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The 'Elephant in the Valley' Is Tech's Problem

By ­SA Today

March 14, 2016

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The outlook remains bleak for gender and minority representation in Silicon Valley, according to the "Elephant in the Valley" survey presented Sunday at the South by Southwest (SXSW) technology ideas festival.

Sixty percent of approximately 200 polled women with at least a decade of tech experience cited unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, while 60 percent said they lacked the same opportunities as men, and 66 percent said they experienced gender-based exclusion from key networking experiences.

Many survey respondents reported suffering from a "Goldilocks syndrome," in which 40 percent were told they were too aggressive while 50 percent were informed they were too taciturn.

SXSW panelist and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said, "we kind of run our history through a rinse cycle and wash the women out of them." She said progress has been made against overt bias, but no headway has been made against implicit and institutional bias in the last 30 years. Smith also cited a depleted pipeline of women and girls studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as high rates of attrition, as "death by a thousand cuts."

Code2040 CEO Laura Weidman Powers was among those urging the prioritization of diversity, and hoping equity will be realized by 2040.

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