Bring Work to Your Kid Day: A Conversation About Working Parents in 2023

With the influx of remote work opportunities, and a surge of businesses opting for permanent remote platforms, the work-from-home model (WFH) has resolved what many once saw as a mutually exclusive inquiry: the “work or kids” dilemma. However, it has also prompted a conversation surrounding the potential consequences and broader implications of this unprecedented shift out of the office.


How WFH Has Advantaged Working Parents:


It is not a coincidence that alongside the rising number of WFH opportunities, two other trends have followed suit: labor-force participation amongst college-educated women and fertility rates. Looking to labor-force data from 2019 to 2022, the numbers for college-educated women have remained steady for the first time following two decades of decline. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin reported that over 78% of female college graduates aged 25-34 with children were employed by the fall of 2021. During this time, the National Bureau of Economic Research also found a 6.2% increase in the U.S. fertility rate.


Time author and working parent Alana Semuels notes that the correlation between these trends is explained by the newfound flexibility of WFH and the resulting options that were previously unavailable to parents. Access to childcare is no longer a barrier for many, and eliminating the need to commute affords working parents huge savings, especially given increasing housing prices and limited availability of family homes in metropolitan areas. For aspiring parents, Forbes author Christine Michel Carter adds that WFH aids in fertility and family-forming, given the unpredictable and time-consuming nature of having a child.


Furthermore, this virtual wave has begun to chip away at the stigmas that historically surrounded remote work. The idea that WFH is any less legitimate or prestigious is, in the words of Semuels, “a false dichotomy leftover from the pre-pandemic world.” Semuels interviewed several ambitious professionals raising children, all of whom found remote work to be a catalyst for efficiency, productivity, and balance. From this lens, being a passionate parent and a dedicated professional are no longer at odds with one another.


Weighing Criticism & Concerns Surrounding WFH:


The WFH movement for working parents has generated a variety of responses, many of which are largely positive. Others, however, have taken a more critical lens, insofar as they point to potential implications and reasons for concern. Some experts have warned, for instance, that the growing tendency to opt out of returning to the office could actually exacerbate past stigmas. Specifically, WFH “could be stigmatized as an accommodation for mothers” due to the unequal utilization of remote work policies demonstrated by the aforementioned data. In turn, this stigmatization could have “professional consequences,” including curbed growth and underdeveloped connections.


In addition, several studies point to remote work as a hindrance to mental health, with working parents being one of the most impacted groups. Evidently, there is a lack of work-life balance stemming from integrating the home and office. A McKinsey survey indicated a commonality amongst WFH parents, in which many shared the feeling of “failing to live up to their own expectations across their multiple social roles.” Such a sentiment seems to contradict the alleged “flexibility” that is considered the primary benefit of WFH.


For many parents, WFH provides relief and balance, but given varied circumstances across households, this is not the case for all. Social trends surrounding parenting styles and roles show minimal uniformity, and per the CDC and Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities across WFH participants. It is also important to recognize that many parents face systemic challenges, leaving them with limited access to resources and support to maintain flexibility in a WFH environment.


Supporting Parents Amidst the WFH Movement:


The conversation around working parents must abandon this narrow, “one-size-fits-all” perspective and instead promote more inclusive, support-focused progress. While recent legislative changes have placed detrimental restrictions on reproductive rights and care, laws enacted prior to this regress can serve as models for support going forward.


In 2021, for example, SB-1383 revised the California Family Rights Act, which significantly increased the rights of almost all working parents in California by expanding eligibility, pregnancy disability leave, and full leave for both qualifying parents. The U.S. Department of Labor justified expansion as being “more inclusive of all parents.” Legislation backed by this kind of inclusive ideology is the foundation for positive change, which is more urgent now than ever.


Additionally, several businesses have taken steps to enhance support and accessibility for pregnant persons and parents. One notable example is a startup called Oula. With $22.3 million in venture capital, Oula is dedicated to restructuring the traditional maternity care model. In acknowledging the disparities in resources and preferences, Oula approaches each pregnancy with customized individual plans intended to “offset the pressures of becoming a parent.”


