Friday, July 17, 2015
Tracy Chou, a young tech professional with Pinterest, started blogging about the dearth of women in the tech world. The story is in the latest issue of Mother Jones. Here are some of her findings:
The numbers were as bad as you might expect: Just 17 of Yelp's 206 engineers (8 percent) were women, for example. Dropbox was barely better, with 26 out of 275 (9 percent). Nextdoor, a social-media tool for neighborhoods, had 29 engineers—all male. Change.org, which bills itself as "the world's platform for change," had less than 13 percent women engineers; it has since changed for the better, with 20 percent.*
Chou's project helped fuel the wave of public criticism that has shamed big companies into coming clean. Seven months after the launch, Google disclosedthat 17 percent of its tech staff is female. (Chou heard that her Medium post had made it all the way to cofounder Larry Page.) Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and dozens of other companies coughed up their stats not long after: Most reported between 10 and 20 percent women in "tech" positions—which can be pretty loosely defined. Some household names, like IBM, Netflix, and Zynga, still have yet to produce meaningful diversity data. "The crowdsourced stuff is way better and more reliable than the official party line," notes Silicon Valley diversity consultant Nicole Sanchez, whom Github recently hired as a VP. (The racial diversity numbers are equally cringeworthy; see our related story on Jesse Jackson's efforts in Silicon Valley.)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
The Chronicle, Ten Tips for Tweeting at Conferences
It’s no surprise that we here at ProfHacker like Twitter. We’ve covered how to start tweeting (and why you might want to) and practical advice for teaching with Twitter. I’ve found Twitter to be a tremendous boon to developing my professional networks and helping me stay on top of what’s happening in my fields of scholarship. But there’s one place where where Twitter perhaps ends up being more valuable for me than other place: at conferences.
Tweeting at conferences is a great way to share what you’re learning in a session with your followers and the wider world. It’s also a great way to be in two places at once, as you can read tweets from other sessions that you weren’t able to attend. You can read those tweets as they come in or—if you’d rather not fracture your attention—read them after the fact using a Twitter search. I personally find tweeting during conference sessions to be a great way for me to take notes; it helps me pay closer attention to what someone is saying than if I were simply working with pen and paper. It can even turn into something of a competition.
Monday, June 15, 2015
When it comes to gender equity, the technology ecosystem, which prides itself on being a meritocracy in so many other respects, is failing badly.
How else can we explain that women held 34% of software and computing jobs in 1990, but only 27% in 2011? Or that, according to the “Women Entrepreneurs 2014” report from Babson College, the “total number of women partners in venture capital firms declined significantly since 1999 from 10% to 6%.” Or that, as the Babson report also observed, in the three years from 2011 to 2013, “companies with no women on the executive team received almost 90% of the total investments in semiconductors, computers and peripherals/electronics and instrumentation, and media and entertainment.”
So, what is to be done? Five proposals, with the first one being:
- Push companies to publish data about gender diversity
Pushing companies to collect and publicize data on the proportion of women in tech and leadership capacities adds an element of public accountability, and provides an important frame of reference to assess progress. Understanding the state of gender (and other forms of) diversity on a company-specific basis can catalyze greater awareness of diversity in hiring and promotions. And, year-over-year comparisons provide a way to measure progress both within a single company and more broadly.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
To some people, the idea for an iPhone app designed to let students record video statements of agreement before engaging in sexual activity sounds like a bad joke. Or perhaps just a well-intended overuse of technology.
But Michael Lissack has come up with a set of such apps, and he defends them as a way to reset the conversation around sex on the campus. His creation, called We-Consent, is actually three apps — one that lets students document mutual consent to a sexual encounter by video-recording a conversation about it with the cellphone’s camera, and two "no" apps that record an individual watching a message on the phone that clearly states "no," so there is a record of that individual having received the message.
Mr. Lissack, who is executive director of the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence, said the videos are encrypted and unhackable; they don’t save onto a user’s phone, but they are stored in an offline database. The only time the videos can be viewed is when there is a legal reason to disclose them, such as a court proceeding or university adjudication. Right now, the two "no" apps are available through the App Store on Apple's iTunes, but the yes app is accessible only on the apps’ website. Mr. Lissack said that Apple considered the yes app "icky."
