As the now-famous story illustrates, Facebook sprung out of the minds of college boys, in the halls of Harvard University. According to the story proposed by the Oscar-nominated “based on real life” movie The Social Network, you can track the entire idea of Facebook back to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s feelings of inadequacy – in terms of the Harvard elite as well as with women. Whether or not you believe all of that is, well, up to you.
The point is that it’s not too much of a stretch for people to believe that Facebook may have started out as quite the boys club. And according to one former (female) employee, walking into the newish Facebook headquarters in California in 2005 was like walking straight into the great room of every frat house you’ve ever seen.
The woman, Katherine Losse, has a book coming out on Tuesday. It’s called The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network. In advance of publication, the Wall Street Journal ran a little snippet from the book in which Losse details the misogyny she witnessed when she joined the Facebook team as employee #51 back in 2005.
Here are some of the highlights:
- The office was “boyish” to say the least. She describes first seeing “a cartoonish, zaftig woman with green hair who floated above an ominous cityscape” painted on the wall. Apparently, most of the walls featured graffiti of big-breasted women coming out of their clothing, “mimicking the proportions of female videogame characters.” Think Lara Croft, I guess.
- Losse claims that she attended a big drunken weekend in Tahoe thrown for all the Facebook employees in the winter of 2006. After everyone was sufficiently sauced, she said she donned the bearskin rug as a suit – an action which Zuckerberg found absolutely hilarious. He made her continue to wear the costume, and other employees began to snap photos where “Mark is gesturing at me haughtily like an emperor as I stand doubled over in laughter with the bear suit draped over me.” She said it was all in good fun, but you can see how something like this might look to someone who lacked the proper context.
- Losse recounts a senior managers at the company who made a habit of requesting threesomes with the females around the office, as well as a lead engineer who, when approached with a report of poor attitudes toward female engineers, “somehow twisted things around and called me a bad feminist.”
She says that Sheryl Sandberg came along and really did take up the cause of women on the team:
In response to those two aforementioned male employees:
I had heard nothing about it. “You see, I’m so good that I make things happen and no one even knows about them,” she said with a smile. Sure enough, the manager who propositioned employees had been subtly demoted and the aggressive engineer moved to another team.
While some may argue that there is still a bit of a boys’ club vibe at Facebook, this woman paints a pretty vivid picture of what life at the company was like seven years ago. Do you believe it?