Yeah, my name is Robin Hauser, formerly known as Robin Hauser Reynolds. I don't know if this matters or why it matters, but I'm 53, I think. I can't remember if I'm 52 or 53. [Laughs.] I'm 53. I work out of Tiburon, California. So, I'm in Marin County right north of San Francisco.
Boy, let's see. I am not a techie. I do have an MBA. An international MBA and I've worked in, actually, finance many years ago. I've also been a professional photographer and in the last seven years I've become a documentary filmmaker and I'm director-producer of a film that's had pretty wide exposure called Code: Debugging the Gender Gap. That really is my only experience with the tech world, but it got me really -- I had some pretty intimate exposure to the tech world through making that film. Now I'm making a film called Bias, which is about unconscious bias and how it affects us socially and in the workplace and specifically in the workplace how it affects the way that we hire, fund, and promote or pay equally or not pay equally. So, that's pretty much it in a nutshell.
That's perfect. Given the variety of your background and what you've done, can you talk a little about the catalyst for you to make your first movie?
Sure. My daughter was studying computer science in college and she was one of just a few women in the class of 35 people in computer science. She began to call home; for the first time in her academic career, she began to express a little bit of concern about her ability to succeed in a certain subject field. She would call home saying, "I don't know, mom. It's weird. I feel like I don't belong. I'm failing." It turned out she was getting a "B." But she really had this sense that most of the people in the class -- most of them, men -- knew a lot more about it than she did. She was always expected to partner with the one other woman in the class. I mean, there were quite a few things that were difficult for her. She hasn't had enough perspective from that experience to, I think, realize why she was feeling like she didn't fit into the tech world, but it was an interesting thing that made me look into, "Well, this is weird. Is this just sexism? What's going on?"
Meanwhile, my very good friend since college and producer on that film project, on Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, Staci Hartman, has three daughters. Her eldest daughter was working at Snapchat at the time. So, that was an interesting insight into what corporate culture is like in some start-ups. And so, the two of us decided that this would be an interesting subject. It also was in our backyard, pretty much. We both live in the Bay Area and so we decided to look into what was happening in the tech world: Why there were so few women and people of color in tech. There are so many jobs. Right now, there's over 650,000 unfilled computer science-related jobs in the U.S. That number will -- could even be double by the year 2020.
So, it's crazy.
And they're good-paying jobs.
Before, a few minutes ago, you mentioned that you had a sense that videogame culture or videogame industry may be contributing to some of the gap. I've wondered about this myself, what that relationship is like between the game industry and broader tech industry. Do you get a sense -- are there ethics that have cross-pollinated? How can we even tell? Have you gotten a sense of that?
Yeah, I mean, I think that -- look, from a really young age and from the beginning as videogames came into the world, it seemed as though they were marketed toward boys. I mean, if you go all the way back to just Pong, it's not to say that girls don't like Pong, but from Pong sort of forward and you think about most of the more popular videogames, they've all been violent, aggressive. They've objectified women. They've been strongly marketed toward boys and men.
And so, therefore, a lot of them -- there are incentives to find cheats, to find ways around it, find ways to get to advancement within the game. And all of these things lead to a basic understanding, or at least a familiarity, with coding and with the computer-science infrastructure, the basis of these videogames.
And so, I think that by the time you get to college, if you haven't been exposed to computer science in schools -- as we know, it's not mandatory in the United States. Many schools don't even offer it and a lot of schools have it as an elective maybe your junior year at high school.
By the time you get to college, if a woman wants to study computer science, she's pretty much entering with very little knowledge and she's gotta take the prerequisite 101 course and hoping that she can just figure out what it is and see if she likes it or not then. Whereas men are entering with a foundation, practically, with a base. Typically a man that's interesting in studying computer science in college has been playing videogames for the last, probably, at least 10 years. He has familiarity with that and has had more exposure to all this.
So, I think it's possible that the gaming industry has contributed to this because when you take your first entry level course in college, immediately women realize that the men in the class know a lot more this than they do. So, they feel intimidated and it contributes to their feeling like they don't belong.
I know that in the game industry, some of the companies that have been singled out or caught for especially toxic practices -- many of them have reportedly turned things around to be surprisingly supportive and progressive. I think I've heard another criticism of that, which is this mentality of a willingness to burn anyone out.
I guess this is true of both games and tech, but why do you think tech companies make an effort to hire but not necessarily retain diverse talent?