Monday, June 8, 2015
A growing number of children’s app makers are upping their efforts to ensure their products do a better job of reflecting the diversity of their young audiences.
And (regarding the picture above, of the robot):
As an example, he gave Toca Robot Lab, a robot-building app that was released in 2011: a “classically boy-skewing theme of building robots” that the auditor suggested played to those stereotypes with its colour scheme and art-style of “rusty old things that you might find in a garage, as opposed to everyday things you might find at home”.
Toca Boca redesigned the game’s visuals and added in more of the latter kind of objects. “It opened it up and made it much more inclusive than it was from the beginning,” said Jeffery, who cited his company’s Toca Hair Salon range of apps as much more successful in bucking gender stereotypes.
Friday, June 5, 2015
The tech world deservedly catches some flack for its lack of gender diversity.
As lopsided as those numbers are, they pale in comparison to the gender breakdown at the finals of this year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge, which takes place Friday and Saturday in Pomona, Calif. Eleven of the 24 teams competing are made up completely of men. Of the 444 individuals on the teams, only 23 are women. An alarming 94.8 percent of the participants are men.
Monday, May 4, 2015
“Super Sad True Love Story,” Gary Shteyngart’s novel set in a social-media dystopia, each person is publicly assigned a “fuckability” score, determined by various algorithms. Lulu, an app founded in 2013, is the closest anyone has come, so far, to making Shteyngart’s vision come true. “We look up everything these days,” Alexandra Chong, Lulu’s founder, said recently. “Before we go out for a drink, we look up bars. Why should we not also have references when it comes to the most important thing?” Chong calls her startup “a community where women can talk honestly about what matters to them.” Others have called it Yelp for men.
Friday, April 24, 2015
From Bloomberg Business:
Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers offered to drop its bid for legal costs after defeating Ellen Pao’s gender bias claims if she forgoes an appeal.
The firm filed its $1 million reimbursement request a month after a jury soundly rejected the former Kleiner junior partner’s claims of discrimination and retaliation and demand for $16 million in damages.
“KPCB has offered to waive all legal costs due to the firm should Ellen Pao choose to bring this legal matter to a close,” Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner, said in an e-mail. “We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation.”
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
From the Men's Style section of the NYT:
John McWhorter, a linguist who teaches at Columbia University, said that some men shy away from emoji because, as he put it, “Women use them more.” That may not continue to be the case, he added.
“Women tend to be more overtly expressive in language,” he said. “But something women start in language has a way of making it to men. Men would benefit from using emoji more.”
Emoji, he said, allow for an expressive, human way of translating the spoken word into text, with the goofy symbols providing a texter or tweeter with the means to convey tone. “There should be male ways to use emoji,” he added.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Ellen Pao recently lost her high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit. The case was big news because it brought to public attention the glaring dearth of women in the tech industry, and whether such dearth might be caused by prejudice.
A NYT background story on the case. Some commentary by Fortune magazine. A discussion by CNET of Pao's post-verdict tweets. Some comments by Prof. Tracy Thomas and I in the Daily Princetonian (Pao had graduated from Princeton).
Monday, March 23, 2015
Feb. 24, 2015: Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial. (AP)
SAN FRANCISCO – A California trial judge ruled Saturday that a woman suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm in a high-profile gender bias case may seek punitive damages that could add tens of millions of dollars to the $16 million in lost wages and bonuses she is pursuing.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn denied a request by lawyers for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to have Ellen Pao's demand for unspecified punitive damages thrown out. Pao, the interim CEO of the news and social networking site Reddit, claims she was passed over for a promotion at the firm because she is a woman and then fired in 2012 after she complained.
Kahn said there was enough evidence for the jury considering Pao's lawsuit to conclude that Kleiner Perkins acted with malice, oppression or fraud, which in California is the legal threshold for awarding damages that are designed to punish and deter particularly bad behavior.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The sometimes ironically named "social" media brims with sexual harassment and shocking threats against women. Twitter, for one, seems to be aware of this but doesn't quite know what to do about it. From a story in the Guardian UK from February:
Twitter’s chief executive has acknowledged that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years”, in a leaked memo.
Dick Costolo’s statement was posted on Twitter’s internal forums, in response to an employee who had highlighted an article in the Guardian by columnist Lindy West about her experience with trolls on social media.
