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Lean Out: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Tech and Start-Up Culture

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Why aren’t the great, qualified women already in tech being hired or promoted? Should people who don’t fit in seek to join an institution that is actively hostile to them? Does the tech industry deserve women leaders? The split between the stated ideals of the corporate elite and the reality of working life for women in the tech industry—whether in large public tech companies Why aren’t the great, qualified women already in tech being hired or promoted? Should people who don’t fit in seek to join an institution that is actively hostile to them? Does the tech industry deserve women leaders? The split between the stated ideals of the corporate elite and the reality of working life for women in the tech industry—whether in large public tech companies or VC-backed start-ups, in anonymous gaming forums, or in Silicon Valley or Alley—seems designed to crush women’s spirits. Corporate manifestos by women who already fit in (or who are able to convincingly fake it) aren’t helping. There is a high cost for the generation of young women and transgender people currently navigating the harsh realities of the tech industry, who gave themselves to their careers only to be ignored, harassed and disrespected. Not everyone can be a CEO; not everyone is able to embrace a workplace culture that diminishes the contributions of women and ignores real complaints. The very culture of high tech, where foosball tables and endless supplies of beer are de facto perks, but maternity leave and breast-feeding stations are controversial, is designed to appeal to young men. Lean Out collects 25 stories from the modern tech industry, from people who fought GamerGate and from women and transgender artists who have made their own games, from women who have started their own companies and who have worked for some of the most successful corporations in America, from LGBTQ women, from women of color, from transgender people and people who do not ascribe to a gender. All are fed up with the glacial pace of change in America’s tech industry. Included are essays by Anna Anthropy, Leigh Alexander, Lauren Bacon, Katherine Cross, Dom DeGuzman, Fakegrimlock, Krys Freeman, Gesche Haas, Ash Huang, Jenni Lee, Katy Levinson, Leanne Pittsford, Brook Shelly, Elissa Shevinsky, and Squinky. Edited and selected by entrepreneur and tech veteran Elissa Shevinsky, Lean Out sees a possible way forward that uses tech and creative disengagement to jettison 20th century corporate culture: “I’ve figured out a way to create safe space for myself in tech,” writes Shevinsky. “I’ve left Silicon Valley, and now work remotely from home. I adore everyone on my team, because I hired them myself.”


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Why aren’t the great, qualified women already in tech being hired or promoted? Should people who don’t fit in seek to join an institution that is actively hostile to them? Does the tech industry deserve women leaders? The split between the stated ideals of the corporate elite and the reality of working life for women in the tech industry—whether in large public tech companies Why aren’t the great, qualified women already in tech being hired or promoted? Should people who don’t fit in seek to join an institution that is actively hostile to them? Does the tech industry deserve women leaders? The split between the stated ideals of the corporate elite and the reality of working life for women in the tech industry—whether in large public tech companies or VC-backed start-ups, in anonymous gaming forums, or in Silicon Valley or Alley—seems designed to crush women’s spirits. Corporate manifestos by women who already fit in (or who are able to convincingly fake it) aren’t helping. There is a high cost for the generation of young women and transgender people currently navigating the harsh realities of the tech industry, who gave themselves to their careers only to be ignored, harassed and disrespected. Not everyone can be a CEO; not everyone is able to embrace a workplace culture that diminishes the contributions of women and ignores real complaints. The very culture of high tech, where foosball tables and endless supplies of beer are de facto perks, but maternity leave and breast-feeding stations are controversial, is designed to appeal to young men. Lean Out collects 25 stories from the modern tech industry, from people who fought GamerGate and from women and transgender artists who have made their own games, from women who have started their own companies and who have worked for some of the most successful corporations in America, from LGBTQ women, from women of color, from transgender people and people who do not ascribe to a gender. All are fed up with the glacial pace of change in America’s tech industry. Included are essays by Anna Anthropy, Leigh Alexander, Lauren Bacon, Katherine Cross, Dom DeGuzman, Fakegrimlock, Krys Freeman, Gesche Haas, Ash Huang, Jenni Lee, Katy Levinson, Leanne Pittsford, Brook Shelly, Elissa Shevinsky, and Squinky. Edited and selected by entrepreneur and tech veteran Elissa Shevinsky, Lean Out sees a possible way forward that uses tech and creative disengagement to jettison 20th century corporate culture: “I’ve figured out a way to create safe space for myself in tech,” writes Shevinsky. “I’ve left Silicon Valley, and now work remotely from home. I adore everyone on my team, because I hired them myself.”

