Next up in our series of book reviews (settle in for these, y'all: we were literally paid to read and review for years in our PhDs), Dr. Donnelly covers Reset, the long-awaited memoir from Ellen Pao, the former CEO of reddit and the woman who famously, but unsuccessfully, sued her VC firm for gender discrimination.
This book is getting no small amount of attention. Named one of the best business books of 2017 by the Financial Times, Amazon, Business Insider, and a few others I'm sure but I've honestly lost track. I'm usually skeptical of works that receive THAT much unilateral praise because, well, I'm an academic. It my job to be skeptical and question. That is literally what my clients pay me for.
But y'all. This book is worth your time.
It's worth your time not because it's well written (it is at some points and stilted at others) or because it is sensationalist (some of the stories are eye-roll inducing for sure) but because it's true.
If you are a woman in male spaces (business leadership, politics, ministry) you will recognize a lot of Pao's stories. Perhaps not the details, but the sentiments behind them will feel like an old coat you were desperate to get rid of but somehow stays in your closet. If you are a male in male spaces (which, to be frank, means the large percentage of spaces) then you may recognize none of this, but I hope you do. I hope you recognize it because it infuriates you and because you're doing your best to make sure Pao's story becomes historical instead of contemporary.
Either way, I hope you read this.
I could summarize this for you, but honestly I don't think that's the point. The summary is public record and Pao is careful to be painstaking in her efforts to document the events from her point of view. Her venture at reddit, for the record, is particularly interesting from a leadership perspective, and we may circle back to that for a later post or discussion. The point of the book, however, and the point of this review, is to urge people to sit in and wrestle with this ugly reality: women are less valued than men in this world, in large and small ways that dehumanize many of us and subjugate all of us.
One of my passions in life is making sure that we, as a society, build tables and not fences. Companies and families and businesses and churches and schools are stronger when there are more stories around the table, when more points of view are considered before decisions are made. In this book, Pao shows that VC and thus Silicon Valley along with it have built nothing but fences.
So bless the women and men, visionaries all, who are tearing down those fences and using the wood to build tables. Bless them all and thanks, Ellen, for braving bearing your soul so that we may learn from your journey.