In the wake of #MeToo, many tech companies have been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. But for all the public outcry, little has changed. Why didn’t speaking out work for these entrenched tech companies?
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In recent years, many people in the tech industry have taken to speaking out against their companies. In some cases, they’ve even started their own organizations, like the now defunct Google Workers Union. But why didn’t these efforts work?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why these people weren’t able to make the changes they wanted to see. We’ll also explore what, if anything, could have been done differently.
1. The Culture Is entrenched
2. There’s a Fear of Retaliation
3. The System Is Rigged Against Whistleblowers
4. Speaking Out Can Be Isolating
5. Change Is Hard
We hope that by shedding some light on these issues, we can help make it easier for people in the tech industry to effect change from within their companies.
What happened at Google?
When Damore’s memo was initially leaked, Pichai jumped into action, issuing a statement that said “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” But he stopped short of firing Damore, instead dispatching him to diversity training. In the following days, as the story made national headlines and ignited a culture war, Pichai kept his head down. He met with employees privately to hear their concerns but made no public statements. And when members of Congress called on him to testify about the memo, he declined.
It was a decision that underscored Google’s hands-off approach to managing its own workforce—an attitude that has served the company well in its 20-year history but one that is now being revisited in light of the furor over Damore’s memo.
What happened at Amazon?
Amazon has a long history of putting its workers’ safety and well-being at risk in order to maximize profits. In 2015, the company was fined $350,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for putting workers in danger at its distribution center in Chester, Virginia. OSHA found that Amazon “ willfully exposed workers to many hazards that could cause serious injury or death.” These included:
-Your worked was put in danger if you reported an injury
-You were not given proper safety equipment
-You were not given proper training
-The work environment was excessively hot
What happened at Uber?
At Uber, a female engineer accused her manager of sexual harassment and was ignored when she raised the issue with HR. When she went public with her story, the company was forced to investigate—and ultimately found that her claims were well-founded. The manager was fired, but many other women have since come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.
What can we learn from these cases?
In each of these cases, employees who spoke out faced retaliation from their employer. In some cases, they were even fired. This is not unique to the tech industry — we’ve seen this happen in other industries as well. However, it is worth noting that the tech industry has a particularly high number of cases where employees have faced retaliation for speaking out.
So, what can we learn from these cases?
For one, it’s important to remember that speaking out is not always easy — especially when you’re up against a large and powerful company. If you do choose to speak out, be prepared for the possible consequences.
Additionally, it’s worth considering whether going public with your story is the best course of action. In some cases, it may be more effective to work internally to try to effect change. And in other cases, it may be best to leave your current company and find one that better aligns with your values.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to speak out is a personal one — there is no right or wrong answer. But if you do choose to speak out, make sure you are doing so from a place of strength and preparatio
In conclusion, it is clear that speaking out against discrimination and harassment in the tech industry does not always lead to immediate or concrete change. While there have been some high-profile cases where individuals have been fired or faced other consequences, many people still experience a wide range of negative outcomes when they speak out. These outcomes can include being blacklisted, receiving death threats, and being forced to leave the industry altogether. Until there is more systematic change at the structural level, it is unlikely that speaking out will lead to lasting positive change for everyone in the tech industry.