Moreover, employers themselves have begun to adopt support initiatives for working parents. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this support comes from destigmatizing mental health care in the workplace and, importantly, “prioritizing inclusivity and access to culturally appropriate mental health care.” Further, many employers have introduced hybrid platforms, affording employees increased agency in scheduling. An article from the Harvard Business Review emphasizes normalizing “detours from traditional full-time employment,” including parental leave and sabbaticals.


Collectively, these developments represent a fraction of the evolving support methods for working parents. President of the Integrated Benefits Institute, Kelly McDevitt, highlights that “a single-model approach . . . may never satisfy the needs of all.” Thus, proper support must be adaptable and expansive. Inclusivity, in this way, requires recognizing a full range of experiences rather than placing all parents under one narrow lens.

“Respect our Authoritah!” says Warner Bros. in New Lawsuit Against Paramount Global.

Very few animated shows have made a bigger name for themselves in the field of satirical comedy than South Park. South Park, created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, is an animated comedy show that airs on Comedy Central, a cable network owned by mass media conglomerate Paramount Global.

South Park is no stranger to controversy. From being investigated by the Church of Scientology, to its criticisms of organized religion, South Park is well-known for its forthright social critiques. The show’s latest controversy stems not from its jokes, but from the streaming service that hosts it.

Rival media company, Warner Bros. Discovery, is suing Paramount Global for violating their agreement with Warner Bros. Warner Bros paid Paramount Global for the exclusive right to stream new episodes of South Park on its platform, HBO Max. According to the complaint, Paramount Global breached this agreement by putting new episodes on its own streaming platform, Paramount+.

Exclusive licensing agreements are powerful tools in the ever-growing streaming market, where giants like Netflix and Hulu are facing new competition against an increasingly diverse set of streaming services. Exclusive licensing agreements allow streaming services to secure the rights to stream tv shows and movies straight from producers, while preventing rival streaming platforms from streaming the same shows. Such agreements enhance a platform’s ability to stand out and compete in the marketplace by curating the best selection of shows and movies.

However, some media producers have taken this a step further, and chosen to pull the rights to stream their shows from other platforms—making these shows accessible only on their own platforms. For example, Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, pulled its popular comedy show ‘The Office’ from Netflix and now hosts it on Peacock, their own streaming service. This move reduces transaction costs for Comcast and integrates their different stages of media production into one enterprise.

From production to streaming, and cable to satellite, one corporation can control every step of this process. Vertical integration, or the process by which corporations acquire other parts of the distribution chain, is a long-practiced business strategy in cable television. It has now expanded to the online streaming industry, incentivizing media companies to keep their media in-house.

The strategy is clear: media companies create their own streaming platforms to increase profits. These companies reap benefits from this strategy, cutting down on transaction costs and more efficiently transmit content that they produce. Streaming services like Netflix can attract subscribers by creating original shows which become popular via marketing and word of mouth, like BoJack Horseman. For shows like Game of Thrones or South Park, with an already widely recognized IP, media companies can pull content from other platforms to attract new subscribers to their own streaming services. As this creates value, shareholders benefit from greater profits, and regulators benefit by collecting greater tax revenue. In theory, consumers should benefit too, because prices will likely decrease as market efficiencies get passed down to consumers.

This is not the case. Previously, consumers could access a greater library of shows and movies by only paying for one streaming service. Now, the spread of exclusive licensing agreements and vertical integration means that consumers will pay for more streaming services to access the same library they used to. However, this may be a return to cable television, where subscribers to the largest streaming platforms will pay an equivalent amount to a cable subscription.

As the dispute over South Park demonstrates, the streaming industry is a competitive field and media companies are right to be protective over their shows and movies. While this is likely to increase economic value for companies who navigate this new competitive field successfully, the effect it has on consumers remains to be seen.

ChatGPT: Regulating Disinformation in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Disinformation on social media has been a significant concern in recent years–becoming increasingly influential on the public discourse. Disinformation is especially prevalent in political campaigns, where false or inaccurate information is often used to sway voters.

