In 1977, when I was 23 and working to create a career as a folksinger, I occasionally ran into middle-aged, British male folksingers whose music I admired who told me I was pushy to approach people for work, and that when I was good enough people would let me know by offering me bookings. The question of how they would know was never addressed. I didn’t think they were sexist, just out of touch and with poor business sense, maybe because 20 years earlier that approach actually worked for them.
These guys were a tiny minority and they had no control over my career. Now imagine that you’re in a business where almost everyone around you is like that and they’re your co-workers, managers, bosses, and they can control your life. That is the experience recounted by the many authors of Lean Out: The Struggle for Gender Equality in Tech and Start-Up Culture. They work — or, sometimes, worked — in start-ups and major companies, in venture capital firms and research labs, mostly in Silicon Valley.
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