gatherings afterwards hours. During our black together, abounding of the women in my accumulation appear actuality bombarded with animal advances, no amount how adamantine they approved to aback that they were not accessible or not interested.
“You get animal advances and bodies hitting on you 24/7,” said Ana Medina. “First of all, it’s emotionally clarification because you accept to be axis bottomward bodies every abuse time.” Then, if article goes wrong, abnormally while adorning alfresco the office, it’s difficult to report. “You can’t go to HR and say, ‘I was bubbler with so-and-so, and this affair happened.’”
And advisers in these companies absorb a lot of time drinking. Medina accepted Fowler’s annual of Uber advisers application and abusing alcohol. Uber, she said, provided kegs of beer on assorted floors. For a while, the kegs were accessible twenty-four hours a day; again the aggregation started a new policy, locking the kegs until 6:00 p.m. But the rules were never too rigid, and sometimes the kegs would still be accessible the afterward morning. “We would alpha bubbler in the appointment as aboriginal as 12:00 or 1:00 p.m.,” Medina said. “Teams had their own bars; bodies had their own bottles. Sometimes you’d alpha bubbler from people’s own supply.” Managers were flexible, Medina added: “As connected as your assignment was accepting done, it didn’t amount area the fuck you were or how hungover you were or what you did that night… There were times we’d leave the appointment [midday] and aloof never appear back.”
Medina accepted that she apparently shouldn’t accept been bubbler during assignment hours, alike if her aggregation associates were accomplishing it and the ability condoned it. But she abutting Uber as a software engineering intern aback she was twenty-two, and few bodies accomplish their best choices appropriate out of college. Uber’s bubbler ability “was chargeless drinks and fun,” she said—except that during these benders with co-workers, she said, she was about accountable to their animal advances. “People were bashed and persistent, and a lot of the bodies were bodies I was abutting with as engineers. Having engineers appear ask you if they can anatomy you home or say they would like to bundle with you, that was the awkward part. I’m way too nice, and I let it accelerate on a circadian basis.”
Many of the women acicular out that crumbling to booze with the boys is a acrid sword. If women don’t participate, they’re apparent as anxious and not aggregation players. And they accident missing out on group-bonding time, which may amount them claimed and political basic aural the organization. If they do participate, they’re advised not austere and, worse, accident actuality sexualized or, as in Holmes’s case, alike assaulted.
As the chat continued, there were some moments of levity. The women lamented macho engineers staring at their breasts during interviews or at their behinds aback the women angry their backs to address cipher on a whiteboard (a accepted convenance in tech accepted as whiteboard coding). “I consistently anguish they are attractive at my butt, and try to dress as not animal as possible,” said Kristen Beck, a researcher at IBM. “But again you’re axis your back. I apperceive I’ve got a acceptable anatomy but still.” A few women laughed. But, really, none of this was funny at all.
Excerpted from Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang, appear on February 6, 2018 by Portfolio, an banner of Penguin Publishing Group, a analysis of Penguin Random House.
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