Disinformation has also affected public-health matters contributing to a “stigma” around COVID-19 vaccination. There has been an ongoing debate about how we should regulate disinformation and misinformation on social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

In the past several years, many tech companies have established internal regulatory policies to address fake news and conspiracy theorists. However, these efforts, which include hiring policy experts and investing in technology to limit disinformation spreaders, have waned during the ongoing wave of layoffs in the tech industry. YouTube, for example, reduced its misinformation policy team to only one employee.

Another regulatory avenue is state policy. However, the government has largely taken a “hands-off legal position” toward speech regulation on social media platforms, but recent Supreme Court may alter the landscape of future regulation. Previously, the Supreme Court denied certiorari of a case holding social media giants liable for taking down disinformation on their platforms. The Supreme Court may reconsider the rules governing online speech in upcoming hearings concerning state laws in Texas and Florida that bar social media platforms from removing certain political posts or banning political candidates.

While the future of disinformation regulation on social media remains uncertain, there are concerns about AI tools like ChatGPT, which is an AI chatbot trained on a vast amount of data which it uses to produce its answers. These responses are limited to the information contained in the training data. However, ChatGPT may generate false answers that seem “authoritative,” causing difficulty in identifying the correct answer unless already known by the user. When asked to disclose its reference of sources, ChatGPT often cites to seemingly plausible but fake articles and scientific studies.

The powerful nature of ChatGPT, its potential to increase disinformation, and its impact on national security and education, raise questions related to how these tools should be regulated. So far, Congress has been “slow to react when it comes to technological issues,” including AI regulation. However, as the “fastest-growing consumer application in history,” the regulation of ChatGPT has garnered attention among the lawmakers recently. For example, Representative Ted Lieu from California urged Congress to establish a nonpartisan commission to recommend regulations for AI like ChatGPT. He warned that the risk of “unchecked, unregulated AI” is pushing us “toward a more dystopian future” and he emphasized the urgent need of a dedicated agency to regulate AI.

Surprisingly, ChatGPT itself has suggested a few potential strategies and areas of focus to regulate disinformation. First, it recommends regulating the work of the data providers to ensure that the data used to train the chatbot is based on diverse and representative information that is less likely to produce inaccuracies. Second, it suggests we establish algorithms to help identify potential sources of error and allow for corrections. Finally, it proposes the establishment of regulatory agencies and organizations to provide guidance and oversight of ChatGPT’s use and practices.

Though it is unlikely that any major regulations will be passed immediately, lawmakers agree that ChatGPT should be regulated at least on some level – either internally, by the state, or both.

Taxing Multinationals Across Borders?

On Nov. 8th, 2022 the European Court of Justice, EU’s highest court, overturned a tax ruling against Fiat Chrysler from 2015. The decision annuls the EU commission’s 2015 finding that Luxembourg granted selective tax advantages to Fiat through a transfer pricing ruling. The commission said the deal in 2015 amounted to a state subsidy and thus ordered the Luxembourg government to recover the equivalent of about $30 million from the company. This decision follows similar reversals in tax cases in the past few years, cases involving Starbucks Corp and Inc. In 2019, EU’s second-highest court ruled that Starbucks did not benefit from illegal state aid in the Netherlands. In 2021, the same court made a decision in favor of Amazon, stating that EU regulators failed to show that Amazon gained illegal advantages from tax dealings in Luxembourg. The European Commission has appealed the Amazon ruling to the European Court of Justice. 

As emphasized in the above-mentioned cases, the European Commission is committed to ensuring that fair competition is not distorted in the bloc through illegal tax breaks to multinational corporations. As the European Commission monitors and decides if state aid complies with EU rules, the above cases in particular concern Article 107 (1) of The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which prohibits companies from gaining unfair advantages over their competitors through government support. The Treaty generally prohibits state aid unless it is justified by reasons of overall economic development. 

