The tech media’s search for sexism in Silicon Valley ran into some trouble Tuesday, after a former Reddit employee who recently left the company rebuked the tech media for suggesting that her departure was due to sexist discrimination.
A number of tech outlets have covered the exit of female employees from Reddit in recent weeks, following a period of major tension between users, moderators, and site administrators known as the “Reddit Revolt.”
Jessica Moreno, Reddit’s former head of community, is the latest woman to leave the company in the wake of interim CEO Ellen Pao’s resignation. Chief Engineer Bethanye Blount also left the site this month, citing concerns about Reddit’s ability to deliver on its promises to the community.
In their reporting, tech outlets repeated now-familiar concerns about sexism at Reddit. “Reddit has earned a reputation for being inhospitable to female users,” wrote the Daily Dot. “It’s harder and harder to believe [Reddit’s] claim as a hospitable place for women,” repeated Gawker. “[Moreno] is the fourth senior female employee to exit in less than a month.” noted Re/code.
At the time of these reports, neither Blount nor Moreno had cited sexism or gender bias at Reddit among their reasons for leaving. Moreno in particular appeared to be annoyed by the tone of the news reports. Posting on Reddit, Moreno called out Re/code in particular:
Re/code makes it sound like I left abruptly but I haven’t.
My departure has to do with my own life outside of work and nothing internal at reddit. It has nothing to do with the policy changes or being a woman. The author couched facts between sentences meant to inspire speculation.
The idea of endemic sexism in Silicon Valley has become a narrative in the tech and mainstream media in recent years, with only a few tech journalists, like Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, taking a skeptical approach. Sites like Tech Crunch and Valleywag report on the topic ad nauseum. The Atlantic describes the “sexism of startup land.” Newsweek even ran a cover story on the alleged problem in January.
Some of these concerns are driven by a belief that sexism is contributing to the low numbers of women in tech, although recent research has found that the gap between girls’ and boys’ involvement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) begins at school, not at Silicon Valley.
Fears of sexism in tech reached fever pitch after Ellen Pao, the former interim CEO of Reddit, came under pressure during the Reddit revolts. Gawker described Redditors’ discontent with Pao as a “misogynist tantrum,” failing to note the mismatch between Redditors’ allegedly “misogynistic” opposition to Pao, and their support for the popular former admin Victoria Taylor, whose sacking sparked the second Reddit revolt.
Jessica Moreno is not the first woman in tech to tire of the media’s seemingly constant gender-baiting. JeKuDo CEO Elissa Shevinsky, a woman who helped launch the current narrative about sexism in Silicon Valley, recently told the Washington Examiner that she regretted the decision. “I do see sexism and gender issues, a culture war, in Silicon Valley” said Shevinsky, “but the knee-jerk responses (recruit more women! attack the men!) are not the answer.”
Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter.