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Gender Disparities In Tech Flare Up Again: A Reading Guide

An open laptop at the GitHub office.
Dave Fayram
An open laptop at the GitHub office.

We are three weeks deep into an on-air exploration of women in technology through our midday show, Tell Me More. Host Michel Martin has led some really thoughtful conversations about the dearth of women in tech and the areas of notable improvement. Online, women leaders in the field have been tweeting a day in their lives since March 1, archived here if you want to check back.

It certainly wasn't planned, but the ongoing debates over whether progress is happening fast enough for women in these fields flared up again this week with two notable events: The first female developer hired at GitHub, a programming network, publicly resigned, decrying a culture of sexism and intimidation there. The company has since suspended a male co-founder and is investigating. In the digital journalism arena, data journalist Nate Silver's much-anticipated new news organization launched at FiveThirtyEight.com amid criticism that it — and other journalism startup darlings — are perpetuating a clubhouse, male-dominated newsroom culture that has existed for ages.

If you see references to these conversations on Twitter or hear about the events at a cocktail party, here are the pieces you can review to catch up:

TechCrunch: Julie Ann Horvath describes sexism and intimidation behind GitHub exit

The writers point out that Horvath was a champion for GitHub and a longtime defender of the startup until the sexist culture, described in the piece, became too much. "Horvath's story is a tale of what many underrepresented groups feel and experience in the tech sector," TechCrunch writes.

The Guardian: Journalism startups aren't a revolution if they're filled with all these white men

This piece, by Emily Bell, calls out the recent crop of venture-backed digital startups for being led by white men and staffed with even more of them. The danger of such a lack of diversity, she argues, is a failure to really "revolutionize" journalism, as a lot of these organizations are being hailed as doing.

Nate Silver then responded, in a Q&A with New York Magazine:

"The phrase 'clubhouse chemistry' is an allusion to baseball, but the idea that we're bro-y people just couldn't be more off. We're a bunch of weird nerds. We're outsiders, basically. And so we have people who are gay, people of different backgrounds. I don't know. I found the piece reaaaally, really frustrating. And that's as much as I'll say."

Medium: No, Nate, brogrammers may not be macho, but that's not all there is to it

In an essay that hits on Dr. Seuss and French High Theory, academic Zeynep Tufekci makes the point that just because you're a geek (and not a traditional "jock" or "bro") doesn't mean you can't breed or feed into a culture that isn't welcoming for other excluded groups, like women.

These reads are by no means comprehensive, but they will certainly get you caught up. A lot of this month's conversations have focused on solutions, so where there are bright spots, we want to know about them, too. Feel free to reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.