the platform rules are being followed.
So any rules are not implemented well.
These platforms, especially Facebook,
collect a large amount of data. Why
did it take the Cambridge Analytica
scandal to raise widespread alarm?
Because the data collection was marketed
really well—a thumbs-up seems so
innocuous! You don’t realize you’re sharing a ton of information—and it was very
incremental. We had the Likes—and then
all of a sudden the app was available on
my phone, and that seemed really convenient. It wasn’t explicit that all of this
information, all of your actions on your
phone, was going to Facebook, and that
you were opening up your friends’ data.
There were so many changes and new
privacy policies that after a while people
gave up tracking them—and Facebook
didn’t wave it in your face. It’s not like
the company said, “Hey, we’re taking all
your data and we’re doing all this stu;.”
Your trial, followed by Susan Fowler’s
account of widespread harassment at
Uber, helped lay the groundwork for
the #Me Too reckoning about sexism,
harassment, and sexual abuse throughout the business world. Is it worse in
tech than in other industries?
In tech, there is such a concentration of
power in a small set of venture capitalists
and a small set of CEOs that people aren’t
sharing all their stories—the #Me Too
stories, the discrimination stories, and
the retaliation stories.
Some of the stories I’ve heard behind
the scenes are much worse than stories
that have been shared publicly. People
still want to be able to find jobs, and they
want to be able to raise funding for their
companies. It’s a rational decision not to
share your story. And I don’t think that
we can really understand what’s happened in each of these industries without
having heard all of those stories.
Do you feel that you’ve been penalized
for telling your story and for suing
There are people who won’t talk to me.
There are people who believe the nega-
tive press campaign. A woman who runs
a fund recently reached out to me, and
she said, “I am sorry, because I really
thought you were crazy when you sued. I
sense. I had pushed down all of my feel-
ings and my experiences. I apologize, and
I thank you for what you’ve done.”
But this is six years after I sued, and
she’s finally saying something about it.
There are still a lot of people who believe
that I was wrong to sue. It’s been such an
uphill battle for so long. I don’t know if
I’ve come out the other side yet, where I
can say it’s been a positive. But it’s been
very rewarding to see so many other
people speaking up, and to see that shift
from doubt and skepticism into empathy
and belief. That’s happened in the past
couple of years, and it’s been such a relief.
I don’t think of it as about me personally.
It’s more that the industry needs to
change, and we’re making progress, and
that’s a good thing.
How much progress have you seen for
women in Silicon Valley?
Things are incrementally better. You can
actually talk about an experience that
you’ve had and not be met with skepticism or told that you’re crazy. People who
have reported problems have gotten
attention in a way that was not as negative as the attention I got.
Now there is a feeling that we need
to change. The mindset at first was,
“We don’t believe there’s a problem.”
Then people admitted there was a prob-
lem, but it wasn’t their problem. Then
they understood that they needed to
make changes, but said they couldn’t
because it was a pipeline problem. And
now we’re at a point where people
admit we need to change, and that they
have some responsibility to do it. We’re
just now starting to see companies say,
“I want to change and I want to be
This is going to be a critical year,
because now people are willing to do
some work. This is the best chance we
have. We can see the move toward true
inclusion—meaning not just women,
which a lot of e;orts are only focused
The important part of this next wave
of change is to try to keep people working together. It’s very easy to have people
fracture and say, “There’s only one spot
allowed for diversity, so we’re all going
to fight for it.” But we need to be more
supportive of one another. We need to
understand that if we all work on inclusion together, it’s going to be faster,
broader, better, and more thorough than
anything we can do on our own.
Companies often cite the “pipeline
problem,” the argument that there
aren’t enough women or people of
color with the degrees necessary to
succeed in tech. Is that a real problem
or an excuse?
There is a pipeline problem, but a lot of
The Hate-Speech Hot Seat
Many social media sites “were built by homogeneous teams, who
didn’t experience harassment,” says Pao, shown above at Reddit,
where she cracked down on abuse during her time as CEO.