Internet/Telecom/Social Media

Every high tech employer has issues with gender equality, but few are as bad as Silicon Valley

If you’re a male engineer, I suggest you talk to your female colleagues about the sexism they experience every day, and then make a plan to stop contributing to it yourself.

This should never have to be said. (Image credit: Social Talent)

Correction: James Demore’s name was spelled incorrectly below. This has been corrected.

I’m an electrical engineer. I have an advanced degree. I work for an industry and an employer that strongly values and rewards competence, and I’ve been successful so far in my engineering career. As a result, a few times a year I get letters or calls from people looking to hire me away from my employer “if I’m looking for a change.”

A few of those communications have been from Google.

One problem I’ve always had with working for Google is that I design hardware, not software, and the last time I checked, hardware design for Google required relocating to Mountain View. I’m not already an internet billionaire, so I can’t afford to buy a home anywhere near Mountain View. Google would be foolish to pay me well enough to afford to live near Mountain View. And since I actually like my family and enjoy spending time with them, I’m unwilling to commute 2 hours each way, every day, just to work for Google.

Put more simply, life is way too short for me to work for Google in Mountain View.

But these days I’m not sure I’d work for Google, or maybe any Internet/App company, anywhere, for any price.

To understand why, let me give you a few names: Travis Kalanick. David Bonderman. Justin Caldbeck. James Damore’s sexist rant at Google got him fired two days after he emailed it. Better yet, read the horror stories by women engineers who work in tech around the country:

Women Engineers On the Rampant Sexism of Silicon Valley

Female Google engineer on viral memo: ‘I was painfully unsurprised’

After Uber, more women speak up about Silicon Valley sexism

Horror stories of women in tech: The worst advice I’ve ever received

Horror Stories From Women In Tech

(and hundreds, maybe thousands more stories just like these – just search “silicon valley sexism” or “women tech sexism” and then read)

Or even better, if you’re in engineering, talk to your female colleagues about it. Hell, if you’re a guy who knows women, talk to them about it. Every single woman – yes, all women – has stories they can share, and from which men can learn how to be better.

I am painfully aware that I have screwed up and acted sexist toward the women in my life, both personally and professionally. The best I can do is apologize when I screw up, learn from my mistakes, and be better next time.

I also have no illusions that my own industry (aerospace) or my employer are pure as the driven snow when it comes to sexism. My industry is too male-dominated, and our national culture is too sexist, for that to be the case. Even though the worst horror stories that I’ve read have been in other industries (with computer science in Silicon Valley being the worst by far), I’ve heard a few ugly stories from my female co-workers as well. It’s not my place to share them, however, and to my employer’s credit, they’ve generally been open to fixing problems when they’re aware of them. And my employer was early to offer domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples and gender reassignment therapies as part of the company insurance plan, so they’re a bit more forward looking than most.

But as I mentioned above, the stories I’ve heard from my female colleagues about issues at our jobs pale in comparison to the outright misogyny practiced in companies like Uber, or by people like James Damore.

So I’m not going to jump ship and go to work for Google, or Uber, or Microsoft, or Apple, or any of a hundred other high tech companies. They need to clean up their act first.