October 28, 2021

The Elizabeth Holmes Trial Is a Wake-Up Call for Sexism in Tech

Questionable, unethical, even dangerous behavior has run rampant in the male-dominated world of tech start-ups. Though never charged with crimes, WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick hyped their way into raising over $10 billion for their companies, claiming they would disrupt their stagnant, tired industries.

Remember the accusations of harassment, privacy violations, price gouging, misleading advertising and any of the other dozens of scandals at Uber? How about the genocide incited on Facebook in Myanmar, or its engagement-centric approach that led to the proliferation of anti-vaccination propaganda on the platform? Neither Mr. Kalanick nor Mark Zuckerberg has faced any significant legal consequences.

Meanwhile, a Tesla employee reportedly described part of a Tesla manufacturing plant as a predator zone for women. News reports recount allegations of racist threats, effigies, and humiliation against Black workers. (Tesla has told the Times there is no evidence of “a pattern of discrimination and harassment.”) Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, did get his hand slapped for fraud — only it was by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which banned him from posting on Twitter without supervision from Tesla’s lawyers.

Leading this race to the bottom, Juul brought vaping mainstream, raising billions of dollars along the way. Kevin Burns, the chief executive who helped raise $12.8 billion for Juul from Altria, a tobacco giant, claimed his product was designed to help people stop smoking cigarettes. Nevertheless, in June 2019, Congress began an investigation into Juul’s part in the youth nicotine epidemic, including efforts to market its products as safe for children. By mid-February 2020, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 68 people in the U.S. had died from lung injury associated with the use of vaping products.

Male chief executives and founders just aren’t held accountable in ways that would lead to reform across the tech industry. And even when they are made to answer for their actions, they find their ways back into the fold very quickly.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/15/opinion/elizabeth-holmes-trial-sexism.html

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