In January, Anna Wiener (a Silicon Valley neophyte turned tech worker turned writer for the New Yorker) published Uncanny Valley, a shrewd, reflective portrait of startupland. The memoir came recommended in droves by women in both my professional and personal circles; my Slack channels, text chains, and direct messages abuzz with the relatable nerve it struck.
Then came Whistleblower by Susan Fowler, a memoir that expands upon Fowler’s 2017 viral blog post outlining her experience as a former software engineer at Uber and the company’s sexist culture.
Both Wiener’s and Fowler’s narratives succeed Ellen Pao’s Reset, a memoir that chronicles Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination case against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, an experience that ultimately led her to pivot her career toward championing workplace diversity and equality. Pao lost her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins around the time I got my first job in tech.
For many, this wave of literature — some parts tell-all, other parts self-help guide for the women of Silicon Valley — signaled a moment of engaged change. Fowler’s painstaking documentation of Uber’s culture incited a chain reaction of events; namely, an investigation into Uber’s wider culture and the eventual resignation of Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. In response to these personal accounts of sexism, tech workers called for improved HR systems. More women started to share their own experiences with sexism in tech, both openly and anonymously. Ellen Pao said she hoped that folks who benefitted from the current tech system adjust their actions and speak up for the underrepresented. These repercussions looked like concrete, hopeful change, all happening at the dawn of the #MeToo movement coming out of Hollywood.
“Stories like this are useful for the outside world to get a glimmer of understanding of how Silicon Valley works, but I’m less confident that they’ll convince any of the powerful and privileged…