In response to the Fiar Chrysler decision, the European Commission released a statement demonstrating its continued commitment to tax legislation amendments among member states. The Commission works with member states to address tax loopholes and ensure tax fairness and will continue to monitor the EU state aid rules. The Commission’s ongoing efforts to ensure that multinational corporations do not gain unfair tax advantages spurn the recent global concern of loose tax rules for international technology giants. Notably, last year in 2021, the G-7 — Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. — agreed that businesses should pay a minimum tax rate of at least 15% in each of the countries in which they operate. While almost 140 countries agreed to the 15% minimum tax rate, the implementation of this policy has faced several challenges.  

Many governments are waiting to see how G-7 nations would implement the policy, especially in the U.S. with a divided Congress. 2023 was set as a target for implementation, though many tax experts believe to be too ambitious. While the global minimum corporate tax may continue if smaller countries fail to pass new laws, the failure of larger economies, such as the U.S., to implement legislation would greatly debilitate the agreement. There has been substantial political pressure against a global minimum corporate tax as businesses, with Cisco Systems Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Texas Instruments lobbying against the tax. The EU has also struggled to move forward with implementation. Unanimous support is required among 27 bloc members for the EU-wide implementation; however Hungarian parliament continues to affirm its opposition to global minimum tax on corporations. 

The ongoing friction between European countries and U.S. over taxing U.S. tech giants has further thwarted implementation of the policy. During ongoing talks on international tax rules, some European officials argued that U.S. tech giants should pay more tax in Europe and reallocate taxing rights to where the product is consumed. Specifically, some European countries proposed their own taxes on U.S. digital services and products. In response, the U.S. rejected such proposal and threatened to respond with tariffs on imports from Europe. 

Nonetheless despite ongoing challenges, there has been some progresses. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released details on central components of the agreement, including the “undertaxed profits rule.” The rule allows participating countries without a minimum corporate tax rate to increase the company’s rate to 15%, creating financial incentives for non-participating countries to join the agreement. 

While the future of taxing multinationals across borders remains uncertain, the European Commission continues to monitor how member countries utilize state aids and OECD proceeds with detailed plans for global corporate tax.

The VC Slowdown Must Not Hit Climate Tech

Technology companies laid off over twenty-two thousand workers in the first ten days of November. The pandemic era of cheap money and long leashes for startups appears to have ended, and belts have begun to tighten. As the federal reserve continues to wrangle inflation through precedent-busting rates increases, venture capital firms and the startups they fund have had to re-evaluate their paths to success. Look no further than Party Round, a fundraising startup, which rebranded itself Capital after it became clear that its boisterous name no longer reflected the state of the economy. Notably, investment in green tech has yet to slow significantly, a trend that must continue if we wish to slow the planet’s warming. 

Vinod Khosla, a prominent venture capitalist, urgently reminds us that we do not have the necessary technology to decarbonize the economy, and developing that technology will require funding. Solar and wind remain necessary supplements to the power grid, but are insufficient unless paired with other sources of power that do not fluctuate as wildly. Startups focused on the holy grail of clean energy, nuclear fusion, have not moved beyond development stages. And top nuclear fusion startups do not anticipate delivering a viable product before the 2030’s. Even that deadline will require Venture capital firms to pour billions into these companies on top of the billions they have already contributed.

The sustained rates of investment in green tech, relative to other sectors, may be due in part to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed earlier this year, which devoted over $370 billion to fighting climate change. This included funding for various high-risk green tech solutions including carbon capture, superhot rock energy, and decarbonized concrete. While necessary, the provisions in this bill are all carrot and no stick. Activists hoped that the IRA would contain a market-based solution such as a carbon price. A market-based solution both rewards innovation and makes pollution more expensive by instituting a fixed price on every pound of carbon emitted, imposed through tax liability. Financial regulators have long advocated for this system because of the leveling effect it would have on the market. Not only would clean energy companies receive a subsidy, but high emitters would appear less attractive because their bottom lines would reflect their impact on warming. The IRA’s absence of such a system may prove fatal for green tech. 