30 review for Lean Out: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Tech and Start-Up Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    I bought this book because my friend Brook had a piece in it, and was delighted to see pieces from other women that I know and respect in the industry. The essays in this book range from academic to extremely personal, but almost all of them opened my eyes to a new perspective and reinforced the notion that Leaning In is not the answer as long as tech, gaming, and VC remain white patriarchal spaces. I can't post about this book, though, without bringing up my concerns about the editor, Elissa. Af I bought this book because my friend Brook had a piece in it, and was delighted to see pieces from other women that I know and respect in the industry. The essays in this book range from academic to extremely personal, but almost all of them opened my eyes to a new perspective and reinforced the notion that Leaning In is not the answer as long as tech, gaming, and VC remain white patriarchal spaces. I can't post about this book, though, without bringing up my concerns about the editor, Elissa. After I tweeted about the book she reached out to me and we had an exchange about her support of GamerGate, including her AMA on their subreddit KotakuInAction where she throws many women under the bus and denounces "SJW leadership and tactics," whatever that means. I'm still confused about how someone with her politics could have published such an excellent collection of feminist literature. Claiming to support intersectional feminism while denouncing anti-harassment activists as "SJWs" seems like an incredible act of cognitive dissonance, but I thank her for this book all the same. #GiveYourMoneyToWomen

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This book is clearly not meant for people that do not work in tech. The best essay is, "Fictive Ethnicity and Nerds," which talks more generally about the exclusivity of nerd culture. These essays are so hyper specific, that they are not relatable to anyone even remotely outside of tech. Hopefully they are more meaningful to women who may be struggling within that industry. The writing is a bit all over the place. In some sections it barely makes any sense. Some sections rattle off technical term This book is clearly not meant for people that do not work in tech. The best essay is, "Fictive Ethnicity and Nerds," which talks more generally about the exclusivity of nerd culture. These essays are so hyper specific, that they are not relatable to anyone even remotely outside of tech. Hopefully they are more meaningful to women who may be struggling within that industry. The writing is a bit all over the place. In some sections it barely makes any sense. Some sections rattle off technical terms with no explication, other sections are like this: Direct quote: "Wisdom is deeply personal. If it were one size fits all, we would have many more wise nineteen-year-olds. We'd have a book we could crack open and mine for solutions. Wisdom comes not from finding the road, but from knowing yourself well enough that you understand how to live in your own universe. The wise know how to interface with other humans in a productive way and how to do good work in a upstanding manner." Direct quote: "High-fives are like bro-juice. They love high-fives and I started to really love high-fives too. Bros high-five over everything. Finished a deploy? High-five. Fixed that bug? High-five! Got a beer from the fridge? Yeah! High-five. High-fiving was a way to congratulate and acknowledge each other on a job well done."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Litsinger

    This is an important and thought-provoking book, that probably won't get all of the attention that it deserves. While I'm not the target audience here (maybe I should be, but that's a discussion I'm not ready to get into now), I did find this to be a useful framework for thinking about some things that I'm pretty happy to have pondered. The book is not as much of a rebuke of Lean In as the title suggests. It's more just a collection of essays about the issues faced by women (and black and lgbt w This is an important and thought-provoking book, that probably won't get all of the attention that it deserves. While I'm not the target audience here (maybe I should be, but that's a discussion I'm not ready to get into now), I did find this to be a useful framework for thinking about some things that I'm pretty happy to have pondered. The book is not as much of a rebuke of Lean In as the title suggests. It's more just a collection of essays about the issues faced by women (and black and lgbt women) in technology. As with any collection of essays the quality of the essays varies, as do the tone and message. In fact, that's probably where this, as a book most suffers- there isn't one common agenda that emerges out of these essays. Ultimately, that's probably a reflection of where society is at this point in time, and also of the books efforts to be inclusive to many different viewpoints. Anyhow, if you work in technology, and care about making work in our field better for everyone, this a good book to read and reflect on.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine Chapman

    Great alternative to Lean In, a must-read for anyone who feels marginalized or trapped in the tech industry or anyone who is serious about being an ally.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    Every human in tech should read this essay collection.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam DeConinck

    Thought-provoking and at times heart-breaking. This collection of essays includes personal stories, academic analysis, and proposed solutions addressing sexism and lack of diversity in the tech industry. Every essay in this collection is interesting, well-written, and *worth* reading, and they collectively gave me a lot to think about. Required reading if you're involved in the tech industry today. Thought-provoking and at times heart-breaking. This collection of essays includes personal stories, academic analysis, and proposed solutions addressing sexism and lack of diversity in the tech industry. Every essay in this collection is interesting, well-written, and *worth* reading, and they collectively gave me a lot to think about. Required reading if you're involved in the tech industry today.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Required reading for every single person who works in the tech industry. This book perfectly describes the types of micro-aggression tolerated by non-white, non-male members of the industry that turns into depression and, sometimes, giving up on a career in the industry altogether. If it's killing you, there's no shame in taking your hand off something that's poison. Required reading for every single person who works in the tech industry. This book perfectly describes the types of micro-aggression tolerated by non-white, non-male members of the industry that turns into depression and, sometimes, giving up on a career in the industry altogether. If it's killing you, there's no shame in taking your hand off something that's poison.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Stern

