You may have heard of Ellen Pao, at least as “that women who sued the VC company” or “The CEO that censored reddit”. I had heard of these stories and followed her on Twitter before I got the book. Listening to all these things that happened, you wouldn’t actually believe it all happened to one person.
My latest read (well, listen via audio book) has been Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao.
She tells her story of sexism and the treatment she endured during her time in tech VC, her trial against her employer and also as CEO of Reddit. I won’t go into all the details, you should read the book to hear it properly from her!
She also talks more generally about problems women have in industry, both problems based on our own confidence and ability to put ourselves forward for jobs and projects and also treatment of minorities in tech.
Parts I relate to:
- Trying to have the balance between being likeable but respected. Not too tough, not to girly, not too ambitious, not too emotional… there are just so many “too”s that just don’t seem to apply to men.
- Being seen as a “buzz kill” when you call out unacceptable behavior or even just bias in language. On one hand I try to say I don’t care but I do, it’s hard enough being so different from the rest of a team never mind being the one they don’t want to talk to incase they cause offense.
- Ellen mentions the “loads of little cuts” you get being a women in tech. All of these things that seem like little comments, “why would you get offended by that” people often think. But when it happens regularly, these cuts become unbearable.
The main message from the book for me was if you want change you need to be it. Ellen mentions “if not me, then who”. This is often what I think when making myself visible in tech… I can’t complain there are never any women talking at conferences, taking leadership roles but not take the chance when I am given it. This is why the author put herself through the court case and also in the front line of the Reddit changes, if no one stood up for fixing these issues, nothing would change.
Although the book is really interesting, the last few chapters are the best for me as they are talking about the solution. I am, of course, keen on raising the issues we face but also giving an positive stories to encourage change: showing female role models and highlighting the awesome of women in technology. In the last chapter Ellen discusses Project Include, a non-profit that was founded by Ellen and other women affected by the lack of inclusion in tech and who wanted to change things. They use data to discuss the inclusion issues in industry but also have information for companies to implement change rather than just talk about it. It’s good to see she has turned her horrible experiences into a positive and a platform to help others.
Overall, I would recommend this book to all who work in tech who want to know more about the issues faced by people in their industry- if we understand it, we can try to change it, right?!