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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The tech industry loves to tout itself as a meritocracy, but its inequalities remain sharp: Not only are women vastly underrepresented, they are also highly likely to encounter sexual harassment.
By the numbers: Even with a heightened awareness of such issues, spurred by the #MeToo movement, a third of women in tech say they have received or witnessed unwanted physical contact in the last year, according to a recent survey by FTI Consulting and Mine the Gap.
"People think that the tech industry is very progressive," FTI's Elizabeth Alexander tells Axios. But, she adds, open workplaces and flat organizational charts don't equal an inclusive workplace — and might even create opportunities for unwanted contact.
Why it matters: There is a lot of talk in the industry about teaching girls to code and recruiting more women for tech jobs. But without addressing sexual harassment and other forms of bias, tech companies won't be able to attract a more diverse workforce and retain those entering the field.
What's next: Alexander says tech companies need to examine themselves with a tougher eye on everything from office culture to sexual harassment training to how well represented women are in leadership.
Among her recommendations are sexual harassment trainings that are frequent, mandatory for all employees, and interactive.
"You can't get away with a webinar once every 18 months."— Elizabeth Alexander
The bottom line: The tech industry still has a lot of work to do to foster an inclusive workplace.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images
Facebook availed itself of a well-worn strategy on Tuesday night: Put Mark Zuckerberg on CNN in a continued attempt to defuse a controversy. In March he was on TV confronting the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This time, it was allegations that he and COO Sheryl Sandberg bungled and concealed that and other scandals to hit the company over the last two years.
The bottom line: Zuckerberg stood by Sandberg and maintained he won’t step down as the firm’s chairman, less than a week after a major New York Times investigation painted a less than flattering picture of the pair.
Later on Tuesday night, TechCrunch published a memo from Elliot Schrage, the company’s outgoing head of policy and communications. “I knew and approved of the decision to hire Definers and similar firms,” he stated. “I should have known of the decision to expand their mandate.”
Sandberg commented on the memo, per TechCrunch, writing...
"When I read the story in New York Times last week, I didn’t remember a firm called Definers. I asked our team to look into the work Definers did for us and to double-check whether anything had crossed my desk. Some of their work was incorporated into materials presented to me and I received a small number of emails where Definers was referenced."
The defensive play was only part of another very busy day in Menlo Park.
Photo: Toca Boca
Toca Boca, known for its open-ended play apps for young children, is in the midst of the biggest shift in its history. It's simultaneously moving its focus toward older kids and to a model that embraces in-app purchases rather than one-time upfront payments.
What's new: With Toca Life: World, the company is bringing together what had been several paid products into a single free app, with different paid options to unlock various content. (Those who have already bought a Toca Life app will have that content unlocked from the get-go.)
Why it matters: The move is likely to encounter pushback, but is part of a broader industry shift to focus on recurring revenue.
"This is really a very big step for us as a company," acknowledges Toca Boca president Caroline Ingeborn in an interview.
"We don’t want to fool anyone," she says. "We want this to be as clear and transparent as possible."
It's been testing the new approach in Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan since September. Toca Boca says both downloads and purchases have exceeded expectations in those countries.
The company is also taking a new approach to licensing. Toca Boca had a unisex clothing line that sold at Target, but that effort has wound down. Ingeborn says merchandise is still of interest, but the company is focused on categories kids like to get, such as stickers and toys.
"Very few brands have successfully been able to go from digital to physical," Ingeborn says. "That is a very big bet we are doing."
LinkedIn's iPhone app. Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
LinkedIn, the professional social network Microsoft acquired in 2016, is testing its own version of Snapchat's Stories (short video clips) as a feature for college students, dubbed Student Voices.
Why it matters: LinkedIn wants to appeal more to the 46 million college students and new grads on its network by giving them tools they're familiar with, reports Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva.
Details: Student Voices could also become yet another spot where LinkedIn can place ads (a spokesperson says the company is currently focused on understanding how people use the features).
Yes, but: This means LinkedIn's Student Voices videos, unlike Snapchat's Stories, don't vanish after a short time.
The Google logo on display at a conference. Photo: Rita Franca/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Google on Tuesday said it had taken down additional accounts implicated in online foreign influence operations aimed at least in part at the United States.
But it did so in a decidedly understated way, David notes. It posted the information in an update at the bottom of an August blog post, also doing so just two days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The big picture: The search giant has largely kept its head down even as Facebook and Twitter talked more publicly about online disinformation.
Details: Google exec Kent Walker said in a blog post update that since August 23, when it disclosed takedowns of accounts linked to Iran, the company had "identified and terminated a limited number of accounts linked to coordinated influence operations, including while sharing English-language political content in the U.S."
Ramen for one, with no interaction with other people? Right this way.