    “The idea that tech has pipeline problem – one that can be solved by teaching five-year-old girls to code – infuriates me. […] the problem isn’t women, the problem is tech culture. And that’s the problem that needs to be addressed.” -Shevinsky

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lucifer

    This book gave a phenomenal group of people the opportunity to really share and speak about this issue. I flew through this book because I couldn't put it down. I thought the inclusion of trans folks was necessary and fantastic. This book gave a phenomenal group of people the opportunity to really share and speak about this issue. I flew through this book because I couldn't put it down. I thought the inclusion of trans folks was necessary and fantastic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Tweney

    Excellent call to arms -- and illustrative stories -- about the state of women in the tech industry.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    Shocking essays about intersectional oppression experienced by radical women leaders in tech and people who are most negatively impacted by a toxic tech environment.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Meehan

    "Men did not build the internet, at least not without women ... if this book matters, it's because we are part of a movement to tell the untold stories." "Men did not build the internet, at least not without women ... if this book matters, it's because we are part of a movement to tell the untold stories."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Linda Atkinson

    While this book deals with tech industry, I found that most essays cross over into most work/life situations for minorities. The essays held profound truths, ideas pointing to ways to survive the daily injustices, and outlines for moving forward. Wasn't planned, but this was the perfect book to read on Internat'l Women's Day and it had the perfect quote to jump start the essays: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass While this book deals with tech industry, I found that most essays cross over into most work/life situations for minorities. The essays held profound truths, ideas pointing to ways to survive the daily injustices, and outlines for moving forward. Wasn't planned, but this was the perfect book to read on Internat'l Women's Day and it had the perfect quote to jump start the essays: "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." ~Maya Angelou

  14. 4 out of 5

    Forest Handford

    Lean In felt empowering in some ways. As a single mother of two, it also seemed to miss the needs of many. We can't all Lean In, and we shouldn't have to. Even before reading this I had become disillusioned with many of the giant tech companies that say they are working on diversity. Lean In felt empowering in some ways. As a single mother of two, it also seemed to miss the needs of many. We can't all Lean In, and we shouldn't have to. Even before reading this I had become disillusioned with many of the giant tech companies that say they are working on diversity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Absolute must read for anyone in the tech industry. Really excellent collection of articles and essays and poetry about the current state of the tech industry for women, POCs and members of the LGBTQIA* community.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Daviduik

    Very valuable and highly recommended read to everyone, especially those working in the tech industry.

  17. 5 out of 5

    MxQfem

    Great intervention, great critique, a book a sincerely want to love. For me, one many of the essays sadly end up falling a little flat.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela

    The book talks about the difficult experiences that women of all kind (LGBTQ) have in the tech and start-up field. I would say the focus is a bit more on the non-straight women than the straight ones (half or more of the book). There are several essays that give an accurate description of the nerd/geek society nowadays that doesn't exactly feel friendly to women. What I was missing from the book was a story coming from a woman who was not born to be in tech, for whom engineering was a choice fro The book talks about the difficult experiences that women of all kind (LGBTQ) have in the tech and start-up field. I would say the focus is a bit more on the non-straight women than the straight ones (half or more of the book). There are several essays that give an accurate description of the nerd/geek society nowadays that doesn't exactly feel friendly to women. What I was missing from the book was a story coming from a woman who was not born to be in tech, for whom engineering was a choice from a spectrum of possible professions and yet is still perfectly capable to do a good job. In general, it was an easy and enjoyable lecture and I am sure many women who know the field can resonate with at least some of the stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ana Ulin

    My notes on this book: https://anaulin.org/blog/book-notes-l... My notes on this book: https://anaulin.org/blog/book-notes-l...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Daniël Crompton