[Pause.] I don't think they're even making an effort to hire, to be honest with you. I think it's all they know that they should be doing this. I think they know that it's something that, "Oh, gosh, we gotta do it." But I'm telling you that when even Evan Spiegel at Snapchat or Ed Williams and Biz Stone at Twitter -- Facebook. When you think about any of those founders and when they started those companies, the last thing on their mind when they started out it as a group of five or six people was, "Oh, boy, we better add diversity. We better get a woman and a person of color, or a few of them." It's just the last thing that was on their mind. They hired their friends. They hired their buddies. They hired -- it was like-me bias and they grabbed whoever they could because they were scrambling and it was busy and they didn't have, as they would say probably, the luxury of time to worry about diversity.
They also obviously didn't understand the value of what diversity could bring their company. If you say it to people like that, now that they're established, the argument to say, "Hey, you're gonna have a better -- studies show you'll have a greater ROI if you have more women on your board or if you have more diversity on your workforce." These companies are swimming in money. That's not even really an incentive. So, then you have to approach them by saying, "Look, it's just the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for society."
And so I think there are some founders out there who are passionate about this. I think of some people who really care about this and know the benefit to it. Stewart Butterfield at Slack is somebody who is, I think, really talks the walk and walks the talk. He really is devoted to it.
But I also think you have a lot of companies that say, "Oh, for crying out loud. Just hire a head of D&I." And then when they have this person in place, they come in and they say, "Well, this is what you're gonna have to do. This is how you have to restructure hiring. These are the procedures you have to implement." They're not willing to do that. They just want to sort of check the box by saying, "All right, we've got a head of diversity and inclusion now, let's move on." But think about it: Nobody gets fired over the fact that they haven't hired for diversity even if that's their goal. Right? Nobody's head rolls. There's no consequences to not doing it.
Yeah, that was something I wanted to ask about -- what biases you sensed in the initiatives or the individuals who are chosen as the vessels for that kind of change.
[Pause.] Bias in those that are actually trying to make the change or bias in the founders of the companies?
Oh, that's a good distinction. Yeah, I guess, are there biases that you sense in both those posts?
Well, I think that the implicit biases that are going on -- that's why I'm so fascinated not just by latent bias, because we all know that we're biased in some ways, right? We like to hire from the schools that we came from and we know that we are biased toward a certain type of -- you know, I like Japanese food better than I like Chinese food, for whatever reason. I'm biased towards golden retrievers because it's the dog that I grew up with.
So, I mean, I think that we know -- we're familiar with some of our outward biases although we don't always want to admit them or even get to where we really recognize them. But for certain can't see our -- we have an inability psychologically and physiologically to be able to find our own unconscious biases. We can see bias in other people but we cannot recognize them in ourselves. And so, that's a really -- that's what fascinates me. What's happening here? Are we doing this overtly or is it implicit? It tends to be really implicit.
For instance -- I'm just gonna give you an example: A black man walks into an elevator and a white mother might grab the hand of her child and just pull them a little bit closer to her. She might grab her purse a little bit tighter. She might suddenly put her hand on her purse. These are things that, you know, that black people see and sense all the time. I go for a run in the evening and if two black men are walking toward me and it's the evening or even if it's a couple guys in a hoodie, I'm not quite sure about it, I might change sides of the street. Do I know exactly that those are harmful people? No. But my unconscious biases show me that that could be danger and therefore I'm gonna -- you know, if it was two women, would I do that? No, likely not. I'd run right by them, It's interesting, these things.
Now, what's happening directly in, say, Silicon Valley? A lot of what's happening is like-me bias.
In other words, somebody walks in -- if I'm hiring and someone walks in and she went to University of California, Berkeley, she grew up in either Newport Beach, California or the Bay Area somewhere. She's a runner. We like the same music. Cool. That's a slam dunk. I don't need to check her references, I don't need to check anything else. I want to hire her because I'm comfortable with her. She's like me.
And I might not give that candidate who went to, you know, Elon University or Griffin Atlanta -- may or may not be the same race as me but someone who likes cats and doesn't exercise a whole lot. Already, I've got some implicit biases I don't -- I can't relate to her as easily because she's not like me. I bring certain judgments along with that. So, whether I think I'm being fair to both candidates, I'm already given the woman that came from UC Berkeley who is like me a huge advantage. I might even ask her different questions.
