Tech's armada of PR professionals can be their own worst enemy. But their protective shield occasionally hides the chauvinism of tech founders. Otherwise you get dudes like Blake Francis, founder of the question and answer app Need, who tried to buy favorable press from a female reporter with a wildly inappropriate gift basket.
Google has been trying to build cars that drive without humans for longer than it's been trying to hire more women and minorities. But the company really knows its audience. Workshops at the center of its diversity initiative were specifically designed for one personality type: "a skeptical, scientifically minded Google employee," says the New York Times.
Less than a month ago, Sam Altman, the new President of Y Combinator, officially declared that "Sexism in tech is real." That was the first sentence of his post on diversity. Sadly, there is now more proof of sexism in tech for those that still need convincing. Right before meeting a reporter from Re/code, Y Combinator cofounder Jessica Livingston was hassled by an investor.
In the past couple weeks both Forbes and Wired have published first-hand accounts of the perils of "fundraising while female." The anecdotes about harassment, discrimination, and the hassle of disproving an investor's assumptions about gender are familiar. But you won't find the name of single male venture capitalist who made these women feel compromised, harassed, belittled, or duped.
Ever since Paul Graham stepped down from Y Combinator, the Stanford of startup accelerators has been trying to give off a more welcoming vibe. The attempts thus far have seemed awkward, half-hearted, and therefore insincere. As though Sam Altman got PR advice on crisis control from a YC bro-founder: Just tell 'em what they want to hear.
Yesterday evening at a demo day in Midtown, Jorge Cortell, the CEO of a healthcare startup and a self-described "hacker-hacktivist" took a creepshot of a female attendee's high heels and posted it his public Twitter account with the following caption: "Event supposed to be for entrepreneurs, VCs, but these heels (I've seen several like this)... WTF? #brainsnotrequired"
Last Friday, Valleywag published a post about the tech sector's increasing abuse of the term “culture fit” as a way to discriminate against potential hires who don't match the pattern of a successful startup employee. It prompted an outpouring of responses from readers about their own abysmal experiences with the euphemism.