clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Silicon Valley has a bro culture problem — and how to fix it

“Everybody needs to lead on this issue,” says “Brotopia” author Emily Chang.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

When Emily Chang interviewed venture capitalist Michael Moritz in 2015, she wasn’t trying to “trap” him. But when the Sequoia Capital then-chairman suggested that hiring more women might mean “lowering our standards,” he set off a firestorm — and gave Chang the idea for a book.

That book, “Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” comes out tomorrow. In it, Chang argues that the tech industry is deluding itself if it thinks it can really make the world better without representing women equally; while the biggest banks on Wall Street employ equal numbers of men and women, she says, women hold 25 percent of computing jobs and received just 2 percent of venture capital funding.

“I know the title makes a statement,” she said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “To me, it perfectly encapsulates this idea of Silicon Valley as a modern utopia where anyone can change the world or make their own rules, if they’re a man. But it’s incomparably harder if you’re a woman.”

Although Moritz’s foot-in-mouth remark might have inspired “Brotopia,” Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein also helped Chang find women who were willing to talk on the record about their experiences with harassment and discrimination.

“At first, I just wanted to figure out, ‘How did we get here? What happened?’” she said. “And then, in the middle of the process, Donald Trump was elected and the #MeToo movement exploded, and I saw the momentum of the reporting totally change. All of these women who I thought would never talk, who told me all these stories off the record, suddenly [talked].”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Chang called out the “hypocrisy” of tech leaders who talk a big game about their own ambitions and talents but have been reluctant to make simple moves toward equality, like paying women the same as men doing the same job.

“I think everybody needs to lead on this issue, everybody take a closer look at how they’re running their companies, how they are behaving,” Chang said. “The reality is, men right now have the power and the money, and they should be the first ones to change. They can do it today!”

“I interviewed Peter Thiel — this is a guy who’s pushing the bounds of space and building ocean communities and believes in immortality,” she added. “When I asked him about the lack of women, he said, ‘Yeah, you’re right, there really just aren’t enough. I don’t know what to do about it.’ Wait, what? I was shocked.”

Changing the bro culture for the better “has to come from the top,” Chang said: CEOs have to communicate the merits of diversity to everyone in their entire companies, venture capitalists need to hire more women, and the limited partners who invest in those VC firms need to pressure them to prioritize diversity.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

This article originally appeared on