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The troubling sexism of Silicon Valley

9-24-2019

Francesco Corso, News Editor

The discussion surrounding women in tech has always been a hot button issue for many people. It was found in a UNESCO report that women make up only 35 percent of all women in STEM fields, with the disparity growing even further when focusing on engineering and technology majors specifically. This can actually be demonstrated pretty clearly by looking at most classes in Behrend’s own School of Engineering. 

The way this discussion is usually framed has been around encouraging more women to go into these majors, which is something that we absolutely should strive for. However, in Silicon Valley, there are a number of issues facing women who are currently there.

It should come as no surprise that in a male-dominated field such as technology, a culture of sexism has arisen. In fact, many companies in both “traditional” software and the games industry have had reports of a “frat-boy culture” in the internal corporate environment.

For example, Riot Games, the creator behind the popular game “League of Legends,” has been at the center of a scandal where female candidates are often not considered for positions, being dismissed with a number of excuses including being “ladder climbers,” having “too much ego,” not being “gamer enough,” being “too punchy” or not “[challenging] convention.”

In addition, women have often left the company due to the aforementioned “frat-boy culture.” In 2018, one former employee told Kotaku about her experience working at Riot, which is about 80 percent male. “The ‘bro culture’ there is so real,” she said. “It’s agonizingly real. It’s like working at a giant fraternity.”

The corporate culture at Riot Games is absolutely disgusting and should be a wake-up call about the nature of sexism in the tech industry. It should come as no surprise that a company that created a game that has generated billions of dollars in revenue, with a player-base that is almost exclusively male, and hires based on the idea that only “core gamers” can empathize with “League” players. This serves only to reinforce this notion that “hardcore gamers” are all guys and that women have no place in the games industry.

Furthermore, in traditional Silicon Valley companies, women shouldn’t prove “that they deserve to be there,” as journalist and author of the book “Brotopia,” Emily Chang put it. Her book also alleges the fact that Silicon Valley employees are known for having “sex parties” where men bring women with them in two-to-one ratios, as well as making visits to strip clubs in the middle of the day. Chang has stated that not all “sex parties” are necessarily a bad thing saying, “The Bay Area has had a long tradition of sexual exploration, sexual liberation and sex positivity. But these events [I report on] are a lot more about power than about sexual exploration and it is a power dynamic that is completely lopsided.”

All of these allegations are extremely disturbing and point to the fact that the tech industry needs to do a lot of self-reflection about the culture that they have wrought. In the era of #MeToo it is necessary more than ever for this industry to do everything it can in order to break the culture of sexism they have created.