If you’re an executive in Silicon Valley who calls the diversity problem in tech an “unconscious bias,” you’re kidding yourself. And if you’re a woman working for a company whose CEO has said something to that effect, get out of there. That’s the message from Ellen Pao, the former Reddit CEO, in her essay for the newsletter Lenny on Tuesday.
Pao, who lost a high-profile discrimination lawsuit against the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins earlier this year, challenges the industry’s common refrain that the tech is dominated by white men because fewer women and people of color have sought opportunities in Silicon Valley. “Actually, it’s about how the system treats people before and after they enter tech,” Pao wrote. “At this point, we’ve heard enough excuses. Know that when people use dog whistles like ‘the pipeline problem,’ they are saying: We haven’t done anything wrong, and we don’t care to fix it.”
The discrimination that minorities in the technology industry face is even worse than what Pao says she and her colleagues experienced in law—and what she describes abut her experience is skin-crawling. In one instance, a woman at Pao’s law firm was sent home for wearing pants. In another, a woman gained a reputation for being distant because she started closing her office door when a senior partner would ogle her while eating ice cream.