It wasn't a great year for women in tech. (Is it ever?) Sexism, harassment and outright exclusion continued apace. Here were the year's six worst moments for women in tech.
Ellen Pao's annus horribilis
In March, Ellen Pao lost a gender discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Although Pao lost the suit, her case revealed an astonishing amount of sexism at the company. Pao refused to settle with Kleiner Perkins so that she could continue to "speak the truth" about her experiences. The ordeal taught us that while sexism still runs rampant in Silicon Valley, proving it in a court of law is all but impossible.
Pao's troubles didn't end there. After leaving Kleiner Perkins, she became interim CEO of the online forum Reddit. It didn't last. Pao abruptly fired a well-liked staffer and soon faced a firestorm of criticism on the site. Shortly thereafter, she resigned from the post.
Apple forces women to smile
During a huge Apple press event in September, a man took a promotional iPad showing a woman’s face and -- in an attempt to demonstrate the new device’s photo-editing features -- forced her mouth into a smile. Women the world over, who know “You should smile more!” to be the oldest and most annoying catcall in the book, reacted to the demonstration with a little anger and more than a few eyerolls.
That day, strangely, was also a high-water mark for Apple in terms of women in leadership. Three women presented at the Sept. 9 event, bringing the total number of women who have ever been onstage at Apple events up to 11.
Online abuse continued, and in some instances got worse
A researcher from the U.K. wrote in The Guardian in October that she found "one in five female journalists covering technology has disguised her gender to avoid sexist abuse, and nearly 40 percent have changed working practices for fear of being targeted." Of the 100 women surveyed, one-third reported that the abuse is getting worse. And that leads us to...
The SXSW Gamergate controversy
At the end of October, the South by Southwest conference created an uproar by canceling two panels that were slated for the March 2016 conference, citing security concerns. One panel was meant to address online harassment, and the other was to be in support of the online mob Gamergate. After a period of outrage, SXSW decided to create a daylong online harassment summit to replace the two panels. The summit, they said, would include members of both of the canceled panels.
Thus followed a second cycle of outrage in which prominent anti-online harassment advocate Randi Lee Harper threatened not to come because, as she tweeted, “While we support Gamergate being a part of SXSW Gaming, having them as part of the online harassment summit is a safety concern.”
Several weeks later, SXSW finally moved the panel on gaming and journalism out of the summit and back to its original time and confirmed that the original speakers from the anti-harassment panel would be at the summit.
The Game Awards are judged by 31 men and a single woman
The celebration of the best of the year's video games was judged by a panel that was 97 percent male. A survey published in December by the Pew Research Center showed that 48 percent of all American women play video games but that most don't want to call themselves "gamers." That's about all that needs to be said here.
Twitter hired a white man to head up its diversity hiring program
It was not a good year for diversity in Silicon Valley. Twitter, perhaps unfairly, got singled out. The company's top black engineer, Leslie Miley, wrote critically of the company after being laid off in November. "With my departure, Twitter no longer has any managers, directors, or VP’s of color in engineering or product management," he wrote in a post on Medium. The company also pledged to increase the number of women and minorities in tech, engineering, and leadership positions in 2016 -- though not by a whole lot.
To top it all off, Twitter announced this week that its new vice president for diversity and inclusion is Jeffery Siminoff, a former Apple executive who happens to be white and male. Obviously, this doesn't help the company's diversity numbers, nor is it particularly good from an optics standpoint.
It wasn't all bad this year, though: In November, Hollywood producer Amy Pascal won the movie rights to Crash Override: How to Save the Internet from Itself, a memoir by the game creator Zoe Quinn, a primary target of Gamergate ire. Here’s hoping Quinn's memoir makes it to the screen.
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