Weinstein, Tech, and Impostor Syndrome

Hi folks. Long time no write.

This Harvey Weinstein thing has me thinking a lot of thoughts, especially with regard to the tech industry (which, thanks to women like Susan Fowler, the world now knows shares a similar sickness to Hollywood with regard to sexism and mistreatment of women—though the women in tech didn’t need anyone to tell us that). People online are asking why Weinstein’s victims didn’t just say no or call him out—but there were lots of valid reasons for why they didn’t, or felt they couldn’t, or maybe even tried and failed. Central to all of those reasons is power; this man had all of it, and they had none. He could ruin their careers on a whim. He could slander them in the media within hours. This power imbalance resulted in a string of sickening abuses.

Now let’s pivot a little to consider something we see a whole lot of dialogue around in the tech industry: impostor syndrome. Feeling like you don’t belong, like you’ll inevitably be caught, forced to leave and never come back because you don’t deserve to be here. It’s something that women suffer from in this industry for many reasons—including reasons so simple as there being no other women around to validate the fact that women can in fact succeed and thrive in tech. But that is possibly the least damaging contributor. I know women who have been told outright that they don’t belong. I have PERSONALLY been told “I haven’t seen anyone like you succeed in roles like this” and asked if I’m quite sure I want to stay in tech. I have been told, “We are doing you a favor by giving you this opportunity, because typically you wouldn’t be considered.” How do you think hearing things like this makes women in the industry feel? I would be shocked if a female colleague didn’t suffer from some sort of impostor syndrome.

And then imagine that a woman in tech, who is already feeling that she is barely allowed to be here, is cornered by a Weinstein type. Who tells her that he can have her career destroyed if she says no.

And people were shocked at the news about Uber, about Justin Caldbeck, about Chris Sacca…

I don’t want to be too negative here without a takeaway. I do think there are things that women can do to protect themselves, but holy shit you guys, let’s please not burden women with anything else. Men, this is on you. And it is all around you.

Call. That. Shit. Out. Don’t perpetuate it, don’t allow it. The happy hour won’t be ruined when you tell Steve that his comment about your female colleague’s dress today was inappropriate. Nervously laughing off the rape joke because you don’t want to derail the customer meeting will not win you the deal. You know what will? A diverse team where men and women feel empowered to succeed.

And don’t worry—I’ve got your back! I know the vast, vast majority of men in tech want this to get better. I know you will try your best. I’ve seen it work.

It’s a scary thing to take on and it won’t be fixed in a day. But we’re all in this together, and I know we can do it.