And so, this happens all the time. It's the easiest to hire people that are like us. But what we do by doing that is we create this incredibly homogeneous society or workforce. As Judith Williams say, we create the "cocoon of yes" around us. And so, when you think about it from a business sense, that's a horrible thing to have. It's horrible to have people that all think like me because if it's gonna make a board meeting go a lot faster, it's gonna make any meeting go faster 'cause everybody's like, "Yeah, yeah! Sounds good, sounds good!"
But we have this incredibly narrow perspective, then. And we're not really thinking outside the box. So, we're not going to create products that serve a greater breadth of humanity. We're not going to think about -- you know, this is why some of the biggest marketing blunders and some of the biggest mistakes in society have happened.
Think about something as simple as the Apple Store in New York City. When they first designed it, it was a group of male architects and they were really cool and everything was glass and open and cool and they built this beautiful staircase that went upstairs. Glass staircase. And nobody stopped to think that a woman wearing a dress or a skirt isn't gonna walk up a glass staircase.
So, they had to change it and make the steps opaque. But had there been a woman on that team, clearly she would have said, "Wait a second, guys: Have you thought about this? We gotta put some sort of -- we gotta make it obscure somehow." [Laughs.]
Or, you know, there's so many situations like that. You've heard about how the tracking system couldn't track women with visual tracking.
You mention Clippy in the movie.
Or Clipster, or whatever his name is. You know who I mean.
Clippy. Yeah. Clippy was creepy toward women, right? And in that case, what was so shocking about it was that even when they did a focus group -- they spent, what?
On a focus group. And because the guys couldn't see it for themselves, they threw the whole thing away. It's crazy.
I mean, yeah. Is that a thing you sense, though? Are there incompatible biases when approaching diversity from founders to people who are tasked with spearheading those initiatives? How do those biases differ or contrast?
Well, I mean, I think the issue is if someone has decided, "Okay, our boardroom looks pretty white. You know, we have less than 10 percent female engineers. We better change things around. We better get some more diversity here." And they hire someone to run diversity -- I can tell you that I've talked to many people who have been the head of diversity and inclusion at companies that have left after six months because they can't actually get anything done from within the company. And they -- [Laughs.]
There's a classic comment -- a man named Leslie Miley was at Twitter. When he was at Twitter, he's a senior engineer. He's an African-American man. As an engineer, obviously a very smart man. And he was in a meeting and they were talking and he said -- this was maybe, six, seven years ago. He said, "Listen, we need to have an initiative. We need to get more diversity in here. It's just terrible. I mean, I look around and there's nobody who looks like me here."
And so the head of HR, a woman, said to him, "I absolutely agree. We are all for getting diversity, but we're not gonna lower our standards." [Pause.] Now, just think about that comment. [Laughs.] While it might've been something that everybody thinks, would you ever -- I mean, it's like saying -- the thought that she even correlated diversity with lower standards is an implicit bias.
And that was hugely offensive to Leslie Miley. It would be offensive to a woman, right? And so, that's the type of thing where people think, "Oh my God, that could've been me that said that." I get what she's saying. It doesn't sound so horrible when you think of it 'cause what you're thinking is, "Yeah, but we shouldn't lower our standards just to get diversity in here." But the assumption that by bringing in diversity it would equate to having to lower your qualifications or the criteria --
Are there types of outreach you think or you wish tech would be better at? For example, I've noticed when interpreting the word "diversity," you don't really see tech reach out to people at the lower end of the income spectrum.
There's huge bias about education.
Tech is bad at it. I was doing a screening of Code in person at Microsoft and somebody from the engineering department had the guts to stand up and said -- because they knew that the head of HR was at that particular screening -- and he said, "You know, hey, look: I challenge us to also get beyond just poaching from other companies." He said, "We don't even hire from colleges. We just poach from other companies."
He said, "We can't continue to do that."
I can name companies whose initiative is, "Well, the three founders came from Dartmouth, Stanford, and Harvard, so we only hire from those three."
And they think they're helping by doing that. They think they're giving back, they're being loyal to their alma mater. But think about who you hurt while in your mind you're helping somebody else. That's something that Mahzarin Banaji, the co-founder of the Implicit Association Test at Harvard, talks a lot about, which is that sometimes we hurt people by who we're helping. Because you could have somebody that's just as smart come out of Smith University, come out of a school that we've never even heard of maybe. Right?
Or a community college or anywhere.
Come out of a community college, come out of Penn State.
But if we're not even willing to give that opportunity to them, then how do we ever know?
How do you feel people like Sheryl Sandberg have advanced or inhibited the conversation around diversity in tech?
