There have been many leaders of the #MeToo movement, which inspired women across all different industries to speak up about sexual harassment, unequal access to opportunities in the workplace, and the pervasive culture of casual sexism that still plagues so many companies today. In the tech industry — a field that has historically been overwhelmingly white and male — that leader was Ellen Pao.
A decade ago, Ellen was a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, where she and other female colleagues were cut out of meetings, left out of networking opportunities, and punished for speaking out about their treatment. All of this led her to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against the firm in 2012. The trial sparked a national conversation around sexism in tech, giving women in the industry a platform to speak up. That spark has now been called the “Pao Effect.”
Ellen went on to become the interim CEO of Reddit, where she cracked down on misogyny and harassment on the platform. And in 2016, she and seven other female tech leaders founded Project Include, a nonprofit that conducts research to increase diversity and inclusion in tech and beyond. Most recently, Ellen authored the book “Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change,” which chronicles her efforts to make workplaces better for women and people of color.
Tune in to hear Ellen unpack why the tech industry has struggled with diversity for so many years. According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the overall representation of Black and Latinx workers in the tech workforce is in the single digits. Research has also shown that women and Asian Americans are less likely to be promoted. Ellen talks about how these systemic issues impacted her career and the careers of other women at Kleiner Perkins.
We also dismantle the myth that the tech industry — and the workplace in general — is a meritocracy, where hard work and innovation are generally rewarded. Ellen argues that this belief can often lead marginalized employees to blame themselves for unequal treatment. She experienced this firsthand at Kleiner Perkins, where she says she received inconsistent feedback that filled her with self-doubt and made it impossible for her to grow in her career.
“There was one point where I thought it was me,” she says. “But the feedback would be, ‘You’re too aggressive,’ and at the same time, it would be, ‘You’re too quiet.’ So there was no way to thread this needle of becoming what they wanted me to be. It wasn’t consistent. There was no way to succeed.”
We also dive into the challenges that the tech industry has faced in 2022, which include mass layoffs and a few leadership scandals à la Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried. Ellen explains the connection between the industry’s financial struggles and their struggles with diversity and inclusion. She also shares her biggest pieces of advice for company leaders and employees who want to make their businesses better for marginalized workers.
In Mailbag, we hear from a listener whose parents are struggling to handle their finances because of memory issues. In Thrive, how to refresh your resume for 2023.
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