'Brotopia' book alleges widespread discrimination against women in Silicon Valley

Natasha Zouves Image
ByNatasha Zouves KGO logo
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
FULL INTERVIEW: 'Brotopia' author Emily Chang talks to ABC7
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Watch ABC7's full interview with author Emily Chang on her book "Brotopia," which alleges widespread discrimination against women in Silicon Valley.

In her new book "Brotopia," Emily Chang says in Silicon Valley, the deck is stacked squarely against women. The Bloomberg anchor writes about topics ranging from discrimination to unequal pay, and describes a "Boys Club" where business deals are done at parties and in hot tubs. She spoke to ABC7 anchor Natasha Zouves about her visit to the Gold Club, a strip club lunch-spot in Silicon Valley.

"At 11:45 a.m. on a Friday, the line was out the door, and a lot of the people there were tech workers on their lunch break. I mean this is the middle of a working day," said Chang. "I talked to a couple of the women who work at this club and they said, yes, they hear colleagues talking about business, they might go up to a private room together, and this is a stone's throw from so many tech companies in the heart of San Francisco."

VIDEO: Full interview with Emily Chang about 'Brotopia'

In her new book "Brotopia," Emily Chang says in Silicon Valley, the deck is stacked squarely against women.

Chang says the issue that presents a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" dilemma for women in the tech industry is that so much of business is done outside of the office, and instead in "the strip club, or the hotel lobby or the bar." Chang says this leads to the blurring of professional lines and women being put in "very uncomfortable" situations.

One of these situations is a hot tub. Chang says she spoke to one investor in particular about his "hot tub parties."

VIDEO: Silicon Valley expert talks women in tech, sexual harassment

"He sounded like he was bragging about them, and these are parties that he's having with entrepreneurs in his portfolio," said Chang. "And then I spoke to a woman, Katrina Lake, she's the founder of Stitch Fix and has a multi-billion dollar company now, and she said to me, 'What woman wants to get into a bikini and pitch an investor a business while holding a beer?'"

She describes a current situation where women-led companies get 2 percent of funding and women account for 7 percent of investors, but in the book also says it was not always this way. Somewhat surprisingly, she quotes statistics that show that in the mid-80's, women received almost 40 percent of the degrees in computer science. Today they receive just 22 percent. Meanwhile, she points out that in Google's infancy, the company sought out and nurtured female talent like Susan Wojcicki, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer. Today, Chang says the tech giant is grappling with much of the same issues as other major companies in the industry.

So, what happened? In part, Chang points to the development of a now decades-old personality test.

"The industry was so desperate for new programmers that they hired two psychologists who determined that 'people who don't like people' are good at computers. Well, if you look for 'people who don't like people,' you're going to hire far more men than women, but beyond that, there's no evidence to show that 'people who don't like people' are actually better at this job," said Chang. "Unfortunately, those personality tests were widely influential and it perpetuated this stereotype that only antisocial, white, male nerds essentially could do this job, and that has lasted for decades."

Chang is optimistic and describes concrete steps forward to work towards gender parity and a positive change in the tech industry. For more on what changes she says need to happen now, and to hear her take on possible fears over "burning bridges" with the companies she covers, watch the videos above.