Well, I mean, I think originally Sheryl Sandberg -- you know, she got a lot of criticism when wrote Lean In.
Because unfortunately that was her own blind spot, her own bias, is that she just made this blanket assumption from the beginning that everybody could afford to go to university. So, that book, when I read it, I was like, "Oh my God. Tell me something I don't know."
No, seriously. I don't mean to sound any other way than -- I kept saying, "Duh. Yeah. Why is everybody making such a big hype about this? I get it. This is who I am. I get this." I thought, "Well, good for her for putting it out there but this is kind of boring me because I am agreeing with everything she's saying.
Okay, but good on her for writing it, right? But then I began to realize that she was marginalizing this entire audience of people who were seriously offended by her assumption that just anybody can get into Brown or Harvard or Stanford or go to one of these universities. Penn. You know, how do you even get into the room to lean in in the first place? And that's what Sheryl Sandberg overlooked unfortunately. You know, we can't always think about everybody. I mean, we need to try to, but I think it's a near impossibility for us to always think about everybody. But we're never gonna be able to think about everybody unless we have other people in the room. You have to have other people in the room.
No, I think this is related. Something that I see as quite prevalent among tech and games is this sort of dogged tenacity in pretending that those areas are meritocracies. Many of these companies, as I'm sure you know, including tech, are as ruthless as the finance world. So why do people still cling to that belief, you think?
[Pause.] Well, because it makes them feel better about themselves.
I mean, truly.
No, I would agree.
I think that people want to believe that tech is a meritocracy. That's what they all want to believe, but it is just absolutely, absolutely garbage. I mean, you hear Tracy Chou say that in Code. She says, "You know, tech holds itself to the standard that they're a meritocracy but there's absolutely no way that they are." Because the kid -- if you played lacrosse and you went to Brown, and you're looking to hire and you're a new start-up, I'm sorry but the kid who played hockey or lacrosse or whatever from any top university that walks in the door is gonna have an advantage because you can relate to that guy. That's why you look at places like Goldman Sachs and look at Wall Street and see -- there's some crazy thing if you find out how many of them were lacrosse players.
You know? Because they take care of their own. I get it. I get it. I would love to hire out of UC Berkeley. I mean, I understand that. But the problem is what are we doing -- what are we creating by doing that? You know? We're creating environments like Silicon Valley. The fact that -- I don't know if you followed, but I'm sure you did. The whole Uber thing lately.
Oh yeah. For the last eight, 10 months, yeah.
Yeah. So, the fact that [David Bonderman, Uber board member and partner at private equity firm] TPG who is in a boardroom -- now, the guy is 72 years old and having a father that's about to turn 75 I understand that this is all new to them and they feel like they're walking through a minefield. They never know what they're gonna say that's -- "How did that offend anybody? Can't they just take a joke?"
Right, right, right.
But when you're the subject of a joke, when you're -- I don't care if you're Arianna Huffington or you're Sally Joe, that worked her derrière off to get finally in the door of a company, she's got her first job in finance or something. We all, being a woman, suffer from the same thing, which is manterrupting, mansplaining, not being heard in meetings. This, "What do you mean, can't you take a joke?" This -- but imagine how absurd this is. If I understand the story correctly, he's in the boardroom in a special board meeting for Uber trying to figure out how to repair their reputation. Arianna Huffington is talking about getting more women on the board and Bonderman says, "Well, one thing we know for sure is that with more new women we're going to have a lot more talking.” And he interrupts Arianna to say that. I mean, it's crazy. He's like, "What'd I do? What'd I do?" But what I love about this is that he then steps down from the board of Uber because society is not tolerating this anymore.
We're just not gonna accept it anymore.
Something that I wonder about and do reporting on is there isn't the same type of scrutiny on these types of things at videogame companies as there are in tech. Last year I spoke to -- I can't say the name of the company but I spoke to a female employee of a pretty major game studio. They have offices all over the world, though this occurred in the West. They circulated a memo basically telling female employees to -- I think the phrase was something like to always be obediently subservient to all male superiors because "men have been in the workplace longer." I don't know that you'll necessarily have an answer to this, but I'm curious why these types of abuses and practices don't merit the same types of coverage as an Uber?
Well, first of all, I think because that many more people use Uber than -- you know, the word Uber is even becoming like Kleenex, right?
So, I think that it is just such a big name that I think that that's why it commands more attention. But, you know, Gamergate was a big deal. Or maybe I just thought it was a big deal because I was in the middle of editing Code at the time. I'm not quite sure.
