Charlotte Willner, a Facebook employee since 2007 who worked under tell-all book The Boy Kings author Katherine Losse, said her former boss may have been exaggerating a bit when describing the sexist culture in the early days of the social network.
In response to a question on Quora, “The Boy Kings (2012 book): How true are Katherine Losse’s allegations about sex and sexism at Facebook in The Boy Kings?” Willner wrote, as reported by Silicon Alley Insider:
I’m a woman at Facebook who was in customer support at the same time as Kate — she was my trainer, and I was inquisitive enough as a new hire to where she really needed that vacation to Brazil immediately after my first two weeks. Was there a rampant culture of sexism at Facebook in 2007? No. Were there sexist people working at Facebook in 2007? Yes. The book recounts a series of experiences that Kate ultimately interpreted as sexist. Some of those were likely interactions with sexist people. Others were likely more ambiguous interactions that Kate personally read as sexist. I’m not here to say she was right or wrong, because I wasn’t a fly on the wall for those interactions. What I will say is that Facebook has historically had a work-hard, play-hard culture, and that means people will be jerks to each other sometimes: Not all instances of men being jerks to women are manifestations of sexism. In fact: most aren’t.
Much of what Kate chalks up to a deep undercurrent of sexism, I would chalk up to simple inattention, misunderstanding, or nondiscriminating douchebaggery. Recall your first year of work. Remember all the mistakes you made that now seem obvious to you. Blush at the thought of the bold, foolish, and/or hopelessly naive assertions you made that year. Shudder with horror when you relive that first time someone called your attention to the fact that you, in fact, behaved like an idiot in that meeting or at that party. Now imagine 200 people all living that experience at the same time, while being responsible for driving this crazy thing we call Facebook. This was most people’s first job out of college — many didn’t even finish college. Of course people said and did dumb and mean things to each other — we were all learning how to work, and how to work together. There was no sexist element to that — women and men were equal-opportunity offenders.
Readers: Do you think Losse exaggerated a bit in The Boy Kings, or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle?