Silicon Valley’s dirty little secret: The way it treats women

SAN FRANCISCO — When former Uber engineer Susan Fowler went public with sexual harassment and discrimination allegations last month, social media erupted with shock and dismay.But many women were far from surprised. Silicon Valley's dirty little secret: women throughout the male-dominated tech sector have stories just like hers. Stories of harassment, lesser pay and stalled careers. Stories of management turning a blind eye."This is at all tech companies," says Ellen Pao, who unsuccessfully sued venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for sexual discrimination. "It may not be as bad as this (Uber), but this is the culture of tech." WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH: What do men get that women don't? Here are a few thingsAnd, since Fowler went public with her charges, more women are now hiring lawyers, according to Pao."It will be interesting to see how the companies respond," she said.For the tech industry, gender inequity has proven to be a hard problem to solve. Employment lawyers say women from Silicon Valley and the tech industry have been walking through their doors for years with sexual harassment and discrimination complaints. These cases show no signs of letting up.And they are not just complaints against start-up companies with young managers and loose policies. Among companies that have faced lawsuits from women over their treatment are Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter.Attorney Kelly Dermody, head of the employment practice at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, which is representing women suing Microsoft for gender discrimination, says she gets calls every single week from women in the tech industry."It's not abating," says David Lowe, partner with Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe, whose firm represented Pao. "You would think by now that these sorts of harassment issues would not come up as often, that people would be more knowledgeable, more sensitive, more trained. But the Continue Reading

After Uber, more women speak up about Silicon Valley sexism

SAN FRANCISCO — On Sunday, Justin Caldbeck's venture capital firm announced he had resigned after six women accused the Binary Capital partner of sexually harassing them.Caldbeck's quick ouster signaled the growing backlash against sexism and discrimination in the male-dominated technology industry that began in February when Susan Fowler, a former Uber software engineer, publicly detailed her experiences at the ride-hailing company. Fowler's blog post set into motion the resignation of Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick and the firing of more than 20 employees."I think we are at a tipping point in the industry," said Kate Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners, who chairs the diversity task force of the National Venture Capital Association. "I am hoping that we will not only see more women come out and be heard but also that men will stand up and say: This isn't tolerable."For years overt sexism and gender bias were an open secret in Silicon Valley. Women rarely broke their silence, worried that coming forward could damage their careers.Ellen Pao brought national attention to the challenges faced by women when she unsuccessfully sued her former employer, prominent venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. Women were riveted by the 2015 trial. Former Yahoo President Sue Decker wrote an essay for technology news website Recode that she obsessively followed the developments and took her daughters out of school to hear closing arguments. "I, and most women I know, have been a party to at least some sexist or discriminatory behavior in the workplace," she wrote.A survey of 210 women in Silicon Valley found that six out of 10 had experienced unwanted sexual advances. Yet it wasn't until Fowler came forward that "women began to feel much more empowered," Mitchell said. More:For all of its bravado about changing the world, the tech industry is very much a man's Continue Reading

Trump adviser Peter Thiel is on Silicon Valley speed dial

SAN FRANCISCO — Peter Thiel's phone is ringing a lot more these days from people in Silicon Valley looking for a line into the Trump administration.During the presidential campaign, the billionaire investor who served as a delegate for Donald Trump and spoke at the Republican National Convention was a lone emissary from the tech world, widely shunned by the industry that bet heavily on Hillary Clinton. His $1.25 million donation to support the election of Trump prompted angry calls for Thiel to be dropped from the Facebook board and from Y Combinator, a prominent start-up incubator where he is a part-time adviser.Now Silicon Valley is looking to hitch a ride into Trump Tower on his coattails.Thiel has not taken a formal role during the transition but has spent nearly two weeks advising the Trump team. He's expected to play a key role in representing the interests of the tech industry on regulatory and policy matters in Washington, along with a small group of conservatives from his circle, such as Palantir Technologies co-founder and venture capitalist Joe Lonsdale, who has ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and trusted adviser, also has deep connections to the tech industry.Thiel has said he is not vying for a full-time position in the Trump administration. "I think my future is going to continue to be in the tech industry. That’s what I’m good at. That’s what I enjoy doing," Thiel said during an October speech at the National Press Club in Washington.That's welcome news to investor Saar Gur, who says there's a lot of anxiety in Silicon Valley over what the new administration might do and a growing push to "be helpful." Trump’s remarks on tech, his opposition to net neutrality and hard stance on immigration, have frightened tech executives, but they also see a new opportunity to push a tech-friendly agenda.Gur's venture capital firm, Charles River Ventures, took a very Continue Reading

Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Goldberg, husband of Sheryl Sandberg, dies suddenly at age 47

David Goldberg, 47, the highly successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was the CEO of SurveyMonkey and the husband of Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg, has died suddenly, friends and family said Saturday. "Dave Goldberg was an amazing person and I am glad I got to know him," wrote internet guru Mark Zuckerberg on his Facebook page. "My thoughts and prayers are with Sheryl and her family." Goldberg's brother, Robert, shared the sad news on his Facebook page. "It's with incredible shock and sadness that I'm letting our friends and family know that my amazing brother … passed away suddenly last night." The circumstances of his death were not released. "We are heartbroken by this news," Facebook said in a statement. Chelsea Clinton, on her Twitter account, "All my thoughts and prayers are with Sheryl and her children on the tragic passing of Dave Goldberg. The world is poorer for his loss," she wrote. The couple have two young children. Others expressing their condolences included Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and media maven Arianna Huffington. "So deeply saddened and shocked by the death of Dave Goldberg," wrote Huffington on Facebook. "I was blessed to get to know him throught his beloved wife Sheryl and to see firsthand what an amazing father, son, innovator and caring friend he was." Iger declared Goldberg "a class act." He was an outspoken advocate of equal pay for women and was a constant cheerleader for his wife, author of the game-changing book “Lean In.” Goldberg, a native of Minnesota, attended Harvard University and waded in early to the Silicon Valley boon days. He founded LAUNCH Media Inc. in 1994, a company that delivered music online and was acquired by Yahoo! in 2001. He became the Internet search engine's vice president of music and was named a top power player in digital music by Billboard magazine in 2006. He also worked for Capitol Continue Reading

Venture capital firm wins Silicon Valley sex-bias case after ex-partner sued firm for gender discrimination, retaliation

SAN FRANCISCO — A California jury on Friday cleared venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers of gender discrimination claims brought against it by a female former partner, in a trial that transfixed Silicon Valley. After further deliberation, the jury also cleared Kleiner on a claim that the firm had retaliated against the former partner, Ellen Pao, by terminating her employment after she sued in 2012. Despite days of courtroom drama about affairs, books of erotic poetry and office flirting, juror Steve Sammut, who mostly voted for Kleiner, said the decision came down to Pao's effectiveness at her job. "We were focused on the performance," he said. The verdict dashed Pao's hopes for personal vindication, but the trial revealed embarrassing disclosures about how Pao and other women were treated at Kleiner and Silicon Valley's corporate culture and its lack of diversity. In a statement, Kleiner thanked the jury and said it was committed to supporting women in venture capital and technology. "There is no question gender diversity in the workplace is an important issue," it said. Supporters of Pao sent Twitter messages tagged #ThankYouEllenPao immediately after the final verdict. Pao shone a light on the "toxic culture" of Silicon Valley and "empowered other women in tech," some tweets said. Pao remained composed as the decision on each claim was delivered. As the crucial decisions on gender bias were read, her two lawyers gently patted her on the back. After the jury was dismissed, Pao told reporters in the courthouse that people around the world had reached out to her and told her that they had stories similar to her own. "If I've helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital, then the battle was worth it," she said. The California Superior Court case laid bare the personnel matters of the firm that backed Google Inc and Inc, Continue Reading

Kumail Nanjiani, a ‘Silicon Valley’ regular, mistaken for Indian actor in ‘Big Bang’ screwup

This is no Mike Judge subplot. Kumail Nanjiani plays a programmer in HBO's "Silicon Valley," but one reviewer gave him a little too much credit in what can only be called a "Big Bang" screwup. Salon TV critic Sonia Saraiya, in previewing the second season of the tech comedy, said online Friday that the 37-year-old Nanjiani was also "in fact a regular on 'The Big Bang Theory.'" The Pakistani-American comedian and actor is not a "Big Bang" regular. But Kunal Nayyar, a British-Indian actor who plays a girl-challenged astrophysicist, is a central player in the CBS comedy hit. Nanjiani took to Twitter to point out the mistake and make clear Salon had the wrong man. And Salon quickly edited its review, along with a blunt social media apology: "We screwed up." "Hey so @salon just changed that article on the sly. Aren't they supposed to print an official retraction or correction or something?" Nanjiani tweeted. For her part, Saraiya owned up to the error as well. "I'm so sorry to @kumailn for conflating him with another Indian actor. It was a facile, easy-to-check error, and I should know better." she tweeted. Oops again. Nanjiani's roots are Pakistani, not Indian. "Silicon Valley" premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. Follow on Twitter @jmolinet Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Silicon Valley mom pays $1,000 rent to live in a garage, as housing prices soar in high-tech area

