Chang: I do think the term can be applied not only to Silicon Valley, but to business in general. We’ve seen the revelations about what’s happening in Washington. Sexism and sexual harassment exists everywhere. There’s a particularly interesting brand of it in technology, but Elaine, I’m curious to hear from you, given that Hulu straddles the two worlds of tech and entertainment. How do you see this problem when you compare those two worlds?
Elaine Paul: It’s an interesting observation. We do sit right in the middle of tech and media. There’s been really significant catalysts for change and calls to action in both of those industries over the last six to 12 months.
Hulu sits in an interesting place. On the one hand, almost 40 percent of Hulu’s employees are engineers. On the other hand, we’re one of the leading-edge digital media companies. Speaking on points of origin, one thing that we’re proud of, and one of our greatest assets, is our culture. It’s been very carefully cultivated over years and years, before these significant catalysts for change. Our culture has very much been based on establishing openness and respect. Some things that are hot topics today, Hulu has been very aggressive about over the years.
Sexual harassment training has been in-person, something that’s foundational to the company for years. It’s not something where we just put on a video. That’s a core part of our culture of respect, openness, and character matters. We’ve also established, as we’ve gotten larger, an official diversity and inclusion initiative with an executive in charge of that.
You spoke about recruiting. We’re making very conscious efforts to be focused in our recruiting, our training, and our leadership training about building a diverse workforce. It’s good for business. All the studies out there show that having diversity in leadership and diversity throughout the workforce is good for the bottom line. When you’re a consumer-facing brand and business like Hulu, it’s important that our leadership and workforce reflect the customers we serve.
We’re in television. We’re in digital media. We’re broad by the very nature of that. It’s critical that we have a diversity of opinion in the board room, in leadership, and throughout the company. We’ve been able to institute all sorts of awareness and training for unconscious bias, starting with recruiting, and then building on up into management training as we promote people through the ranks, to try to be as inclusive as possible.
Chang: One of the myths I try to bust in the book is that women always quit to have children, when in fact women in tech are twice as likely to quit as men, but they’re not leaving to take care of their families. They’re leaving for jobs in other fields. They’re 870 percent more likely to leave tech than they are to leave jobs in other fields. The reasons they describe are a hostile environment, feelings of isolation, things like that. Erin, I wanted your help in deconstructing that. You never got married. You don’t have children.
McPherson: We’ve talked a lot of times about how I prove that point. I’m a single cat lady.
Chang: Do you think that’s gotten you farther ahead?
McPherson: No, I would not say that. It’s a personal choice, but I definitely — I’m 49. Coming up on the big 5-0 next month. I definitely bought into the myth that I’d get married and have kids after I got “there,” wherever “there” was. And that’s because my mom had kids at 19. She said, “You have to go do this for us. You have to go slay the dragon.” So I put that personal stuff aside, but then you wake up and think, “Wait a minute. I’m 40. Oh, crap. I missed that.”
I’m happy about it, but I’ll also say — It’s helped my career, because I haven’t had those outside responsibilities. I’ve been able to take the big deal that travels me around the world. I’ve been able to work nights and weekends because I haven’t had those obligations. But where I don’t think it got me as far is — this goes back to this basic thing we’ve been talking about. I actually think I’m not normative.
At a certain point, how does a senior person invite me to dinner with his wife? It’s awkward. I notice that I function better in an organization when I’m in a relationship. People want to invite you and your significant other to a theater or to dinner. Let’s face it. Professional advancement, in my opinion, happens outside the workplace too.
I had a law school professor, David Wilkins, who did a lot of work on the glass ceiling for women and minorities at Harvard Law. He had the theory that you don’t get promoted unless someone thinks they know the “real you.” When it comes down to who gets promoted, who makes partner, who makes SVP, you need advocates in the company who know you as a person, who are willing to vouch for you. That means social time, learning about your interests.
To that point, I think I didn’t get as far. I’ve definitely had opportunities because I’ve been free and unfettered, but at the same time, I’ve found I’m not as close. I’m not invited to the golf weekend. I’ll admit that I don’t think I want to go to the golf weekend with this guy and his wife. It’s awkward. But it does call on all of us, to be included as a manager in a hierarchy, to go that extra mile. Granted I’ve had amazing mentors who’ve taken the time to get to know me in appropriate ways and it hasn’t mattered that I wasn’t married. But it takes more effort.
