Anti-Racism Protest in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. June 8, 2020. Photo: Andrew Mercer/Wikimedia Commons/CC
The murder of George Floyd in May this year triggered uprisings against and conversations about racism in countries across the world. It felt as though the Black Lives Matter movement – founded in 2013 by three Black women in the US – had gone global on an unprecedented scale.
And while racism is an issue that transcends borders (White supremacy was, after all, a colonial project), it takes on different forms in different contexts. What constitutes racism in Canada may look quite different from racism in India or Brazil. Continue reading →
“Americans are fed up with monopolies rigging our economy and politics,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). (Photo: takomabibelot/Flickr/cc)
A major Washington-based think tank’s decision to fire a prominent Google critic earlier this week brought to the surface the massive and “disturbing” influence large tech companies have on political debate in the U.S., leading many analysts and lawmakers to call for the creation of an anti-monopoly movement to take on the threat consolidated corporate power poses to the democratic process.
As Brian Fund and Hamza Shaban note in an analysis for the Washington Post, “funding of think tanks is just one way Silicon Valley is expanding its influence in Washington.” Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are also “regularly setting records in their spending on lobbying and are pushing as many as 100 issues—or more—every year.” Continue reading →
Five years ago, Silicon Valley was rocked by a wave of “brogrammer” bad behavior, when overfunded, highly entitled, mostly white and male startup founders did things that were juvenile, out of line and just plain stupid. Most of these activities – such as putting pornography into PowerPoint slides – revolved around the explicit or implied devaluation and harassment of women and the assumption that heterosexual men’s privilege could or should define the workplace. The recent “memo” scandal out of Google shows how far we have yet to go.
It may be that more established and successful companies don’t make job applicants deal with “bikini shots” and “gangbang interviews.” But even the tech giants foster an environment where heteronormativity and male privilege is so rampant that an engineer could feel comfortable writing and distributing a screed that effectively harassed all of his women co-workers en masse.
This is a pity, because tech companies say they want to change this culture. This summer, I gave a talk at Google UK about my work as a historian of technology and gender. I thought my talk might help change people’s minds about women in computing, and might even help women and nonbinary folks working at Google now. Still, the irony was strong: I was visiting a multibillion-dollar tech company to talk about how women are undervalued in tech, for free. Continue reading →