Greater diversity in tech overall could solve some of the industry’s biggest problems, including fighting disinformation, hate speech, and harassment in online spaces, said the former Reddit CEO, Ellen Pao in a recent podcast interview.
While women have made achievements in tech, their numbers are still low. A survey from AnitaB.org, a global group for women engineers, predicts it could take 12 years for women to see equality in the industry.
In 2012, Pao sued her then employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for gender discrimination in San Francisco. The jury sided with the VC firm, but Pao became the face of the issue.
Pao shares with Jennifer Palmieri in her podcast that facing the Silicon Valley guys’ club inspired her to lead Reddit in 2014. During her time as the CEO of one of the biggest discussion websites, she didn’t have imposter syndrome as she had always thought that she had seen so many “horrible” male CEOs and board members.
The Taiwanese-American felt confident in her qualifications despite the Silicon Valley narrative that favors Caucasian and male college dropouts. “Maybe I’m not going to be perfect, and maybe I’m going to make mistakes, but it’s not going to be like some of these other mistakes I’ve seen.”
One of Pao’s priorities, when she was at Reddit, was strengthening the anti-harassment policy and clearing the site of nude pictures and revenge porn. Critics of the plan, mostly men, argued such measures were a form of censorship.
Today, however, Pao thinks that current tech leaders are driven to not prohibit hate speech because it boosts social media engagement and profitability.
As the majority white, male, and affluent tech leaders don’t see and experience problems the same way marginalized communities do, Pao believes that they can’t solve these issues.
Pao credits her mother, who is an engineer, for instilling in her a strong sense of right and wrong, which led her to speak up when she witnessed overqualified women and colleagues of color not getting promoted at the same pace as White men.