WIT: Women sent Silicon Valley a message. Will it listen?



By Peggy Drexler

“Peggy Drexler is the author of “Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family” and “Raising Boys Without Men.” She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.”

Could it be that the tide is turning when it comes to men and women in the American workplace?

Hot on the heels of Uber chief Travis Kalanick’s resignation in the wake of various sexual assault scandals at his company, Binary Capital has announced that co-founder Justin Caldbeck is on indefinite leave after multiple allegations of inappropriate sexual advances — allegations that have been reportedly accumulating for years.

Peggy Drexler

Caldbeck’s leave comes just before the Silicon Valley firm was set to embark on a new round of fundraising, stunning news to the venture capital community. Just as stunning: How quickly Caldbeck went from denying the allegations (and calling them “attacks on my character”) to acknowledging them by apologizing directly to his accusers, and even calling out his community as a whole on the issue of sexual harassment and a culture of toxic masculinity in Silicon Valley founder circles. Over the weekend, Caldbeck issued a statement expressing “regret over causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. … There’s no denying this is an issue in the venture community, and I hate that my behavior has contributed to it.”

The message in all this? When it comes to unwanted sexual advances of any kind, or in any context, women are becoming less likely to suffer in silence.
Uber — and an essay by former Uber employee Susan Fowler — is a major and very visible reason for this unwillingness to stay quiet. Kalanick’s resignation was a major step forward in the fight against workplace harassment, particularly in the tech community, where it has been rampant for years. A 2016 survey reported that 60% of women in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed. Kalanick’s downfall began in earnest when Fowler posted her experiences to her personal blog in February. That essay, in which she described a manager who was looking for women to have sex with, and an HR department that didn’t respond to repeated complaints, launched an internal investigation at Uber and ultimately paved the way to Kalanick’s ouster.

Fowler, of course, was not the first woman to call out the tech industry for its mistreatment of women. Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao spoke about sexism in a piece in Lena Dunham’s Lenny after losing a gender discrimination case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Fowler wasn’t even the first to write about mistreatment at Uber. But just as many women called out such workplace assaults, many still saw it as an unfortunate byproduct of working in a male-dominated, financially male-controlled industry.

In the case of Caldbeck, his position as venture capitalist meant he had the power to fund, or not fund, companies, creating an already-imbalanced dynamic for the female founders who came to him seeking support — an imbalance, it seems, he eagerly sought to take advantage of and which female founders felt powerless to resist.

But, perhaps, not anymore. The ripple effect after Kalanick’s resignation has been significant and impactful, an acknowledgment that the treatment of women does matter and proving that one woman’s story can make a difference. There will be more Caldbecks in the months to come, and that’s because more women will feel empowered and emboldened to speak up. That’s not to say the problem is solved: As Fowler has pointed out, bad behavior will still be enabled by confidentiality agreements and forced arbitration — this, in tech and elsewhere — and there will be men who think themselves powerful enough to be immune to charges of impropriety.

But there will also be fewer women who are unclear that such moves are an abuse and fewer women who will decide to let it go. Will would-be harassers take note? It’s too soon to tell. Though his publicists now insist this won’t be happening, it wasn’t especially encouraging last week to hear Bill Cosby’s spokesman talking about the possibility of Cosby going around speaking to men on how to avoid being accused of sexual assault and harassment. (Here’s a tip: Don’t sexually harass.) But it’s clear that many are listening. Women certainly are.

Women in Tech: Hidden Figures


For this week’s Women in Tech Spotlight, I decided to focus on 3 women who paved the way for so many of us in male dominated industries. Not only did they crack the glass ceiling for nerdy girls who excel in math and computers, they had to do so while also breaking down barriers of race in the early 1960’s. Katherine Johnson, Dorthy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are the 3 American Pioneers whose stories are told in Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race which became a film that is currently nominated for Best Picture of the Year; Hidden Figures.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go. Even if the subject matter of space and computers dulls you to sleep, go. Take your mother, daughter, sister or BFF, but please, go. I believe a film this special needs to be seen in the theatre; don’t wait for the DVD release. Not only is it important to know these women and their contributions to history but, we need to show Hollywood that we demand more stories just like these. While all History is important, too often it’s Women’s History that’s forgotten first.

I could write for days about how much I loved this movie, but you have lives and I am no movie critic. So, I’m reposting Rolling Stone’s review for you in hopes that you will see this movie and tell someone the story of these 3 exceptional women.

‘Hidden Figures’ Review: Three Women Make History in Inspirational Space-Race Drama

The story of African-American females who helped NASA conquer the cosmos pays tribute with trio of incredible performances

By Peter Travers

Did you know that three female African-American mathematicians, working at NASA in 1962, were instrumental in getting the Mercury program into orbit and winning the U.S. space race against the Soviets? Me neither. That’s why Hidden Figures is such an instructive and wildly entertaining eye-opener. There’s nothing particularly innovative about the filmmaking – director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) mostly sticks to the record in the script he wrote with Allison Schroeder from the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. But it’s the smart move. This is a story that doesn’t need frills. It simply needs telling, and the fact it gets three dynamite actresses to tell it does poetic justice to both these women and the Civil Rights movement at large.

