By Laura Entis
Updated: October 5, 2017 3:45 PM ET

Good afternoon! It’s Laura, filling in for Ellen. Reset, Ellen Pao’s half-memoir, half-account of why she decided to sue the powerful venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, includes allegations of openly terrible behavior at the firm. But it’s the less conspicuous moments that stayed with me. In a meeting, a male partner passes a plate of cookies around the room—but ignores the women. On more than one occasion, Pao eats alone while her male colleagues go out for dinner together. Women’s looks are a frequent topic of conversation among the firm’s male partners and entrepreneurs.

These details paint a specific but convincing picture of exactly why the tech industry’s diversity problem is so systemic. Or, as Pao puts it, “Taken all together, these seemingly minor moments, these 1,000 paper cuts, create an unwelcome, subtly hostile culture.”

It’s not just the tech industry, of course. I was reminded of this when reading the following quote from Insecure star and co-creator Issa Rae. “It feels like a vicious Catch-22 when there aren’t diverse people behind the scenes. That [lack of diversity] alters the company or organization perspective, which means they’re not going to have people who look like the people they are trying to recruit,” she told New York Magazine.

Tech is bad, and finance perhaps even more so. But journalism also struggles with a lack of diversity. Media organizations are tasked with telling a range of, yes, diverse stories and perspectives. Yet the news rooms at many publications remain overwhelmingly male and white, if not throughout every facet of the organization, then certainly at the executive level.

Having edited Ellen’s insightful, comforting, and frequently heartbreaking column for the past few months, a standout theme is her insistence that diversity takes work. In most industries and at most companies, the playing field is far from level, a reality compounded by our tendency to seek out people who look, talk, and act like ourselves. At some level, this is human nature. But when people in an organization, particularly those in charge of making decisions around hiring, promotions, and raises, look the same way, it’s also a problem.

As the stubborn homogeneity of tech, finance, media, and many other industries spells out in no uncertain terms, combating this problem isn’t easy. Looking beyond one’s immediate network to fill open positions takes effort! And that’s just step number one. Meaningful headway requires refusing to take the path of least resistance again—and again.

But Ellen’s column is also a testament to how incredibly worth it this work is. From a moral and cultural perspective, absolutely—but also from a financial one.


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