March 12th, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a non-comprehensive litmus test for if your workplace equality efforts are working or not: do they try to give the impression that workplace inequality is “under control?” Everything I have read and seen says sexism is not under control in tech, and that it is in fact wildly out of control. Sexism in tech is not a thing to be kept “under control.” It is the sort of thing that, when properly investigated, will fundamentally change the balance of power (in this case between genders), like any revelation a whistleblower brings forward would!
…On two occasions, my employers have offered me bribes to leave quietly because they were worried about sexual harassment claims either slightly before or after dramatic percentages of women either transferred to another department, quit, or were removed. I had not brought any harassment concerns forward prior to either offer. In both cases I have reason to believe I was the only woman offered financial compensation. I have spoken at a professional conference and had about two dozen drunk fully grown men shout-chant at me to take my shirt off, becoming louder and growing more numerous the longer nobody responded to them. Security did nothing, and I was on my own to de-escalate the situation.
I have been raped by a colleague — not just once, but several times over months. A second colleague at a different institution held me against a wall against my objections and struggles and hit me with objects for his own amusement. My female colleagues told me later that he raped some of them, and in much the same way I had been raped by my rapist. I’ve had a colleague scream at me that everything good I ever had was given to me because I was a girl and that if were a boy, nobody would even know my name. He screamed it in public to humiliate me. The worst part was that, as I told him to go fuck himself and tried not to cry, I couldn’t prove to myself that what he said wasn’t true. Nor could I prove it to myself later, lying awake in bed.
I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship. The first incident happened when I was 14. Neither my rapist nor the man who hit me was at one of the places where I was offered a bribe.
Though others have surely seen worse and not all women have the same experience I do, I have seen things that nobody should have to put up with at work. I have seen these and a thousand others, some tiny, some giant. I’m not brave enough to write some of the things I have seen, because they are too easily traced back to individuals I don’t want to pick a fight with. Saying there is sexism in tech is a very risky business, and walking around confidently with a “do your worst” attitude attracts those who would like to try.