Can the technology industry be a fervent opponent of anti-gay discrimination while simultaneously a cozy boys club accused of discriminating against women? These are the two prevailing narratives about the current state of tech, and they're colliding in a big way.
In recent days, the leaders of Salesforce.com, Apple and Yelp have come out swinging against Indiana lawmakers on gay rights, and they have inspired legions of techies to follow suit. The recently enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows business owners, based on their religious beliefs, to deny service to customers. It follows the passage of anti-gay legislation in other states.
Technology leaders have been taking a particularly public stance against anti-gay discrimination as a highly visible gender-bias lawsuit involving a female venture capitalist and legendary firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is fresh on everyone's mind in Silicon Valley. Now the timing of these two events, which straddle the topic of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, is forcing the tech community to reconcile its sometimes complicated value system.
"It's good that people are speaking up" about these two issues, said Dave Goldberg, chief executive officer of SurveyMonkey, an online survey provider in Palo Alto, California. "But it doesn't absolve us from the things we need to do to fix this pipeline problem."
The pipeline Goldberg referenced starts with the fact that only 14 percent of U.S. bachelor's degrees in computer science are awarded to women, according to the Computing Research Association.
Over the past month, the male-dominated culture and practices of Kleiner Perkins were exposed in a gender-discrimination case filed by former partner Ellen Pao. While Kleiner Perkins was declared victorious on Friday, the tech community isn't celebrating.
"I'm not sure there's a huge victory for anyone on either side," said Max Levchin, a PayPal co-founder and chief executive of online lender Affirm. "It's an awful thing to watch, to be completely honest," he said Monday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."