Silicon Valley is 'incredibly white and male' and there's a 'sort of pride' about that fact, says Silicon Valley culture reporter

Ellen pao john doerrMarcio Jose Sanchez / AP ImagesJohn Doerr and Ellen Pao

Silicon Valley was glued to the Ellen Pao-Kleiner Perkins trial verdict last week.

Pao, a junior employee had sued Kleiner for gender discrimination. Pao lost her case.

But it exposed a culture at Kleiner Perkins that was challenging for women. It also opened a larger dialogue about women in technology.

The two best reporters on the Ellen Pao case were Liz Gannes and Nellie Bowles from Re/code. They went to the trial daily, writing blog posts about what they saw.

With the trial over, I spoke to Bowles about the case for The Jay and Farhad Show, a podcast I do with New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo. During the podcast, we asked Bowles what she thought of the broader Silicon Valley culture in terms of sexism.

Lately, there’s been a quietly growing idea that Silicon Valley is the new Wall Street of the 80s. There’s insane money flowing to young white men. It’s turning into a club that excludes women and people of colour. It’s bawdy and boisterous.

But, one of the biggest differences between Wall Street and Silicon Valley is that Silicon Valley at least acknowledges its short comings. Companies report diversity numbers, which reveal that ~70% of employees are male.

I asked Bowles, who covers Silicon Valley culture, if tech companies should get credit for trying, or if this is just lip service.

Bowles thought it was mostly lip service. She thinks it’s admirable that the companies are willing to talk about their flaws, but they need to do more than just talk. They need to take action.

“It is an incredibly white and male culture,” said Bowles. “There’s a sort of pride here in that. It’s hard to explain, but there’s a real resistance to traditional senses of HR. I don’t totally understand where it comes from, but there’s something culturally odd about the valley and people of colour and women, it’s really remarkable.”

Digging further, Bowles added, “There’s a sense that, ‘We don’t give a shit, we don’t need to be beholden to other standards, we’re going to make our own thing.’ There’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on that seems resistant to the kind of change that will be required to bring more women and more diversity into this industry.”

Our discussion of the broader issue starts at the 23:00 mark.

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes here. Or just look for it in your favourite podcast app under “Jay and Farhad”. Here’s an RSS link to the show. We use SoundCloud as a host, so you can listen to the show over there, too.

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