It’s what we’ve been talking about, this thinking outside the box. This person isn’t like me. They don’t do the things I like to do for leisure. They’re different than I am. That needs to be celebrated. Even if it’s uncomfortable, how can I interact with Erin outside the office in a way that doesn’t involve couples going out?
Nortman: Right now, Brotopia is essentially talking about masculine-normative behavior in corporations. But you just brought in another behavior. You brought in heteronormativity. I face that same challenge even though I’m straight, married, and have two kids, because — my husband is in academia and there’s a lot of socialization that happens with the families of various different professors at the university. A lot of professors are men, and a lot of their wives are full-time moms. They don’t have super-executive-level careers. We go to all these events and all the professors are supposed to be over here talking about work and the wives are supposed to be over here talking about furniture. There’s that assumption that when the men get together, the women are going to go talk about something domestic. I don’t fit into that, and that impacts me as well.
You have to challenge these kinds of normative behaviors, these underlying dynamics, and say, “How do we shift these norms?” How do we have more feminine-normative behavior, non-heteronormative behavior in the business world?
Chang: Also, in the early days — Erin, something you mentioned that you wanted to discuss was, you would go to the strip clubs with coworkers?
McPherson: Totally. I started out my career thinking I’d win this race by being one of them. I was better at it, probably, than a lot of you guys. [laughter] I’m genetically blessed as far as my ability to drink a lot. I’d go to the club and think, “I’m gonna outdo you.” This was as a young lawyer. I worked at a hardcore trial firm where I was one of 11 women. If you won a case, that’s how you celebrated.
It took me until my early to middle 30s to realize that wasn’t a winning strategy. Actually, I’ll never be one of the guys. That’s okay. There would be men that would celebrate and support my career regardless of that. I stopped doing that, thankfully. But it was a learning curve.
Chang: It still happens. We all know about Susan Fowler and her bad experience at Uber. I interviewed her and other women at Uber who were invited to strip clubs in the middle of the day, invited to drink in the middle of the day. It didn’t matter that they got back at 3 a.m. as long as they got their work done. That was okay. There were kegs open on the floor. I realized running Uber 2.0 now, how do we even begin to address something like that, when it is so broken?
Lee: There’s a great quote by Daniel Cameron about how people never make a decision based on data. Basically, you need to tell stories. You need to find the role models. You need to find the north star that will help to shift people’s beliefs. That’s how you do it. You find the role models in the organization. You highlight them. You tell the stories around them.
Dara Khosrowshahi is such a good role model in that regard. He’s a father who talks about his kids quite often. He has two younger twin boys, about five years old, and you always hear stories about them. He shares about his own challenges in his career, about D&I, and about how he didn’t necessarily think about gender inclusion for a long time. He’s talked about how he went through his own evolution. I’ve been sharing those stories, and more and more we find these role models. That’s how we start to change behavior.
The other way I would say — I’m in the very un-sexy, boring business of D&I, which isn’t very un-sexy and boring right now, but — it’s really about looking at every human capital process we have and asking ourselves, is there a prototypical masculine behavior being emphasized in this process? How do we introduce more neutral to feminine normative behavior here?
Do you have competency models? Analyze those word for word. If you have words like “drive,” which were in some of our cultural values, that’s a masculine concept. Can we take that out and get something a bit more neutral in there? It gets down to that really systemic stuff, the boring, but super important work. When people suddenly start to interact with our people strategies, they think, “Oh, this is now driving me toward a more inclusive result. Prior to this change it would have led me to just lean on my bias.”
Chang: It’s fascinating how those things play out in pitch meetings and venture capital, where — just going by the statistics, women-led companies get two percent of funding, yet we call it a meritocracy. Men get 52 percent of what they ask for, whereas women get 25 percent. Qualities that are seen as positives in men when they’re in a pitch meeting are seen as negative in women. A young man is seen as high potential. A young woman is seen as inexperienced. Words like “visionary” and “genius” just don’t get used to describe women, but they’re used to describe dozens and dozens of men.
At All Raise — which, by the way, is so exciting, speaking of role models. These women have been on the cover of Forbes for this nonprofit they’ve launched to increase the number of women founders, the size of the checks they’re getting, and the number of women making decisions about writing checks. But how do you even begin to tackle that kind of behavior? It’s so hard to say to someone, “Just change the way you think about women.”
