Inside Silicon Valley’s Sex & Drug-Fueled Bro Culture

7 Min Read

Sex parties, drugs, bondage, blackmail: It sounds like journalistic embellishments of Stephen Glass proportions, but according to long-time reporter and media personality Emily Chang, ethical debauchery has become a way of life in Silicon Valley.

Chang, the host of Bloomberg Television and Executive Producer HBO's Silicon Valley- sought out to bring to light the plethora of issues plaguing the tech industry, sparing no uncomfortable detail via two years of investigative reporting. Chang's new book, aptly-called Brotopia, explores the ecosystem of male domination in the tech world and how it's affected women who work within it. To get the unfiltered reality from those experiencing it, Chang utilized her ample network of Valley insiders, interviewing more than 3 dozen men and women, wholely immersing herself in a world that has become synonymous with sexism.

I think a lot of people don't realize the #MeToo movement actually started in Silicon Valley with Ellen Pao who was a junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers," says Chang. “She sued her venture capital firm [for gender discrimination in 2012] and she lost, but she won in the court of public opinion. think that was one of the first openings where women started talking about this."

According to Chang, one of the biggest disparities is that tech is such a progressive industry, yet has such stark inequality. In fact, she reveals that women make up just 25 percent of computing jobs, are just 7 percent of investors, and reminds us the grim truth that women got only two percent of funding last year. She also discovered that the pay gap in Silicon Valley is alarmingly high- in fact, five times the national average.

Photo courtesy of David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

“I think diversity has not been a priority," says Chang matter-of-factly. “Growth has been a priority, users have been a priority, engagement has been a priority."

Chang goes on to say that in the early days of Google, hiring women once was a priority, and because of this, women like Susan Wojcicki (the current CEO of YouTube), Sheryl Sandberg (known for radically scaling the business) and Marissa Mayer (the mind responsible for today's minimalistic-and iconic- search interface), moved their way up through the ranks, but over time the numbers fell flat. “Now Google's numbers are average just like every other company and they have quite a big pay gap," she says.

In her book, Chang further explores the Google pay gap scenario, sharing how the women at the company started speaking up about their salaries, adding them to a spreadsheet, which would go on to become a Department of Labor lawsuit. “This is a company that started out with good intentions but good intentions aren't enough," she says. “Talk isn't enough."

To illustrate her point that even a good idea is insufficient for change, Chang then explains how Google began to include a woman into every single interview for new talent. While this may seem progressive, women at Google reported to Chang that the requirement took them away from their normal job activities, like writing code and launching new projects. “So, when it comes to promotion time, [a woman is] evaluated on those things, not on how many candidates she interviewed," says Chang. “It's just one of the pitfalls of a process that means well but ultimately hasn't played out. You wouldn't have to do that if the workforce was 50/50 already."Above that, the maleness of startup culture has become blaringly apparent, which subconsciously and not so much so makes women second class citizens in their party worlds. Even if the conversation of gender parity is there, this ecosystem inherently favors males, and makes female employees feel less apt to become successful from within it. “Many of these companies look like college dorm fantasylands," says Chang. “You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner [at the office], you can get your clothes washed, you can bring your pets to work, but there's no child care, there's no childcare stipend. I realize that childcare is hard but they've also created this whole shuttle bus system that brings thousands of employees into work every day from all across the Bay Area. This is an industry that doesn't shy away from hard problems."Another issue- the glorification of the anti-social white male nerd- perpetuated as the embodiment of a successful tech executive- is one that Chang uncovered as she dug deeper into the story. “The more I did my research I realized nobody knows that in fact women were critical parts of the computer industry early on that were programming computers for NASA and the military, literally like Hidden Figures but industry-wide," says Chang. “They got pushed out for various reasons, and that the stereotype of the antisocial white male nerd perpetuated until this day."

Chang says through writing Brotopia she also realized the extent to which mandatory contracts and non-disclosure form silence women from speaking up on issues like sexual harassment and blatant gender-based bias.“There are all these non-disclosure agreements, which unfortunately, has undermined some of the ability for some of these grassroots efforts to happen," says Chang.

Brotopia By Emily Chang

“That said, I do know there are a bunch of women VCs who are working on the idea of creating this third party HR type organization where you can file complaints. Right now, the third party is the media. So we're in this difficult position of arbitrating these major stories in public and it takes months to do one of these stories about one single person. But, maybe [through third-party HR organizations] these issues can be addressed right away without these women having to wait years before finding someone else who had a bad experience. Even though many women came forward in this book, it pales in comparison to what is actually out there." All in all, Chang says that despite her belief that her book (which she started before the 2017 election) would come out under a female president, she believes that this moment is one that can be harnessed to get men to better understand the predicament facing women in tech. Should she attend the not-so-secret company-wide sex party? If she does, as male executives reported to Chang, they'll never take her seriously. If she doesn't? She's effectively keeping herself further isolated from the male-centric ecosystem that fosters and promotes the members of the bro-gang. Talk about a no-win situation. According to Chang, it is important that women realize that while change is necessary, it's not their burden.

“The onus is on white men right now," Chang says. “They have the power, they have the money and I hope that after everyone reads this they know ignorance is woeful at this point. You cannot say I didn't know women were feeling this way because that is completely ridiculous because every woman I've spoken with is as frustrated as we are. The book is called Brotopia, I think that sends the message that this is a modern utopia where anyone can change the world, unless they're a woman."

Emily Chang's Greatest One-Liners
“Ultimately, I did not come into this with an agenda. It's time to report what I observed and unfortunately, in many ways, that picture isn't pretty. My goal is that the book stands up on its own and we are not going to be able to solve the problem, if we don't understand what that problem is."

"People keep saying to me, [the tech industry] can't be worse than Wall Street. Actually, it is. Women are getting 18 percent of computer science degrees, there is no other major that has that kind of disparity."

"A moment of truth for me is that this what people believe, that in order to hire women, they have to lower their standards."

“I started writing this two years ago, before Trump was elected. I fully expected for this book to come out under the first woman president, and I had no idea that the #MeToo movement would pick up. I certainly benefited from that momentum."

“As a journalist, I've been put in uncomfortable situations. It is a male-dominated industry and often the people I'm speaking with as sources are men in powerful positions. I don't think that what I've gone through in any way compares to what a woman who is the only person in the room over and over again experience, these women talk about getting unwanted advances 24/7."

3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.