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Emily Chang, author of our April pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club, Now Read This, joins Jeffrey Brown to answer reader questions about “Brotopia.” Plus, Jeff announces the May book selection.
Finally tonight, one author's not-so-pretty picture of Silicon Valley.
Jeffrey Brown has our conversation for Now Read This. That's our book club partnership with The New York Times. It's part of the ongoing Canvas series on the arts and culture.
Silicon Valley has often been portrayed as a very positive revenge of the nerds, socially inept, awkward young men using their brains and computer skills to change the world and enrich themselves.
But lawsuits and news reports in recent years have offered a darker side of that story, one of overt sexism in the industry.
Our April book club pick shines a spotlight on that culture with its own vengeance. It's titled "Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley."
Journalist and author Emily Chang is host of the show "Bloomberg Technology." She joins us to answer readers' questions.
And welcome. And thanks for being part of this.
Jeff, thanks for having me. And thank you for choosing the book this month.
So, start off by explaining Brotopia. What do you mean by that? What were you after here?
In my mind, Brotopia perfectly encapsulates this idea of Silicon Valley as a modern utopia, where anyone can change the world, anyone can make their own rules, if they're a man.
That is the myth.
That is the myth. If you're man, you can do that, but if you're a woman, it's incomparably harder.
And it shows in the numbers. Women hold 20 to 25 percent of jobs across the industry. They account for 9 percent of investors. Women-led companies get just 2 percent of venture capital funding, in a place that is changing the world, changing all of our lives every day.
We think of tech founders and visionaries as people who look like Steve Jobs and look like Mark Zuckerberg. And there's a lot of people, at least 50 percent of the population, who don't fit that profile.
OK, let's go to one of our video questions from one of the readers.
SUSAN SCHINK, New Jersey:
Your research follows a particular industry and its culture and the ways in which it excludes women. If you were to research other industries, perhaps the automotive or industrial manufacturing, would you expect to find a similar bro culture elsewhere?
I think Brotopia is everywhere in most industries, in most corporations.
What I think sets Silicon Valley apart is the sense of arrogance and moral exceptionalism that I believe makes Silicon Valley and the people running it a bit more blind. And the reality is, women are not part of the decisions that are being made in these industries.
Let's go to our next question.
Do you think women could help themselves professionally by not following the rules so tightly and so often?
I think women have a huge role to play in speaking up. That's why we're here. Over the last year, two years, we have seen women speaking out, women having the courage to come forward and telling their stories, and that is making change.
But this is not just on women. Both women and men can be advocates for each other, can be advocates for those who are in the minority, so that women and minorities don't just have a seat at the table, but they have a voice at that table, and that voice is heard and incorporated into the decisions that are being made.
You went into lurid detail in some of this, right, a lot of detail of parties that this next question refers to.
I have come across several different accounts of the sex parties you describe in your book. I'm curious as to what journalistic standards you used in describing these events.
I spoke to dozens and dozens of people to write that chapter, women and men who were part of the scene. San Francisco and the Bay Area has long been a place of sexual exploration, exploring sexual freedom.
But what I found is that women couldn't participate with the same level of sort of respect and credibility that men could. And so if women participated in this social scene, they were sort of disrespected and discredited, whereas men gained sort of more respect, more credibility, more power as a result of it.
And, to me, it was evidence of yet another double standard.
Let's go to our next video question.
Have you researched tech centers other than Silicon Valley to see if bias against women in tech exists there too? If so, where, and what did you find?
What I heard over and over again when I was writing this book is, well, Silicon Valley can't possibly be worse than finance.
Actually, it is. If you look at the top banks, they're actually about 50/50 when it comes to men and women. They have a lot of work to do when it comes to women in leadership positions. But what makes Wall Street different from Silicon Valley is, you have a lot more mature companies with built-in infrastructure, human resources operations that you don't have in Silicon Valley.
And there aren't necessarily rules in place. And that's where things fall through.
What signs — are there signs of hope from when you first started reporting on this?
There are signs of hope.
So, first of all, if you look at the numbers, the latest diversity reports of Facebook and Google haven't changed much. But what we have seen as a huge amount of employee activism, advocacy. We saw 20,000 employees walk out of Google offices around the world because they were upset about how the company handled sexual misconduct, men and women.
And, as a result, Google has changed some of its policies. We have seen shareholders push Amazon to diversify their board. And now Amazon's board is almost half women.
But it is going to take a long time to change the numbers. It doesn't have to take forever. And I believe, if there's a will, there's a way, and that this can happen much more quickly. But that is the reason that we need to keep the pressure on.
All right, the book is "Brotopia."
Emily Chang, thank you very much.
Thank you so much for having me.
And let me thank all our viewers who have sent in questions.
For may, we're turning to a very different kind of book, one about the man of many turns. That would be "Homer's Odysseus" and his epic "The Odyssey." But this is told in a very contemporary and personal mode of a classics professor, a son who invites his aging father to join his class and learn together. It's called "An Odyssey" by Daniel Mendelsohn.
As always, we hope you will read along and join our Facebook group, where you can share with other reasons and get insights from the author himself.
It's all part of our Now Read This book club, a partnership with The New York Times.
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