But I think it's simply a fact that you have a much wider audience and a much wider user base and different ages.
Oh, absolutely. Think about Uber. My 79-year-old parents are using it and so are my 20-year-old kids. So, when you have -- that's an age span of 50 years of people that are using Uber, whereas how many people are gaming? I think you have a much narrower range of people using.
I don't know. People always talk about it in terms of revenue. Depending on how you want to crunch the numbers, I think it comes to about $100B. But I always speculate that has more to do with the cost of the products than the amount of people buying them. But even still, there does seem to be something that prevents from these stories -- I think Gamergate is an exception and even then, I don't think it's as widely known as many people think it is. It was responsible in part for getting a certain culture on certain radars, but then was discarded as an influence. I mean, do you think it just comes down to broader user base of tech in general rather than videogames specifically?
Well, I think what it takes for people to make a stink and get it out there about anything is it takes anger. It takes motivation from somebody to say, "Enough of this." Whoever -- if it's just a small group of like-minded people that are using these games, then nobody's gonna rock the boat because nobody cares as much, right? So, I think that that's why. Gamergate was a much bigger thing because it involved a woman that came out and said something about it. If you think about it, why did Uber -- how was that uncovered? It's when Susan Fowler said, "Enough already! This is what's really going on in there!"
And so, I think that -- you know, I don't know the gaming industry well enough to know, but my sense of it is that there's a big group that's a big moneymaker, but of like-minded people. And there's not really a social-good aspect to it, so you don't have people saying, "Hey, we need more videogames!" I mean, we did have a certain population saying this, but for our young girls, or we need something that's not as sexist. Because how does -- it probably affects society? We've heard that there are links to violence in videogames and everything, but I think there are probably more pressing societal issues, and so those are commanding more attention.
Right. Well, especially in the last year or so as well. Similarly, though, how do you wish the media did a better job of covering systemic problems in tech? [Pause.]
Well, I think the media has been doing a great job of it, lately. A much better job, anyway.
I think that -- yeah. I think they're doing a much better job because this is why Uber was exposed, right? But what I really think it is is social media. I think it's social media that is doing a good job. But I flew through Helsinki yesterday and I picked up the Financial Times. So, a British newspaper, on the front had David Bonderman and the whole Uber story. And so, about the sexist comment in the boardroom. Now, to think that that's going on in the U.K., that they're putting it on? Interestingly enough -- I need to check the headlines of papers around here, but I don't know that that was a front-page thing. [Laughs.] Because we're so used to Silicon Valley being sexist. It was probably on the third or fourth page in a smaller article that they talked about it.
Here's the Financial Times. I mean, yes, there was the horrible fire that they had on the tower. There's all this stuff, the terrorism that they're having, and still the head of the Financial Times yesterday -- okay, it was a Sunday -- was about David Bonderman and what happened at Uber. So, to me, that's really interesting, yeah. Anyway. So I think the press -- I think that we need to continue to put pressure on the press. But I think now that we have social media, I don't think the press can really ignore what's going on, the plight of it, and people are saying, "Enough already. I'm not gonna put up with this.”
I mean, do you think social media, does it move the needle on these types of things more than media? Or --
You think so?
I do. I mean, my point of view is absolutely. Think about this: Think about the fact that even how it's changed, say, customer relations, marketing, anything. I have a pair of skis and they had sort of faulty bindings, but the bindings were preset on these skis, okay?
Last winter, twice I nearly killed myself on these skis. So, I called and I said, "Hey, by the way, I want a refund on these things. I nearly killed myself. I love the skis, but you put factory bindings on them and I can't take the bindings off, so this is garbage."
And they come back and said, "Gee, that's funny. You're the only one that's complained about that."
And I said, "Well, that's funny. The stores around here in Utah are telling me that I'm not the first one to complain about it."
"Well, sorry, we really can't help you. You already bought the skis. You've already skied on them."
I said, "That's fine. I just want you to know that I will never buy Head skis again. I'm disappointed in this and I'm sure you won't mind too much if I post this to my social-media network."
Immediately they got back to me and they're like, "Hang on a second! Hang on a second! Actually, send them back to us, we'll send you a coupon for the payment for the UPS. Send it back to us, we'll you a different pair of skis with a different binding."