Environmental ambitions have been put on the backseat in the face of harsh economic realities. For example, President Biden ran on the promise of phasing out new oil and gas drilling, but dramatically increased drilling on public lands when the war in Ukraine cratered supply. Moreover, the Federal Reserve does not appear to have any intention of slowing their rate hikes. This continued austerity may become severe enough to break through the IRA’s buffer. Unless investing in green tech continues to be attractive for VC firms, the outlook for our climate will become even bleaker.  

Musk Purchased Twitter, What Now?

Corporations acquire companies for a variety of motives which often affect the success of a merger. A merger can increase the value of a corporation by spreading the fixed cost of production over a larger output or by spreading the cost of expertise over a wider range of employees. Alternatively, successful mergers may align supply chains by integrating supply, manufacturing, and sales to lower costs of production. Mergers can even be effective disciplinary tools when they are used to replace bad managers.

Some acquisitions do not create value, but instead shift value from stakeholders to shareholders. When companies buy competing businesses and push out competitors, they can then institute monopolistic pricing. This shifts value from consumers to shareholders by raising costs for consumers and passing the profits on to company shareholders. Conversely, inefficient, unproductive mergers shrink company value when there are overconfident evaluations of corporate synergies or when companies seek to build name recognition and brand awareness but sacrifice value through careless empire building.

Elon Musk claims his recent acquisition of Twitter “help[s] humanity. While this is a noble goal, it is a very vague one. Musk argues the acquisition creates a forum for people to freely speak their minds. He clarified that Twitter would not become a free-for-all unfiltered environment, and that Twitter must “adhere to the laws of the land.” Despite these assurances, Twitter’s advertising clientele remains unconvinced. While social media sites like Facebook have rebounded from advertising boycotts, Twitter faces an uncertain future as companies may raise concerns that their ads would be shown alongside objectionable content.

Twitter’s advertising quagmire is not their only problem. Companies are questioning the validity of Twitter “verification,” which can now be purchased by any Twitter user willing to pay $7.99 a month. This defeats the purpose of Twitter verification: signaling the legitimacy of the account owner’s identity. Corporate spoof accounts cause confusion and chaos, demonstrated by one account impersonating the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly & Co. that announced that insulin would be free. In addition, fake politician accounts have flared prejudice and tension with inflammatory tweets, like a spoof account of George W. Bush tweeting an attack on Iraqis.

Despite Musk’s promise that acquiring Twitter was not about the money, he cannot ignore the reality of running a social media empire, which entails hefty monetary expenditures. Musk claims to be working tirelessly to balance the needs of his existing ventures, SpaceEx and Tesla, with his new venture in Twitter. This is critical because Musk intends to keep many of his employees as shareholders, giving him his own set of fiduciary duties. At this point, it is unclear what direction Musk plans to take the site, and such uncertainty could have been avoided with a clear cut strategy from the acquisition’s outset.

While the future of Twitter remains uncertain, Musk has indicated his plan to have someone else run the company. It is unlikely Twitter will be realized as the paradigmatic public forum Musk hoped it would be. The reality is that the company will need to have enough stability for advertisers to support its existence.

Big Tech Layoffs – A Coming Recession?

After years of unprecedented growth, the tech industry has recently come to a slowdown and some of the biggest tech companies have announced hiring freezes and job cuts. On November 2nd, 2022, Amazon decided to halt new incremental hires in their corporate workforce for the next few months in face of the “unusual macro-economic environment.” On November 7th, Lyft announced they planned to cut “13 percent of its employees” – nearly 700 of its 5,000 workers – as it anticipated a recession next year and rising “rideshare insurance costs.” Elon Musk, who recently acquired Twitter with a $44 billion deal on October 27, ordered job cuts across the company – from top executives, including the chief executive and chief financial officer, to divisions such as the engineering and machine learning units as well as the sales and advertising departments. No specific number was given, but the scale of layoffs was estimated to be roughly half of the social media platform’s workforce–approximately 3,700 employees. Meta also expects to begin large-scale layoffs as part of the company’s plan to cut expenses by at least 10% in the next few months.

