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White Male "Allies" Have Surprisingly Little To Say About Fixing Sexist Tech Culture

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Remember that this audience consists of the most technical, "leaning-in" women you will ever meet en masse. When I went, the majority of the attendees had or were pursuing graduate degrees in computer science.

This is quite telling:

I didn’t have high hopes for the “Male Allies Plenary Panel” at the Grace Hopper Celebration on Wednesday night. But at least I figured the assembled male tech leaders would at least know better than to repeat the same tired "encouragement" that women have heard over and over. Especially considering that most of the 8,000 conference attendees are female, and likely know those lines by heart.

It was even worse than I expected.

EIGHT THOUSAND PEOPLE went to this conference?!

What if we don't WANT to lean in?

The panel consisted of Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer; Google's SVP of search Alan Eustace; Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy; and Tayloe Stansbury, CTO of Intuit. The assembled white men set out to tell the audience what their companies are doing to make women more welcome and how men and women (yes, that's right—women, too) can change the boys' club culture in tech. 

Instead, they ended up reinforcing many of the stereotypes women are already all too familiar with. In essence, their advice to women was: Work harder, build great things, speak up for yourself, lean in.  It got so bad that at one point, the audience started heckling the speakers.

“I don’t think people are actively protecting the [toxic culture] or holding on to it ... or trying to keep [diverse workers] from the power structure that is technology,” Eustace said. “I don’t think that’s it.”

To which women in the audience said very loudly: “Yes it is!”

Our leaders just don't understand.

Missing, of course, were any women to field the questions the men so gingerly talked around.

The panelists exhibited little genuine sense of self-awareness, and while the men said existing tech culture needs to change, they offered only stale encouragement, and had little to say about any of the repercussions women and other outsiders can face when they do "speak up" or "tell people their story" or "lean in."  

Trust me: People who are not white males already know very well that they have to be "twice as good as them to get half of what they have," as the saying goes.


“Women should be leading this conversation,” Julie Ann Horvath, designer and developer at AndYet, and outspoken critic of tech culture, said in an interview. She knows firsthand how toxic tech culture can be—Horvath left GitHub after suffering harassment in the workplace.

“We should be building platforms to amplify the voices of women in tech, not to cater to the egos of men,” she said. “Men who want to help need to get the hell out of our way, basically. Because we're coming. And we don't need their support.”

Not sure which is worse...

This type of institutionalized organizational sexism...

Or the mind-numbing cruelty of young male Internet misogyny:

Back in the day, Airbnb used to brag that 12 of its 50 engineers were women:

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