Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Machine learning may be spreading bias, Taylor Swift teases possible new music, and Ellen Pao is back. Have a wonderful Tuesday.
• The Pao effect. This excerpt from Ellen Pao’s forthcoming book, Reset, is fascinating reading. It covers everything from her hiring at Kleiner Perkins (the VC firm she would later sue for discrimination) to the many slights she alleges that she suffered on the job to her regrets about the trial. Along the way, she spells out the costs of bringing such a suit in vivid terms—including, possibly, the miscarriage of her pregnancy. Her doctor suspected that the stress of the ordeal may have been a factor, she writes: “I felt, in that moment, that Kleiner had taken everything from me.”
The Broadsheet covered the Pao trial extensively, but it’s a very different experience to read her words now. In 2015, Ellen Pao lost her case—an outcome that seemed inevitable even to many of those who believed that she should win. But in 2017, that air of fatalism is beginning to dissipate.
It would be naive to assert that women now face less of the type of workplace discrimination and humiliation Pao describes. But I do believe that her willingness to come forward paved the way for whistleblowers like Susan Fowler, whose blog post started the chain of events that took down the CEO of Uber, and this summer’s wave of female entrepreneurs who spoke out about sexual harassment in the VC community. The “Pao effect” she cites in the excerpt is real—and, it seems, just beginning to make its influence felt.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Artificial ignorance. A University of Virginia professor found that some image-recognition software exhibits strong gender bias when it comes to, say, associating women with cooking images or men with sports—thanks to the collection of photos that had been used to train it. But what’s really scary is how the machine-learning software reacted to these biases: beyond replicating them, it actually amplified them.
• Swift eclipses the eclipse. Taylor Swift worked fans into a frenzy yesterday by posting a mysterious video of what appears to be a snake on her social media platforms. Many took the image, which is likely a reference to trolls who have harassed the pop star using the snake emoji, as a sign that she’s readying for the surprise drop of a new album.
• Bannon hits back. Now that Steve Bannon is out of the White House and back at Breitbart News, it looks like Ivanka Trump might want to steel herself for some negative press from the far-right site. According to the New York Times, the first daughter is on Bannon’s “enemies” list—and the publication has already launched a flurry of negative stories about her in the wake of his ouster.
• Brigitte’s official. Despite earlier reports that French first lady Brigitte Macron would be relegated to ceremonial duties, President Emmanuel Macron has announced that he will give his wife official responsibilities in health, education, gender equality and other areas, as well as a chief of staff and other assistants. The move is likely to generate some controversy in France, where the president’s spouse does not traditionally have a policy role.
• Dark days. Can’t get enough sun science after yesterday’s solar eclipse? In this interview, David Baron discusses his book, American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World, which includes the story of astronomer Maria Mitchell, who led an all-female group of scientists to Denver for the eclipse of 1878.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• A study in terror. This new study from a pair of researchers looks into women’s involvement with ISIS and attempts to answer a vexing and critically important question: “Why on earth would women want to join the ranks of the dogmatically, cruelly, and often violently misogynist ISIS ‘Caliphate’?”
• Madame mayor. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, whose city passed the nondiscrimination ordinance that set off the North Carolina “bathroom bill” wars, is rumored to be weighing a 2020 Senate bid—but first, she must win reelection.
• The past is present. The movement to remove Confederate statues across the U.S. has thrust the Daughters of the Confederacy, which was the driving force behind the creation of many of the monuments, into the national spotlight. The group is composed of female descendants from Confederate soldiers.
ON MY RADAR
Nicole Krauss: ‘The self is more or less an invention from beginning to end’
River Cafe co-founder Ruth Rogers reflects on 30 years of the iconic restaurant
Finally, chef pants designed for women
Women of color are exposed to more chemicals in beauty products than white women are, researchers say