The recent wave of tech sector layoffs has generated worry for the future of the world economy, which signal that a recession is looming. Many companies are seeing a decline in profits in recent quarters and expecting more downward trends, especially amid high inflation and rising interest rates. Notably, Meta’s profits in the most recent quarter were down more than 50% from last year, as the company struggles to restructure around its emerging immersive digital world of the “metaverse.” Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., also reported its fifth consecutive quarter of slowing sales growth, while it has also slowed hiring and required some employees to apply for new jobs. Snap, the maker of Snapchat, also suffered from slowed economic growth, and according to its third quarter report, the company experienced its slowest-ever rate of revenue growth. The slowdown is not limited to social media giants, and is being felt across the tech industry. For example, semiconductor companies are cutting manufacturing expenditures as sales of smartphones and appliances continue to decrease.

Amid the tech industry’s stagnation and persistently high inflation worldwide, economists and businesses have contradicting forecasts about the coming year. Many warn there is a high likelihood the U.S. economy is headed for a recession, but others have been more optimistic. Those who are more confident include JPMorgan’s Chief Financial Officer, who say they have not seen “a crack” in their financial health, and Delta Air Lines’ Chief Executive, who announced that the travel sector “is going to be very strong through the quarter and into the New Year.” Indeed, the October jobs report published by the U.S. Department of Labor seems to show that the labor market remains strong, despite unemployment rising to 3.7%.

While many other signals indicate a cooling economy and justify worries of a coming recession, the recent wave of layoffs from tech companies are not a major indicator of recession. The layoffs in the tech industry, though unprecedentedly large-scale and conspicuous, account for only a small part of the overall labor force. Employers across a variety of other industries, such as food services and entertainment, are actively hiring to restore their workforce from pandemic job cuts. Tech companies have seen huge growth in the past three years. Employees moved to remote work and students attended classes online, which drove up computer sales, cloud storage, and online shopping. But it is improbable they will maintain this growth as the Covid-19 pandemic begins to pose less of a public health crisis. Though tough days for the world economy are expected, the recent tech-layoffs could also be an unavoidable result of the tech industry cooling down from Covid-related expansion.

Why We Are Still Talking About #MeToo at Work

The #MeToo movement is often described as having sparked a “conversation.” Indeed, survivors have spoken, and collectively their voices have been heard. Although the response has certainly been substantial, the conversation is still in many ways one-sided. In a recent Bloomberg Law article, Proskauer Rose attorneys Sydney Cone, Kate Gold, Atoyia Harris, and Sehreen Ladak outline the #MeToo movement’s progress thus far—applauding its victories while highlighting the gaps that still pervade the conversation five years later. 

Since its viral outset in 2017, the #MeToo movement has set the foundation for several notable developments. In the corporate realm, for instance, an increasing number of employers have implemented mandatory sexual harassment prevention trainings and educational opportunities. These efforts focus on establishing stricter standards for conduct and compliance in the workplace. Moreover, the #MeToo response has resulted in new policy initiatives. President Biden’s Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021 marked a pivotal point in this progression. The Act importantly defined sexual harassment claims as a category of law distinct from other workplace misconduct claims. Under the Act, sexual harassment claims would inherit a type of protective immunity because they would no longer be subject to arbitration and nondisclosure agreements. 

More recently, the Senate advanced another initiative, by passing the SPEAK Out Act in September. By making nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses unenforceable in sexual harassment and sexual assault disputes nationwide, the Act was formed with the intention of empowering survivors and averting further harm in the workplace. 

While these emerging initiatives suggest a positive shift in the prevention of and protection against workplace sexual violence, the numbers say otherwise. Statistics collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrate that instances of workplace sexual harassment have not followed this anticipated downward trend. In fact, the number of sexual harassment charges increased significantly in the years that immediately followed the viral expansion of the #MeToo movement in the Fall of 2017. Moreover, wide scale surveys indicate a growing disparity between the number of actual incidents and formally filed complaints. In a 2022 survey of women working in STEM, an alarming 62% of respondents noted incidents of sexual harassment at their places of employment. Only 29% of these individuals filed formal complaints. 

