Top Five: Ellen Pao and Diversity in Tech

Diversity in Tech, iStock 2014
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Ellen Pao Drops Appeal

Ellen Pao has been fighting for compensation from her former employers, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, for years. Yesterday she gave up her legal battle, dropping her appeal to the March 2015 ruling against her, and agreeing to pay Kleiner-Perkins’ legal costs. In her statement, published on Recode, she said,

“Our society is struggling with workplace discrimination and harassment. These often happen in subtle but highly hurtful ways. Many businesses today are ill-equipped to prevent or address problems that arise. Human resources is a company-oriented function — when you can find it at all. Some businesses are now making changes to prevent discrimination — and importantly measuring and talking about it. But we have a long way to go, as women and minorities continue to make up a small fraction of the management at our most lucrative and productive companies.”

Regardless of your stance on Pao’s case, she makes a compelling argument that the deck was stacked against self-advocacy, both within Kleiner Perkins and in the courts. During jury selection, all potential jury members who believed that sexism and other forms of discrimination were present or common in Silicon Valley were dismissed. Before leaving the firm and taking legal action against them, Pao tried to discuss her future with Kleiner Perkins, but feels she was stonewalled.

No employee should feel so disconnected from and blocked by senior leadership, and no employee should wonder where HR even is. Pao went on to say,

“I have a request for all companies: Please don’t try to silence employees who raise discrimination and harassment concerns. Instead allow balanced and complete perspectives to come out publicly so we can all learn and improve. I and many others are eager to hear more stories being shared by women and minorities. I turned down offers to settle so I can keep telling mine. We need to keep telling our stories and educating people on how it can be that women and minorities form such a small fraction of our investor base, our tech workforce and our leadership.”

MRAs Are Using a California Anti-Discrimination Law to Take Down ‘Women in Tech’ Groups

Meanwhile, a Men’s Rights group successfully leveraged the court to shut down a women in tech group. Business Insider reported that two men were turned away from an over-capacity event run by Chic CEO, which offers advice and networking opportunities to women in tech, and turned to the National Coalition for Men and lawyer Alfred G. Rava to make a complaint. Rava has a long history of bringing discrimination cases against organizations offering discounts or “special treatment” for women. Chic CEO founder Stephanie Burns chose to settle, rather than incur even bigger court costs.

Intel Ends Science Award Scholarship

Despite its push for greater workforce diversity, Intel has announced that it will no longer support the Science Talent Search program it has sponsored since 1988. Scholarships and talent searches, including hackathons, are crucial vectors for atypical candidate to enter the tech workforce, but Intel says they’re just shifting focus and will continue to push for diveristy in tech in other ways.

A Talent War… Or Just a Skirmish?

At Human Resources Online, Andrew McGregor says that companies think they’re in a talent war, but they’re fighting like it’s a skirmish. Want to find the best talent for your organization? Look at the problem differently and look at your candidates differently: “Let’s think for a moment about the available resources – a global population of almost seven billion. And there’s not one good one out there for your business?”

Why Slack Is Making Diversity an Early Priority

CEO Stewart Butterfield and HR chief Anne Toth — finally a statement from HR in all these stories! — have decided to make their hiring and diversity statistics transparent. At only 250 employees, the company has a great opportunity to put great diversity policies in place while it’s still relatively easy to change the workforce and company culture.

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