Why? Because they are terrified of anybody posting anything negative on social media about their products. Because they know how that could go viral and cause all sorts of issues. So, yeah. I mean, I think social media has totally changed the needle. This is how Susan Fowler's story came out. If Susan Fowler came out and she told, first of all -- okay, so, she comes out of Uber and has had all of these unbelievable sexist experiences at Uber that, you know, sometimes they're so bad I bet people wouldn't necessarily believe them, right?
So, if she had just talked about it at a cocktail party to one or two friends, if she talked about it over a beer or something with some friends, or with something that would've gone within her circle, maybe -- or if somebody said, "Oh, I know somebody that writes for the Wall Street Journal. Maybe you could talk to them." She tells the story, the guy at the Wall Street Journal is like, "Oh, shit. I'm under deadline for some other thing. I'm sorry. Can't do it." Okay? There goes her opportunity. She moves on with her new job. But the fact that she could write a blog and just post it to LinkedIn, post it to Facebook, post it wherever she wants and it gets viral and before you know it, you've got several hundred thousand readers on it, and that kind of pressure is what made Travis [Kalanick, Uber founder and former CEO] have to actually take this seriously. It is really what made all of Uber kind of have this big shake-up. It's all because of social media.
Do you notice any sort of commonality among people who are able to rock the boat in such a way?
[Pause.] Well, it's brave. They -- yeah. It's not their first job, No. 1. Like, I have a 23-year-old daughter who's working in finance. Now, she probably knows well enough never to talk to me directly. I mean, she would if it was really bad. But if she was feeling little microaggressions, she knows that I'd be all over her to quit or to move companies or to go marching into HR and let them know about it. So, she's probably careful with me.
But, is a 22-year-old a 22-year-old who feels like they are so lucky to have their first job -- and especially women, right? 'Cause women tend to be different from men in that we aren't quite as confident in being able to maintain our position in a company for advancement or anything. Right? It's just our nature. We're less confident than men, typically. So, is she -- is a 22, 23, 25-year-old going to be willing to say, "Screw this! I'm going to write something and post it out there!"? No. Because she's afraid of how she's gonna pay her rent if she loses that job, who else will hire her, what are the repercussions of being an outspoken woman? So, it seems to me like a lot of the people that have come out, whether it's Tracy Chou or Susan Fowler or any of these women that I can't remember the name of -- the woman that did it for Gamergate -- are women that have been in the workforce long enough and they've also gotten to the point where they're confident in their abilities to program, to analyze, whatever their job is. They're probably in their thirties. They've gotten to a point where they're saying, "Enough is enough. I gotta do something." So, they're brave. I think that -- they're brave and they've gotten to a point where they feel confident enough to stand up.
Similarly, what commonalities do you notice about female-first organizations?
Well, when you talk to someone like Ann Miura-Ko, who started Floodgate, she's a co-founder of Floodgate. So, if I ask her about dealing with being a woman in the VC world and tolerating corporate culture -- her response to me is, "I created this corporate culture. I had to actually set my own company and define the way that the workplace environment is gonna as a female founder, with a male founder also, in order to make sure that it was a safe place for women to work.” So, she doesn't have a problem with workplace culture because she started her own company.
That -- [Laughs.] So, I think that women -- now, the interesting thing that I've talked to a lot of women about who run their own company is -- I've heard this story a million times. So, let's say there's a female founder and she hires a head of engineering that's a man. Head of engineering is coming to this meeting because he needs to understand how the infrastructure works so that he can design some architecture for the engineering system. So, is he really a much lower person in the company. He might be -- whatever, senior engineer, right? But he's the man in the room and so when he's meeting with two other men, their eyes, when they ask a question, go to the man. Go to her head of engineering. She's the CEO of the company. So, she will redirect them and she'll answer the questions. And, again, they ask a question and they address it towards him. These are just little things that men might not even know they're doing.
I noticed this a little bit in your documentary as well, but there can be this mentality among female-first organizations of almost a "let's beat the men at their own game" or -- are you familiar with Bridesmaids or Samantha Bee's show? That kind of approach?
Well, I know Samantha Bee -- I don't her personally. But I'm not sure I know exactly what you're talking about.
Well, your documentary gets a little into brogrammers and I'm just curious in general about instances of women using the same maxims and benchmarks of either carrying themselves or talking about what they do that are very similar to men, including toxic ones.
Well, I think it comes from a frustration of living with these microaggressions within the workplace of just being a woman. But I don't know any -- I mean, that would be my guess of where it comes from. You finally get fed up. You finally say, "Enough of this.” That's really what it is. It is these microaggressions. But I think there are too many women that are in a job where they're feeling this every single day and they do nothing about it 'cause they're afraid. Afraid to speak up. They're afraid to lose their job. That's what worries me.
