I started this report thinking I was going to discuss how sexism in STEM fields particularly in technology, has changed from blatant misogyny to simply doubting women’s abilities to do the same quality of work men can, maybe even better quality. I had assumed that sexism in these fields had changed over the years, but after researching more, I stumbled across several articles that proved that I was dead wrong. The sexism in technology fields did not change with the women’s rights movement in the 1960s and 70s, probably because it was in its infancy, and in the past fifty years it has not changed much either. A second women’s rights movement is needed in this field, and needed badly.
Dictionary.com has three definitions of sexism,simply adhering to stereotypical gender roles, devaluing women’s achievements, and harmful and violent hatred of women (“Sexism”). Women in silicon valley are subject to all three of these definitions, and there are many examples of all three. They are pushed out of jobs in technological fields on the basis of gender, their work is devalued and not taken as seriously as men’s, and they are even blatantly abused by their male counterparts on a level unseen in almost any other field. Girls are being pushed more and more to join STEM fields, but Shanley Kane, founder of Model View Culture, said in an interview that “venture capitalists talk about the need to get 10-year-old girls into science to bring up the number of women they will fund, but do not fund the ones already in the industry,” (Burleigh) even though these are the women who need it most.
When we think of stereotypical gender roles, we assume that they are displayed in 1950s advertisements directed towards housewives, or that they are present in jokes about how the place of a woman is in the kitchen. Gender roles are generally considered things of the past, or worthy of humor. We do not think of the very prevalent idea that women in the workplace will have to give up either their family life or their professional life. According to Jana Kasperkevic’s survey on how many women in silicon valley face different kinds of sexism, sexism based on women’s family lives is extraordinarily prevalent. “One respondent said she stopped keeping photos of her children on her desk,” Kasperkevic reports. She also reveals that an incredible 75% of women are asked about their family lives in interviews, something that has no impact on how well women can do the jobs they are being interviewed for, and that one in four women who are sexually harassed are at C-level positions in their companies. Gender roles have no place in modern society, though they are a key part of computer science fields at every level.
Dictionary.com’s second definition of sexism talks about the devaluation of people based on their gender, limiting job opportunities. A prime example of this is the case of Tinder co-founder and ex-vice president of Tinder, Whitney Wolfe. In 2014, Wolfe sued the other two founders of Tinder, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, for discrimination based on her gender. The two men only listed her as a co-founder in articles where it may have appeared beneficial to the company, such as in women’s magazines, though elsewhere, the list of founders excluded her completely. When asked why this was happening, Mateen, the chief marketing officer, allegedly said that “naming her as a young, female co-founder of a company otherwise built by several men ‘devalues’ the firm and makes it seem like a ‘joke,’” (Dave). The idea that a woman’s involvement in a company makes that company less valuable limits women’s opportunities within technological fields. Even if women help to make an extremely successful business, that is no guarantee that they will be taken seriously. In a field dedicated to progressing humanity farther into the future, this is incredibly hypocritical, and it happens all too often.
Along with pressure for women to adhere to more stereotypical gender roles and constant reinforcement that women cannot do as well as men in this field comes blatant disregard for women’s well-being as well. Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (image below), an entrepreneur worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is a man who is a leading name in online advertising. In 2013, he was convicted of attacking a woman in his apartment. He pled guilty to misdemeanor charges and received no jail time, 25 hours of community service, and 3 years of probation (Burleigh). He later violated this probation by attacking another woman, and received one year of jail time (Conger “Judge”). During his second domestic violence case, he stepped down as CEO of Gravity4, a company he founded after being fired from RadiumOne during his first case. However, within a few months he was back as CEO, even as he was facing jail time (Conger “Despite”). The fact that he has been able to get away with violence against women, twice, with such minimal consequences is unheard of in almost any other field, the most notable exception being professional sports.
In a field that professes to be determined to advance the human race, sexism has no place in the office. The fields heaviest in computer science are extremely sexist, with examples of the three definitions of sexism at some of the highest levels of business. People should not be treated this way, regardless of gender, and the fact that this is occurring in a field that has become such a huge part of our everyday lives is something that needs to be changed, and as soon as possible.
Burleigh, Nina. “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.” Newsweek. N.p., 15 March 2016. Web. 08 March 2017.
Conger, Kate. “Despite Looming Jail Time, Gurbaksh Chahal Is Back as Gravity4 CEO.”TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 1 Sept. 2016, techcrunch.com/2016/09/01/despite-looming-jail-time-gurbaksh-chahal-is-back-as-gravity4-ceo/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.
Conger, Kate. “Judge Finds Gravity4 CEO Gurbaksh Chahal Violated Probation in Domestic Violence Case.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 22 July 2016, techcrunch.com/2016/07/22/gurbaksh-chahal-probation/. Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.
Dave, Paresh. “Ex-Exec Sues Tinder Execs, Claiming Sexual Harassment, Discrimination.”Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 1 July 2014, http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-tinder-lawsuit-20140701-story.html. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.
Kasperkevic, Jana. “Sexism Valley: 60% of Women in Silicon Valley Experience Harassment.” Money and Feminism, Guardian News and Media, 12 Jan. 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/12/silicon-valley-women-harassment-gender-discrimination. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.
“Sexism.” Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/sexism?s=t. Accessed 08 March 2017.