Nortman: I’ll give you one anecdote personally that I was thinking about as you guys were all talking. I actually went to the firm I’m now a part of as an entrepreneur. I raised capital for my startup when I was seven months pregnant. What I find remarkable in retrospect is I never thought for a second that it would prevent me from getting funded. I never felt all the things that were probably happening at the time. I was a lot like Erin early in my career. I started out in a very male environment. But a lot of it is finding your male allies. It’s educating them. It’s giving them the space to make mistakes and be the best version of themselves and have them take up the cause.
We came together not in an entirely accidental way, but a woman named Aileen Lee invited all the women partners at the top institutional venture funds to come together for dinner in the wake of all the bad news coming out of our industry, which was pre-Weinstein. She thought there was something we can do. What’s crazy is that she reached out to 40 women. In the whole industry, there were 40 women. We sat down and just started shipping product.
We started with this thing called Female Founder Office Hours, which is, how do you create a safe space to come in and get advice on pitching? I was a venture capitalist before I pitched, and I still found it very confusing to be on the other side. That evolved into a movement that I think even surprised us. It evolved into a number of us doing hundreds of hours of work and building real friendships across firms. All of that was new.
The thing that’s become important now is how you keep that drumbeat going every day. How do you create a space in your life for all the good men out there? Most men are good. Even if they’ve done bad things, they want to do better. There’s a minority we’ve focused on that have done so much bad. We’re trying to focus on, and I’m trying to personally focus on — when I get a chance to go on a long run every week, I think about how you get men to be thinking about this every day.
How do you get male entrepreneurs getting money from women and women entrepreneurs getting money from men? How do you take entrepreneurs who look a certain way — if you’re an African-American man and you’re going to pitch a room full of white people, or a woman going to pitch a room full of men, it’s very unnatural. Imagine you’re a white guy going into a room full of African-American women to pitch and how that would feel.
I do think there’s a lot of ground game every day. Successful men need to ask the women in their lives what they can do. We need to find small ways to make progress every day. We’re in this wonderful moment, and it’s cool to be on the cover of a magazine. The Jewish mom is very happy. But what’s really important is that we’re talking about this six months from now, and we’re measuring real results. We know that more diverse teams are not just a mission. It’s reflected in better financial performance, in meeting more end users, in funding more business initiatives that will make businesses sustainable over the long run.
Chang: There is a tangible in there, which is, all men can ask the women in their lives what they can do. What are some others?
McPherson: One thing that I’ve found really powerful about what you guys have started to do with All Raise — going back to the point about how we don’t make decisions based on data. We make decisions based on emotion, based on what’s happening around us, based on what we see. It’s very much that mantra of, you can’t be what you can’t see. That certainly exists around this topic. But what I’ve found interesting about All Raise is that you guys went out and said, “We want to create a groundswell of commitment around founders for change.”
We know that the undercurrent of the culture in Silicon Valley, in addition to the Brotopia dynamic, is also competition. It’s a very small community in which all of these folks are highly networked with one another. The minute somebody sees somebody else doing something different, all of them start swarming to find out how they can do it and how they can be part of it.
Chang: It’s a different kind of “me too.”
McPherson: It is, and it’s a powerful one. The concept of harnessing the competitive nature of this group, giving people the examples, giving people the ability to be inspired, showing something simple and tangible that they can take back to their organization and implement with their teams — the more we can do that and take advantage of the competitive nature and social sharing that happens within the industry, that’s going to go a long way.
Chang: We’ve heard a lot about how men are scare, how men don’t know what to do. I’ve been asked a lot of times about a white male revolt and what we’re going to do about that. Are you hearing that in your organizations?
Lee: I would say that white men, and men in general, at Uber are saying, “I want to do something. I don’t know what it is. Can you please role model for me?” Historically, what we’ve often done is that we make women or people of color have to be the educators in this process. The good thing, though, is that there are people like me in Uber now. I want to be able to find some other white men in the organization who already have an inclination to be inclusive, who’ve demonstrated that, and then really upscale them to be true inclusion champions.
I want them to be the ones facilitating training. I want them to be the ones doing the coaching and the advising for other white men. When you look at the training companies often do, it’s a woman standing there doing the training. It’s usually the black woman or the Hispanic woman or the black guy. I want that to be the white guy. I’m hoping to find those white men who are already inclined, make them even better, and put them out there to be the ones who help other white men come along and give them that tactical advice about what to do.