In an interview, former Stanford University Graduate School of Business doctoral students Julie Oberweis and Monica Leas discuss the genesis of a survey detailing Silicon Valley's inhospitable culture toward women. Leas says although a lack of enough women in the technology industry pipeline is a legitimate issue, a larger problem lies with recruiting practices and retention. "There's unconscious bias; there's blatant bias and harassment," she notes.
The survey also found under-reporting of such bias by women, who saw disclosure as a possible impediment to their careers. Leas says 47 percent of female respondents reported being asked to do menial tasks, 60 percent encountered unwanted sexual advances, 33 percent feared for their safety at some point, and 66 percent felt exclusion from networking opportunities. Subtle slights and prejudices instead of overt discrimination appear to be the norm, with Oberweis noting collectively these slights constitute "death by a thousand cuts."
Above all, Oberweis and Leas urge an open dialogue about gender discrimination, and Leas sees hope in companies that are targeting specific numbers of female recruits. "I do think there's a tipping point at which the similarity bias in hiring goes away and diversity becomes self-sustaining," she says.
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