    Lean Out brings together powerful stories paired with strong imagery. Through a collection of beautiful essays by well-known and less-well-known figures in tech, Elissa Shevinsky presents each as they describe their own non-stereotypical experience in tech. Shevinsky lays out the “Startup Scene” and “Information Technology” as horrible places to be for somebody who is not white and male. “Everything I have read and seen says sexism is not under control in tech, and that it is in fact wildly out o Lean Out brings together powerful stories paired with strong imagery. Through a collection of beautiful essays by well-known and less-well-known figures in tech, Elissa Shevinsky presents each as they describe their own non-stereotypical experience in tech. Shevinsky lays out the “Startup Scene” and “Information Technology” as horrible places to be for somebody who is not white and male. “Everything I have read and seen says sexism is not under control in tech, and that it is in fact wildly out of control.”—Katy Levinson If this was a review of only one story—and not an entire book/collection—one might be able to continue to pretend everything was alright, that the one story is the exception to the rule. It’s not. It’s an actual SNAFU: Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. The rule is: if you are a woman, LGBTQ, or a person of color, expect to be hit-on, bullied, or tormented. And when dare you speak out against it, expect to be crucified. “The fact that we often didn’t target anyone specific, and made these jokes amongst ourselves, does not remove the damage that they caused. We were perpetuating (through humor) a culture of oppression.”—Krys Freeman Among the stories that most blew me away was the essay by Sunny Allen. Now, I know things can be bad in startups and tech—after all it is where I spend most of my professional life; however, reading this and the other stories I learned about a toxic environment that I don’t see in my work or with my startup peers, and I feel lucky to be involved with people who don’t act this way. “[…] I encourage women to get involved in tech, but to do so by working closely with a trusted mentor.”—Elissa Shevinsky I received a review copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Irene

    A diverse collection of 19 essays of uneven quality but consistent passion. Each piece of writing shares a personal story, experience or perspective of a woman or transperson either in the trenches of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial dream machine, or looking back on it after leaving. Whatever benefits Sheryl Sandberg extolls in “Lean In” (the clear reference point to which this collection is a response) these essays point out that outsiders are expected to conform in order to succeed…and “outsi A diverse collection of 19 essays of uneven quality but consistent passion. Each piece of writing shares a personal story, experience or perspective of a woman or transperson either in the trenches of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial dream machine, or looking back on it after leaving. Whatever benefits Sheryl Sandberg extolls in “Lean In” (the clear reference point to which this collection is a response) these essays point out that outsiders are expected to conform in order to succeed…and “outsiders” are anyone who is not a white cis male. This isn’t so much a whiny collection of hand-wringing identity politics as a thoughtful report of real experiences - the reader is invited to draw a lot of their own conclusions. My star rating isn’t for the quality of writing (which is sort of all over the place) but for the topic and diversity of perspectives and ideas. I read it because I currently live, work and hire for a startup in SF, and I want to be thoughtful about it. Worthwhile. Favorite essays: “Fictive Ethnicity and Nerds” by K. Cross; “The Pipeline Isn’t the Problem” by the editor.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allie Oosta

    I loved the essays--my only struggle was with Shevinsky's essay "The Pipeline Isn't the Problem"--"Despite spending many days at YouTube and Google, I was never recruited. I would go there to visit my friends, my housemate, or to meet with business contacts that worked at Google. I have eaten lunch at the YouTube HQ, Google Cambridge, and Google Mountain View... I was on campus frequently, and would have been an easy recruit. Google can't ask for much more than for potential female hires to walk I loved the essays--my only struggle was with Shevinsky's essay "The Pipeline Isn't the Problem"--"Despite spending many days at YouTube and Google, I was never recruited. I would go there to visit my friends, my housemate, or to meet with business contacts that worked at Google. I have eaten lunch at the YouTube HQ, Google Cambridge, and Google Mountain View... I was on campus frequently, and would have been an easy recruit. Google can't ask for much more than for potential female hires to walk right on to campus, as I did frequently in 2011 and 2012." I find this implication--that proximity to campus should increase one's chances of being recruited/hired--to be short-sighted and illogical. In my experience at Amazon, recruiters are not wandering campus, asking to see the resumes of guests in the lunchroom. I found Shevinsky's correlation misguided and, worse, distracting from the actual barriers faced by women in the tech workplace.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Breseman

    It reads like a collection of Medium posts: passionate and highly personal, in a range of styles. Not all will speak to who you are at this point in your life, but you're bound to find something that does if you're someone interested by this book's premise. It reads like a collection of Medium posts: passionate and highly personal, in a range of styles. Not all will speak to who you are at this point in your life, but you're bound to find something that does if you're someone interested by this book's premise.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Krzysztof Sroka

    Some essays better, some worse, overall somewhere between three and four stars.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacinta

    Somewhat inconsistent quality in the writing but contained enough very interesting thoughts that it was definitely worth reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    maven

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helen

  29. 5 out of 5

    El

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maria

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