It's Okay to Lean Out of Silicon Valley

I have another Daily Dot article. This one’s about the the guy who wrote an article saying he doesn’t want his daughter to work in Silicon Valley. I talked about why he’s probably taking it too far but also why the counterargument–demanding that women sacrifice themselves to make sexism go away–is misguided.


Arguably, you can’t change an industry simply by leaving it. You’d think that women fleeing Silicon Valley in droves would get the men running it to realize that they’re driving women away, but the Valley’s almost religious adherence to the theory of meritocracy will prevent that from happening. If women aren’t working for us, they’d think, that’s just because they’re not good enough—or strong enough. And that’s assuming anyone notices or cares about the lack of female representation to begin with. Therefore, women who want Silicon Valley to change should occupy it, not leave it.

But this view, too, often puts the onus on women to expose themselves to sexist microaggressions and harassment for the greater good. The idea that women (or, at least, feminists) “should” force their way into spaces like technology, business, and politics to “fix” the sexism within places the needs of others before the needs of those women, especially since any complaints they make about the sexism they encounter are likely to be met with, “Well, you knew what you were getting into.” Ironically, the expectation that women always put their individual needs last is a key component of sexism.

Furthermore, it’s not necessarily the case that getting more women into a given space makes that space friendlier to women in general. As Segan points out, women who want to work in Silicon Valley are expected to demonstrate the same stereotypically masculine traits as men are—with, of course, the added double bind that feminine women are considered incompetent while masculine women are considered unlikeable. Neither incompetence or unlikeability is a huge help when it comes to getting a job.

Women who do manage to break into and succeed in Silicon Valley are likely to be women who gamely laugh at sexist jokes and brush off harassment in the office—and expect other women to do the same. AsAshe Dryden describes, women who speak up about sexual harassment in the workplace risk retaliation, such as firing. Success for a woman in Silicon Valley therefore seems to depend partially on keeping quiet about the mistreatment she encounters, and the easiest way to keep quiet about mistreatment is to not view it as mistreatment at all.

Read the rest here.

As a sidenote, this Daily Dot gig is really making me write more, which is great.

It's Okay to Lean Out of Silicon Valley

2 thoughts on “It's Okay to Lean Out of Silicon Valley

  1. 1

    Interesting original article, great response.

    I think this guy also should be reminded that, a hundred years ago, every single industry used to be just as misogynist as Silicon Valley, including fields like veterinary science that are now heavily dominated by women, and fields like medicine that are in the process of gaining a feminine majority. We all (men, women, and especially people with daughters) need to be perpetually thankful to those culture warriors of the past who went into those fields and kicked butts and changed their worlds.

  2. 2

    Silicon Valley is going to end up destroying it’s own competitiveness. (It’s probably well on the way already.) Between the sexism and the ageism, they’re actively driving talented people away so that they can maintain their brogrammer “culture”. Well, speaking as someone in tech in that quaint little backwater known as “the rest of the world”, we’ll be happy to take your disgruntled former employees, the clients who’ve figured out that you can’t deliver, and the money from the investors who’ve noticed that most of you don’t actually have a viable business model. You can keep the nerf guns, the ping-pong tables, and the all-nighters.

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