I was doing some reading about this over the weekend and I get a sense that hard data doesn't necessarily help female founders get funded. Like, I'm citing First Round 10 Year Project, which said that companies with a female founder performed 63 percent better than investments with all-male founding teams.
Right. Right right.
Even with knowledge like that, from what I've seen, it seems like female founders still have a harder time getting funded. I don't know if your research bears that out as well, but it would be interesting to hear you talk about. Is that what you've seen as well?
Why is that?
Absolutely. Women have a much harder time getting funded. This is -- we're covering this in Bias documentary.
We're covering a lot of this. We've actually done and filmed some pitches in VC. Yeah, where does it come from? It comes from unconscious bias, I think. Men -- when you talk to VCs, some of them are just blatantly sexist. Right? I mean, I have talked to a couple people and I don't have them on camera, of course, but there clearly are men that are like, "Why would I hire a woman when she's either just gonna go get pregnant and then I'm paying for her to be off work, or I've found women to be not as reliable because they need to go pick up their kids or do whatever."
Now, think about this: If a man takes off a Thursday afternoon to go coach little league with his son or to take his daughter to Indian princess or something, everybody in the room is like, "Aw, how sweet! What a great dad!" If a woman takes off a Thursday afternoon to go do something with her children, it's, "Boy, I hope she gets her work done! I don't know, didn't she do that two weeks ago? Not sure she can handle that promotion!"
I mean, it's even just the assumption that if somebody isn't at their desk. If a man isn't at their desk -- there was a study done about this that I thought was fascinating. If a man's not at his desk, the assumption is he's in a business meeting: "Oh, he must be traveling for work. Oh, he must be in a meeting." If a woman's not at her desk: "Oh, she must be somewhere with her kids.”
So, just that in itself, when you're thinking about who can handle the next job?
"Steven's leaving. We gotta find somebody to take his place. Who can take Steven's managerial spot? Well, what about Sally? She's been really good."
"Ah, but Sally's husband just took a big job. He's gonna be traveling. She's got young kids. She probably -- that's probably gonna be too much travel for her. She probably doesn't want it."
"Yeah, you're right. What about Michael?"
Poor Sally didn't even get a voice. She didn't even know they mentioned her for that job. She didn't even get to decide for herself, whether she wanted it or not. And the sad thing about it is if you go back to these men, they feel like they did the right thing. They felt like they were being considerate to Sally. Right? I mean, they really think, like, "Well, what do you mean? We were thinking about her! We knew that her husband took a job, we knew that she has young kids. We made the assumption that -- we didn't want to put that pressure on her."
They didn't ask her. Those kind of things happen all the time. That's why a lot of this is well-intended. There's not always malicious intent.
I think there is some truth to it when people blame the patriarchy in criticizing tech, but there's definitely a lot of discrimination by women against women. Who else do you feel can be complicit in these types of dynamics that keeps diversity down or keeps women down specifically?
[Pause.] Women can be hard on women. And studies show that women are hard on women.
You know, I think that there's this -- I'm hopeful that millennials aren't like that and I believe that they're changing and I hope that as they climb the corporate ladder they continue to be supportive of other women. My feeling is that this happens because as we climb in the workplace, there are fewer and fewer job opportunities, room for advancement, and we know that only one of us is gonna get to that C-suite. We know that only one of us is gonna get into the boardroom, if at all. And so the corporate structure as-is pretty much plots us against ourselves. Right? I mean, it creates this environment where women automatically have to feel competitive with other women, which is really too bad. We know -- think about how many times you hear in a workplace, "Oh, he's a really good guy. He's a really good guy." How nice for men that being just a good guy is enough to get them that job.
I mean, women have to work a lot harder than that. That's not enough for us.
In Code, obviously, you talk a lot about coding. Maybe this is too much of a crystal-ball question, but there's a big push for algorithms and machine learning and deep learning. I don't know if you have a sense of -- how do you think women might be ultimately affected when coding skills are monocropped, or everyone has it and it's long in the tooth and no longer prestigious?
Yeah, so, we're covering this for Bias documentary, which I'm really interested in.
The problem is -- the fascinating thing is how bias works its way into AI.
So, if you say, "Okay, we're going to get rid of our unconscious biases and people that have biases have brains, then if you have a brain you have bias." It's protectionary. There are reasons for it. Okay, then maybe the answer is AI. So, let's get rid of the brain and then maybe we could actually get over our own biases."
