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 		 [This book has received a lot of attention since its publication,
as a pioneering study of not just the fact of gender discrimination in
the tech industry, but also as a glimpse into how such discrimination
works.] [https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 BROTOPIA   [https://portside.org/2019-07-10/brotopia] 

 

 Shannon Liao 
 February 8, 2018
The Verge
[https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/8/16982000/emily-chang-brotopia-book-review-sexism-silicon-valley]


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 _ This book has received a lot of attention since its publication, as
a pioneering study of not just the fact of gender discrimination in
the tech industry, but also as a glimpse into how such discrimination
works. _ 

 , 

 

_Brotopia
Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley_
Emily Chang
Portfolio/Penguin
ISBN-13: 978-0525540175

From the beginning, women were at the forefront of computer
technology: both Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper were pioneers of
computer programming. But as computers rose as an industry, the number
of women in the field did not follow — instead, after 1984, their
numbers declined drastically.

In her book _Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley_
[https://go.redirectingat.com?id=66960X1514734&xs=1&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBrotopia-Breaking-Boys-Silicon-Valley-ebook%2Fdp%2FB074LQKJJC]_,
Bloomberg TV_ reporter Emily Chang uses history, scientific studies,
and dozens of interviews to piece together a broad view of the male
domination in Silicon Valley. Her subjects range from the genesis of
toxic “bro” culture at emerging start-ups, to the online
harassment campaign Gamergate
[https://www.theverge.com/2014/11/4/7153549/gamergate-campaign-video-game-ethics-feminism-harassment],
the #MeToo movement
[https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/15/16893734/metoo-movement-backlash],
and Susan Fowler’s blog post about sexism and harassment at Uber
that eventually led to CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation
[https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/21/15844836/uber-ceo-resigns-travis-kalanick]
from the company last year.

Chang is careful to let her subjects speak for themselves, and that
often means quoting at length from their own statements or blog posts.
We get to revisit James Damore’s infamous anti-diversity memo
[https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/7/16111052/google-james-damore-fired-anti-diversity-manifesto]
that claimed men were just scientifically better at tech than women,
which got him fired from Google within days
[https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/19/16911482/james-damore-google-ceo-sundar-pichai-women-in-tech-memo-firing].
In the spirit of just presenting the facts, Chang doesn’t add side
commentary to these well-documented events, which can make _Brotopia_
feel like dry textbook reading at times.

At times, reading _Brotopia_ may seem like a return to notable tech
articles from the past decade, but its breadth and depth allow the
book to go deeper about the false assumptions and excuses people make
about the gender imbalance in tech. Almost every venture capital fund
and every tech company she interviews, for example, attribute tech’s
problems with women to some other source, and fail to see where they
might contribute to it.

Some recruiters might say that it’s harder to hire a woman in a
position at a VC or tech company because of a limited pool of women
computer science graduates. But, Chang argues, male college graduates
aren’t subject to the same requirements. Only 61 percent of the top
male investors on a 2015 list of _Forbes_ Midas List of standout
venture capitalists
[https://www.forbes.com/data/midas-interactive-2015/] had a STEM
degree, and all but one of the women on the list had STEM backgrounds.
The discrepancy points to a double standard: why could men majoring in
history and literature get hired but women couldn’t?

In the final chapter of the book, Chang writes, “Writing this book
has been like going on trek through a minefield, with fresh mines
being laid as I walked.” To those who are new to the subject,
_Brotopia_ offers concrete examples of obstacles and problems what
women have endured in the industry, from small daily annoyances to
bigger grievances like the wage gap
[https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/6/16980072/uber-driver-gender-earnings-gap-study]
and sexual harassment. In one anecdote, Uber engineer Lydia Fernandez,
who is trans, said that she started to get interrupted in
conversations after she transitioned but when she used to present as
male, she had no such problems. She says in the book, “I’ve sat on
both sides of this table; this game is rigged.” 
Chang cites films like _The Social Network _and _Hidden Figures_ in
her book, the former shorthand for Silicon Valley’s bro culture and
the latter shorthand for innovative women in tech. When reading
_Brotopia_, it’s easy to envision it as a film — but as a
documentary, to help keep all her carefully researched facts straight.
Women who have triumphed in tech despite the odds, like Sheryl
Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, could be
the film’s heroines, and so would the young girls learning how to
code despite it all.

Shannon Liao is a tech and culture reporter for The Verge. She writes
general tech news, stories about China, smart homes, and the
intersections between internet culture, gaming, and sometimes,
politics. Liao was born and raised in New York City, where she resides
to this day.

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