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Speed Dial

Freada Kapor Klein on Discrimination

Silicon Valley likes to think it’s a meritocracy. Is that accurate?
It ignores hidden bias. How we process information is often not evident to our conscious mind. We’re unaware that when a business plan comes in or a team comes in, we’ve already judged them. We spend the rest of our meeting looking for confirming evidence.
Venture capitalists often want referrals for entrepreneurs. How does that affect who gets funded?
It couldn’t be farther from a meritocracy. How on earth is a kid who’s first in their family to go to college, who’s never met another engineer, going to get into the inner circle of Silicon Valley?
How do people’s school experiences influence whether they go into tech?
There is no doubt that there’s a pipeline problem, and that has many causes, including bias itself. The same kind of bias we see in companies is also present in the educational system. It’s whether or not a teacher calls on somebody and labels them a smart kid with promise or writes them off.
What are some examples of bias?
At one company, we broke into groups. One group turned its chairs in a circle, and the one woman was outside the circle. They all had their backs to her. People often want to hear [Herman] Cain groping stories. That isn’t what goes on. It’s just the day-to-day interactions, what people talk about, when people get mad, how they express that.

Tozzi is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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