Pointing to these numbers is in no way an attempt to discredit the enormous gains that have stemmed from the #MeToo movement. Rather, they serve as a guide for ongoing conversations around the sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. In the majority of studies on workplace conduct, the prevalence of sexual harassment in professional spaces is attributed to power inequalities and the continuation of gender stereotypes. A 2020 Hollywood Commission survey on accountability found that only 35% of respondents felt that it was at least somewhat likely that an employee in a position of power or authority would be held accountable for sexually harassing an individual in a subordinate position. Interestingly, however, the frequency of harassment does not tend to decrease when the roles of power and gender are inverted. A 2020 study published by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences revealed that instances of sexual harassment actually multiply when women dominate spaces of authority and leadership. The authors of the study attributed this correlation to an evolving conscious or subconscious desire for “status equalization” as more women occupy positions of power. 

Without undermining the fact that women—and particularly women of color—are disproportionately impacted by sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, it is also important to note that people of all gender identities are affected. Across data samples, men constitute a much smaller percentage of overall reported cases of sexual harassment and violence. However, this is not an entirely accurate representation. According to a 2018 Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, nearly one in seven men have endured workplace sexual harassment, demonstrating that men are less likely than women to speak out. Again, the conversation turns to gender norms and stigmas, but the solution is not straightforward. 

The frequency of incidents of sexual harassment creates a common human experience of normalized violence. Goss Graves, the National Women’s Law Center director, explains that “our goal has to be ending sexual violence . . . The real goal feels giant, and not achievable overnight.” Legislative and corporate policy changes alone cannot achieve complete systemic reform. Recent policy initiatives are tremendous for survivors, but they are fragments of the wider conversation. The response survivors seek is expansive and multifarious, yet it shares a common root: education. Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, explains that children must be taught “to reject rape culture and respect bodily autonomy.” Educating young people about consent and holding upcoming generations to a higher standard is integral to reshaping norms and expectations for conduct within academic, professional, and social settings. #MeToo amplified the conversation, and now we must continue to ignite the response.

US Recession: More Layoffs at Tech Giants are Approaching

As an impact of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US economy is predicted to face a recession that may result in massive layoffs in 2023. In June, thousands of Tesla’s employees were laid off based on Tesla’s “super-bad feeling” about the economy. In August, Apple laid off roughly 100 contractors as part of a push to limit their spending. In September, Meta announced plans to freeze hiring and restructure current teams to cut down expenses and develop a streamlined internal workforce. Finally, HelloFresh laid off 600 employees, recorded as the biggest layoffs this year. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) stated that the US is not yet officially in a recession. However, experts are concerned that recent layoffs among tech giants will impact the labor reports in the second half of 2022. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose 0.2% to 3.7% in August, and the number of unemployed people increased to six million. Labor reports are one of the most indicative factors in predicting US economic recessions. If people are not earning money, their purchasing power declines, and companies’ profits will decrease. Consequently, this dynamic also decreases investor confidence in companies. As a result companies layoff more employees to streamline business operations and adjust to lower consumer demand. 

As a result of employment trends, social media users are documenting their layoffs on TikTok, with the hashtag “layoffs,” garnering more than 30 million views. These users are encouraging young workers to distrust their future employers. Instead of viewing layoffs as a source of disgrace, the mindset of many laid off workers is that the company is responsible. Human resources departments are tasked with the legal and moral responsibilities of hiring, compensating, training, developing, monitoring, retiring, coaching or counseling, and selecting the right positions and/or laying off employees when the organization has to reduce its workforce. Therefore, it is important for the human resources department to apply a humanist approach when firing employees.

