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Boys-only Perks, Bullying, and Bringing About Change to All-Male Speaker Lineups

5 Ally Actions | Sept 21, 2018

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Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and become a better ally.

1. Push back when you hear about boys-only perks

This week, Spotify was sued for alleged gender discrimination by Hong Perez, a former sales executive. She accused her manager of selecting only male employees to attend company trips to the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and 2017. The trips were even referred to as “boys’ trips.” Plus there are other instances of discrimination and equal pay violations outlined in the lawsuit.

Allies, let’s push back when we hear about boys-only business trips or other perks. And insist they be offered to all genders.

2. Ask colleagues to pull out of all-male panels or speaker line-ups

The AI Frontiers conference site shows a mostly male speaker line up. And as we learned from Susan Frank, the gender ratio is getting worse since the conference was originally announced.

Yet there is a ray of sunshine. Our hero of the week is Robert Munro, who tweeted that he knew many of the speakers and would ask them to step down from the conference. Awesome.

We can all follow Robert’s lead. If we know men who are scheduled to speak at a “manference” or on a “manel,” let’s reach out and ask them to decline.

By the way, do you know any of these guys speaking at the upcoming Quant Conference? You know what to do.

3. Take a stand against insulting or derogatory comments

We’d like to think that if we were in a community led by someone who repeatedly bullied and insulted other members, we would say something. That we’d take a stand. Regardless of how difficult it might be, or the personal cost we might face.

Yet, we know it’s easier said than done, as underscored in this New Yorker article about Linus Torvalds. Clearly hundreds of potential allies did not (or could not) stand up to Linus, who for decades verbally abused programmers in the Linux community that he created.

All of this begs the question: What will you do the next time you witness someone slinging insulting or derogatory comments at others? Or see a culture forming around such behavior?

We hope you’ll take notice and use your position of privilege to take a stand.

4. Realize that what works for white women may not work for all women

Recently, the Kapor Center explored challenges facing female tech entrepreneurs. In this summary of their findings, they share the myriad biases women face raising capital. They then go on to show how race factors in, with women of color reporting substantially worse experiences than white women. One statistic that caught our eye: “women of color were nearly 10 times as likely to report experiencing non-consensual touching.” Let that sink in.

As you think about how to be a better ally for women, realize that not all women face the same challenges. And that women of color may need different support and allyship because of the additional bias and harassment they have to deal with.

5. Make sure your pay equity committee reviews stock grants by gender

While this may not be surprising, it sure is depressing. According to this study of over 600 cap tables, aka the documents that show who has ownership of a company, there’s a big gender gap. “Women make up 33% of the combined founder and employee workforce but hold just 9% of the equity value. The other 91% belongs to men.”

If your company has a pay equity committee, ask if they’re looking at overall compensation, including stock ownership. And if there’s a plan to address any inequities.

One last thing

A few days ago, one of our newsletter subscribers wrote, “I just wanted to take a minute to say how much I enjoy reading these. This edition in particular just struck me as super thoughtful as always, but also uncannily timely and relevant.” As you might imagine, she made our day.

If you’re also enjoying this newsletter, please help us spread the word. Ask a few colleagues to head over to to subscribe. Ask them to join you in becoming a better ally.

Becoming an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.