Respecting Women In Silicon Valley: This Is What We’re Doing Next

Sarah Seitz
Written by Sarah Seitz

What’s this *about*?

Briefly: Silicon Valley, Tech, Business, Women and Diversity, Power Asymmetry, Pay Disparity, Lack of Reciprocity, Balance of Workload — Billable, Mental and Emotional Work hours.

This is a roadmap and pointers for the soul-searching happening in Silicon Valley and the tech industry.

You said let’s go — so let’s go.

This post is dedicated to [REDACTED, but perhaps he’ll find the nerve to speak up here as much as he does elsewhere?] This is for telling stories that made me believe a survivor like me could fit in, in a world of ingenuity and making things happen. This is for becoming the “friend” who made me see how very implausible that is for a woman — even if she’s a Swiss Army knife of a woman who fixes quandaries for NASA and offers you personal insight and pattern analysis on the side.

This is for the Elon Musk-funded “space exploration scientist” who instructed me to pee in a bar pitcher that was to be shared with two other women as toilet facilities. Because rigorous science is rugged — oh, and money is tight.

I’m exhausted, my words are sparsely edited, but we’re having this conversation out in broad daylight, as I’ve said we would since the beginning. I’m not walking away, being blacklisted, or pleading for you to respond on my behalf. I’m telling the men involved what they need to do to repair the problem — and they’re going to do it. There are others who haven’t been willing to listen or learn, but I’m not worried — those boys are being shown the door, and I appreciate those of you who have helped to make that happen.

You asked for it, boys, so: Game on. Let’s go.

1.There’s no more, “I’m sorry.”

You’re not sorry you did it, you’re not sorry that it happened to your friend, you don’t mean a thing you’ve said until you’ve gotten off your ass and put a big dent in making it better.

If you find yourself tempted to apologize for things you’ve done, the correct words are: “What can I do to repair this?”

The answer isn’t a self-indulgent Medium post about “supporting some women” and how it’s really hard, but you’re changing.

You’re product people — you’d never leave a product so vaguely defined and expect it to take off or give you any traction. You’re serious about making things right this time. So we’re going to get into specifics, and open conversations, and continue.

Spare me your reflections until you’ve called the women you’ve counted on and asked what you can do to put your good intentions to work for them. Be quiet until they decide to announce that you’ve made a difference.

2.There’s no more, “I’m going to take a hard look at myself and seek professional help.”

(You’re going to join the adults who are working on themselves to shed bad habits, and less-than-respectable behaviors? Right on, kiddo.) It’s not about you, or how hard it is for you to make these changes, or how many “good guys” are facing big losses because they did lousy things, over and over and over again.

You want to make change? Include me. Invite me. Acknowledge me. Offer connection, recognition and opportunity to the women you believe are your “friends,” the way you do for any of the intelligent, high-achieving, high-hustle guys in your “professional” world.

This bro crap about reflection and holding each other to higher standards? Write standards. Require accountability. Authenticate these grand claims. Do some due diligence and bloody well invest yourself. Don’t just write me another bullshit moralizing piece of self-promotion.

Tell your friends: Take your words and stuff them. You’re investors, advisors, and this fluff is your pitch deck? Get serious. Show us the money. Put some elbow grease into it. What exactly is the product or solution you’re taking credit for, for women’s equity? Show us your numbers.

It’s about repairing what’s being done to the women you work with, live with, weep with, dream with, who you depend on every day. It’s about acknowledging the losses they’ve taken as they’ve carried on with the work while putting up with your obliviousness, your arrogance, your abuse of power or outright greed. Disrupt this shit. Make lasting change — for them. It’s not about you.

3.There’s no more, “I’m supporting women! I’m making an example because I’m mentoring them and advising them!”

Really? Who? How often? If you’re creating an example for others, show them how you’re doing it. What’s the time commitment involved? What does it cost you? (Likely $0, or $5 to sit down for coffee, or thinking to invite someone with you to an event.) How many women are you supporting this way, or in other ways? How long are you sticking with it, and how long is it taking to make a real difference ($$$), for them?

If you’re going to proclaim to the world that you intend to lead on this, don’t forget to acknowledge the women who are mentoring you (Uhh, yes, all those hourlong discussions where we explained it to you *yet again* were mentorship. How did you get so lucky?)

You’re the guys who make things happen, right? Then quit whining and do it. 50% of the entrepreneurs you fund. 50% of board seats you fill. 50% of the interviews you hold to find the best person, with the most forethought and insight to solve your problems. 50% of the invitations you offer. 50% of the connections you facilitate.

BE the solution. BUILD the solution. Break a sweat if you have to.

Anything less: your feminism is vaporware.

Have you even considered the (vast, untapped) upside yet?

The honest, candid, and ongoing conversations I’ve been having with the right men have been transformative. They understand that they have a big opportunity to learn and lead with me. We’re going to do this together.

This post originally appeared on Medium with the title “Enough. This is what we’re doing next.” Re-published with permission of the author. 

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