A single Silicon Valley mother says out-of-control rental prices have forced her to move into a garage, for which she pays $1,000 a month. The tiny abode has a bed, a toilet, a microwave and a toaster oven. Nicole Jones lives there with her 18-month-old daughter. "I didn't know much about homelessness before" she told CNN. "Honestly, I thought homeless people were panhandlers or people on the street that were hungry and cold and drug addicts and alcoholics who didn't want to do anything for themselves." She lost her job in San Mateo, Calif., and was recently forced to give up her apartment, she said. She has found another job in the area's bustling high-tech area, but there is not much left after she pays for child care and transportation. She considers herself lucky to be living in a garage. "What you see is what you get," she said. San Mateo, behind San Francisco, has the second-highest rents in California. The average price of a two-bedroom apartment is $3,066, according to the website ON A MOBILE DEVICE? SEE THE VIDEO HERE. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Pentagon to open Silicon Valley offices, push cyberwarfare strategy

The Pentagon is going cross-country to open offices in Silicon Valley and provide venture capital. The Pentagon will be reaching out to tech giants like Facebook Inc. and Andreeseen Horowitz to help boost the nation's digital defenses develop more intelligence systems. Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled the Pentagon's cyberwarfare strategy plans in a speech Thursday at Stanford University, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Pentagon will be recruiting computer engineers and programmers to build the "force of the future." There will be an estimated of 15 staffers who were all drawn from active-duty military and reservists. "Some of the reservists we will recruit to this unit have already funded and sold multiple companies," said a senior defense official, according to the LA Times. Carter also announced an effort to identify technologies with military applications and the Pentagon's investment in In-Q-Tel-a nonprofit firm that invests in high-tech companies for U.S. intelligence agencies. The Pentagon will provide seed money for In-Q-Tel, but it has yet to confirm how much. The Pentagon's office is expected to be up in running in a month and it'll be located in Moffett Field. Three other government agencies are also planning to open offices in the Bay Area including The Department of Homeland Security. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

HBO renews ‘Veep,’ ‘Silicon Valley’

Premium television channel HBO said Monday it has renewed its political comedy "Veep" for a fifth season and its tech-savvy sitcom "Silicon Valley" for a third. "'Veep' and 'Silicon Valley' are terrific series and I'm immensely proud that they will return to HBO next year," said the channel's programming president Michael Lombardo. "Along with 'Game of Thrones' and 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,' both of which have already been renewed for 2016, they give HBO a stellar Sunday night like no other," he said in a statement. Created by Armando Iannucci, "Veep" portrays the political rise of a gaff-prone American vice president played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Season four premiered Sunday on HBO. "Silicon Valley," which has also just started its 10-episode second season, is a humorous take on the daily life of California computer geeks. Continue Reading

Tent rents for $1,000 per month in California’s Silicon Valley

Desperate for a place to stay in Silicon Valley? Then how about renting a tent for more than $1,000 a month? John Potter is hoping to cash in on being close to Google's California headquarters by offering up the canvas outside his parents' Mountain View home for $46 per night. He listed the 9-foot-by-7-foot space in the Monta Loma neighborhood on Airbnb, reports CBS San Francisco. "Very close to the Caltrain and Google X," boasts the advert. Renters get one shower per day and the privilege of eating indoors. "I had been joking recently with someone about people would probably take a tent in a backy ard and pay for it," the enterprising landlord said. "So I decided to try it, and people actually were quite responsive," he added. Potter initially offered the shelter for $20 per night, but doubled it after being overwhelmed by demand, reports CNBC. The freelance web developer said those interested in staying in his parents' "beautiful garden" were mostly people "in between jobs, or starting new ones." "It kind of is (outrageous)," he told CBS San Francisco. "But maybe they should build more affordable housing in Mountain View." Continue Reading