Bloomberg TV anchor Emily Chang has become one of tech’s most influential interviewers in recent years. But her forthcoming book promises to get 2018 off to an ugly start for Silicon Valley, which is still reeling from a year of sexual harassment allegations.
The book is being published in early February by Portfolio and is called Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley. According to a summary of the book: “Silicon Valley’s aggressive, misogynistic, work-at-all costs culture has shut women out of the greatest wealth creation in the history of the world. It’s time to break up the boys’ club. Emily Chang shows us how to fix this toxic culture — to bring down Brotopia, once and for all.”
But we don’t have to wait until February. Today, Vanity Fair published a fun little excerpt under the headline: “OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO F—ED UP”: INSIDE SILICON VALLEY’S SECRETIVE, ORGIASTIC DARK SIDE.”
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse than 2017.
The excerpt focuses on anonymous tales of what it subtly calls “Sex Parties of the Tech and Famous.” In essence, tech bros, singled and married, organize large, drug-fueled parties where men pick and choose sex partners from the abundance of attractive women invited. The parties are attended, according to Chang’s interview with dozens of participants, by “powerful first-round investors, well-known entrepreneurs, and top executives.”
That may not be so shocking, given the Bay Area’s progressive sexual culture. But in this case, the parties seem to blur a line between business and pleasure, leaving female founders and entrepreneurs facing a truly horrific choice in the face of a male-dominated culture: If they don’t participate in the sex games, they risk losing access to the male elite; if they do participate they risk being labeled as promiscuous sex playthings.
“There is this undercurrent of a feeling like you’re prostituting yourself in order to get ahead because, let’s be real, if you’re dating someone powerful, it can open doors for you. And that’s what women who make the calculation to play the game want, but they don’t know all the risks associated with it,” one anonymous female entrepreneur tells Chang. “If you do participate in these sex parties, don’t ever think about starting a company or having someone invest in you. Those doors get shut. But if you don’t participate, you’re shut out. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Brotopia may well prove to be the book of the moment. Silicon Valley has long had a reputation for lacking female founders and venture capital partners. But in 2017, allegations of sexual harassment burst into plain view as a number of victims went public with accusations. These included the blog post by Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer who detailed her own experience with sexual harassment at the company while indicting a broader culture that protected executives accused of harassment. That would be one of many reasons CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted a few months later. And over the course over the year, as the #MeToo movement began to ripple across the entertainment world, big Silicon Valley names were accused of sexual harassment, influential tech blogger Robert Scoble, Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, and Shervin Pishevar from Sherpa Capital and Hyperloop One.
Chang’s book appears to pick up that baton and run with it. “Vastly outnumbered, women face toxic workplaces rife with discrimination and sexual harassment, where investors take meetings in hot tubs and colleagues network over lunch at the local strip club,” reads the book’s description on Amazon.
It goes on to say:
In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don’t Be Evil! Connect the World!) — and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.
Drawing on her deep network of Silicon Valley insiders, Chang opens the boardroom doors of male-dominated venture capital firms like Kleiner Perkins, the subject of Ellen Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit, and Sequoia, where a partner once famously said they “won’t lower their standards” just to hire women. Interviews with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, and former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer — who got their start at Google, where just one in five engineers is a woman — reveal just how hard it is to crack the Silicon Ceiling. And Chang shows how women such as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, entrepreneur Niniane Wang, and game developer Brianna Wu have risked their careers and sometimes their lives to pave a way for other women.
Silicon Valley’s sins seem to be numerous. And it looks like 2018 is going to be another year of learning how much worse things are than we thought.