In the memo, obtained on Thursday by The Verge , Costolo writes: “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.”
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Facebook users who don't fit any of the 58 gender identity options offered by the social media giant are now being given a rather big 59th option: fill in the blank.
"Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own," said a Facebook announcement published online Thursday morning and shared in advance with The Associated Press.
Facebook software engineer Ari Chivukula, who identifies as transgender and was part of the team that made the free-form option, thinks the change will lead to more widespread acceptance of people who don't identify themselves as a man or woman.
"We're hoping this will open up the dialogue," Chivukula said.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
At the 11th Annual IP/Gender, presenters will address the production of knowledge, commodification, definition, and valuation of women’s work, and other areas of feminist and queer inquiry. We hope to spur intellectual property scholars to explore how the tools of deliberately intersectional feminist and queer theory can shed new light on the challenge of creating intellectual property law that fosters social justice. For more information about previous events in the IP/Gender series, see here.
Ann Shalleck, American University Washington College of Law – Introduction
Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown University Law Center- IP, Gender, and Creative Communities
10:00 – Panel I
Community Structure and Women’s Leadership in Traditional Cultural Production – Moderator – Margaret Chon, Seattle University School of Law
- Helen Chuma Okoro, Nigerian institute of Advanced Legal Studies – Traditional Knowledge, Intellectual Property Protection, and Matriarchal Dominance: The Case of Traditional Textiles in South Western Nigeria
- Lorraine Aragon, University of North Carolina – Cut From the Same Cloth? Reimagining Copyright’s Relationship with TCEs and Gender in Indonesia
11:00 Panel II Documenting Communities of Practice – Moderator – Meredith Jacob, American University Washington College of Law
- Jhessica Reia, Center for Technology and Society at Fundacao Getulio Vargas (CTS-FGV) – DIY or Die! Gender and Creation in Marginal Music Production
- Betsy Rosenblatt, Whittier Law School (and Rebecca Tushnet) – Transformative Works: Young Women’s Voices on Fandom and Fair Use
1:00 – Lunch Keynote: Kara Swanson, Northeastern University School of Law – IP and Gender: Reflections on Methodology and Accomplishments
1:30 Panel III
Gendered Understandings of the Role and Scope of Intellectual Property Law – Moderator – Irene Calboli,Marquette Law School and National University of Singapore
- Carys Craig, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University - Deconstructing Copyright’s Choreographer: the Power of Performance (and the Performance of Power)
- Charles Colman, New York University School of Law – Patents and Perverts
2:45 Panel IV
Gender and Intellectual Property in the U.S. Federal Courts – Moderator – Christine Farley, American University Washington College of Law
- Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School – Intellectual Property Reform Through the Lens of Constitutional Equality
- Sandra Park, ACLU Women’s Rights Project – A Feminist Challenge to Gene Patents: Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics
3:45 – Looking Forward: the Next Ten Years – Peter Jaszi, American University Washington College of Law,Daniela Kraiem, American University Washington College of Law, and community
Monday, February 9, 2015
One of the better This American Life episodes recently aired. Lindy West is a blogger who had been threatened and degraded on the internet by a vicious troll. That troll would eventually apologize to her.
Her story is recounted in the Guardian UK . Here is some of the beginning of that story:
Being harassed on the internet is such a normal, common part of my life that I’m always surprised when other people find it surprising. You’re telling me you don’t have hundreds of men popping into your cubicle in the accounting department of your mid-sized, regional dry-goods distributor to inform you that – hmm – you’re too fat to rape, but perhaps they’ll saw you up with an electric knife? No? Just me? People who don’t spend much time on the internet are invariably shocked to discover the barbarism – the eager abandonment of the social contract – that so many of us face simply for doing our jobs.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Danielle Citron’s Hate Crimes in Cyberspace is a breakthrough book. It has been compared, and with good reason, to Catherine MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment of Working Women. The book makes three major contributions. All are central to furthering the equality of women and men both in cyberspace and elsewhere.
