By: Sarah Frier and Peter Burrows –
Ana Medina says there’s an unwritten code in Silicon Valley. She was introduced to it after her first Google Inc. (GOOG) developer conference, where a guy in her row asked if she’d scored a free ticket because she’s a girl. Someone posted a photo of her from the event and it drew a raft of comments, about her cleavage.
Her instinct was to broadcast her astonishment on Twitter, but friends talked her out of it. “‘It’s not going to be worth it,’” Medina, a 20-year-old computer sciences major, says they told her. “It was a kind of ‘shake it off, let it go’ thing.”
That can be part of the bargain for high-tech minorities, the female, black and Hispanic engineers in a business that’s been one of the greatest wealth-creation machines ever for white and Asian males. Medina got the advice Lloyd Carney always gives to newcomers. “I tell women and people of color directly, ‘Don’t you dare advocate for diversity,” says Carney, who’s 52, black and chief executive officer of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. “‘Your career would be over.’”
The diversity issue is being dissected and debated as never before, and industry leaders have been broadcasting their dedication to making pluralism a priority. Tim Cook was Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s CEO for three years before coming out as gay two weeks ago. Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella fanned the discussion last month when he suggested women not ask for raises.
The men and women solving the problem — by getting hired and promoted — can be the least comfortable talking about it.
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