But what they're finding is that bias is working its way into AI. It works its way -- the way machines learn, I mean, it works its way in really quickly. So, just to take some completely rudimentary kind of example, but, this is one that I'm repeating from I think it was Leslie Miley that told me. Let's just say that I've got a bot in front of me, and I say, "Hey, show me a picture of a hot chick."
And the computer shows a steaming breast of chicken that's just come out of the oven.
"No, no, no. Show me a picture of a really sexy woman."
So, the computer now equates "sexy" with "hot" with "chick." Right?
So, maybe you say, "No, no, show me a picture of a really hot woman."
Then it shows of a woman who's sweating.
"No! Show me a picture of a hot woman with big tits."
So now, the way the computer is learning through your acclimation to all this is the computer learned -- and you're like, "Yeah! That's what I wanna see. That's great!”
So, then, suddenly the word -- any of the words that you used: "female," woman," "chick," "hot," "tits." All of those words come together and so the computer is learning that when you associate "woman," suddenly there is "woman means big tits."
But this is happening with antisemitic things -- it was Tay bot.
Yeah, I was gonna mention Tay.
Yeah, Tay bot is a great example of how within just a matter of weeks they had to take it off because it was incredibly racist. I mean, it was horrible. It's crazy, isn't it?
Like I said, it's probably a crystal-ball question, but: Do you have a sense of when there is a more level playing field, everyone knows how to code, do you think coding is gonna go back to being seen as "women's work?" Much in the way that punch cards were discussed and thought of?
No, I don't think so. I don't think so. But -- no. Because I don't think there's such a thing. I think the whole point is that we're trying to get away from "woman's work." Right? Like what the heck does "women's work" mean?
[Sighs.] I don't think so. But hopefully -- as we say in the films, I think that we need to get to a point where we change the stereotype. We have more role models. We have more women in leadership, women in science, and then a young girl that might be five years old and then gets into kindergarten where she takes a coding class where she's as good at it as anybody else, like, they start playing around with CSS or something. I mean, in a perfect world, it's incorporated into many of the different curriculum in many different classes and then it's just an obvious thing and then the boys don't feel differently about a woman that's good at a computer game or that is interested in studying science.
And so, society just begins to accept that this is the norm. I think that that's gonna change. Nothing is gonna change in the workplace until we get the numbers closer to 50/50. Because it's just like when you think about, sort of, the bullying effect. If you have one woman in a group of men, or if you have one transgender person or one person with a different sexual orientation than the norm, then that person is always gonna be the minority and always gonna be the one that's vulnerable to being teased or to being subjected to what's deemed as appropriate and acceptable by the majority.
Until it's 50/50, guys are gonna sit there and put their feet up and make sexist jokes. People like David Bonderman is gonna be able to say -- cut off an incredibly brilliant high-achieving woman like Arianna Huffington and crack that sexist joke, which he thinks is just a joke, which is not because it's based on stereotypes. If there were 50 percent women in that boardroom, I bet you anything he would never have said that.
Well, I have just two more questions for you here.
How do you feel enabling narcissism and antisocial behaviors for the trade-off of financial success -- how do you feel that is shaping technology?
[Sighs.] Yeah, I think it's a problem. When you're trying to convince -- typically if I'm speaking about the importance of diversity, if I talk about money, people look up from their iPhones. [Laughs.] Right? Guys begin to care about this thing, about this issue. Typically in telling something, I always tell people, "If you want me to speak on a panel and you want people to come into the room, do not put the word 'woman' in the title. Don't put the word 'diversity' in the title. Say something like 'the secrets of financial success.'" [Laughs.] You know?
Find a different way to make -- because men don't think it applies to them when you're talking about femtech or when you're talking about diversity. They don't think it applies to them. So, you know, that's like, "Let's meet during this session about inclusion and diversity because I can skip that."
So, as long as there's so much money and there's no actual -- you know, this is why I've never believed in quotas but I'm starting to wonder if they aren't the answer, honestly. I'm beginning to believe that in terms of this, if we can't get 50 percent women in the boardroom, then maybe we need to mandate that it has to be. Then we'll be able to see the effects that it has on companies.
How do you think that coding schools could be better regulated?
I don't know. I mean, I don't know. I think the problem is just we don't have enough teachers and everything else. I don't know anything about regulating. But I do think that there must be some sort of a credential for teachers for computer science.
But the truth is we just need more.