Tracy Chou, previously a software engineer at Pinterest, now faces the inequity of male and female in tech. She is trying to figure out why it happens and subsequently struggling for the liquidation of this mistreatment.

Tracy Chou graduated from Stanford University with Bachelor in Electrical Engineering and Master in Computer Science. While studying she interned at Google, Facebook, and RocketFuel. Starting from last year of Master’s studies she started to work as a software engineer at a Q&A platform Quora. Then she landed a job at Pinterest, a web and mobile application company that operates a photo sharing website. She stayed there for almost 5 years. She also worked as a consultant and advisor at United States Digital Service and Homebrew VC, that provides seed-stage fund and operational expertise for entrepreneurs, correspondingly. Now she is still continuing her carrier at Homebrew VC. Since December, 2015 she is a founding team member at Project Include, a female group aimed to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech field.

Pinteerest Stage

At Pinteerest Chou was on the home feed and recommendations team, playing a so-called «numbers game». «When we build consumer products at any of these companies – Pinterest, Google, Facebook – a ton of data is tracked. How many people show up on the landing page? How many hit the sign-in form?»,  – she says. «It felt hypocritical that we were being so disciplined about using metrics in building our products, yet not at all with workforce demographics. If we didn’t even know what the baseline was, how could we know if some new strategy to improve diversity was helping or not?». From that moment Chou started to make efforts in order to «kick off the wave of tech company diversity data disclosures with a Github repository collecting numbers on women in engineering». Even at her home Pinterest, claiming that ¾ of their engineers are female, there were only 11 women out of 89 engineers, so the percentage is 12%.


The Rate Of Women In Tech Is Rapidly Falling

At the Grace Hopper conference, took place in October 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, stated that the number of women in tech was falling. Chou was taken aback. She realized that tech, as the most data-driven industry, lacked reliable and available statistics. The same month, she wrote a post on Medium in which she asked people to share data from their own companies. «This thing that had been an open secret in Silicon Valley became open to everybody», – Chou commented.

In the past several years, Silicon Valley has actually begun to deal with a low rate of women in tech. First of all, they started with quantifying them. In 2014, Google released data on the number of women employed. Then other companies joined – so statistics became available at LinkedIn, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, eBay, and Apple. The numbers were very low and therefore the companies decided to invest in hiring practices alteration.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show In January 2015, Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, announced that his company was planning to devote $300 million to make diversity efforts up to 2020. Two months later, Apple invested $50 million into partnership with nonprofits, that were working at the pipeline of women and minorities going into tech improvement. That spring Google said that «it would increase its annual budget for promoting diversity from $115 million to $150 million». In June 2016, 33 companies signed a pledge for making their workforces more diverse.


Brilliance Relates Only To Men

This was determined by Silicon Valley’ history that the success in tech depended almost on innate genius. In 2015, a study published in Science stated that computer science and certain other fields, like physics, math, and philosophy are inborn. So this is the main reason why these fields are problematic for women, while they lack genius, which is a male trait.

That is probably why the tech industry’s gender disparity is considered a natural thing. When Chou interned at Google in 2007 while studying at Stanford, she noticed that «people would joke about the fact that the main Mountain View campus was populated mostly by male engineers, and that women tended to be relegated to other parts of the operation, such as marketing». But for all the joking, Chou found it difficult to understand and her attempts to figure out why it happened were a failure.


No Fashion Looks Anymore

There are plenty of everyday problems female engineers face nowadays, especially for those who are pretty, young and intelligent. For instance, Chou is a fashionista, and that causes a real problem in the tech world, where femininity is misperceived. She recalls her designer dress at a programming conference and people reaction to her look: they kept away from her. The next day she didn’t repeat past mistakes and put on a T-shirt and jeans. This look was much more traditional for a male programmer and it had shot bolt – everyone wanted to talk.


The Conditions That Force You Leave

An interesting fact to consider is the reasons why women, one way or the other happened to work in tech, leave. According to the report by the Center for Talent Innovation, these reasons aren’t connected family or because they just don’t like a kind of work they do. The report concludes that «workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career» are the main reasons. The major factor involves «Undermining behavior from managers».


Be Hot And Better Don’t Try To Be Clever

Silicon Valley is now straggling to put all the efforts to let women work in tech comfortably, but anyhow male tweets like «My least favorite topic in the world is ‘Women in Tech,’ so I am going to make this short» occur constantly. The tweets from women are also speaking for themselves: one woman tweeted that before her presentation at Pubcon, a prestigious tech conference, she was told by a male participant an encouraging phrase, stating «Don’t be nervous. You’re hot! No one expects you to do well».


Too Emotional To Work In This Field

Even when Chou For Chou co-founded Project Include, she was afraid of being with a man at the open-office floor plan. «It meant there was no way to escape a male co-worker who liked to pop up behind her and find fault with her work». She was called «emotional» when she raised some technical concerns, especially in the cooperation with male engineers, difficult to cope with. «The company’s one other female engineer felt the same way Chou did—as if they were held to a different standard. It wasn’t overt sexism; it was more like being dismissed and disrespected, not feeling like we were good enough to be there…».

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