Lean Out

THE STRUGGLE FOR GENDER EQUALITY IN TECH AND START-UP CULTURE


Edited by ELISSA SHEVINSKY

“Disconcertingly thought-provoking.” —TechCrunch

"Nineteen disruptive, disturbing and divergent voices ... an honest portrait of a network of gender-oppressed people leaning every which way." —Feministing

"Everyone who hires or manages anyone in tech ought to read the remarkable book Lean Out. If tech companies are unwelcoming places, to hell with them. Start your own company and run it better." —The Los Angeles Times

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About the Book

Why aren’t the great, qualified women already in tech being hired or promoted?

Should people who don’t fit in seek to join an institution that is actively hostile to them?

Does the tech industry deserve women leaders?

The split between the stated ideals of the corporate elite and the reality of working life for women in the tech industry—whether in large public tech companies or VC-backed start-ups, in anonymous gaming forums, or in Silicon Valley or Alley—seems designed to crush women’s spirits. Corporate manifestos by women who already fit in (or who are able to convincingly fake it) aren’t helping. There is a high cost for the generation of young women and transgender people currently navigating the harsh realities of the tech industry, who gave themselves to their careers only to be ignored, harassed and disrespected.

Not everyone can be a CEO; not everyone is able to embrace a workplace culture that diminishes the contributions of women and ignores real complaints. The very culture of high tech, where foosball tables and endless supplies of beer are de facto perks, but maternity leave and breast-feeding stations are controversial, is designed to appeal to young men. Lean Out collects 25 stories from the modern tech industry, from people who fought GamerGate and from women and transgender artists who have made their own games, from women who have started their own companies and who have worked for some of the most successful corporations in America, from LGBTQ women, from women of color, from transgender people and people who do not ascribe to a gender. All are fed up with the glacial pace of cultural change in America’s tech industry.

Included are essays by anna anthropy, Leigh Alexander, Sunny Allen, Lauren Bacon, Katherine Cross, Dom DeGuzman, FAKEGRIMLOCK, Krys Freeman, Gesche Haas, Ash Huang, Erica Joy, Jenni Lee, Katy Levinson, Melanie Moore, Leanne Pittsford, Brook Shelley, Elissa Shevinsky, Erica Swallow, and Squinky. Edited and selected by entrepreneur and tech veteran Elissa Shevinsky, Lean Out sees a possible way forward that uses tech and creative disengagement to jettison 20th century corporate culture: “I’ve figured out a way to create safe space for myself in tech,” writes Shevinsky. “I’ve left Silicon Valley, and now work remotely from home. I adore everyone on my team, because I hired them myself.”

Publication September 3, 2015 • 248 pages
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-86-2 • E-book 978-1-939293-87-9

About the Editor

Elissa Shevinsky, aka #LADYBOSS, is a serial entrepreneur known for her work building cyber-security applications as well as her unique perspective on women in tech.

Read an Excerpt

From “But What If It’s Killing You?” by anna anthropy

I was doxxed recently, as part of an ongoing campaign of harassment against women in games: you know, the one that never, ever ends. Someone posted my birth name, my partner’s birth name, my parents’ names and professions, my sisters’ names. They posted links to a porn shoot I was in (under my own name, the same name I attach to all of my work), lest there be any doubt that the motivation behind their campaign is anything other than punishing women for their sexuality.

The week that happened, I was speaking at a zine festival, to a room full of women, people of color, queer people. I, who have made a career out of encouraging marginalized people to get excited about games, to carve a space for themselves in games culture, I did not feel I could truthfully tell the beautiful people in that room to subject themselves to the ugliness that exists for marginalized people in games. I could not ask them to accept that abuse.

“If they’re this mad at you,” (we tell each other) “you must be doing something right.” In truth, all we’re doing is continuing to put up with it—no less than a Herculean task. God, we must be amazons.

We must really love FIELD OF WORK. Women in FIELD OF WORK journalism must really care about FIELD OF WORK to put up with the constant abuse, threats, attempts at manipulating their sexual history to get them fired or discredited. Especially when they’re good writers, they can make way more money and deal with way, way less harassment writing about literally anything else. Especially when their own editors give in to the misogynist children attempting to use their sexuality against them. They must really be passionate about FIELD OF WORK.

Passion is the greatest weakness of anyone in games or tech; it is the thing that will be used against you, time and time again, to wring more unpaid work out of you, to pull you back in again and again. Passion is the reason a poison such as crunch time is still allowed to exist—a thing that is literally killing and destroying game developers. If you’re really passionate about games, you’ll do what you have to. Passion is why people in tech voluntarily invent new ways for corporations to mistreat them. Now, thanks to Soylent™, we don’t even have to feed our employees! We wouldn’t want to interrupt your passion for coding with something like food and a momentary break from the endless labor you volunteer for, again and again.

I’m calling for an end to Passion.

“It’s a good thing that I love games so much, or-” Stop. Basta! There is no “or” anymore. Let’s not make it so easy for them.

Games and tech have done nothing to make you feel welcome. They have tried everything they can to hurt you, to wound you. Sisters and brothers, they don’t deserve you.

We admire the strength of women, people of color, queers in enduring all this, in managing, somehow, to make rent month after month. It takes lots of it, great stone mountains of strength that rise higher than the loudest catcall or attempt to slut-shame, higher than the tallest ivory tower of the academic with the career-for-life who tells you to calm down, you’re being irrational.

But here is another thing that takes strength: to say “No more.” To walk away, to choose something else, to protect yourself. To say “I don’t deserve this.” The strength to unchain yourself from the altar of martyrdom. There’s no shame in taking your hand off of something poison.

But Anna, what if that’s just giving them what they want, though? What if that’s just conceding space to them, when we should be maintaining visibility at all costs? What if things are getting better—just very slowly?

What if it’s killing you?

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