NYT: Silicon Valley Should Imitate Detroit
March 28, 2015, 08:42 PM
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For years, I had been pointing out that two world-beating sectors of the American economy, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, paid relatively little attention to the panoply of anti-discrimination regulations that weigh down the performance of America’s less globally competitive sectors, such as Detroit.

Recently, however, the Eye of Sauron has finally turned in the direction of Silicon Valley, with glances at Hollywood, too. In the New York Times, reporter / feminist crusader Claire Cain Miller explains that what Silicon Valley needs to cure it of its disease of entrepreneurial men innovating rapidly is lots of stifling bureaucracy. Silicon Valley needs to become more like Detroit.

What Silicon Valley Learned From the Kleiner Perkins Case , MARCH 27, 2015 Claire Cain Miller
Kleiner Perkins’s  victory Friday in the gender discrimination part of the lawsuit brought by Ellen Pao could be seen as an affirmation of the Silicon Valley old boys club. But venture capitalists said that the trial had already put the tech industry on notice: It can no longer operate as a band of outsiders, often oblivious to rules that govern the modern workplace — even if that has been a key to its success.

Silicon Valley has always prided itself on doing business differently. Forget bureaucracy and the traditions of bigger, older companies, the thinking goes. Instead, wear jeans to work, bring your dog, don’t ask permission to try something new, and embrace failure. That nimble approach has helped create more world-changing ideas and wealth than any other industry in recent years.

But it can have a flip side — a sometimes blatant disregard for the policies that apply to big businesses, whether it’s obeying regulations, paying taxes or treating employees fairly. The broad themes of the trial extended far beyond Silicon Valley’s casual workplaces.

Just as Anita Hill once helped shine a light on overt sexual harassment, Ms. Pao, in suing Kleiner Perkins, may do the same for subtle sexism. The trial was riveting in part because many women could relate to the slights described on the witness stand, like men interrupting women in meetings or assuming they were too preoccupied for a big role because they had children. …

Yet as heretical as it might sound in Silicon Valley, bureaucracy serves a purpose. Studies have found that women generally perform better in companies with more formal processes, and that women in science have better prospects for employment at start-ups that are more bureaucratic. …

If tech companies want to remain a band of risk-taking, fast-moving outsiders, the biggest risk they could take might be hiring more women and then creating company cultures where they can succeed.

Let’s make Silicon Valley more like General Motors and make Hollywood more like the Los Angeles Unified School District. What could possibly go wrong with our balance of trade?