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Silicon Valley and Alphabet are 'held to a higher standard' when it comes to solving gender inequality, says X's Astro Teller

  • Silicon Valley has a bro culture but "machismo work culture" exists everywhere, said Dr. Astro Teller, the head of Alphabet's research-and-development arm X.
  • Tech companies including Alphabet are held to a higher standard, but it could make them become a good example of how to solve the problem, Teller added.
Scientist Dr. Astro Teller speaks speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City.
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Scientist Dr. Astro Teller speaks speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City.

Silicon Valley does have a male-dominated culture that doesn't easily cater to diversity, said Dr. Astro Teller, head of Alphabet's research-and-development division X. However, that mentality exists in every industry — and tech is held to a higher standard to promote equality, he said.

"While Silicon Valley has a bro culture — I'm not saying it does not — Silicon Valley did not invent the machismo work culture," Teller told CNBC. "It's everywhere. I think what's interesting is that Silicon Valley and some companies like Alphabet are held to a higher standard. We're working incredibly hard to live up on a whole bunch of fronts. I think Alphabet is doing pretty well. I hope that Silicon Valley can end up being a good example of how to fix this problem."

Google parent company Alphabet has been hit with gender inequality issues lately. The New York Times published a spreadsheet of Google salaries in September showing women are paid less than most men at the company. A Google engineer wrote a memo in August alleging biological differences are why women are not as prevalent as men in the tech industry. In addition, the Department of Labor ordered Google in July to provide 8,000 employee records in order to see if women are being compensated fairly compared with their male peers.

However, it is in X's best interest to have a diverse workforce because solving world problems needs different perspectives, Teller said. That includes hiring both more women and different ethnicities, as well as veterans and people who didn't grow up in the United States, he said.

"If you are building a moonshot factory, the first thing you would be obsessed with is getting diverse perspectives in the building," he said. "That's not code just for gender or color of skin, but I want you to think different from me. If you think the same as me, how are we going to find creative new solutions?"

Read more of Teller's interview with CNBC here.