Kane challenges the assumptions and practices of the criminally corrupt
Silicon Valley Mafia
Valley has bought into the idea of itself as a meritocracy: a world of
self-starting, bootstrapping geniuses so much better and smarter than
anyone else in the world that they deserve wildly disproportionate
opportunities for wealth and power. The problem is that this is the exact
opposite of what Silicon Valleyactuallyis:
a sexist and racist wealth distribution mechanism that relies on cronyism,
corruption, and exclusion to function.
think technology companies take a kind of perverse pride in being
technology industry sees itself as in rebellion against corporate America:
not corrupt, not buttoned-up, not empty. In fact, a tech company can be as
corrupt, soulless, and empty as any corporation, but being unprofessional
helps us maintain the belief that we are somehow different from Wall
love to celebrate the hacker and the programmer. What corporate roles
are undervalued by the industry?
programmers are important, but a very common dysfunction, particularly at
technology startups, is privileging programmers. When you don’t value
other skills, your engineering team becomes very entitled and even abusive
of other parts of the company. Really important functions, like marketing,
sales, business development, finance, and legal, become underfunded and
under-resourced. We often end up with companies with great technology that
are nonetheless dying because they could not execute from a nontechnical
are there so few women in many tech companies? Is it a so-called
pipeline problem, in that not enough women train as programmers and
engineers? Or is it because women leave the industry, as you did?
the pipeline is a huge issue. But too often, our industry focuses on early
stages of the pipeline that they have no control over. You see venture
capitalists talk about the need to get more 10-year-old girls into
programming, and that’s so far removed from their direct sphere of
influence. Meanwhile, there is attrition in every stage of the career path
of women once they get into the industry.Over
50 percent of womenwill leave by the halfway
point in their careers. We are not getting hired, and we are not getting
promoted, and we are being systematically driven out of the industry.
let elementary schools, high schools, and universities, which understand
education, worry about the pipeline?
so typical of Silicon Valley’s arrogance that these rich, white male
venture capitalists—who have no conception of learning or how to educate
young kids—make these grand declarations about the pipeline. It’s gross.
why would technology companies act against their best interests and not
hire and promote competent women or people from other marginalized
comes down to what their interests actually are. If their interests were
better serving the world, using technology as a force for social justice,
and equitably distributing technology wealth to enrich society … sure,
they’d be acting against their interests. But the reality is that tech
companies centralize power and wealth in a small group of privileged white
men. When that’s the goal, then exploiting the labor of marginalized
people and denying them access to power and wealth is 100 percent in line
with the endgame. A more diverse tech industry would be better for its
workers and everyone else, but it would be worse for the privileged white
men at the top of it, because it would mean they would have to give up
their monopoly on money and power. And they will fight that with
everything they’ve got, which is why we see barriers to equality at every
level of the industry.
often are women not given the credit that they deserve for the creation
of a company?
they are hired into early roles at the company, people from marginalized
groups—including women—don’t get the same amount of stock, and they are
not given the titles. And many times they’re not brought into the company
until later stages of a company’s development, so they miss out on the
opportunity to be part of the founding team. We particularly see
underrepresentation of black founders. And in general, we give too much
credit to individual, white male founders when companies are comprised of
many people who have [devoted] their lives to [making] their organizations
you blow the minds of people who’ve never seen a feminist critique
before, especially one of technology. Can you explain this response?
Male VCs and entrepreneurs seem riled that you don’t take their good
intentions very seriously.
start with the premise that they deserve all these disproportionate
advantages and privileges, and then they encounter a worldview that says,
“Not only do you not deserve those things, but in order to fix the
problems of the technology industry, you are not going to be able to have
that stuff anymore.” That’s a profound challenge to how people see
themselves, and it really hurts their feelings.
makes them actively angry. Yet there’s a sort of masochism to their
interactions with you. They can’t stop themselves from telling you why
the upper levels of tech, you are generally dealing with white men who
have been coddled their entire lives, and they have rarely encountered
even mild criticism. They take it as a really crushing, violent blow to
their egos. It’s a big challenge for people from marginalized and
underrepresented groups: we have to walk around the workplace all day on
eggshells, treating them like soft kittens.
denigrated what you call “corporate feminism,” as espoused by Sheryl
Sandberg in her bookLean
In.Why do you object to the ideology?
of the fundamental objections is that it tends to ignore broader systems
of sexism, racism, queer-phobia, trans-phobia, and these structural
oppressions are the root of why women don’t succeed in technology. Instead
of talking about that,Lean
Insays, “You need to work harder and smarter,
and you personally need to become very successful,” which promotes
exceptionalism rather than structural change. You know, many women are
already working harder and smarter than everyone around them.Imani
Gandyhas a great post on how black women are
already leaning in.
advice would you give to your younger self, or to women who are
considering a career in technology now?
actually don’t have a lot of advice. There’s not a whole lot that you can
do to keep your career from being crushed by misogyny. The idea that if we
can tell people the right way to act, they will be able avoid all that
structural discrimination and aggression—that’s just not the case, based
on my experience; so my main advice is basically to do what you can and to
take care of yourself.
out, Shanley. You stepped away and decided to do something else.
You created your own business.
I had that option because, as a white woman, I had a lot of financial
privilege and a lot of opportunities.
is Silicon Valley so dependent on alcohol to lubricate its interactions?
not critical of alcohol; I drink a lot of wine. The problem is how alcohol
functions in technology companies: if you can get everyone to go out
drinking after work, they are spending a lot more time at work with their
coworkers—thinking about and doing work. That leads to a total fusion of
self-identity with a company, where the social and personal is blended
with the professional. It’s also really important to point out that tech
events are places where assault and rape do happen, and alcohol is
frequently used to facilitate the attacks.
you seen signs of improvement at all in some of these issues that you
not one to be optimistic about these things, but if pressed I can come up
with a few examples. We are getting codes of conduct at events, and while
that seems like a superficial thing, it does reflect awareness that our
events are places where people are having bad experiences, where there is
inequality and sometimes very serious abuse. Another thing I have seen
over the past two years is that there is a lot more social-media
organization and activism, which is helping to change the way people view
tech and its problems. The final thing that’s good is that this year theRainbow
PUSH Coalitiondid a ton of work to get technology
companies to share all their diversity data, which is forcing a lot of
these issues into the open. There’s not any excuse for pretending that we
have a magic wand. What are the first three things you would change
think I would take Twitter away fromMarc
Andreessen. Well, I mean, honestly, I’d like to take Marc Andreessen
from power in every way; but the broader point is that I would like these
old, rich, white malethought
leadersto stop being the center of our field.
There are brilliant, diverse technologists that aren’t being given a
chance to speak.
second thing that I would change is that we have the worst tech media
ever. TechCrunch is pages and pages of press releases; PandoDaily is so
consumed with their writers’ narcissistic petty dramas that it’s just an
incoherent mess; and so on. So I’d love to see like 10 new independent
tech media companies that have more integrity, courage, and critical
the third thing I’d like to change is money. Changing the way money flows
in Silicon Valley is critical. VCs will give a startup run by women
$100,000, but then the company that is run by privileged men gets $500
million. So I would change the allocation of venture capital. What if we
said that we are not going to invest in cisgender, heterosexual white men
for the next 10 years, and we’re going to fund a diversity of