Taraji P. Henson excels as Katherine Johnson, a math prodigy who extraordinary talent brought her to the NASA facility in Langley, Virginia in 1961. Now 98, Ms. Johnson has lived to see a research facility named after her. Things were far from that open-minded, however, when she and her colleagues, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer, killer good), hit segregated Virginia to work on the space program. Known as “colored computers” – the latter word being the organization’s term for employees who did low-level calculations – these women soon made their mark against daunting odds. In an early scene, the car-pooling trio are pulled over by a white cop who finds it hard to belief that they work at NASA or even that Dorothy is capable of fixing a Chevy Impala herself.

Katherine is first to be promoted to a job with the Space Task Group, where manager Al Harrison (Kevin Costner, getting everything right) sees her talent – even if he clearly favors her peer Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons, nailing the casual racism of the period). Still, it’s Harrison who takes action when he realizes she has to walk half a mile to get to a “Colored Ladies Room.” “Here at NASA, we all pee the same color,” he says, tearing down the restroom-segregation sign in a scene that lets Costner spit out the words with spirited authority.

Mary has to go to court for permission to take night courses needed merely to apply for an open job in engineering. Monáe is terrific in the role, showing here and in Moonlight that she has the right stuff to launch an acting career to match her success in music. Best of all is Spencer, an Oscar winner for The Help, who is funny, fierce and quietly devastating at showing the punishing increments it takes for Dorothy to inch up the NASA ladder. Her white supervisor, Mrs. Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst), refuses to give her a supervisor title even though she’s already doing the job. Spencer delivers a priceless putdown that pays gutsy respect to these boundary-breaking pioneers.
The drama finds little time for the personal lives of its protagonists, though the widowed Katherine is allowed a romance with a National Guard officer, played with humor and heart by Mahershala Ali.

The emphasis here is watching these remarkable women at work. Dorothy sees the future in the new IBM machines being tested to speed up the space program, and takes appropriate action. Mary tells a judge that ordering desegregation of the all-white school she needs to study at would make him a pioneer. Katherine faces the toughest obstacles, working against the NASA rule of denying security clearances to female employees. But even astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) dubs Katherine “the smart one.” The story may be corny at times, even simplistic, but that doesn’t stop you from wanting to stand up and cheer. Lots of movies are labeled as “inspirational” – Hidden Figures truly earns the right to the term.

Weekly Roundup


Here are the stories form the world of tech that stood out to me this week:

This only seemed fitting…
Daily Report: Tech Tips for Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day

From the neighborhood of “Too Little; Too Late…”

Apple Legal Files Entertainment Related Trademarks for new Apple Music TV Programming

Because he’s the coolest…

Obama’s final bill is aimed at bringing tech to DC

This made me hopeful…
From bombs to bytes: How Beirut’s tech scene is thriving

I think Siri has enough on her plate but, what do I know?
Voice Analysis Tech Could Diagnose Disease

There is a better way to search your Android phone


I came across this article and thought I’d share with the many Android users out there. While, I’m not as versed in the Android world, I do want Android User’s to know the Blonde Byte loves them too…

This article was written by Rick Broida of CNet.

“Anything iOS can do, Android can do better, right? Or maybe it’s the other way around? Bottom line: If there’s a particular feature built into one platform, chances are good you can emulate it on the other.

Take Spotlight search, one of my favorite iOS capabilities. Tap a few letters and you can quickly locate an app, contact or just about anything else on the web or your device. It can be a big time-saver, especially when the alternative is manually sifting through the data yourself.

FastKey Launcher isn’t the first app designed to add Spotlight-style search capabilities to Android, but it’s a new one that’s free, fast and worth a look. If you’ve ever used any kind of keyboard-powered dynamic search, you’ll feel right at home with FastKey. The app adds an omnipresent keyboard to your home screen. Just start typing and presto: It immediately presents matching apps and contacts. Usually you can drill down to what you’re looking for with just a letter or three.


Because it’s embedded and not a pop-up, the keyboard does take space away from app icons and widgets. But I suspect you’ll find yourself needing (or wanting) far fewer of the former, because it’s so much quicker and easier to locate apps this way — especially if you’ve never really taken the time to organize them.
Take Twitter, for example: You probably won’t have to type more than “T” for the app to become visible, and certainly no more than “Tw.” Once you get accustomed to searching this way, you won’t go back.

FastKey lacks a number row, a problem only if you have apps with numeric names (2048, anyone?), and obviously it doesn’t extend beyond apps and contacts the way Spotlight does. Of course, most Android users rely on Google for searching beyond the phone, so that’s not much of an issue.