Because mass layoffs may continue into next year, companies must consider today’s employment law. Companies may face potential employment discrimination suits if termination is not supported by solid and transparent evidence demonstrating the financial reasoning behind layoffs. Lawsuit settlements or hiring legal counsel to develop defenses is extremely costly and time-consuming. When faced with a looming recession, employers should be aware of employment laws when conducting workforce reductions. They must consider notice of termination required by federal law and wage payment obligations under wage and hour laws. This will ensure employers are in compliance with applicable discrimination laws and that they can avoid incurring additional problems, beyond recession related profit losses.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Enough with Bro Culture

Elon Musk’s all-male clique, the “Paypal Mafia,” epitomize the problem of Bro Culture in Tech. This close-knit circle of PayPal alumni founded or invested big in lucrative companies such as Tesla, Airbnb, Youtube, Uber, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. They invest in each other’s ventures and dictate which start-ups will receive their support and which will not. Basically, they gatekeep. But who do they close the gates to?

Mafia member Max Levchin answered this question in an interview with Fortune in which he attributed PayPal’s success to “self-selecting for people just like you.” In other words, they seek to exclusively hire those who fit into their “clique” – and by virtue of this their image of a ‘bro.’ This image skews straight, cisgender, and male.

Levchin elaborated on his dream employee: “He thinks like me, he’s just as geeky, and he doesn’t get laid very often. Great hire! We’ll get along perfectly.” Levchin admitted that the work culture he promulgates, in which disagreements sometimes lead to wrestling matches, excludes women and other minority groups. But he asserted that hiring employees of similar backgrounds and dispositions increases productivity, which is essential for startups’ success. Therein lies the problematic, bro-culture ethos that defines the PayPal Mafia: not only is diversity not worth pursuing; it is antithetical to success.

For a case in point, in the 646 companies PayPal mafia members invested in from 1995 to 2018, only eighty-nine (48%) had at least one female founder, and only one had a founder who identified as nonbinary. As the de facto golden boys of Silicon Valley, the PayPal Mafia inspires other power players to gatekeep in the same way, e.g., in the first quarter of 2022, women-founded teams received just 2 percent of venture capital funding. 

Because industry paragons like the PayPal Mafia primarily value bros’ perspectives, so do the directors, executives, and managers under them, who often ignore and denigrate employees who do not fit the ‘bro’-mold (“non-bros”). Junior male employees emulate this problematic behavior to advance, resulting in workplaces replete with harassment and discrimination. Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Alphabet, Pinterest, Rivian, Uber, and SpaceX, among others, have all faced multiple gender discrimination suits alleging a toxic “Bro Culture.” Loretta Lee, who worked at Google from 2008 to 2016, alleged that she faced lewd comments, pranks, and even physical violence from her male colleagues daily. Employees who speak out against their companies’ Bro Culture often face retribution. After she complained, Lee’s male colleagues stopped approving her work, creating the illusion of false performance for which Google eventually terminated her. 

Bro Culture harms businesses by making them more difficult and less attractive places for non-bros to work at. This carries tangible financial consequences, e.g. Alphabet paid $310 million and Riot Games, $100 million, to settle sexual harassment and gender discrimination suits. Despite Max Levchin’s claims to the contrary, Bro Culture hinders productivity. Employees at Blue Origin attributed widespread project delays and budget overruns to a toxic work environment fueled by Bro Culture. Female employees struggled to be productive in the face of constant harassment and discrimination. In the highly collaborative schema of the tech world, hindering the work of some hinders the work of all. In the Google example, Lee’s male colleague’s retaliatory refusal to approve her work on a project delayed the entire project. As the highly skilled workforce that drives Tech grows increasingly diverse, employees will grow less tolerant of Bro Culture, and companies that only value bros will miss out on important pools of talent. 

For the sake of decency and financial sense, the technology industry must seek to eliminate Bro Culture from the top down. Industry leaders must fund more female- and minority-founded companies and support DEI initiatives in the businesses in which they invest, including a guarantee of equal pay regardless of gender. To eliminate harassment and discrimination, tech companies must empower Human Resources. HR should have regular check-ins with employees in which they can speak openly without fearing retaliation. Hiring committees must make a concerted effort to hire more minorities, women, and people who respect them. Onboarding committees must impress upon new hires the importance to the company culture of valuing everyone’s perspective. None of these steps will be easy, but if the technology industry truly strives to build a brighter future full of AI, self-driving cars, and commercial spaceflight, it must abandon the oppressive beliefs of the past.