Silicon Valley Has A Problem With Women

ELLE’s technology editor on a depressing new report


One of the most hotly debated topics in the tech industry last year was the gender gap and discrimination experienced by women, the climax being the Ellen Pao court case, the heavily publicised trial of the former Reddit CEO which sparked a subsequent frenzy of stories highlighting discimination and gender bias suffered by women in Silicon Valley. 


Mergime Raci, Magdalena Krön, Caylee Farndon-Taylor and Cathy White from women-led group, Geekgirl Meetup

A big problem behind these anecdotes has always been the lack of numbers to back them up. You can excuse each story as an anomaly or explain it away as a stroke of bad luck. But this week, Kara Swisher of ReCode Decode interviewed former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner, Trae Vassallo (from the same firm as Ellen Pao) and former Yahoo exec Michelle Madansky published a new report called ‘The Elephant in The Valley’, a survey about gender bias and harassment in the technology industry. 


The report begins to expose the enormity of the issue with the hope being that now we’re aware of what we’re looking at, the issue will become much clearer and measurable and we can finally start trying to change this deep rooted problem. 

Some the most shocking revelations were the stats around sexual harassment, defined as women experiencing unwanted sexual advances from men, which had been experienced by 60% of the respondents.

Perhaps most worryingly, 39% of women experiencing this won’t report the incident because of the impact they think it will have on their careers, with only 13% of all those that did report it feeling satisfied with the result of the report. That’s 77% not being satisfied, hardly a motivation to encourage women to report these more often. 

When it came to looking at gender bias, explored through the lenses of conscious and unconscious bias, 50% of the respondents felt they didn’t get a seat at the table because of their gender and 2 in every 3 have had inappropriate comments from male colleagues about their work clothes. 

One of the most commonly encountered issues was the 88% of women that had experienced questions that should have been addressed to them (the woman), being asked to their male colleagues in the room. 

The numbers behind this are not only deeply worrying, they’re just the tip of the iceberg in what looks like a year when gender discrimination conversations are only going to become more frequent and high profile. Despite the troubling numbers, it’s got to be said that the tech industry is making some big steps by at least discussing this issue, something I’d love to see as part of a fuller picture, by checking out how the numbers stack up in other industries, from marketing to finance. 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. We need #MoreWomen.

Words by ELLE Technology Editor Robyn Exton

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