If there’s one other wish I had for FastKey, it would be for a widget option — a way to add it to an existing launcher such as Google Now without fully replacing it.
Even so, I’m a big believer in keyboard-driven search, and this gets the job done really nicely. “

Download FastKey Launcher

I Want You to Think Differently…



Ladies, throughout our history, we have fought for equal treatment by our government and the laws of our country. We have made monumental strides for Women’s Rights from Seneca Falls in 1848 to Philadelphia in 2016. We are poised to make history once again with our first female Presidential Nominee and there are more serious conversations about the wage gap than ever before.
Women are dominating fields once open only to men; Doctors, Lawyers, and Architects. We can drive, vote, and fight in our military’s combat missions. There are women who are firefighters, cops and truck drivers. And for the first time this season (2016), the NFL will have it’s first female coach after the debut of the first female referee last season.

Yet, with all this progress, there is still one arena where women still lag hopelessly behind men; technology. While 57% of occupations in the workforce are held by women, that figure drops to 25% when it comes to computing occupations. Only 12% of software developers are women compared to the overwhelming 92% that belong to men. Even the world’s most valuable Technology company, Apple, severely lacks in feminine influence in their senior leadership. Of the 19 people that make up Apple’s senior leadership team only three of them are women. It should be noted that those 3 women hold titles in Human Resources, Environment & Social Initiatives, and Retail. All of the titles relating to Apple’s hardware, software and user experiences belong to men. (The one exception to this “Men Only” rule in the tech field is Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer. Though she’s constantly belittled and criticized by her peers and our media.)

So, it should come as no surprise that most women feel disconnected from their technology. Our society has made technology an integral part of our lives while simultaneously alienating women from it. It’s a fascinating and ultimately, depressing study of our times.
The challenge then, is how do we fix this unique problem? Through education and training. With the right information and mindset, women will be able to challenge technology companies to respect us and our demographic. We will not be ignored, Tim.

Let me paint you a clearer picture… We’ve already established that it’s men who build these devices we’re addicted to, right? Hardware and software design are dominated by men. Then, it stands to reason that these devices are designed to think like men do. The idea of men and women’s brains work differently isn’t new. In fact, there is mountains of data to support the idea. Countless, books, talk shows, and infomercials promising to help one sex understand the mind of the other. Gals, these devices have been programmed to not communicate with us. I’ll give you an example: You are making a batch of peanut butter cookies for a bake sale and realize you don’t have enough peanut butter to finish the recipe. There’s one batch already in the oven so you can’t leave to go to the store, so you ask someone to go for you. If you ask a man, he’ll say, “Ok.”and will return promptly with the first jar of peanut butter he came across. It’ll probably be some generic, no name brand that was on sale and featured at the top of the aisle. Mission accomplished, right? Not necessarily. He brought you crunchy peanut butter and you wanted smooth. Well, you didn’t specify that when you asked him. Now, if you ask a woman to run the same errand, she’ll say, “What kind? Smooth or crunchy? Lower sodium or regular? All natural, sweetened with honey?” And so on until she knows exactly what brand, flavor, and texture you prefer before she even gets to the car. Computers, smart phones and tablets have been programmed to think just like men do. You have to be very specific when giving them a command. If you tell a computer to save a file, but not where to save it, good luck trying to find that document when you need it. As far as the computer knows, it did just as you told it and since you didn’t specify where that document needed to go, it put wherever it wanted.

Here’s another example: when I was working for Apple, I was once fortunate enough to be a part of a conference call with a group of software engineers for the Mac Operating System. (I can’t say if I was the only female on the call but, if there were other women present, they didn’t speak up.) We were tasked by the moderator of the call to speak about the features of the OS our customers were finding useful and what features were lacking. I listened as several of my male peers made suggestions that were either completely ridiculous ( Star Trek GIF’s for email) or just not possible at the time (voice recognition). When asked if any women on the call had suggestions, I spoke up and mentioned that several of my customers found Mac’s Address Book lacking. They asked me to explain and I told them that the user cannot print return address labels, nor could you create formal labels when you wanted to. I also told him I was confident there were no women on the Address Book development team. There was silence on the other end of the phone for a few seconds, then some laughter and then he asked me to explain. I told him I had quite a few women ask me about both of these features. Why couldn’t they print out return address labels to put on their Xmas Cards every year? Why couldn’t they tell the address book to print out 40 of the 350 contacts using the formal “Mr. & Mrs.” heading on labels meant for wedding invitations? And why did I have to find 3rd party solutions for these customers when Mac’s were supposed to be so intuitive? Now, I knew why those features didn’t exist; the programming architecture was too simplistic. If I wanted to print out 120 labels of my name and address for return labels, I’d have to have 120 contact cards with my name and address housed in my address book. I told them emphatically that no woman would design a tool to only work some of the time. The response I got from the moderator though, was one I will never forget. He said, “It never occurred to us that those were features were needed.” He then confirmed that I was right, there were no women on that team. A situation that would be corrected soon.

So Ladies, my mission is clearer than it’s ever been. I was put here to teach women to think differently when it comes to technology. And maybe we’ll teach the tech giants there is value in thinking like a woman… Fingers crossed.

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