First, Citron convincingly catalogues the range of harms, and their profundity, done to many women and some men by the sexual threats, the defamation, the revenge pornography, the stalking, and the sexual harassment and abuse, all of which is facilitated by the internet. ***
The second contribution, and the bulk of the book—the middle third to half—is a legal analysis of these harms. Citron begins by comparing the current status quo regarding our understanding of gendered harms in cyberspace with the legal environment surrounding domestic violence and sexual harassment thirty or twenty years ago. ***
The third contribution, and last third of the book, is her discussion of possible objections, and then her turn to extra-legal reforms, with a particularly helpful focus on the roles of educators, parents, and the providers themselves (“Silicon Valley” for short).
The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society is seeking faculty interested in publishing a piece in its Fall 2015 edition. The Fall 2015 edition will focus on WJLGS' 2015 Symposium topic, "Civil Rights in the Digital Age: Developing Effective Legal Responses to Cyber Sexual Harassment." In the digital age, sexual harassment and assault can be perpetrated on, or compounded by, the Internet. The rise of "revenge porn," and the recent rash of sexual assault cases in which the crime was taped and distributed via the Internet, highlight the need for an effective response to a new form of cyber crime.
Topics could include: cyber civil rights; the nature of the Internet and how online culture contributes to harassment; current responses to the problem; a focus on distribution of images depicting felony crimes, e.g. the Steubenville rape case, the recent "viral rape case," etc.; the recent hacking and the posting of celebrity nudes; efficacy of current legislative solutions; strategies for effective prosecution; strategies for stopping distribution of the image; the limits of consent in a "revenge porn" case; an analysis of the Communications Decency Act and Internet service provider immunity; First Amendment concerns in drafting effective legislation, etc.
Interested faculty should contact WJLGS' Senior Symposium Editor, Amelia Maxfield, at email@example.com by February 15th.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Deep inside complex legislation to legalize phone-based car services such as Uber and Lyft sat language meant to prohibit drivers from discriminating against gay or transgender riders.
The wording, picked up from legislation proposed in states where gay rights are enshrined in state code, went unnoticed until the bill made it to the Senate floor. Once the passage was discovered, the bill was abruptly sent back to committee for what was described as a “technical” fix, stripped of that language and returned to the chamber, where it passed this week.
Neither side is happy:
The matter was handled so quietly that activists on both sides of the gay-rights issue were in the dark until after the wording had been nixed — a change that took place at a quickie meeting of the Transportation Committee on the Senate floor, with members huddled around the desk of the panel’s chairman, Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg).
The episode disappointed gay-rights activists and alarmed conservatives in a state where court rulings legalized gay marriage last year but where the state constitution still bans it. The Republican-controlled legislature has continued this year to kill bills to recognize gay marriage and other gay rights in state code.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Will some future cohort of progressive-minded men cooking chili with grass-fed ground beef in their NFL-themed Crock-Pots one day fulfill the promise of decades of kitchen appliances and help ensure a better balance of housework at home? Based on past experience, it seems misguided to place too much faith in any technology for achieving equality between the genders. Strasser, the historian, suggested that family-friendly public policies, like family leave or subsidized child care, might be more fruitful.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
ABA, Student Lawyer, Law Schools 3.0
The American Bar Association recently updated its Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Comment 8 of Rule 1.1 now states that lawyers should “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
Those already practicing may have to study up or find someone to tackle the technology end of the work for them. But what are law schools doing to make sure that tomorrow’s lawyer can hit the ground running? ***
The legal education community needs to step up. “Schools must address this deficiency,” added Granat, who is also founder and CEO of the virtual law firm platform provider DirectLaw, Inc. and LawMediaLabs, Inc., a digital legal solutions and interactive law apps provider. “The delivery of legal services, especially to consumers and small businesses, is becoming much more dependent on the understanding of legal technology,” he said. “The platform is shifting from one-to-one service to the Internet itself.”***
While many schools are behind the eight ball when it comes to teaching legal technology tools, Marc Lauritsen, president of Capstone Practice Systems and Legal Systematics, and an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, said there has been a recent push to catch up.
“At least a dozen law schools are offering courses and the numbers are growing,” said Lauritsen, also a cochair of the ABA’s eLawyering Task Force. “However, for the most part, the tools that lawyers are using in practice are not being taught.”
He said many students are not prepared for their new competition either. “The marketplace is rapidly changing. Companies like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom are contributing to lawyer underemployment by providing a more cost-effective and consumer-friendly way for people to receive services,” Lauritsen said.